I am strongly tempted to follow the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) in his remarks about membership of the Common Market. I am particularly tempted to deal with some of the more naive and inane ones. However, I shall resist the temptation, because it seems to me that in our present economic situation it is more important to be concerned with taking the right steps to strengthen the economy, whether or not we go into the Common Market, and it is rather to this aspect of affairs that I shall devote my remarks.
When I addressed the House on the occasion of the Third Reading of the Prices and Incomes Bill, I expressed a view about the likely consequences of some aspects of the Government's policy which did not wholly commend itself to all my hon. Friends on this side of the House. Now, three months later, we have passed the stage of speculation. We are confronted with the harsh realities. We are not guessing at the consequences. They are staring us in the face, and I believe that in the present situation many people who a few months ago were prepared to give the Government the benefit of the doubt about what was likely to happen no longer feel that they can do so.
What has now happened is that the prices and incomes policy which the Government originally conceived as an alternative to deflation and unemployment has become their inevitable accompaniment, and the measures which in July were intended to provide us with a breathing space before we moved forward again on the path of expansion are now directly plunging us even more deeply into the path of a lasting recession. What is surprising is not that this should be so, but that the Government should ever have concluded that it could be otherwise, because we have been through the whole story before.
The July measures were in essence a reversion to Conservative economic policies which were put into operation on so many occasions by the party opposite when it was the Government between 1951 and 1964, and from which we always emerged weaker at the end of the day. Confronted by a balance of payments crisis the party opposite sought to stave off further debt by means of cutting home demand and instituting a credit squeeze and a pay pause—and the results were always the same.