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 Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne 12:00 am, 29th October 1947

That is just the sort Of thing that those who have misled America into this situation are saying in America, but it is sheer unadulterated bunkum. It is absolute nonsense. They are sending out of America far less now than they sent out during the war. My figures are taken from Americans. There is no public man in America who does not know these facts. There is no public man in America who does not admit today that the taking off of controls in America was all wrong, and there is no public man in America today who does not know that the controls will have to come back. I say that within six months there will be all over America a clamour for the re-imposition of control of prices. The right hon. Gentleman said that the remedy for rising prices is increased production, and the Leader of the House, replying to him, said with great force that if the remedy for high prices is increased production and they have got the increased production, why do the prices remain high? I know the answer. The answer is that the increased production remains in the warehouses and is not being sold to the people. The producers are holding off in order to keep up prices; the consumers are holding back in an endeavour to bring prices down, and one gets a complete stagnation of American industry as a consequence.

What will happen? It is quite easy to see. I know a lady in New York who went into a shoe shop and could not buy a pair of leather shoes. There was not a pair of leather shoes to be had in a leading shoe firm in New York. She asked, "Are you short of leather?" "No," said the shopman, "We are not short of leather. The Chicago warehouses are bursting with skins, but they are holding off, and we are holding off. There is a big war going on, but we do not know yet who is going to win. Come back in a few weeks, and we will be able to sell you a pair of leather shoes and tell you what they will cost." One day someone in Chicago will lose his nerve and will begin to sell. He will sell at any price, and then all the other holders of skins will do the same. They will all flood the market together, and prices will certainly come down but in as uncontrolled a way as they went up. They will come down below the cost of production, so that people will no longer produce them, and the factories will close down. The workers will be discharged and the old bitter struggle will go on quicker and quicker, as it did in 1920, 1930 and 1931.

Unless these controls in America are re-imposed in time, America is heading for the biggest and most sensational economic disaster in all history, and I hope to God that when it comes they will not start throwing their atom bombs about the world in an endeavour to, hide the cause. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] It would be a great shame, but if there came again 15 million unemployed in the United States—if that does happen—I hope that this country is not going to dragged at the heels of it, and will be able to insulate itself from it. It is true that the world is passing through a social revolution. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) said today—I do not know for whom he was talking, but certainly not for the Leader of the Opposition—that there ought to be a central strategic plan. One cannot have a central strategic plan without controls. One cannot have a central strategic plan unless one owns the thing one proposes to plan or, at any rate, the basic ones.

The Conservative Party conference came to that conclusion at Brighton. It decided that all the partisan policies that are complained of in this Amendment would not be reversed if they came to power—coal, the railways, and the Bank of England. Would they withdraw price controls and rationing? They know perfectly well they would not. Do they really think that the workers of this country are not putting their backs into things and working properly? Do they believe that the Loan was deliberately wasted by the Government? Those Tory businessmen who go to America are going round America crying "stinking fish" about their country, allowing the Americans to believe that the workers of this country are not doing their job and not putting their backs into it; allowing them to believe that the Loan was virtually wasted, and that if we get any more that will be wasted, too. Is that what is called rendering a service to this country and keeping partisan politics out of it? No, Sir. We in this country made up our minds in July, 1945, and the more I saw of America the more I thought, "Thank God for the practical good sense of the British people in 1945." We took our step in time instead of learning the hard way, as the Americans have to do.

I hope that there will be true friendship between this country and America. I hope it will not be an exclusive friendship, because I do not think exclusive friendships are possible. I believe in friendship with them and with other countries in the world, and I believe that out of their hard experience they will see that our way was not quite as it was represented to them by the Tory businessmen who toured their cities, that they will see that we are engaged in a great endeavour to stand on our own feet and earn our own living in our own way. We welcome such assistance as we are given, not as charity but as a bargain between two countries equally beneficial to both, and we are determined to lead Europe at any rate along the path of economic liberty in place of economic anarchy or dictatorship. Along that path, a middle course between the two, lies the progress of humanity and the preservation of civilisation in the world. I believe this Government, with all their faults, inadequacies and mistakes, are leading mankind along that path, and more rapidly than any other Government in any other country.