Orders of the Day — Foreign Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th July 1956.

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Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South 12:00 am, 24th July 1956

Naturally, hon. Members will say, "Can we afford it?" I expect that the hon. Member for Louth was going to ask me that, and I say to him that we accept in full our responsibilities for achieving a balance of payments surplus for this country, which will enable us to do all the things that have to be done; in other words, to reduce our debts, to build up our gold reserves and invest abroad, and investing abroad must include any contributions that we may make to schemes of this kind. I accept that fully, but, of course, we shall be enormously helped if we can get defence savings. I do not know where we stand about this; none of us does at the moment, and I hope that we will have some clarification of the position before long.

Do not let us imagine that our present economic problems are simply due directly to the defence burden. It is a burden, but I must remind hon. Members that we had no balance of payments crisis two years ago—in fact, we had a surplus—when the proportionate expenditure on defence was much larger. But, of course, it is a burden, and if we can lift that burden we shall acquire thereby a windfall. It is the disposition of that windfall that I am concerned about. I hope that we shall get it. It is enormously important that if we do that it should not be dissipated.

We need to use it exclusively for two things: first, to catch up on home investment, where we still lag a long way behind Russia and other countries; and, secondly, to play our part in the plan for aiding undeveloped areas.