Commonwealth and Empire Resources

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1957.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East 12:00 am, 3rd May 1957

do not this afternoon. I think that we have asked the Economic Secretary to the Treasury sufficient questions today at least to carry us through this debate. Perhaps we could come hack to G.A.T.T. on another occasion. I was trying on this occasion to relate the Free Trade Area with the Commonwealth. because it is to me of great importance, as it also seemed to be to hon. Gentlemen opposite.

I ask the Government what is their attitude towards Commonwealth development. Are they really in favour of it? Do they really want to raise this splendid conception to the highest level and to secure co-operation between the Commonwealth as a whole, and the British people to march forward together? Or have they become Little Englanders who, while paying lip service to the doctrine of the Commonwealth, are ready to walk into a Free Trade Area and say, "Well, the Commonwealth will cost us a lot of money; we are very heavily in debt; we cannot find the capital to expand; so we have to realise the realities of the situation and give up any thoughts and hopes for the future"?

That would be entirely wrong, and it should not be our approach today. I thought the hon. Member for Kirkdale was a bit gloomy. He may have thought that he was being realistic, but the only purpose of facing facts is to overcome them and to try to adjust them to the situation one wants to see. That is surely the art of politics. I believe that it is still politically possible—I have yet to be convinced by the Government that it is politically impossible—to bring the Commonwealth along in this direction.

I want the Government, at the forthcoming conference of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, to make a supreme effort to try to enlarge our conception and vision of what can be done, and at the highest level where its consideration can be of tremendous importance to the future of our people and of those who are still to come after us.

I follow the approach of my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough towards our ideal of trying to raise the standard of life, raising the general standard of living in the underdeveloped territories of the world. It is a noble conception, one we all ought to have at heart. The circumstances have gone, however, in which that was our only conception. It may be part of our duty, but the plain truth—and this is why we really do have to find out how far the Commonwealth is ready to come along with us—is that we need the Commonwealth as much as the Commonwealth needs us. The day has gone by when we could just invest large sums of money in raising the standard of life of the backward peoples out of a bountiful surplus that we might have. This is no longer our position. With us. the development of the Commonwealth is basically a matter of life or death.

I believe that we are approaching a crisis in our relationships with the Commonwealth economically. Either we are to tax ourselves, or in some other way raise the level of our savings so that investment on a considerable scale can take place in the Commonwealth, or, alternatively, if we do not do that, the Commonwealth as we understand it as a concept is politically and economically at an end, and we shall be forced either to turn inwards upon Europe or to have substantial emigration from this country.

I do not believe that it is possible to escape from one or other of those conclusions. My conclusion is that in 1957, with the opportunities that lie ahead of us, we should take the decisions and achieve the resolution that will secure capital and the adherence of other Commonwealth countries to the concept that we have in mind and lay the foundation for the material and economic prosperity of thousands of people throughout our own territories.