Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th April 1970.

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Photo of Mr Anthony Barber Mr Anthony Barber , Altrincham and Sale 12:00 am, 20th April 1970

Certainly we are; there has never been any doubt about that. I thought I made that clear first by my quotation from Sam Brittan and by my other remarks. It is a direct result of the failure of the Government to act as they said they were going to act—[Interruption.] That is true. That is why every trade union leader knows that in this election year he need take not the slightest notice of anything that the Government say.

Even more serious than the effect on the consumer at home—the effect of rising prices on the housewives and those on small fixed incomes—is the fact that if we are not careful we shall be in real danger of pricing ourselves out of export markets.

Trade union leaders should also ponder the consequences. If Labour were to win the next election the Prime Minister would not hesitate to reintroduce statutory control of wages, exactly as he did before—[Interruption.] Right hon. and hon. Members opposite may not like this, but at the last election, what did the Prime Minister say? [Interruption.] This is typical. Hon. Members opposite do not care the slightest if the nation was cheated. They do not mind at all what was said at the last election. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) can sit there laughing, because he has a fairly substantial majority, but many of his right hon. and hon. Friends will certainly be swept away at the next election.

It is worth recalling again and again that the Prime Minister said that we could never legislate for wage increases, and that no party was setting out to do it—yet within less than six months he did just that. Next time he may make the same hypocritical pledge and, if he wants to, with equal impunity he will not hesitate to break it.

Taking the last five-and-a-half years as a whole, Socialism has failed. The British people know it and hon. Members opposite know it. Before the turn of the year —[Interruption.] No.—I have another quotation to read. Just before the turn of the year the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher), who is hardly on the right of his party, wrote a very revealing article entitled "Where did it all go wrong?". Perhaps hon. Members opposite will do their hon. Friend the courtesy of listening to his words of wisdom. He said: Reality is that though we may be wanted by our constituents, our doctrines are not. It is that most workers were doing very nicely, thank you, during the 13 wasted years and do not think they are doing so well now. It is that Barbara Castle's Prices and Incomes policy, though hardly different from the ' planned increase of incomes' that the 1963 Labour Party conference accepted with exhilaration, was killed by proletarian derision just as her innocuous Industrial Relations Bill was killed by proletarian resentment. It is that the class-consciousness generated in industrial disputes drives workers against `their' party instead of towards it. It is that dynamic words from dynamic ' new men ' have not conjured up much new economic growth. It is that the planned solution to the balance of payments problem did not solve it, whereas the unplanned back-tracking to financial orthodoxy looks like doing so. It is, most of all, that Capitalism works and most people are quite content to let it. That is the truth.