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 Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot 12:00 am, 29th October 1947

The hon. Member, whose principal contributions to our Debates are a series of irrelevant, and very often, rude interruptions, might let me make my own speech. The speech of the Minister for Economic Affairs marks the momentary—I sincerely hope it will be more lasting—victory of realism in the Cabinet. For two years most Ministers, basking in the sunshine of a large Parliamentary majority, and of still larger American and Canadian Loans, extended to them by shabby moneylenders, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) described the Americans, have done no more than repeat the old watchman's cry, "All's well." Nobody in the economic field has so far got to grips with the problem. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is, I note, not in his place yet. He will be later, probably. If he is not he will miss something good, because I am going to disinter from their fortunately early grave one or two of his purple passages. At the Lord Mayor's dinner—an excusable moment for expansion—on 16th October, 1946, he said: Two years hence we shall have overcome the worst shortages which vex us now—of food, clothes, coal, and as well, and in large measure I hope, houses. In the calmer atmosphere of Portsmouth, on 19th October, 1946, the right hon. Gentleman said: I have been able, as Chancellor, to meet all demands on the public purse literally with a song in my heart. If we keep going together as we have since V-J Day, the shortages and frustrations which still afflict us will disappear like the snows of winter, and give place to the full promise of springtime. Apart from the somewhat glutinous nature of the oratory, the extreme triteness of the image, does that sound like the speech of a Chancellor who was in charge of a Budget of £3,000 million? That is not all I want to quote. On 25th September, 1946, the right hon. Gentleman said in Ottawa, that the national credit in Britain had never stood higher than it did under the present Labour Government. He stressed that the test of the Government's credit was the low interest rate of 2½ per cent. on long-term loans. He said that it was the lowest rate ever paid by a British Government. Well, there was a 2½ per cent. issue in 1946 which was dealt in at 99⅝, and the price of which today is 88⅛—not a very good testimonial—