HC Deb 12 February 1924 vol 169 cc751-3

want to appeal to the country to keep step. I see in the newspapers from day to day all sorts of stories about enormous loans that my colleagues are considering, enormous flotations of loans that are to be put on the market if we remain in office only for a week or two. It is all nonsense. No consideration has ever been given to such proposals. I am told also that the cancelling of a certain Order by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health (Mr. Wheatley) was the signal that "the red flag was to be flown by every board of guardians from John o' Groats to Lands End." I was amazed at it. Everyone knows perfectly well that that Order had ceased to operate. Everybody knows perfectly well that the question of the cancellation of the Order had been again and again under consideration in the Department concerned. Everybody knows perfectly well that as a matter of fact the Order has never been effective. Everybody knows perfectly well that an Act of Parliament was passed in 1923 which changed the methods by which extravagance by boards of guardians was to he checked.


Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to say—


I am sure that hon. Members will have plenty of opportunity of replying later. So small did the operation seem to the Department itself, so insignificant was the whole thing, that the Department took it for granted that the rescinding of the Order was nothing but a merely mechanical operation. In any event, whatever justification there may be for that, I can assure the House that what was done by the Minister of Health was no indication whatever that we intend to encourage sheer uneconomic extravagance on the part either of boards of guardians or of. any other spending authority in the country.

The country sooner or later had to become acquainted with the driving hand of labour, and I am very glad that it has come sooner. I feel perfectly certain that such stories as those told by the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R Horne), when he set foot in this country, apparently at a time of the most excessive mental distress, after his arrival from Canada and his disembarkation from a stormy sea, such statements as he made regarding, not what is in our mind, but what was in our nature—a somewhat (Efferent thing—regarding, not what we would deliberately set out to do, but what we were bound to do by the laws of God himself—being Labour, 'to destroy the nation, destroy its credit, make capital fly off in a state of wild excitement and terror and so on—the sooner that sort of thing is proved to be sheer rubbish the better it will be for everyone concerned I hope that the experience which the cot try and the Empire are to have of a Labour Government will make it absolutely impossible for any such statements to be made or any such ideas to be held.

The question arises, what is going to happen as far as the mind of the Government, in relation to the mind of the. country, is concerned? Are we going to pursue the policy of tranquility? No, we are not. We are going to pursue a fuller policy. We are going to pursue the policy of confidence; yes, confidence, not merely confidence in one section, but confidence on the part of the whole of the nation, confidence that will enable, for instance, all the sections engaged in the building of houses to put their hearts and' energies into their work—an aim and an ideal that hon. Members opposite might have been in office for half a century, and never would have attained. The confidence that is required to, produce houses is, a confidence that the people who build the houses will inhabit them. The confidence that is required to enable men and women to work wholeheartedly is a confidence that can be secured only when the reward of their labour is just, is fair, is equitable.

That confidence the Labour party, I hope, will give. National life to-day is far too much like anodd oasis here, and an odd oasis there, placed in the middle of a great surrounding desert of distress. I do not want the desert to swallow up the oases. I do want the oases, and my Government want the oases, to spread and spread and spread until they swallow up the desert. That is the distinction between hon. Members opposite and hon. Members here. In that spirit we are going to do our work. Do not let this House value too little that spirit. That is another of our distinctions. The spirit in which the work is going to be done is all the more essential—it certainly ought to be all the more essential, since under Capitalism it has deteriorated so badly that "ca' canny" has become 1 policy of both sides. The spirit in which the work is to. be done is 'likely to be of the most profound importance if this country is going to be pulled together, and if everybody is going to work his best for the common well-being.