Economic Measures

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th July 1966.

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Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton 12:00 am, 20th July 1966

I should not feel justified in making this demand on industry, if I did not feel that we had done everything in our power to secure social justice for the first time in the broader fiscal and social policies of the Government. For no Government have the right to ask for restraint, still less for an effective standstill, unless they have done everything a Government can do to create a climate of social justice, which alone can justify such a policy.

Inevitably, today I have dealt with measures which, taken by themselves, involve restriction and restraint. But the House will realise that their whole purpose is to provide industry with the opportunity to achieve a major increase in productivity by streamlining production and labour utilisation. They must be seen against a background of policies designed to speed the application of scientific methods and techniques— already well-known to progressive managers—to increase efficiency in private industry and in the public sector.

Industry by industry, the Economic Development Committees are tackling the practical problems of raising efficiency and spreading knowledge of how performance can be improved in individual companies. Industry by industry—shipbuilding, printing, the docks, rail transport—the Government are engaged in urgent discussions designed to increase productivity and to eliminate overmanning and restrictive practices. We have sought to proceed by voluntary agreement. Where this is not forthcoming, other action must be taken. The Government have indicated to all concerned their determination that the freight liner train services shall go ahead on the basis of open terminals.

The problems with which I have been dealing are problems that have beset Britain's economy virtually since the end of the war. The unsung achievements of keen executives and of hard-working, responsible trade unionists, of inventive scientists and creative designers are all too often overshadowed by attitudes of selfishness and indifference, of indolence and indiscipline on both sides of industry.

For while the Government can and must do all in their power to create conditions to lay down the rules within which the economy must operate, the determination and resolve which today's measures demonstrate must be matched by effort and endeavour on the part of the whole British people.