Orders of the Day — Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th November 1952.

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Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge 12:00 am, 11th November 1952

Certainly, they had, and we have had another one this year. The point I make is that the people know full well that the solution of these crises will not be found simply by cutting the imports of canned food, or making the rest so dear that our people are unable to afford them.

The people of this country—I am not talking about those who speak after great study, but of the ordinary people—realise that some basic and fundamental re-arrangement of our affairs is required so as to give some sense and hope in striving to step up production. There is no sense in increasing production if some man-made financial crisis is going to stop people who need goods from buying them from others who are ready to make the goods they need. It is that sort of feeling which has engendered a rather vague and general sympathy for ideas of federation, or confederation, or functional federalism, and so on.

The mistake that has been made in this country is basing the case for federation primarily upon military forces rather than upon economic needs. The case for some form of federation, which would include our own powerful and potentially even more productive United Kingdom, rests upon the essential economic facts of life and not upon military needs or upon this Communist bogey. One reason why I support this Amendment is that so far the Government have shown no indication at all of recognising this need, this requirement and this feeling for a merger into some wider community.

The question is: What should our next step be towards this wider community, how big a step should it be, and in precisely what direction should it take us? I think the next step should be with other members of the British Commonwealth and our own Colonial Territories. We should concentrate more upon the possibility there rather than talking in such vague terms about other forms of union which have no economic substance at the moment, and which, as the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) said, are only a dangerous form of social escapism.

What does Atlantic union, for example, offer now, apart from a suitable subject for after dinner oratory? It offers military weapons and military personnel which are spreading through Europe, not a sense of security, but a most dangerous form of anti-Americanism. In the economic field, whereas at one time it did offer money which could be regarded as payment for services honourably rendered in a common cause, today that money is regarded as a dole: and when we attempt to send useful articles like bicycles to offset these payments we have the same kind of American people who are complaining of the dole being sent erecting an economic curtain and preventing us from doing anything useful in return.

My first point, therefore, is that we should return to this idea of Atlantic union only when we have achieved economic health elsewhere. We have elsewhere the prospect of some form of union of Europe. I was very interested and very pleased to hear the way in which the hon. Member for Preston, North couched his remarks about the possibility of a federation of six States of Europe. Hitherto it has seemed to me that the attitude of a lot of hon. Members who go journeying off to Strasbourg was that, whilst they were in favour of union in theory, they were against it in practice. They were like men who wanted to marry but were afraid to make love.