Orders of the Day — Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th February 1961.

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Photo of Viscount  Hinchingbrooke Viscount Hinchingbrooke , South Dorset 12:00 am, 7th February 1961

The hon. Member complains that the agricultural worker is the lowest paid worker in society, and I am inclined to agree with him. There is a case for putting the agricultural worker in a higher place in the trade union hierarchy, but it must be a conscious decision which is arrived at and agreed as permanent. What I complain about is the slippery slope upon which we find ourselves every year, in which people refuse to take the fundamental decision as to what position in the hierarchy each trade union should occupy.

I now want to make a few remarks about what I conceive to be a lack of emotional appeal to our people. My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Maurice Macmillan) is quite right; there is no inspiring theme at work in the country today. Wherever we look, on any front—the home front, the foreign front or the colonial front—nothing is to be found which really elevates the consciousness of the British people. I trust that the Government will discover a key which will unlock this door within the next year or two. The honeymoon period between the Tory Party and the British people is over. From now on the Government are not going to be able to command success; they must deserve it.

It is not enough to give moral examples to the world, which is something so dear to the hearts of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is not enough to put before the world a flaccid Conservative-Radical image, a "Butskell". Examples are not what is required; we need exertions. I see no sign, on any front, at home or abroad, that the Government, are going to lay before the country an inspiring theme.

I said at the beginning of my speech that I was in Africa for a part of the autumn. The situation there is fundamental; members of our Commonwealth in that great Continent desire to elevate their standard of living before anything else. The great majority of them are not worried at all about who is going to get into Government in the next six months. They want to take their feet out of that universal red clay and move into higher spheres of civilisation. In this country, we have to do something to bring that hope to realisation. We are not doing it at the present time. Every time we export £100 million or £200 million more capital to the Colonies it becomes part of the balance of payments crisis which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen immediately use as a reason for a vote of censure. The more good we do, the more we export, the worse it becomes. How fantastic that is.

People have cited President Kennedy's message of inspiration and hope to the people of the United States of America. If he had addressed the State of Washington, D.C. or Philadelphia and said that he hoped to double their standard of living in twenty-five years, what would the rest of his vast federated country have said in reply? What does the Commonwealth and Empire say to the Home Secretary when he speaks about doubling the British standard of living in twenty-five years? Is it a selfish and ignoble aim. It is not enough for a great country like ours with our opportunities. It is part of this isolated glasshouse complex which has come over us since the war. We have to think in bigger terms than that. Somehow we have to be able to export what we ourselves are building here to the Commonwealth in hundreds and perhaps thousands of millions of pounds with a million people as well if we are to save them from Communism and degradation and perpetual poverty. These things have to be done without causing a crisis in the balance of payments.

Could we, for example, invent a Commonwealth currency so that these transactions on a great scale can take place within the Commonwealth without causing any kind of economic disaster? That is the kind of device we have got to invent in the next five or ten years. I trust that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who has initiated many good ideas in the last four or five years since he took over the helm will think as big as he can about the future of this country and this empire and put before the people a theme and a purpose which will redound to the credit of our society.