Orders of the Day — Ministerial Salaries and Members' Pensions Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th December 1964.

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Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough 12:00 am, 18th December 1964

I withdraw what I said and most humbly beg the pardon of the hon. Member.

I want to quote both the Prime Minister and the First Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and the right hon. Gentleman responsible for the nation's economic position. In the debate on the Queen's Speech on 4th November, as reported in col. 216 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 4th November, the First Secretary said—I cannot be wrong in quoting him I hope: We that is, the Government— set out the emergency measures which we felt compelled to take to deal with the gigantic economic mess which had been left behind. Then he was interrupted and he said: Hon. Members opposite must make up their minds. Either the situation is serious or it is not. In our view, it is … Since that speech was made the economic situation of our country as seen in the foreign exchanges of the world has gone much worse. I am not saying whose fault that is, but am trying to set the case out. It is desperately worse.—[Interruption.]—If hon. Members speak to anyone engaged in the foreign exchange market they will have a lesson. It is against that background that I am trying to look at this Measure. It is on the evidence of the right hon. Gentleman himself that I am basing my argument. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say, as reported in the next column of the OFFICIAL REPORT: First, a word about the emergency action. That is the action which the Government were taking— Was it justified? The balance of payments deficit, as estimated to us, was between £700 and £800 million … A colossal and terrifying figure. He went on: I want to emphasise that this was the most cautious estimate presented to us … If we are living at £800 million beyond our means and beyond what we are earning, surely we ought to set a better example to the rest of the nation and not at this moment, when the nation cannot afford it, to demand more and more pay for ourselves. The right hon. Gentleman said: This by any standard is a deficit of gargantuan size, one year's deficit at the current rate is not far short of our total dollar and gold reserves. I think everybody … must agree that the deficit had to be checked, … I am asking the Government to help to check it by dropping this Bill for six months— it had to be checked drastically and checked at once. If, as the right hon. Gentleman said with all the facts behind him, we were living so far beyond our means, surely we ought not to make the position worse. Finally he said, as reported in col. 233 when referring to himself and the Election: at no stage of the campaign did I do anything or say anything which would have led anybody to believe that the things we want to do could be done immediately and without effort and cost. He went on to say, and this is a point which I want hon. Members to accept: it does not mean a return to Crippsian austerity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th November, 1964; Vol. 701, cc. 216, 217 and 233.] That is exactly what I think it does mean. I wish to Heaven that Sir Stafford Cripps were back to deal with this position.—[An HON. MEMBER: "You opposed him."]—No I did not; I spoke for him in those days. In my opinion only a Crippsian austerity will get us out of the present jam which both sides agree we are in. May I remind hon. Members of what Sir Stafford Cripps did when we were facing a similar economic crisis in 1949? He did not put up hon. Mem- bers' salaries, nor did he increase social services.