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

It may be, but there are certainly black spots where there is not a full day's work being done, though it is not generally so over the industries of this country. That is in my own experience. Shortages of material and fuel are very often holding back the efforts of all in industry, including the workers, to produce more. That is within my own experience. The American public look very largely at the coal figures and they are judging this country very largely on our output of coal. I do not believe that it is beyond the organisation of the Government, if properly applied, or of this country, to raise the coal output very materially. It is no good sitting back expecting that that is going to happen by a very much larger output per man hour. The industry must be manned with still more men.

I want to say a word or two about Bretton Woods, Imperial Preference and discrimination. As I have very little time, I go straight to the matter of Imperial Preference. I heard the statement of the President of the Board of Trade today with very great anxiety. I shall await the announcement of the deal that is being done with very great anxiety because I think, from what he said, that we are going to make a mess of it, as this Government usually do. The statement which he made seems to show that we have surrendered parts of Imperial Preference, or abolisbed it in some cases, on a strictly equivalent basis to the Americans. In other words, the deal appears to be—and I trust it is not—exactly trimmed so that the advantages of any piece of trade are exactly equivalent in both cases. If we have done that we have made a mess of it, because we started the negotiations with the Americans who have between 12,000 million dollars and 13,000 million dollars of favourable balances, and we ourselves have an unfavourable balance of 600 million pounds. As a matter of fact, the doctrine of non-discrimination when the trade balances between these two great trading countries are like this, is absolutely futile, but it is obvious that one of the things required in order to readjust the position is some discrimination. I know that the Minister for Economic Affairs will agree with me upon that. I express the gravest fears that that has been done on too much of an equivalent basis.

I am going to end up with a little very plain speaking. No doubt it is necessary at the moment to do without, but in the long run this is only a mitigation and not a cure of our ills. What is required is an entirely new economic outlook, a new really positive policy, a positive effort to release and not to crib and confine the national genius of invention and ingenuity. None of these measures can be undertaken and none can succeed under the present Government. For example, let me quote one passage from the "Economist "—not a Tory newspaper. This is what the writer says, and it could not be expressed better: Socialism has no contribution to make to the crisis in which the country finds itself. What is obviously needed, is a policy, short-term may be, but all the more urgent on that account, which is the exact opposite of all the Labour Party has ever preached. At the end of it all, we come back to a very simple and understandable issue. The Government have no leader, they have no team, and they have no plan, and we cannot in war win battles without these three, and, in peace, we cannot get out of an economic crisis and set our feet on the way to prosperity without them. In two years, the Government have pulled down into the dust the monuments of our victory, and our prestige, which stood so high on VJ day, has now sunk to nothing, and we have sunk to be a divided mendicant nation, now snarling and now fawning.

I make this last appeal to the Government. Cease the alibis, cease saying that the events are too big to be controlled by little men. Cease to think that we shall win through. Let them repeat to themselves, in great humility: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,But in ourselves, that we are underlings.