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 Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield 12:00 am, 10th November 1952

We have listened to the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) with some interest. I agree with much of what he said about the Monopolies Commission. I hope that that Commission will be kept active and will apply its energies to the nationalised industries as well as to those of free enterprise. I was especially pleased by the hon. Member's closing remarks to the effect that we are all in this economic crisis together. That is true. It has been the theme of most of the speeches made today.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) opened the debate without very much conviction. He had not got the old fire that he had in him four or five years ago when he used to twit us from the Treasury Bench that if the Opposition wanted any help he would be very pleased to give it to them. I well remember how pleased he was to twit the Opposition in those days, but today the right hon. Gentleman was definitely lame in his support of this Amendment. One can well imagine what went on behind the scenes when this Amendment was framed, though of course we do not know.

The Leader of the Opposition complained last week that there was not very much in the Gracious Speech. What would have been said if there had been a great deal of legislation in the Gracious Speech? It would have been said that far too much legislation was being introduced at a time when the country was going through serious difficulties. That is exactly what has been wrong during the last six years. The country has had far too much legislation. If we had had less of it and if what we had had had been good legislation, then the country might have digested it and put the Measures into effect.

There is no short cut to prosperity by means of Acts of Parliament and the introduction of Bills into this House. Such Measures are meaningless, except that they create hindrance to trade as a whole. The fact is that we want a breather from legislation so that we can get on with the things that are really important in the country.

What the Conservative Party have done during their 12 months in office is to save the country from bankruptcy. I do not put it any higher than that. The country was almost bankrupt when we came into power. The situation has improved. We are still alive, but only just. There is a tremendous amount to be done. I wonder what would have happened if the Labour Party had continued in power and continued the policy which they were pursuing. I wonder where their policy would have landed us by now. I fear that the worst would have happened, unless there had been a radical change in their outlook and methods.

They had no real policy to deal with our economic difficulties. Their policy during the five previous years was to pass steam-roller legislation mainly dealing with the nationalisation of industries. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South said something today to the effect that we were interfering with one of the air Corporations. We are not interfering very much with B.E.A.C. or B.O.A.C. We might have done much more. Today the morning papers say that B.E.A.C. will show a loss of £1,500,000 in the current year. I fully understand the difficulties, but this Government are doing very little to interfere with the Corporation. All we are doing is to try to give the smaller operators a chance to show themselves, to earn currency and to bring trade to this country.

My view is that the Labour Government ran away from their obligations a year ago. I often wonder why they did not stay in power through the winter to see the country through the difficulties which were obvious at that time. Even though they had a very small majority, they claimed they had the support of the workers and the trade unions—