Orders of the Day — Economic Situation (Government Proposals)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th October 1949.

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Photo of Sir Walter Fletcher Sir Walter Fletcher , Bury 12:00 am, 27th October 1949

I have noticed that whenever right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House take part in an economic Debate and need backing up the Lord President puts himself up to speak, because he is a great adept at not only trailing his coat but disguising his complete lack of knowledge of real economic facts by very clever political shadow-boxing.

He has made some astonishing statements. He says that His Majesty's Government have attached primary importance to economic facts since they have been in power. Let us take one or two instances. It is worthy of observation that he has relied throughout his speech almost entirely on getting back to what he considers to be the Tom Tiddler's ground of his party—the years between the wars. He has not said anything at all about the economic crisis which is upon us. He seems to me to have a 1922 mind in a 1900 chassis. That is not a very up-to-date model.

Let us come to some of his statements. What economic theory was in the mind of the Government when only about three years ago the blunder of convertibility was perpetrated? What economic theory put forward by the planners was in the mind of the Government during the last three or four years when they turned an entirely deaf ear to what we on this side had been putting forward about the sterling balances? It is only now, for the first time, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his colleagues appear to have been able to think of sterling balances in anything but money terms. They never appeared to have thought at all when they were rushing all over the world making these settlements about which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in very cavalier fashion, refused to answer questions in this House, that these in turn would have to be implemented by the work of the people in the factories of this country who would not be rewarded by the import of raw materials and food but by a little tick in the Bank of England against a row of noughts.

What is the result today? This economic planning, without adjustment to economic affairs, has not made itself felt in a very satisfactory way to the worker in export industries who is doing between half-a-day to a day's work for no direct reward. Nor has it been of help to this country. I am not pretending for a moment that one could have immediately cancelled the sterling debt accumulated during the war. But that a legacy was left to the Government by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), with the high reputation which we had and the memory that there was in the minds of the people of India, Egypt and elsewhere of what we had done with the money already borrowed to protect them as well as ourselves, we could have sat down and made a far more satisfactory and comprehensive settlement, which would have led us to make economic plans which had reality and would not have resulted, as their plans have today, in the Chancellor of the Exchequer, very late in the day, coming forward and pointing out the danger we have through sterling balances and exports which are not requited. What are they going to do to put that right?

What economic plan was there in the mind of His Majesty's Government on the question of their bilateral agreements, which are the greatest hindrance to exports at the present time? We are exhorted the whole time to export to the dollar and hard currency countries. I must confess that I am personally interested in export. The hon. Member for Cannock (Miss J. Lee) put a question yesterday to one of my colleagues as to whether he was personally interested. I am personally interested in exports. I am not a professional politician like the hon. Lady and others.