Orders of the Day — Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th July 1949.

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Photo of Sir Martin Lindsay Sir Martin Lindsay , Solihull 12:00 am, 14th July 1949

I apologise to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The point I was making is that production has increased much more in the United States than in this country because over there the Government have freed their economy and are not nationalising anything. The very opposite is the policy of this Government, who are also anxious to increase production. The wasteful and unnecessary expenditure of which we see examples on all sides in this country, makes much greater difficulty for our manufacturers in the export field, not only because it keeps costs high but because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) has reminded us more than once, of its drafts upon the resources of the nation in manpower and raw materials, which are misapplied. If only part of the energy and expenditure which the Government have expended upon the groundnut scheme had been applied to the benefit of our own land, I believe that the result would be very much more beneficial to us.

In his speech today the Chancellor once again said that the greater our import difficulties, the more important is the development of British agriculture. I wish the Government would take that statement to heart. There are, no doubt, tremendous possibilities in this direction, and nothing like the maximum is being done at the present time. One of the most important steps towards defeating the balance of payments problem is to stimulate home agriculture to the maximum extent and thus reduce even further the purchases from the dollar areas which we have been accustomed to making in the last few years. Anybody looking at the bare economic facts with which we are faced might well have cause to despair, and it is only our faith in the people of this country which gives us cause for encouragement—the fact that we have still in these islands the same great people who proved themselves great in 1940.

Today, unfortunately, we are in the extraordinary position of having a Government which is pledged to the welfare State and yet can no longer guarantee the two most important fundamentals of the welfare State, the people's food and employment. This is not as yet apparent to the man in the street, and I fear that it will become no more apparent to him today as a result of the speech of the Chancellor. I do not believe that the truly desperate nature of the economic crisis is apparent to the Government even as late as today. All that the Chancellor said today implied only that the ship of State is sinking but that it will do so with the red flag of Socialism nailed to the mast. Were it not for the fact that an alternative captain and crew are available, the outlook would be grim indeed.