Debate on the Address [Sixth Day]

Part of Orders of the Day — Queen's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th November 1964.

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Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough 12:00 am, 10th November 1964

It falls to my pleasant lot to congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller) on what I would call a typically Scots speech—modest, human, friendly, sound, dependable, the type of approach to life we English have learned to respect and expect from good Scotsmen.

I liked, above all, the hon. Gentleman's plea for the abolition of slums, which are a disgrace to us all and to our civilisation. Over the years we English have owed an immense amount to the continuous flow of good Scotsmen to the South, to show us their character. good humour, ability, hard work and independence. I am sure that the hon. Member will, by coming here, keep up the high tradition which the Scots have set for many generations. I congratulate him warmly and hope to hear him frequently in future.

The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said much in his opening speech with which I completely agreed. He said that the election was over, that his party had won and now that they were the Government they intended to govern. I entirely agree with that and I hope that all hon. Members will remember those words. Whatever the Government do should be judged on broad national issues and not on narrow party interests.

I make this plea: that in this delicately balanced House of Commons, with a very sharply divided country, we should turn this assembly into a council of State and give the Government adequate time in which to produce an incomes policy which, although some may not consider it important, I regard as the most important problem facing this or any Government, for without one we will not succeed. It will not be easy for them to achieve such a policy, but if Her Majesty's Government can achieve one they will have served the nation extremely well.

People outside the House are sick to death of narrow embittered party politics. They were bored stiff night after night seeing hon. Members of each party on the television, pulling one another to pieces. They are tired of party politics and they want us to get on with sound government. From my point of view, I wish the Government well—not from my party's point of view, but from the national angle. I would rather that they succeed from the national point of view than fail from any party point of view. I believe that ordinary people, the workers and businessmen, would like to look forward to 18 months without any more electioneering. Let us get on with the job and give the country sound, sober government. We as a party should do our best to help the Government to govern well.

Having said that, I want to point out that the Government's policies should be judged by two simple tests; first, will their policies make the economy of the country more efficient; and, secondly will they help to or make the nation live within its means? The so-called economic crisis is not something new or startling. It has been with us, off and on, since the war and because of world conditions I believe that it is likely to get worse. The problem is simply that we are living beyond our means. We are spending more than we are earning. We are eating, drinking, smoking and gambling more than we can afford, and it cannot go on.

The remedy is equally simple, but very unpopular. The question is whether any Government can introduce sufficiently unpopular measures and still retain their power. That is the problem of modern democracy. We have either to earn more as a nation or we have to spend less. It may be only 6d. in the £, but that 6d. is vital. I also believe that we have all got to work longer, harder and more efficiently to get our prices down and the quality of our goods up, for this is the only way in which we can export more. I believe that export subsidies by themselves are a mere snare and delusion.

The question therefore arises: can the Government make all sections of the nation realise the pressing nature of our problem? Further, can the Government get the nation to accept the unpleasant, unpopular action needed to put it right? Hon. Members who were in the House in the 1945 to 1950 Parliament will remember how Sir Stafford Cripps almost wore himself out trying to get the nation to accept what seems so obvious. If only we had accepted his advice then our prices could have been half what they are today, but, unfortunately for the nation, he failed.

Whether we like it or not I believe that this generation has got to accept a policy of survival through austerity, and we have got to share in that austerity. I say this to the right hon. Gentleman who is to be responsible for our economic affairs, that I believe we cannot solve our external economic problems by merely redistributing either the internal national wealth or the internal national income. If we did that by itself it would merely make things worse, because, as I believe, it would increase the demand on the home market and make our export problem all the more difficult.

Again, I differ from my right hon. Friend—I bow to his longer experience in the House—in that I do not believe we can get an incomes policy, which I think is the most vital requirement, unless it is part of a package deal, and I believe—and I think that it ought to be said from this side of the House—that it is those of us who are most fortunate in life who should set an example and take our share of the burden first.

As an emergency measure—I speak for myself—I would gladly accept a statutory dividend limitation, prohibition of all bonus issues, greater control of expense accounts, sterner rent control, a bigger capital gains tax. But provided, and only provided, that they are accepted as part and parcel of an effective agreement to restrain wage and salary increases.