Orders of the Day — Budget Proposals and Economic Survey

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th April 1951.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Hubbard Mr Thomas Hubbard , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs 12:00 am, 11th April 1951

I feel extremely fortunate in having caught your eye, Sir Charles, at this moment, because it gives me the privilege of paying tribute to the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Teevan). Making one's maiden speech is an ordeal which we are all glad to survive, and the hon. Member approached his task today with the modesty which this House deserves, yet with confidence that was evidence of his own ability, and with a fairness which was appreciated on all sides of the House. I feel sure that I can speak for hon. Members in all parts of the House when I say that we shall welcome him to our debates, and, in fact, look forward to hearing his future contributions.

May I say that, although I have been in this House for a mere seven years, I have never at any time known such a lack of criticism of a Budget from hon. Members opposite. I think that is the finest tribute which any Government could have—the fact that so little indeed has been said regarding the Budget introduced yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. Indeed, when I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), who opened today for the Opposition, claiming credit, in so far as the old age pensioners are concerned, that his party proposed this concession, I thought that that was the last word indicating the bankruptcy of the Conservative Party. The right hon. Gentleman had the cheek to put forward the claim that this proposal was to be included in his party's programme for the next election.

I should like to refer now to something said by the hon. Member for Harwich (Sir S. Holmes), who mentioned the fact that today we were having less production. He spoke of worse coal and less coal. If that is to be typical of the approach of his party to what is the real basis of the economy of this country, then it is further evidence of bankruptcy on the part of hon. Members opposite. At this time of day, I thought everyone had fully realised that, while we have lost manpower in the mining industry, we have had increased produc- tion and, although that may seem a long way from the affairs of the Budget, the real wealth of any nation is still, as was stated by Adam Smith—and I cannot get past him—its power to produce. Everything associated with the Budget and the future of the country is tied up with our capacity to go on increasing our production.

I think it is rather sad, however, at this time of the day, in regard to a set of men like the miners, who have done so much to increase the productivity of this country and the capacity for increased productivity in industries other than their own, that we should be told that all we have got is worse coal and less coal. That does not help us in any way. If the hon. Gentleman had shown the same spirit of fairness which has been shown elsewhere, he would have taken the opportunity to pay tribute to the people on whose efforts the future economy of this country is dependent.

I never pose as an expert on financial matters, but maybe that is the reason I am so anxious to enter this debate today. I have been a victim of the financiers before, and perhaps it is because I am so anxious to avoid being their victim again in future that I wished to say a few words in this debate. When I heard the right hon. Gentleman opposite claim that part of their programme for the next Election was to improve the conditions of the old age pensioners, I could not help remembering that in 1938 I was one of those who came down here pleading with the Tory Government at that time to increase the pension of 10s. a week. I shall remember for all time what I was told, along with my fellow delegates who came to London representing the Scottish local authorities. It was that even to give an increase of 5s. in the economic crisis at that time would have brought this country to ruin and bankruptcy.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they were in power, did not increase the pension in 1940; what they did do was to issue supplementary pensions, and it comes very ill from them today to claim that an increase in the pension was part of their programme for the next Election. As the honorary president of the Scottish Old Age Pensioners' Association, I know how little the old age pensioners of Scotland would depend upon any promises made by hon. Members opposite. Indeed, they have had their lessons in the past.