Excess Profits Tax

Part of Orders of the Day — Ways and Means – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th November 1947.

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Photo of Lieut-Commander Joseph Braithwaite Lieut-Commander Joseph Braithwaite , Holderness 12:00 am, 17th November 1947

If I were to take up the time of the Committee in dealing with all the interesting suggestions the hon. Gentleman makes, I should take a very long time. I was making a relevant quotation suggesting to the Financial Secretary that if his wrath is to be turned in our direction, he should also glance behind him.

The right hon. Gentleman made another curious contribution to the discussion. He informed an obviously astonished Committee, not only on these Benches, that the country is "sitting pretty." Sitting pretty when the clock is striking 12 as the Lord President of the Council has told us; sitting pretty when on suspension of convertibility of sterling our final reserves of gold and dollars are, on the word of a Government spokesman, about £600 million, when only that sum stood between us and possible starvation so long as we had to finance an adverse balance of trade; sitting pretty when it is clear that to maintain national solvency this £600 million has to be stretched, together with such windfalls as may come our way, certainly over nine months and possibly 15; sitting pretty when, if we staked every penny of these reserves on one final throw and even if the trade programme went according to plan, we had a mere 30 weeks of solvency; sitting pretty—ask the women when rations are at a lower level than was ever achieved by the U-boats and lower than those that prevail in His Majesty's Prisons and Borstal institutions; sitting pretty—ask the ex-Service men who have laid out their gratuities on petrol-filling stations and are now faced with abject ruin; sitting pretty—ask the electors who expressed their growing disquiet on 1st November; or let him ask if he likes one of the most recent and exotic recruits to Socialism, who is at present trailing a tattered scarlet banner through the streets of Gravesend.

Is it surprising that large sections of workers remain unconvinced of the crisis when a responsible Minister himself can inhabit such a fools' paradise? Is it remarkable, when statements of that sort come from the Treasury Bench, that an American newspaper correspondent wired his paper in New York that only the other day he had been to Grimethorpe during the dispute there and a miner said to him, "If this is an economic crisis, long may it continue."