Unemployment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th December 1962.

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Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 12:00 am, 17th December 1962

In that case I do not understand why the Chancellor should expect us to share the Government's views on the recent rise in the level of unemployment. They are crocodile tears. The Chancellor could lessen the amount of unemployment today if he chose to do so and every man on the dole today looks to the Chancellor and says, "You are responsible for my being there".

The Chancellor is not increasing output as fast as he could because he fears that if he does he will get into balance of payment difficulties. Is that not right? Is that not what he said? If that is true —and if, in fact, he is so concerned about balance of payments problems—and if he is keeping a high level of unemployment for the time being, what comes of all those stories about the £ never having been stronger in our lifetime? Must we, after 11 years of Tory rule, keep half a million people out of work because of the risk of our balance of payments difficulties should we put them back into employment?

It is equally true that under this Government the Chancellor must keep a high level of unemployment or risk a balance of payments crisis. That is why we shall have e unemployment until just before the next General Election, when the figure will go down in order to tide them over the election—and then it will grow again afterwards. The reason is that they have no long-term solution to these problems.

I feel bitterly angered when I hear the Chancellor and other Ministers denying that it is possible to put up unemployment benefits now. After all, 97s. 6d. is what a married man has on which to enjoy Christmas. That, of course, does not apply to everyone, for 1st January will be gift Tuesday for a lot of people. The Surtax concessions come into force on gift Tuesday. The Chancellor will not be able to offer to put up unemployment benefits, but he will see to it that a director getting £15,000 a year wild get £1,638 in tax remissions.

The Leader of the Liberal Party suggested that the incomes of some of the new directors might be referred to the National Incomes Commission. That would be an excellent idea if the Government really wanted to set an example to the nation. They send the painters' hours there. What about sending the fees to be drawn by some of these directors who have recently been appointed? It is astonishing that we should pay someone £6,000 a year or less to run our defences, or mess them up, and that he should then get £30,000 a year for selling soda water—about £1 a bubble.

We cannot accept the Government's Amendment. It is hypocritical of them to say that they share concern for the unemployed. This is the old story. They stand aside. These problems have nothing to do with them. They say they are very worried about them. It is just like Skybolt; if things go all right—well and good; but if they go wrong, blame the Americans. If the Central African Federation goes wrong, then blame the Labour Party. If the Tory Party is unpopular, blame the Press. So unemployment is not their responsibility. But they are very concerned about it. This is hypocrisy. They created the unemployment; they are responsible for it. We do not believe that their measures will be effective to overcome it, and we do not believe that, even though they should try to overcome it, they intend to try to overcome it for some months yet. For that reason, we reject the Government's Amendment, and hope that the House will support us in our Motion.