Orders of the Day — Financial and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st January 1952.

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Photo of Mr Walter Elliot Mr Walter Elliot , Glasgow Kelvingrove 12:00 am, 31st January 1952

If that is the right hon. Gentleman's idea of clarifying a point, all I can say is that I wish him luck in the next London fog. There is the statement made by the Government spokesman. The money is intended to be obtained this year—1949, some of it—and the rest in the full year. The right hon. Gentleman, of course, said that he anticipated administrative difficulties. He said that repeatedly when he commended the proposal to the House. He put on the Government Whips, and put it in the Bill which then became an Act, for which he now says we have no mandate—no mandate to administer the legislation he himself introduced.

But we do not need to go as far as that because the mandate was discussed very fully, not so much by the Opposition as by his opponents in his own party. It is one of the interesting features of any debate in which the right hon. Gentleman takes part that there is a vigorous internicine struggle as an inseparable part of it. The vehement assault on the Chancellor of the Exchequer which he carried out before our eyes this afternoon is an example of it and the damaging attack he made on Sir Stafford Cripps by saying he was the best Chancellor of the Exchequer he had ever known—which in his mouth is a word of commination.

We had one of his hon. Friends who listened to his speech and then made some most blistering remarks on the right hon. Gentleman. In a somewhat unworthy part of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the smart-aleck phrases used by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. His hon. Friend went further than that. He said on 9th December, 1949: I recall what people so often say, if a lawyer makes a speech like that. They say: 'He is only a clever lawyer.' If a layman makes a speech like that they say, 'What a success he would have made at the Bar.' I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman would like me to say that he would have made a success at the Bar and having listened to his speech, quite frankly I do not think he would …if a solicitor's clerk had to face that question on a summons he would know better. That goes perhaps to help balance the payments of which there was mention earlier. It is quite true we borrowed this one, but we proceed now to pay it back. The right hon. Gentleman explained that these things had nothing to do with the crisis, and that these proposals were unworthy, mean and paltry and an assault on the Health Service. His hon. Friend said of his attitude at that time: I thought the right hon. Gentleman was really too ingenious for anything … in dissociating the whole of this Amendment almost entirely from any notion that there has been a financial crisis or a devaluation or a cut. It is only a coincidence that these medical abuses were discovered about the same time that we had one of the crises of the capitalist system. I do not think anyone will believe the right hon. Gentleman on this point."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th December, 1949, Vol. 470, c. 2268–9.] That was the testimony to his credibility by a supporter at the time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who was it?"] He was a former hon. and learned Member, Mr. D. N. Pritt, who was a close associate in many ways—[An HON. MEMBER: "Not a supporter."] He used to support the right hon. Gentleman and he got in on their ticket. We said then, and we say again, that the fundamental danger to the social services is the evaporation of the pound.

The right hon. Gentleman attempted to make great capital of the running down of stocks—that we should smoke a few cigarettes fewer from imports and a few more from stocks. Really the danger before this country is not being able to buy its very bread—or its bread and meat, if hon. Members like to say so. The right hon. Gentleman asked why we did not further develop the resources of this country and the resources of the Empire. I remember when I was Minister of Agriculture trying to grow more sugar beet in this country and the party opposite time after time marched into the Lobby against it. During the war every ounce of the domestic ration of sugar was brought from our own soil under measures introduced on this side of the House and voted against consistently by the Opposition.