Orders of the Day — Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th April 1969.

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Photo of Mr Edward Leadbitter Mr Edward Leadbitter , Hartlepools, The 12:00 am, 17th April 1969

I am sorry, but when I look around me at the calibre of personnel in this House in terms of brain power and ability, and see the buffoons opposite, I wonder how on earth hon. Members opposite can ever think of themselves as an alternative Government. Their posture was quite different in 1963. They should read the headlines which were published in that disgraceful year. Let them read again the headlines about 1963, 1962 and 1961. In 1964 The Times gave the country a great warning about the conditions that the Tories left for us, and said that in the course of time the Tories would kid us that this had never happened. Hon. Members opposite cannot come to the House with their hands clean and dictate or lecture to us.

Against a background of national crisis, which we do not deny, we have created conditions in terms of social wage that are a credit to the Government's courage. My region has benefited considerably. The whole country used to talk the language of two nations, the one affluent and the other not, the one that had some degree of good living and the other where good living had not been known for decades. Against the terrible background of unemployment, in just over 48 months of a Labour Government we now have houses built up to Parker-Morris standards. There are far more than Hailsham talked about, and far better, though he never talked about providing the money.

The sum of £100,000 million has been spent in my region alone to attract and restructure industry, yet hon. Members opposite have the arrogant cheek to talk about the country going to the dogs. It is all nonsense. It is the language of mediocrities. It is time hon. Members opposite all crawled under the Table. We say to them and to the editors of the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Daily Sketch and the Daily Telegraph, "Do not count your chickens before they are hatched". When the next General Election comes, the electorate will not be arguing about this, that and the other, but choosing between the party opposite and my party, and even a person untutored in politics would regard the party opposite as past censuring and not even worth considering. We shiver and shake and dread the thought of even the possibility of its return.

The average housewife and average man now enjoy a large part of the social wage about which I have talked, and the country's infrastructure has been improved. This has been part of budgetary policy, because that policy has something to do with the economic planning with which we are involved. It is not just a question of the balance of payments. When I consider that the average man, woman and child are enjoying the benefits of the great transformation in the infrastructure of the country, when the work possibilities arising from the restructuring of industry which has been promoted and accelerated these past months—[Interruption.] I have not even seen the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) sweat in this House, never mind a workshop. Hon. Members opposite must understand that the restructuring of industry has been a profound success, though there is still much to do, and job opportunities are improving considerably.

In the welter of change, the Government's provisions have assisted in the transitional period the very people who might have been hurt most. For the workpeople there have been redundancy payments, better unemployment benefits, and earnings-related benefits. The sick and injured have been looked after better than ever before. Take all these things into account, and that is the balance sheet in this country—not the corny, awful business of the balance of payments, about which we hear every time hon. Members opposite open their mouths. I say as a Member of Parliament, proud of my constituency and country, that no one in this country under Labour need go hungry. If he does, it is his own damned fault. No one need go without assistance, and no one need go without opportunity. All the language used against the Labour Party will be of no avail in the end. I say to hon. Members opposite, "I hope that you try to do more and more, because at the end of the day the fair-mindedness of our people will find you out."