Orders of the Day — Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st February 1956.

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Photo of Major Sir Henry D'Avigdor-Goldsmid Major Sir Henry D'Avigdor-Goldsmid , Walsall South 12:00 am, 21st February 1956

This balance of a payments crisis is a new one. It is a new one to me because I have heard of a balance of payments crisis of the sterling area, but this is a crisis applicable only to this country. The fault lies in this country alone, and it is in this country that it must be remedied. Hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House have sworn to defend the parity of the £. If devaluation could be protected by words, the £ would be in an impregnable position, but as we very well know, that is not the case. Economic facts are strongest.

We have a limited amount of reserves. I do not want to go over the figures again, but their inadequacy is painfully obvious. They are the reserves not only of this country, but of the entire sterling area, If we fritter them away. we shall have lost the sterling area. More than that, we shall have cheated those dependent territories who left their balances with us for safe keeping. Unless we can supply those territories with goods and with investment, we can abdicate as a great Power in the world. This is something that we must solve ourselves. We can solve it by many methods, but with one fixity of purpose. No one factor will be sufficient.

I have been all too surprised during this debate to hear no defence from these benches of the policy of my right hon. Friend who is now Lord Privy Seal. [HON. MEMBERS: "We are not surprised."] I propose to remedy that deficiency. Hon. Members in this House are at a disadvantage compared with members of the public, of whom until recently I was one, in not appreciating the weight that is attached to their words. When, before the last Election, one hon. Member after another from the benches opposite threatened the wretched people who were unwise enough to buy back the shares of the steel companies from the Iron and Steel Holding and Realisation Agency that as soon as they got in at the next Election they would take it all away again—they made a great point about the fact that there should be no compensation for profits—they must realise that those words, although they might have been discounted inside this House, carried great weight outside. People were very shy of touching those shares. They were very difficult to sell.