Debate on the Address

Part of Orders of the Day — Queen's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th December 1954.

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Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet 12:00 am, 7th December 1954

I was just reflecting that the corner we were rounding in 1950 led to the economic crisis of 1951. In 1946, the right hon. Member also said: We are determined that we are not going to be caught unawares by blind economic forces … Yet the burden of the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South was that the crises which the former Government had to face in 1947 and 1951 were not their fault, but should be attributed to "blind economic forces," like world prices. I do not think that the accusation of complacency is necessarily one-sided. Then we are told in the Amendment that we are complacent about the continued existence of social injustice. I am not quite sure what is meant by the word "continued." I would have expected that we would be accused of creating social injustice, but I have not heard any evidence of that in the speech of the right hon. Member nor seen it in the Amendment.

When we come to the economic part of the Amendment we find that it is said that by abandoning nationalisation controls and State interference generally we have been failing to check inflation, have been allowing consumers to be exploited and failed to encourage economic expansion. I cannot think of a more adequate description of the opposite of the truth. There is no mention in the Amendment of the international financial situation which we encountered when we took up office, although there was some mention of it in the speech of the right hon. Member.

He was comparing 1954 with 1951, which is a very interesting comparison, but what matters is what happened during the year 1951, because, by the latter half of that year, when we took up office, our reserves were running out at the rate of 10 million dollars a day—faster than they had ever run out before. That was the situation we inherited, a situation of imminent crisis in external affairs and, incidentally, of developing depression in the textile industries of the world.

The right hon. Member still argues—I am rather surprised that he should—that the change in the balance of payments is solely due to the change in import prices.