§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."245
§ Mr. EDE
On Clause 2 I endeavoured to ask a perfectly proper question of the Financial Secretary, but he did not do me the honour of giving me a single word in reply. Therefore I regret that I am bound to repeat the question on this Clause. On this Clause the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) put down an Amendment to wipe out only half of the debt. I now specifically ask the Financial Secretary this question: Does he advise us to follow the policy of His Majesty's late Government in wiping out the whole of this debt, or the policy of the hon. Member for Farnham who six weeks ago, from this side of the House, as the financial spokesman of the Conservative party, desired to wipe out only one-half of the debt. I hope that I may have the courtesy of a reply. I was not discourteous to the Financial Secretary, and I do not think he can complain of a single word I said in regard to him. Does he apply half measures to the hon. Member for Farnham? It may be that the hon. and gallant Member does not, feel competent to answer for himself. He is not supported by any very responsible Minister of the Crown.-The benches opposite at the moment show the interest that is taken in saving the country's finances. I have noticed that the hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight), who started well down the bench early this afternoon is gradually coming nearer to the Financial Secretary. Perhaps he will be able to give him the necessary advice that will enable him to answer a simple question, but I would remind the hon. and gallant Member that the hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham belongs to a very strict trade union.
My question is a fair one. An ex-Financial Secretary of a Conservative Government, six weeks ago, suggested that we should only wipe out half these debts. When our Papers arrived on the morning of the 1st August, the Amendment still stood on the Paper. Between now and then the policy of the Conservative party has been altered in the direction of extravagance, because they now desire to wipe out the whole of the debts. I can only imagine that it is because the hon. Member is now associated with the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the President of the 246 Board of Education and the Paymaster-General in an alliance which he used to think was wrong when it was carried on with us. Now he has been tainted with some of the vice that he used to attribute to us. Does the Financial Secretary stand by what the late Government proposed or for what the hon. Member for Farnham threatened six weeks ago?
§ Major ELLIOT
I apologise to the hon. Member for any seeming discourtesy in not replying to him on the last occasion on which he addressed the Committee. Surely, the hon. Member is not ignorant of the fact that actions which seem not to be trustworthy become trustworthy in certain circumstances. For instance, we hear what hon. Members opposite say about the bankers. They did not attack the bankers when their help was given to the Government of which the hon. Member was a distinguished supporter, but they seem to have the deepest distrust of the bankers when they are not applying themselves to the support of their own political friends—[Interruption.]
§ Major ELLIOT
I am not talking about Lord Hunsdon. I am talking about credits which the bankers were able to obtain for the benefit of the Government of which the hon. Member opposite was so distinguished a supporter. Surely, when there was a Government in office which was subject to powerful pressure, repeatedly exercised, by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) the hon. Member for Farnham felt for that Government the deepest distrust and uneasiness. Under such powerful influence he had seen that Government bend and wilt. [HON. MEMBERS: "Now he has bent and wilted!"] He is giving his powerful advice and help to a Government of a much more representative character, of whose members only three are required at the moment to meet the serried ranks of hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Farnham is not afraid of the present Government bending and 247 wilting under the pressure of the hon. Member for South Shields.
§ Major ELLIOT
It may be the same Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I can assure the hon. Member that we will not subject him to that continuous assault in regard to which we pitied him when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the late Administration. The Amendments brought forward by the hon. Member for Farnham were made for the purpose of raising questions which it was proper for the Opposition to raise, in order that they might be answered. When this Bill was last before the Committee there were not available certain papers which are now available, particularly the annual report of the Public Works Loans Board. My hon. Friend the Member for Farnham and other hon. Members took strong objection to the fact that that report was not available at that time. Moreover, the Bill was then brought forward late at night. It is now being brought forward early. For these reasons, and seeing that we have laid the relative documents, the hon. Member for Farnham sees no necessity for pressing further his inquiries.
§ Major ELLIOT
It may be an apology to say that we are bringing in a Measure with respect to £20,000,000 at a reasonable time instead of at 1 o'clock in the morning. If that can be regarded as an apology, I am ready to make it, and I am certain that other Financial Secretaries would wish that they had had the chance of making such an apology. After this explanation, I hope that the last objection of the hon. Member has been removed and that hon. Members opposite will allow us to have the Bill.
§ Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause 4 (Short title) ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended, considered; read the Third time, and passed.