Orders of the Day — Budget Proposals and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th April 1949.

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Photo of Mr Roy Jenkins Mr Roy Jenkins , Southwark Central 12:00 am, 7th April 1949

A great number of new industries are continually being set up. It is within the knowledge of the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) that there has been a great spate of new companies which have come into existence since the end of the war. In some cases they have found money from private sources, despite the high rates of taxation. There have been public issues for new companies and a great many sources of semi-public finance from which new companies have obtained considerable sums have come into existence in the past few years.

I will turn to the Economic Survey and the general economic position of this country at the present time. Clearly, 1948 has been a year of quite startling recovery. In his speech today the right hon. and gallant Member for Gains-borough said maybe production was up quite a lot on 1947 but that was not particularly good because 1947 was an absolutely shocking year, including the fuel crisis. He omitted to tell us that even in 1947, even with the fuel crisis, production levels attained in this country, in proportion to those prevailing before the war, were very much higher than anything obtained in the corresponding years after 1918, when compared with what happened in the years before 1914. He omitted also to tell us that production levels in 1947 in this country were very much higher than anything attained in any comparable European country. The 1948 figures, therefore, show a startling recovery and they do not start from a low base year as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman implied.

From all sides of the House we are now very glad to acknowledge this great achievement of 1948. But it was not everybody who expected that 1948 would be a year of great achievement. I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) in his place, because I remember that just a year ago, when he was taking part in the Budget Debate on 12th April, he said: Now the Economic Survey for 1948 says that the year 1948 is' a year of transition.' That means, I think, a year of transition from bad to worse."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1948; Vol. 449, c. 631.] Is that still his view of 1948—"a year of transition from bad to worse"? The right hon. Gentleman has also made a great many other remarks in this House which I think he may not find particularly appropriate at the present time. I am very glad he is in his place because I want to quote some remarks which he made in June, 1947, comparing this country with Belgium. He said: I believe Belgium has been a well-managed country, and has pursued a policy which has been both sound as to timing and as to objectives. In both these respects I believe our policy to have been unsound. As a consequence, Belgium's recovery has been quicker and more complete in every way than our own. He went on to say: I say the Belgian problem has been the same as our own, but how different has been the policy; how different has been the method, and how practical and sane the approach: In Belgium rapid recovery and steady increase and in the United Kingdom, some slow recovery and increasing shortage—except, of course, in the matters of combs, lighters and safety razors."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th June, 1947; Vol. 439, c. 751–3.]