Budget Proposals and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th April 1957.

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Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough 12:00 am, 10th April 1957

I have just said that.

I want to say to my right hon. Friend that this will be no easy task. Sir Stafford Cripps, whom hon. Members respected so greatly, tried it in 1949 on two occasions. In the debate in this House on the devaluation of sterling on 27th September, 1949, he said this—and I commend his words to hon. Members on both sides: Any worker by hands or brain who goes slow, or is an absentee, or demands more money for no more output"— that is exactly what we were doing last year— is, in fact, doing his best to put up his own household bills and to put somebody—quite possibly himself—out of a job."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th September, 1949; Vol. 468, c.31–2.] I should like to see that statement put in every wage packet throughout the country, and accompanying every dividend cheque sent out in the next month.

A month later, when we were discussing the economic situation resulting from the devaluation, Sir Stafford Cripps said: Unless we can all quickly produce more and get our costs down, we shall suffer a tragic fall in our standard of living accompanied by all the demoralising insecurity of widespread unemployment." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1949; Vol. 468, c. 1352–3.] I do not underestimate the difficulty which my right hon. Friend faces in trying to get this over to the country as a whole—all sections, all classes alike—for, apparently, although various Chancellors during the twelve years I have had the honour to sit in this House, have warned the nation we have been living beyond our means and facing an economic crisis, almost every section is living better today than it did ten years ago. People will not believe that we are in a crisis and that a greater effort is necessary, and my right hon. Friend's greatest problem is to get this over to workers and managements alike.

In order to finish by 9.30 as promised I will come to my third point. Hon. Members opposite do themselves and the country a disservice, especially when their speeches are reported in the foreign Press, when they suggest that either by design or by accident—many have suggested by design—the Tory Government have, as a matter of policy, set themselves to grind the faces of the poor and to bring down the standard of living in this country.