Orders of the Day — Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th November 1952.

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Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland 12:00 am, 10th November 1952

I am not standing in the way of free competition in transport in the least. If two services to Orkney and Shetland are proposed, then by all means let them run. If the result is better service, I shall welcome it.

The Prime Minister, on the occasion on which he unfortunately became somewhat confused among his figures, was, I think, pointing to a quite important point. That was that it is not altogther right that an industry should have very heavy prior charges levied upon it whether or not it makes a profit, and that that is one of the disadvantages of nationalisation—that instead of competition working and reducing the profits if the industry is inefficiently run, the prior charges are levied and the Exchequer or the industry has to pay them in any case.

I am certain that we must soon have a real law against monopolies. I give these examples of the sort of way in which I think that the free economy should develop. There should be a change in the company laws and the law of inheritance and we should encourage a wider sharing of profits. Above all, I think that the time has come to reinstitute a system of common law administered by judicial courts, because without that I do not believe that we shall have liberty, nor shall we get economy.

I do not believe that we shall get economy in Government Departments, necessary as it is, by an endless series of committees of inquiry and axes. I believe that the real root of the problem lies in the fact that the Government are asking Government Departments to do jobs for which they were never designed. Too much work has been thrown upon them. So long as that is done, excellent and hard-working as the Civil Service may be, they are nevertheless trying to do a job without any means of telling whether or not it is being done efficiently and economically. I should like to see the Government get rid of a whole lot of administrative law.

We all complain of the fact that we live in a siege economy. We all ask for more dollars. We all know the tendency of dollar spending to outrun dollar earning. I do not believe that the remedies are easy but, equally, I believe that they are comparatively simple. We all suffer from an incipient balance of payments crisis whenever we pass one of the expensive shops in the West End. We either have to make up our minds not to spend the money which we have not got or to earn more money or to deal at a different shop. Exactly the same considerations apply if we want to buy dollar goods. We must earn the money for them or we must get the goods from elsewhere.

We hope by the development of Europe and of the Commonwealth that we shall be able to do this. I am often reminded in these debates of those Russian plays in which people sit around wishing that they were in Moscow—and at the end of the play one is inclined to say that they should take a third-class ticket and go there. I am also reminded of the story of Naaman who suffered from leprosy and who was told that all he had to do to be cured was to go and bathe in Jordan. He was very disgusted because the remedy was not more spectacular.

I do not believe that the remedies are spectacular. I believe that by developing the free market, by trying to make it work better, by trying to give our workers the tools with which to do the job and by instituting a far more equal system of law, the people of this country will be given a fair field in which by their own efforts they can raise their own standards of life. Thus they can prove by the only test that I would accept—that is, the test of making the poorer people happier and better off—that our system of Government and our system of economy has in it the solution to our own problems.