Government Policy

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

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Photo of Mr Sidney Shephard Mr Sidney Shephard , Newark 12:00 am, 29th October 1947

I hope the hon. Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton) will forgive me if I do not follow her speech altogether. I can, however, promise her that I shall not put a spanner in the work of national recovery. I promise to speak for a very short time, and my observations will be limited to the tremendous task that industry is called upon to face from now on. It is, after all, to industry that we shall have to look to get us out of our troubles, and no amount of talking here, and no amount of legislation, will make a scrap of difference.

Up and down the country producers of every conceivable kind of goods that can be exported are getting ready to "go to it," just as they did during the war. My first impression of the workers is that over the broad sphere of industry they are working hard. I do not know why. It may be because of the marvellous summer we have had; it may be because of the recent holidays; it may be that they have got over the reaction which set in after the war. What is worrying me is whether there will be any reaction when the full force of the new austerity measures come into force. Even in the "Evening Standard" tonight there is the statement—it may not be true— A Board of Trade Official said that manufacturers have been warned that most, if not all, worsted cloth for men's suits and women's cloths, both utility and non-utility, will be switched over to the export markets. Well, it may be we shall reach a point when no amount of exhortation and no amount of promises will prevent a slackening of personal effort.

Next year, if the people are cold and hungry and have to do without clothes, and if the shops are empty of household necessities, it will require a great deal of self-discipline to stick it out. I hope that the Minister for Economic Affairs will bear that in mind when he makes the allocations between the home and export markets. The export targets have been set high, and it will be no easy task to reach them. Industry will want a great deal of help, because many of the problems of industry to-day are quite outside their own control. An employer must go to the employment exchange if he wants labour, and he must go to some Government Department if he wants raw materials. He needs an export licence even to export goods. The Government must accept a great responsibility today both for production and distribution. It will be no use blaming the employers if the new plan goes wrong, because the employers hands are tied; they are no longer free agents. If the volume of production is the only problem, provided always that we have sufficient raw materials and coal, I believe we can reach our export targets at the end of 1948. Our major problem will be not to produce, but to find markets. Even now, with exports running at only 111 per cent. of 1938–