Orders of the Day — Economic Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th November 1967.

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Photo of Mr James Dickens Mr James Dickens , Lewisham West 12:00 am, 7th November 1967

For the third occasion in rather less than, a year the House is devoting its attention to a debate on the general economic situation. I wish to begin by saying what the Amendment which 45 hon. Members on this side of the House have tabled does not try to do. It is not a panic reaction to recent by-election reversals. It might be useful if I simply summarise briefly and conveniently what those of us who are critical of the Government's policies have been trying to do during the past 15 months.

When, on 20th July, 1966, the Government finally capitulated to pressure from powerful financial interests in the City of London, the Bank of England the Treasury and bankers at home and abroad, that being the culmination of pressures over the period from October, 1964, within five days some 47 of us repudiated the Government's policy of Tory deflation and set out constructive alternative proposals.

These we reaffirmed in debates in the House on 30th November, 1966, and again on 24th July, 1967. Moreover, we published a pamphlet entitled, "Beyond the Freeze", which expanded on some of these proposals. We also issued, with an acute sense of timing, a document entitled "Never Again", on the first anniversary of 20th July, 1966, which again set out precisely and in detail our critique of Government economic policies and our own alternative proposals. Our criticisms of the Government over the past 15 months are now being shown by a much wider audience to be justified.

David Lloyd George said that a tired nation was a Tory nation. Britain today is politically tired. Indeed, in some parts of Britain our people are exasperated, as in the case, for example, in Scotland and Wales. They are tired and exasperated because they are experiencing yet again the self-evident failings of traditional Tory deflationary remedies to resolve Britain's basic economic problems.

This is our fourth attempt at deflation in 12 years. It is our ninth balance of payments crisis since the war. It is true, as the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) pointed out, that each bout of deflation is worse than the one which preceded it. In 1957, Mr. Thorneycroft's deflation was more severe than that of the then Mr. R. A. Butler in 1955. Likewise, the deflationary measures introduced by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) in 1961 were more severe than those introduced by Mr. Thorneycroft. And so it is today that the deflationary steps introduced on 20th July last year by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor were the severest of all.