Orders of the Day — Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th July 1961.

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Photo of Mr Denis Howell Mr Denis Howell , Birmingham Small Heath 12:00 am, 27th July 1961

I am reminded of the philosopher who said that all power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely, and that applies to the Prime Minister.

I had not intended to refer to the Prime Minister. I hoped to refer to the moral and ethical standards of the nation and to relate them to the economic and Sociological problems of the day. I have a great respect for economists, but I am getting a little fed up with them in this debate. The House and the Government ought to listen more to sociologists, and to a little more sermonising. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) has left the Chamber. Yesterday he said some cynical things about moralising.

I do not know why other hon. Members entered politics, but I did so because I thought that the nature of our society was an important factor in life; that the moral basis on which political parties based their actions was very important.

There is nothing wrong with moralising. What is wrong is not to suit one's actions to one's words. That is the difficulty in which the Government have placed us on almost every conceivable occasion.

When the right hon. Member for Flint, West was Financial Secretary he had a unique opportunity to put into operation the long-term measures to solve our recurring crises which he now bemoans. What we remember about the right hon. Member for Flint, West after his service at the Treasury is that memorable phrase, "Nigel was very depressed on the grouse moors this morning". Nigel was very depressed in exactly the same sort of circumstances which we are discussing today—an economic crisis. He was not depressed over the debasing of human standards. He was depressed over the effect on the stock market of an economic crisis.

We get the same sort of attitude from the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). I am sorry that he, too, is not here. I have been waiting for two days to say this to him. Since I came into the House in 1955 I have heard him ask about 4,261 Questions complaining about the level of Purchase Tax, and I have read about 524 Motions which he signed. He pressed hon. Members on both sides to demand a reduction in the Purchase Tax on motor cars. He came to me and said, "You represent a motor car industry. Sign this." It was a tenable proposition, but what happened on Tuesday? When the Chancellor sat down after having put a 10 per cent. increase on Purchase Tax, the hon. Gentleman was one of the first to rise and say, While congratulating my right hon. and learned Friend on his tough, resilient and realistic statement this afternoon …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1961; Vol. 645, c. 232.] What humbug and nonsense. I hope that the House will never again give way to the hon. Member for Kidderminster to put Questions about Purchase Tax. I know that in Kidderminster they have the Kidderminster Harriers. The hon. Gentleman has gone to see the Harriers this afternoon.