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Orders of the Day — Economic Position

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th July 1952.

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Photo of Lady  Grant of Monymusk Lady Grant of Monymusk , Aberdeen South 12:00 am, 30th July 1952

I did not consider it bad taste because I prefaced my remarks with due tribute to the keen intellect of the late Sir Stafford Cripps. I shall be glad, therefore, if I can continue these remarks with, at any rate, some hearing.

The report of O.E.E.C. on Britain's financial problems was a complete indictment of the previous Government's financial policy in the last six years. It was also a tribute to the policy of the present Government since they came into office. It expressed, however, "great apprehension for any tendency in Britain to greater ease." For example, while it welcomed the reduction in food subsidies, because, it said, they were an artificial factor in the situation, the report goes on to regret that it was thought necessary at such a time to give away so much of the saving obtained by the reduction of food subsidies by compensating reductions in taxation and increased housing subsidies.

While we note that report with great interest, we on this side of the House do not agree with the last remark because we believe that the Chancellor's Budget did everything that was possible to cushion those who were worst hit by that reduction and, on the other hand, to encourage greater earnings. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Furthermore, I trust that by the time of the next Budget the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have done everything he can to reduce the colossal burden of taxation upon industry if it is ever to produce at competitive costs.

All that is long-term planning. What of the immediate short-term view? It is of the utmost importance that British manufacturers should study the type of goods that are needed in each area. I wonder whether we are entirely guiltless of flooding markets overseas with goods that can be better produced in those countries themselves. Britain has a great responsibility in this matter.

Although we know that many of our goods are of superb workmanship, nevertheless very disturbing stories filter back. We are told that exports are not designed for a particular market. From New Zealand, for example, we hear that a whole range of goods is alleged to be of inferior quality and workmanship. We know that at a time of a sellers' market, it is very easy to sell goods at any price but now that we have the fierce competition of Japan and Germany, I hope we will do everything in our power, both on the floor of the workshops and in management and design, to get the very best quality workmanship in everything that we send abroad.

Management, while, at the same time, hoping that there will be reasonable wage restraint, which is such a large factor in production, must show much more "nous" in capturing foreign markets. Take, for instance, Canada. There are some extraordinary examples of what I could only call misjudgment of the situation, particularly in the advertising of British goods.

One finds, for instance, that a large advertising campaign was undertaken throughout Canada, but that when the orders began to roll in it was said, "We only hold stocks in two or three cities," or "There are stocks only of one size"; or else, because of the higher cost which ought to be identified with a brand name, the brand name is left out and, therefore, people think, "Look at British goods. How costly they are in comparison with ours."