Orders of the Day — Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th November 1947.

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Photo of Sir Waldron Smithers Sir Waldron Smithers , Orpington 12:00 am, 25th November 1947

It is very difficult to attack the Financial Secretary to the Treasury because he is always so charming; but I must say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer on his first Finance Bill was in duty bound to stop here and hear the Debate out. I can only presume that he has gone to see M. Molotov to get some hints on how to conduct finance à la Russe. I have sat here for the best part of five and a half hours and listened to most of the speeches. Except for one or two parts of some of the speeches, the Debate, in my opinion, has been carried on in much too light-hearted a manner, and as if things were normal. But they are far from being normal. The Finance Bill, and the Budget Resolutions on which it is based, are what we would expect from a Chancellor of the Exchequer who was not master in his own house. It is obvious that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer was deterred by political considerations from making a frontal attack to overcome the greatest and gravest crisis in the history of this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Someone says "Oh." If hon. Members think I am using exaggerated language I would refer them to a recent pamphlet issued by the London Chamber of Commerce, entitled, "A Report on the Economic Crisis." It refers to many considerations, but it uses these words: All these considerations are secondary to our survival as a nation. I wish hon. Members would read regularly—I am not a shareholder—the leading article in the "Statist" each week. It has used similar language on many occasions lately. I would point out to the House that neither of these papers is political. They speak from experience of trade and industry in the City of London. On 17th November the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was winding up the Debate on the Budget proposals said: I would like to make one thing clear at the outset, and that is that I was, and am, in full agreement with the proposals which my predecessor put forward in the Budget."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1947; Vol. 444, c. 932.] Now we can take it that his more realistic speeches of the last few weeks are just camouflage and a smokescreen, because in reality we are out of the frying-pan into the fire. The Cripps furnace is heated seven times. Before he had the responsibility of high office, the Chancellor always advocated dictatorship. [Interruption.] I He did. He said once—and I am quoting from memory though I have nearly got it off by heart, I have said it so often—that the first job of a Socialist Government would be to pass in all its stages on the first day of their assumption of power an Emergency Powers Bill by which everything could be done by decree. Those decrees must be incapable of challenge by the courts, that power must be taken away from the courts. Now that he is economic and financial dictator of Britain, he is well on the way to achieving the ambition of his life.

In order to shorten my remarks on this I am going to quote something, if I may, and it has reference to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This is what it says: As Minister for Economic Affairs he is in control of industry and commerce. As Chancellor of the Exchequer he is in control of the National Revenue. He towers above our Prime Minister as Beachy Head towers above the little lighthouse. The present situation is dangerous. It is the inevitable result of a planned economy. Every system of collectivism develops into dicatorship. It did in Germany, it did in Russia and today everyone can see the drift towards dictatorship in Britain. For that I am indebted to the brilliant columnist, Mr. Carson, of the "Recorder." [Laughter.]