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 George Pargiter Mr George Pargiter , Spelthorne 12:00 am, 29th October 1947

I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe) will forgive me if I do not follow him closely. I understood that he was addressing himself to the Amendment but, so far as I was able to follow, he had little to say about finance. Therefore I may be excused if I try to get back to the problems with which we are faced today. I will come back to one point touched upon frequently, the question of houses. First, I think we must accept that if we cannot afford to buy timber, we can only have houses in proportion to the amount of timber that we can buy as long as timber is necessary for the construction of houses. It is important, therefore, that the programme of housing shall be so arranged that we construct houses where they are most needed. In that respect I hope the problems of the Greater London area will not be forgotten, for a housing problem has existed there since long before the war, and it has become more acute than that in many other districts. I hope also that in considering the priorities for the future, whilst recognising the importance of mining and agriculture, these areas which have been so long a problem will be considered also.

Next I would mention the problem of the road transport services of this country in relation to what one might term the rationing of material. We know how important it is that heavy commercial vehicles shall be exported, that they form a large proportion of the exportable surplus of this country, and very valuable exports they are. At the same time, it is also known that during the current year a large number of heavy commercial vehicles have been diverted to luxury coaches which ought properly to have been used for public service vehicles. I hope that in considering the problem of the allocation of materials and, indeed, of the allocation of the vehicles themselves, the great need of the public service transport vehicles of this country, equally goods and passengers, will be borne in mind, and care taken to see that the remainder are properly allocated to the needs of the country.

Whilst on the problem of exports, it seems to me that we want some knowledge in the White Paper of how the problem of exports in total in each industry is to be dealt with. I believe that in some industries they have been told that their quota of raw materials for home production will be governed by the amount that they send for export. Are we to have each individual firm or group of firms competing with each other in foreign markets, or are we to have a system of marketing which will provide that there is a single system for export marketing for each industry, rather than that one employer or industrialist should be cutting the throat of another in endeavouring to get a single market? It is highly important that we have to get the best price we can for the goods we send abroad. Therefore there must be some rationalisation so far as the export side of any goods from this country is concerned.

One of the problems with which I am mostly concerned, which is of the greatest importance, and which was not clearly brought out in the Gracious Speech, is that the difficulties with which we are faced are not merely that we have to work harder for a short time but that we have to work harder permanently everywhere to maintain the population of this country at the same standard of living. Perhaps not sufficient attention has yet been paid to that aspect of the problem. It is important to remember that we cannot hope that the vacuum in the markets will remain for ever unfilled. We shall arrive at the stage when we shall be in competition with other countries for existing markets and, when we reach that stage, it may well be that our standard of living will suffer considerably unless we find some means of overcoming it.

I want to know whether or not we are really getting down to the problem with which we are faced. If we cannot get any system of world control and some reasonable system of world government to deal with economic affairs as well as the problems that may lead to war, we ought to begin where we can. In beginning where we can, I would suggest that we want to consider the sterling area and, in particular, the Commonwealth, consisting of the Dominions and our Colonies, to see just how closely we can get together.

Just as it was necessary in one stage of our evolution and development that the children of the Empire should be released from their mother's apron strings, and the Dominions formed, so it is important that they should now be brought back into the fold more closely. We must recognise that, in the Commonwealth particularly, countries which were the producers of primary products are now endeavouring with all their energies to establish secondary industries, and those secondary industries are precisely the type with which we are concerned, and have been concerned over the last century. How this is to be balanced up as between members of the Commonwealth, I do not know, but at least some effort must be made in order that we may clearly understand what each can produce, in order that each may play its part for the general wellbeing. It is understandable that they should have adopted this policy of endeavouring to establish secondary industries, because of the disastrous fall in pre-war years in the prices of primary products. It is understandable that they could not afford to be left in the precarious position in which they found themselves. That was not the fault of this Government, but largely of hon. Members opposite, who called themselves savers of the Empire, but did nothing to make people Empire conscious, nor to maintain prices which could be sustained.

If we cannot get a world government, we ought to get some sort of government for the Empire more or less constantly in session studying, the problems with which we are faced in order to meet the inevitable competition from the dollar countries. If we can do that, we can begin to show the world the way to ordered progress. It is not a matter of whether or not it is capitalism or Socialism. It would be Socialism in practice, all countries working together to an economic plan. We want an economic plan, not only in this country, but for the whole of the Commonwealth, and we want a permanent body in force to see that the plan is carried into effect. I hope we shall get something of that kind. I believe the Empire can contribute very largely towards the well-being and safety of the world of the future, but we have to begin to do it now, and in the absence of dollar countries or other countries wanting to come in on a good economic basis with us, we have to do it ourselves. From this I believe we can build something to which other nations will be gradually attracted, and in spite of the failure of the League of Nations, and what appears at the moment to be the road to failure of the United Nations, we may really build something worthwhile for the future. These are times of great adversity, but times of great adversity are equally times of great opportunity. I am quite sure that this country will take the opportunities which are presented, and that we shall weather the storm with which we are faced, and show the way to the world of the future, and from those opportunities bring out the inherent courage of our people.