HC Deb 07 November 1939 vol 353 cc185-6

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate, on Question [10th October],"That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Question again proposed.

9.46 p.m.

Mr. Boothby

I do not think we ought to allow this Bill to pass without some observations. We have already debated this afternoon the whole question of loans and the finance policy of the Government, and here we are at nearly ten minutes to ten asked to debate a Bill of a most drastic character, which I do not think the House in its present state—I refer merely to the numbers present—should pass without some form of discussion. In the present phase of the war such a Bill goes very much beyond what hon. Members even on the Labour benches would consider it right to justify. The first phase of any war is bound to be extremely deflationary in character. By that I mean that large numbers of business men all over the country are put to great expense and have to make drastic adjustments to meet an entirely new situation that has been created. Many workers in all industries and trades are thrown out of employment because for the time being those particular trades and industries are reduced to a condition where they practically cease to function, and a comparatively lengthy period of transition is required before the full productive capacity and energy of the country is once again brought into place.

I think my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has failed to realise these extremely important facts. There is a great deal of unemployment at the present time. I think the condition of industry in the country to-day affords grounds for very grave anxiety, and that a period of at least six months should be allowed to elapse before any drastic measures are introduced of this particular kind to deal with a situation which I believe my hon. Friend would be the first to admit does not at present exist. He is himself engaged in industry. He knows that many industries which have no connection with actual war production are finding the greatest difficulty at the moment. He knows the savage taxes that have already been introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not in principle disagree with the ultimative objectives of this Bill, but I do say that this is not the right moment to introduce legislation of this character. I have fortified myself in these arguments by the speech which I have already made to-day, that at this particular juncture—

Notice taken that40 Members were not present; House counted; and40 Members not being present—

The House was adjourned at Six Minutes before Ten of the Clock till To-morrow.