Orders of the Day — Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1962.

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Photo of Mr Anthony Crosland Mr Anthony Crosland , Grimsby 12:00 am, 3rd May 1962

I do not wish to mention any names. Obviously, I cannot do so. It would be contrary to the traditions of the House either to praise or to blame particular civil servants. Of course, there may be outstanding exceptions at the Treasury. I speak strongly about this matter because I feel passionately about it. The number of people at the Treasury with an economic degree is very low indeed. It is slightly higher at the younger levels, but in the higher reaches the number is incredibly low, and to me that is fantastic. I am sorry that I have digressed in this way, but it is a subject about which I feel strongly.

What one comes back to is not the details of this Finance Bill, not even the details of the N.E.D.C. machinery. The whole question will depend in the end on whether the Government have the psychological capacity to give the country through N.E.D.C. the lead which it needs. If I may come back again to the hon. Member for Louth, it is not simply a question of the workers not working hard enough or of the managements not being as go-ahead and as energetic as they ought to be, though both of these things might be true. What is lacking in this country, and has been since the end of the war, is the sense of an economic lead being given by the Government.

A lot of people in industry who would like to see a rapidly growing economy have been intensely frustrated by seeing similar countries in Europe going ahead faster because they have been given a lead by the Government. There have been very occasional indications of a lead on the part of our Government. There was the idea of doubling the standard of living in twenty-five years, and for a time there was a period when industry was given the green light and went ahead very fast indeed. Industry thought that the Government believed in continuous and rapid growth and that there would be secure markets for the goods produced. But, as soon as we got a period of rapid growth, there was always a balance of payments crisis, and the Government knocked the whole thing on the head and a lot of the investment plans of industry appeared inevitably to be frustrated. I am convinced, despite all the arguments about details of planning and the rest, that in the end two-thirds of the planning problem is psychological and not technical or economic. The whole question is whether the Chancellor, the Treasury Ministers and the Prime Minister have the will to make the plan effective. Looking at them, one must have the gravest doubts.