Orders of the Day — Economic Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th November 1976.

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Photo of Mr Roy Hughes Mr Roy Hughes , Newport (Monmouthshire/Gwent) 12:00 am, 30th November 1976

I appreciate that David Lloyd George was responsible for an awful lot of progressive legislation. The point that I am trying to make is that the Government could learn a lot from him despite the fact that he was at his zenith even before the First World War.

Despite the astonishing figure of almost 1½ million unemployed, the Government have repeatedly turned their face against import controls. The Government's failure to act in this direction is keeping many thousands of extra people on the dole. We know that the country has been persistently troubled by a balance of payments crisis. Many of our traditional industries are being undermined —electronics, textiles, motor cars and so on.

During the debate we have listened to extracts from Marx, from Keynes and from the Chicago school. To me it makes sound economic sense that we should only import what we can afford to pay for by our exports. Home demand could and should be controlled by adjustments in taxation and the level of public expenditure. In this way we could expand effective demand without a recurring balance of payments crisis. Production, employment and investment would grow rapidly.

The Cambridge economists who have put forward this particular theory are absolutely right in their analysis. For the Chancellor to suggest that there is no alternative to the Government's present strategy is misleading to say the least. If the Government were to introduce the sort of import controls that I am suggesting, there would no doubt be many snags and anomalies in implementing such a policy. There would certainly be squeals of anguish from the Common Market and from our trading partners in GATT. But these organisations must be flexible enough to enable this country to get back on its feet.

An impoverished United Kingdom can only be of limited value as an ally. Likewise, a major trading nation like the United Kingdom, persistently in economic difficulties, undermines the trading stability of the world.