Orders of the Day — Public Investment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th November 1960.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park 12:00 am, 10th November 1960

Or improve the quality, as my hon. Friend says.

The other great worry about exports is how to persuade firms to export when they have a ready and easy home market in which to sell their goods. My tutor at Oxford, a very distinguished economist, told me fifteen years ago that this was the problem which kept him awake at night. How does one get exports when there is a buoyant home market? On the other hand, if the home market is depressed by deliberate Government action and the prospects in industry are bad, how does one persuade firms to take the risks of going into the export business? When production is going down and, inevitably, the unit cost is going up, how are firms then equipped to fight the export battle?

Of course, in the wider context of the balance of payments, there is the particular problem of the sterling area. When the terms of trade and world conditions favour our own United Kingdom economy, they are usually adverse to many other primary producing countries of the sterling area, and vice-versa. As far as I can see, we shall have a balance of payments and sterling crisis for the rest of my life, and probably much longer.

These are the matters which the Government and the party opposite should have put to the people of Britain at the last election, not the talk of our never having had it so good, and all the rest of it. As has been said, this was the interesting issue which emerged in the course of the American election. The one clear issue seemed to be a division about complacency in regard to economic achievement and the influence of the United States in world affairs. It is, of course, no part of the business of Members of this House to intervene in party battles in other countries, but I take a good deal of assurance from the result of the American election. I believe that, when the issue is clearly put in this country, as it will be, a similar result will emerge; in my judgment, the British people are much more mature politically than the Americans and they will come to a similar view but by a much more convincing margin.

Also, we should take a word of warning from the change of Government in the United States. If the American economy is to remove itself from the bottom of the league table of production, investment and so forth, where we have been competing with them for the wooden spoon, and if the American economy is to expand, matters will be made much more difficult for us in our export markets as we try to compete with American exports which come from an invigorated economy.

Anyone approaching these problems with an open mind, anyone who has read more about economic matters than is contained in Conservative Party literature, is bound to come to the conclusion expressed in the moderate words of the Amendment. I hope that some hon. Members opposite, who are ashamed of the economic record of their own side, will find it in their hearts to abstain from voting tonight.