Government Policy

Part of Orders of the Day — King's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th October 1947.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge 12:00 am, 29th October 1947

We saved for the rainy day. In those days we had no hope of getting a house of our own. I am wholly in agreement with what Lord Keynes wrote some time ago about the necessity for a gradual increase in the price level in order to lessen the burdens of the rentier. But I feel that that movement has now gone far enough and that the technique of pumping new credit into the economic system should be reserved for the time when production has caught up with the demand. Then we could pump in this new credit by way of increased old age pensions, better social services, and so on. I emphasise that I am firmly convinced that if the national savings campaign is to be a success then the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget must ensure that the value of a £ sterling should remain as high in a year's time as it is today. Only yesterday I saw a letter from a correspondent who said, "They are asking me to save. My feeling is that I want to blue what I have got now." We ought to do something about this.

I also take the opportunity of adding my voice to those of others from both sides of the House in expressing the hope that the Chancellor will not again give way to this business of pumping credit into the City of London in order to satisfy himself about the price of certain bonds and, incidentally, give bloated profits to the speculators by way of capital appreciation on the Stock Exchange. I have not time to go into details or to make any suggestions about what I think the autumn Budget should contain. I hope that it will be an instrument of progressive social policy. I hope that it will concentrate on giving incentives to the honest and productive worker in our midst, and more extreme discouragement to the mere speculator and usurer.

In that connection, I would like to emphasise a plea which was made earlier in the Debate about food subsidies. It would be a tragic mistake if the Chancellor tried to remove the food subsidies, and all those hon. Gentlemen opposite, whoa short time ago were agreeing with me that we have to stabilise the purchasing power of the £ ought to be with me now on this question of food subsidies. If the Chancellor is going to use this autumn Budget as an instrument of progressive social policy, might I address one or two words to the Minister for Economic Affairs, whom I would ask for two things especially?

First, I would ask that more should be done, if we are going to increase production, to bring those reluctant employers into line over this question of joint production committees. If necessary, let us have compulsion, and, if we are going to have these joint production committees, it is essential that they should be made worth while, and that the workers representatives on them should have all the facts and figures given to them so that they may know what is the policy of the firm and how the rewards of their industry are being allocated.

Secondly, I would say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that, now that we have got targets for our different industries, something more should be done to break down these targets and bring them home to the individual workers and firms. We are told that, in some cases, the whole of the present output is to go abroad, as, for example, with poplins. That fact has been widely advertised, but what is even more important, and what should have been even widely advertised is the other statement of the Minister that everything over and above present production shall be sent to the home market. What I would like to see is some kind of chart outside the factory or the town hall showing what progress is being made towards that point beyond which all production will be for the home market. I think that would be an incentive both to the individual worker engaged in the industry and an encouragement to the general working population also making their contribution, and who will want to know what their chances are of being able to buy poplin or china or whatever it is.

My last point is this. We must emphasise that part of the Minister's speech in which he said that the only goods to go abroad should be those which bring us back something definite in return. We cannot afford unrequited exports. In this connection I wondered why the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that when we have balanced our over-all overseas payments from the beginning of 1949, we would still have an adverse balance with the dollar area of £250 million. If that is so, it would seem to me that we are sending £250 million worth of goods somewhere without getting anything in return. I suggest that this should be explained as clearly as possible, because we cannot afford, and our workers will be right if they object to it, to send outside this country clothing or other essential consumer goods and get back in return nothing at all for the time being or only wine, grapes, peaches or luxury articles of that kind.

I would like to say something about the South African Loan. I understand that the £80 million which the South African Government have made available to us, and for which we are extremely grateful, is conditional upon our taking a certain amount of luxury fruits, like grapes and peaches. I think the figure which we had to accept was £12 million worth of goods, mostly luxuries—