Orders of the Day — Budget Proposals and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th April 1960.

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Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough 12:00 am, 6th April 1960

But the description was collective and included myself. I said that we all have this queer dual personality. We like to spend money, and yet we hate having to find that money.

So far as I can see, the real kernel of our problem has not been touched upon. It is that the last ten years of Conservative prosperity and of a high standard of living in this country have largely been enjoyed at the expense of the coloured men of the world. The terms of trade have been in our favour, and we have got our tin, rubber, lead and zinc at prices which ought to make us ashamed. Nine-tenths of the world are living at one-tenth of our standard of living. We say that we want the coloured people to have a higher standard of living, but they can have that only if we pay a fairer price for what they produce. If that is to happen, the terms of trade will move against us. As the Economic Secretary knows, a movement of about two points in the terms of trade would land us in a deficit which would give us the shivers. There is not enough reserve in our economy to take care of that. We shall not always be so lucky.

I have just returned from South Africa. There I saw people working for wages that made me shudder. The problem in Africa will be solved not by politics but by putting up wages and by giving the people a decent standard of living. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We shall have to pay for that. It is no good hon. Members cheering unless they are prepared to say to their constituents, "This means, brothers, that those people are to have some of the good things which you are enjoying." They must also say whether they are prepared to do that or not.

I wonder whether enough weight is being given in our calculations to the danger that the terms of trade may turn against us. Let it not be forgotten that the 50 million of us in this country can exist only if we sell abroad 30 per cent. of all that we manufacture. If we pay more and more, as we must and as we ought, for the raw materials that we use, it will be more and more difficult for us to sell our goods in foreign markets, and more and more difficult for us to maintain the Tory prosperity of which we have all been so justly proud. Very few persons are prepared to tell the people these unpleasant truths, and that is why I wish that we had half a dozen men like Sir Stafford Cripps on both sides of the House.

I should like the Chancellor to consider whether there is enough reserve in our economy to take care of the dangers which I conceive may arise if we have to pay more for our raw materials and foodstuffs. Will the Chancellor do what I asked a previous Chancellor to do but which he refused to do—go out day by day in the country and explain the difficulties of our situation and appeal not only for restraint in wage claims by the workpeople but on this side of the House for restraint in dividends and profits, for better, greater and cheaper production, because that is the only way that we shall avoid another serious crisis which might well be ahead of us?