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 Mr Anthony Barber Mr Anthony Barber , Doncaster 12:00 am, 30th July 1952

The hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) will forgive me if I adhere to his example and do not follow him, because I wish to elaborate only one small point and then to allow other hon. Members who desire to speak to have their say in this debate.

I have no doubt that most hon. Members on both sides of the House—and I assume the Chancellor himself—were disappointed that he had to come to the House of Commons yesterday and announce further reductions in our import programme for the second half of this year. By that I mean reductions which were greater than those which were contemplated originally by the Government. However, I am equally certain that all sections of our community, people from all political parties, are prepared to accept those cuts so long as it is made quite clear by the Government of the day that they are part of a short-term policy.

Because I believe that, I was delighted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer once again yesterday stressed the fact that the solution of the economic and financial ills of this country lies not in restriction but in an expansion of our production. One does not need to be an erudite economist or, to put it even higher, a Chancellor of the Exchequer, to appreciate the fundamental economic truth that ultimately the physical well-being of any community depends upon the output of the goods and services of that community.

It has been said by people on both sides of the House, with great truth, that this country today is economically inextricably involved with the United States of America, and that whatever happens economically in the United States must inevitably have a great effect here in Britain. That cannot be denied. Nevertheless it remains true that we shall only improve our standard of living in Great Britain if we are able to increase production.

Here I say with great respect that I do not believe that ministerial exhortations are enough. I would pray in aid of this view the fact that even the late Sir Stafford Cripps, with all the sincerity and logic which he employed and with all the respect which he commanded amongst all sections of the community, was unable to call forth that degree of production which in his day was necessary to stabilise and to improve our standard of living.

The reason is perfectly clear. It is because the average man and woman in this country, however patriotic he or she may be, works to earn a living. Most people do not have particularly interesting jobs, many of them have particularly humdrum ones, and they work to earn a living and so to improve the conditions of themselves or of their family. So we must ask ourselves, how best can we secure the extra effort which all sides of the House agree is necessary if we are to pull through?

In the Soviet Union, as we know, it is achieved, at any rate in part, by the threat of the labour camp, and nobody in this country, I hope, wants to see that done here. The only true and effective answer is to provide the necessary economic incentives. Although I know that there will be those on the other side of the House who will disagree, I venture to say, representing as I do an industrial constituency, that the tax concessions which were introduced by the Chancellor in his last Budget have already begun to have good effect, however slight, at the present time.