Orders of the Day — Budget Proposals and Economic Survey

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

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Photo of Mr Ralph Assheton Mr Ralph Assheton , Blackburn West 12:00 am, 12th April 1951

The hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) certainly set the Committee a good example by the length of his speech, although I cannot hope to equal him in that respect. He did make a constructive contribution to the debate. I appreciated much more what he had to say, gathered from his experience on local government, than what he said about bonus shares, gathered from his inexperience of finance.

We are debating today not only the Budget, but also the Economic Survey and the general economic situation. The Economic Survey is not a happy document. It is so gloomy that I can only hope it will prove to be as unreliable as some of its predecessors, although I fear not. Previous Economic Surveys, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Alder-shot (Mr. Lyttelton) reminded us, failed to foresee the fuel crisis, the convertibility crisis and so on, but this Economic Survey is franker and certainly more realistic.

It is more realistic because it clearly implies that our planned economy is at the mercy of world affairs, and is not within the control of those who seek salvation through a planned economy at home. One gets rather tired of the economic jargon of some of these documents. The Government started with a plan and then they had a global target. This global target became a series of flexible assumptions. As a matter of fact, a great deal of it is based on wishful thinking. I suppose we get used to these documents, but I am bound to say that their language to me is evasive.

I notice, for instance, that the Government never deflate; they always disinflate. The difference apparently is that under disinflation prices continue to rise. The Government never call for cuts but for "necessary adjustments and restraints," and even register on page 36 of the document a grant from the United States as a minus grant by the United Kingdom. As far as one can see, the net result of the Economic Survey is that the public are going to spend £600 million more on personal consumption and they are not going to get anything more for it. As Mr. Schwartz in the "Sunday Times" says, there will be more money about than ever before with everybody complaining that there is less money about because of the rise in prices.