Orders of the Day — United Nations (Specialised Agencies)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th June 1952.

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Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Billericay 12:00 am, 19th June 1952

I refuse to be drawn on that subject. The world food situation, and indeed the production of raw materials and food, have been bedevilled by a whole host of factors which have arisen since the war, in addition to those which operated at the end of the war when, as a result of Japanese occupation, the whole economy of South-East Asia lay in ruins. But I have given the Committee a number of new facts. There is the fact that Japan in the last year has entered into world markets for food grains and that last year India's harvest was lower than previously. These new factors are worsening the situation. I find it difficult to understand why hon. Members opposite are so testy about facts on which they claim the monopoly of knowledge.

A document has been published recently by certain hon. Members opposite called "War on Want." Indeed, in its presentation of the facts of the situation it is a stark, terrifying and important document. It goes on to say that capital should be invested in underdeveloped areas at the rate of £5,000 million a year, which I believe represents roughly 3 per cent. of the national incomes of the more important of the developed Western countries. It says that Britain's contribution to that sum should be something of the order of £350 million to £400 million a year.

I want the Committee to consider the implications of that statement. To invest any money in any country implies the existence of a surplus. It implies a situation in which we are exporting more than we are importing. That is the position which obtained before 1914 when this country was exporting capital to the equivalent of about 7 per cent. of her national income.

That such a proposal should be made in all seriousness by hon. Members opposite when they were dismissed from office at a time when the balance of payments crisis in this country was at its worst, when we were all living beyond our means, is, I suggest, utterly irresponsible. It raises hopes in the breasts of those who are looking to countries like our own for help in their difficulties. Will hon. and right hon. Members opposite—not the hon. Member for Rugby, because he has always been frank, honest and candid on this subject—be prepared to go back to their constituencies and tell them that, after all, there is not a bottomless sack out of which this country can pour unlimited money so that the standard of living not only of this country but of a large part of the world can be raised?

Are they prepared to say to their constituents that they cannot have 9d. for 4d.? Are they prepared to say, for example, that the burden of taxation on industry in this country should be reduced to make more money available for overseas development? Are they prepared to give tax concessions to British companies who are ready to establish subsidiaries overseas? Are they prepared to tell people to face the fact that food, not only imported from abroad but produced in this country, must cost more?