Debate on the Address

Part of Orders of the Day — King's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th November 1951.

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Photo of Mr Maurice Webb Mr Maurice Webb , Bradford Central 12:00 am, 9th November 1951

Cannot we save something there, before we cut the domestic ration? The 10-ounce sugar ration is not enough. The housewife really needs a ration of the order of 13 or 14 ounces before she has enough, particularly the rural housewife who has so much extra cooking to do. Serious hardship will be caused in the home, particularly in the small household and the rural household, if the ration goes down below that point. The Minister ought to do all he can to avoid difficulties in the home by looking into those other fields where cuts can be made before the housewife is attacked.

I hope that I have not dealt with these matters too sketchily. We want to take a constructive view on these benches of this very serious situation. This situation will not be without value if it reminds us all, whatever our party, how precariously we stand, as a small island without the physical means of support except those we earn by our own labours. The maladies that recur in this Island are not due. as was so glibly said and assumed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, to the failure of our ideas or of our personal ability. It is due to the fundamental economic unbalance of the world. The maladies are not going to be corrected until we restore that balance.

It really is naïve, although politically useful no doubt, to mask the real problem and to argue that it is all due to the failures and fumblings of your opponents. The truth is that this country is right up against it in the matter of food, and has been so for a very long time. We have to face that fact, not on the basis of an immediate financial crisis, but on the basis of our long-term needs. We shall run into more of these crises unless the basis of economic unbalance of the world is corrected. We cannot solve our problems so long as the United States has vast surpluses of all kinds and the rest of the world is wanting desperately the means of life.

Until that fundamental unbalance is corrected and the. financial machinery of the world is adjusted to the needs of the situation, we shall run into these problems again and again. The whole basis of the traditional economic structure of the world has been pulled out of shape.. We have to consider our future against that sombre background. Our simple task is to earn our keep. That means that we must evoke from all our useful people the fullest productive service of which they are capable. We can advance only by expanding. Cutting down is, in the end, only the road to stagnation and decay. The solution is by productive effort, meeting our bills, paying our way and standing on our own feet.

To evoke that effort, we must meet our people's basic physical needs. Food is the most vital thing. Food should rank with defence as the highest of priorities. We so regard it on this side of the House, and we regret it is not so regarded on the other side. We support, with such qualifications as I have mentioned, the measures taken, but we do insist on positive, forward action designed to solve our food problems beyond this temporary crisis. We must go into our own Commonwealth and, by common action and sharing of the risk, help them to till their soil and grow the food that we and they need. They want our goods: we want their food.

Only by recognising our mutual interdependence, by taking on the job of solving the massive poverty of the outside world, by long-term measures to insulate all that they are doing there from the hazards of blind, speculative forces—by all these great constructive acts, and only in that way, shall we fill our own larders and bring security and contentment to those on whose labour we depend for our very keep.