Orders of the Day — Nationalisation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd November 1948.

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Photo of Mr Frederick Cocks Mr Frederick Cocks , Broxtowe 12:00 am, 3rd November 1948

I only mentioned that gentleman by way of illustration. As this Amendment refers to international questions, I did think of dealing in a very short way with certain aspects of foreign affairs to show how they can be solved in spite of the programme of nationalisation. But I have been advised that it would be very difficult to deal with such questions on this Amendment, and as I do not wish my modest views to be presented to the House in a mutilated form, I propose to reserve them for another occasion if, Mr. Speaker, I am fortunate enough to catch your eye. I hope that a foreign affairs Debate will not be too long delayed, because I believe it is important that such a Debate should be held very soon. The voice of England, as expressed through its elected representatives, should be heard at this grave and critical time. Therefore, my remaining remarks will be exceedingly brief.

As we all know, the Labour Government took office at a time when the situation was perfectly appalling. There was a world shortage of food, a world shortage of coal, a national shortage of housing, an immense dislocation of trade and industry, millions of Service people had to be brought back from the Services and placed in civilian life, and all over Europe a new pattern of life was emerging. The changing situation had to be met with new structures. The Government have had to organise and are organising our industrial life on a new scientific plan, avoiding on the one hand the extreme individualism of the capitalism of the West, and on the other hand the intolerance of the Communism of the East. The plan has to be firm yet flexible, adapted to British needs and British idiosyncracies, and has to strike the right balance between order and liberty. That plan involves State ownership and control of certain basic industries and key organisations, in order that we shall be able to carry through a policy of a balanced national development and of full employment, which I think is admitted by all economists would be impossible under a purely Capitalist system, and it has to do all those things without adopting the dictatorial methods of a totalitarian State.

In order to do that, we had to nationalise the Bank of England, the mines, gas, electricity and transport. Now we are to complete the task for the time being by nationalising steel in this Parliament. During the last three years the Government have carried through a virtual social revolution. They have carried it through without a shot being fired, not a bomb being exploded, without any liquidations and without any secret police. That is the way of social democracy; that is the English way, and it is the way of the Labour Government. That is the way which will bring the Labour Party victory at the next election.

Some hon. Members opposite regret the "good old days," which were good for a few but not for the many—the time when beer and tobacco were cheap, but so were human life and labour. Only a few years ago there were three million unemployed in this country. Thousands of homes were ravaged by the means test. Today we are following a policy of practically full employment, and those who are unfortunate enough to be unemployed are protected with their families from the worst consequences of unemployment, thanks to the Acts which will always be associated with the name of my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance.

In spite of all these difficulties, in spite of the economic crisis which burst upon the Western world last year with the destructive force of a typhoon, we are moving ahead. Every ship has to move ahead when a typhoon bursts over it, otherwise it will sink. We are advancing on a broad front. I have absolute faith in the future, and I have absolute confidence in the Government. I feel sure that if war can be averted, we shall be able to build up in this lovely England of ours, the city of our dreams and the land of our desires.