Orders of the Day — N.a.T.O.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th April 1960.

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Photo of Mr Albert Cooper Mr Albert Cooper , Ilford South 12:00 am, 4th April 1960

It is a little difficult for me to generalise on such a question regarding all industries. I assume that the hon. Gentleman is not trying to tie me with a trick question. But I would suppose that, broadly speaking, if we increased production by about 10 per cent. a year wage costs should not rise much more than about 3 per cent. or something like that. We have to consider labour costs in the production and the ordinary profit margins, and so on. That is a general figure and I could be a little wrong either way.

The immediate point to remember is that the new labour costs must be of so small a proportion, or relatively speaking so small a proportion of the new production, that we do not put up our costs. I do not think anyone would deny the truth of that.

I wonder whether hon. Members have read Lloyds Bank Review, published last week, in which Mr. S. A. Cockfield, lately the senior statistician in the Inland Revenue, from his experience in the Inland Revenue and subsequently as financial director of Boots Pure Drug Company, supports the argument I am putting forward about taxation being the wrong method to use in attempting to cure an inflationary situation.

Professor Carter, writing recently in another booklet called The Three Banks Review, said quite positively that the penalty for expansion without a firm base of exports is a balance of payments crisis. That is a truism of which we are all aware, but we talk about these things so often that familiarity leads to contempt. The ordinary man in the street loses sight of the real importance of export trade to this country. It must increase each year. This year we must make a special effort to increase the figure.

I wish to put to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House one or two propositions to which he and his right hon. Friends might give some attention. I feel that this question of the development of our export trade is so important now that the Prime Minister should call a conference of the leaders of British industry, and of those associations connected with British industry and that they should be given the real hard facts of our economic situation and told what is possible, and their support sought for active measures to increase our exports.

Secondly, I should like to see the Board of Trade give far wider notice of all the facilities which it has to offer to British industry in our overseas territories. It is not always known throughout the country just what these facilities are, and I think that a great deal could be done to help our exporters if the Board of Trade played a more energetic and active rôle in this matter.

Thirdly, there are measures by which the Export Credits Guarantee Department could assist our exporters still more. We are still faced in many countries with restrictions on payments to our exporters, and I think we could help ourselves a great deal in this way.

I should also like the Prime Minister to call the leaders of the T.U.C., and not only the leaders of the T.U.C. but the leaders of the individual unions who may not themselves be members of the Congress. The trade unions today, by virtue of their dominant position in British industry, have themselves a vital part to play in our future prosperity. I hope hon. Members opposite will believe me when I say that I am not trying to be controversial in this matter, but to be constructive.

It is perhaps regrettable that the T.U.C. does not possess adequate powers to control the individual unions which make up the T.U.C. It is also regrettable that over the years there appears to have been a disinclination on the part of individual unions to vest in the T.U.C. powers which they know are adequate if it is to fulfil its functions. Many millions of pounds are lost annually in exports, production and wages, and the greatest losers are always those on strike. I am not for a moment suggesting that these strikes are always caused by some madman on the workshop floor. Over industry as a whole there are probably just as many mistakes in management as among the workers.