Debate on the Address

Part of Orders of the Day — Queen's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th June 1955.

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Photo of Sir Alexander Spearman Sir Alexander Spearman , Scarborough and Whitby 12:00 am, 16th June 1955

I said, and I think that the hon. Member will find that it is the case, that the institutions which I am talking about—the insurance companies—benefit a number of workers. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate said that the amount which these institutions held in ordinary shares was only a small proportion of their assets. In making that calculation, I suppose he was taking into account the purchase price paid many years ago, and not the value today, when the right hon. Gentleman will find the amount to be a very considerable proportion of the assets of the institution.

In so far as these dividends go to the very rich, we must remember the very large amount which is taken in taxation. A very rich man whose income is increased by £1,000 a year from dividends finds that £900 goes in taxation and that he receives £100. If dividends go down when times are bad and do not go up when times are good, funds will not be available for risk capital, which, I think. would be most unfortunate.

No matter where we sit in this House, we can all agree today that the prime job of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to achieve a balance between money income and the real national income. We may disagree on how that balance is to be achieved, but we must have that balance, because if there is too little purchasing power, we get unemployment and all that follows with it, and if we have too much purchasing power, we get inflation which, allowed to go too far, is the most unjust form of taxation, and, if unaccompanied by an equivalent amount of inflation in competitor countries would result in a disastrous balance of payments crisis.

To his credit, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has not only achieved an approximate balance, but he has done it at a very high level of activity. The demands for goods and the supply of resources are, as it were, the two legs of the economy of the country, and they must be equal. It is an easier job to cut down demand than to increase resources, but, as I know to my own personal cost, cutting down a long leg is a very painful process. It is far pleasanter, but it requires greater skill and courage to lengthen the short leg; that is what the Chancellor has succeeded in doing.

Has anyone ever watched a child learning to ride a bicycle, sometimes leaning too much one way and sometimes too much the other way, with a constant danger of falling off? Of those of us who have watched the Chancellor in the last few years, some have thought that he leaned too much towards the danger of inflation, while some others have thought that he went too much the other way, but we now see that he has, in fact, ridden a most extraordinarily dexterous and stable course between the two.

To return to the arguments of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South, I thought that the action of my right hon. Friend in taking firmer measures of a monetary nature in February were exceptionally well timed. I do not believe that making money dearer has anything like the unfavourable effect on investment which has been suggested from the other side of the House. I think that the main effect of dearer money on investment has been to discourage those marginal enterprises like luxury enterprises and those things which are not really in the national interest.