Orders of the Day — Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th November 1968.

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Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe 12:00 am, 25th November 1968

—and, as my hon. Friend says, perhaps more civil servants into the bargain. The policy of the Opposition on this subject is extremely confused and this has been an important day in shedding light on the contradictions of Opposition policy.

Before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) came in and started his customary giggling, my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Marquand) said he hoped that, in consequence of this monetary crisis, there would not be a return to the beggar my neighbour policies of the 'thirties. And the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) interjected to say that it all depended on Nixon. I believe that it does not only depend upon Nixon. It should also depend upon this House.

We must emphasise and re-emphasise what was mentioned in the Sunday Times yesterday, that … world trade is permanently at the mercy of stubborn Governments and frightened speculators. Furthermore, I entirely agree that there must now be a major world conference, stimulated at last into agreement and action by the prospect of the recession looming all around. The conference should consider more than just rates of exchange and how to adjust them. It should set about rethinking the justification of institutions which were established on assumptions about world trade which no longer obtain. And Britain, as the most vulnerable trading nation, has the greatest interest in calling this meeting. While there is an international monetary crisis, beyond that there is also a world trading crisis and I believe that this country can now take a very important lead towards freeing and liberalising world trade.

It is not for those who support protectionism in Western Europe to lecture President Nixon against the dangers of increased protection in America. Naturally, there is great anxiety that America, under its new President, may move towards protectionism. But I would say that it is not for those who admire the protectionism of some of our neighbours to start lecturing the Americans about the benefits of free trade. In an American phrase, they would almost certainly be accused of speaking out of both sides of their mouths.

There have been in this debate speeches in which hon. Members have tried to blame the Labour Government for the international crisis. Right hon. Members opposite shake their heads—