§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
I beg to move,That this House urges upon the Government the essential need so to direct their economic and financial policy as to ensure that employment, industry and commerce may be increased and developed after the war to the greatest possible extent, and for that purpose to co-operate to the full with other members of the United Nations.It would be appropriate and right, before I move this Motion, if I expressed on behalf of my right hon. Friends, hon. Friends and myself, our high sense of appreciation of the action of the Leader of the House, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government in allowing us to debate this Motion and giving us two days in which to do so. Perhaps I might recall to the House in that connection that, during the last war, there was, on the Front Opposition Bench in the then House of Commons, what I may call, in language which is a contradiction in terms, a friendly Opposition, composed of right hon. Gentlemen of all parties, such as Mr. Asquith, Sir Edward Carson and, for a short time, the present Prime Minister himself, who inaugurated and initiated Debates of this kind. They did not merely listen to statements by the Government and then debate them. I hope that we shall have points raised in this discussion which the Government can answer.
I do not regard my own speech as important. It is only intended as a peg on which to hang a statement from the Government upon matters on which there emphatically should be a statement in this House. In other words, it is intended to be largely exploratory and interrogatory. It might be held that it would have been better to entrust the Motion to one who claims to be an economist—which is not a claim which I have ever made on behalf of myself—but since economists, like doctors, seldom agree in this House, perhaps it is just as well that the matter should be initiated by someone who makes no claim to such a title. Obviously the Government can be expected to-day to tell us only what, so to speak, should be the scaffolding of the building to be erected after the war; or perhaps a happier metaphor would be that they can give us only a very rough ground plan.
Among those whose names are associated with this Motion is that of the right 771 hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris). He has his own fiscal views. It is well known, of course, that his fiscal views and mine do not necessarily coincide, and I shall scrupulously endeavour to avoid making any dogmatic assertions of a fiscal kind in my speech. I merely wish to put certain questions to the Government. At the risk of repetition I once again urge most strongly, but respectfully, on the House the need for getting more attention to the matters propounded in the Motion than has hitherto been the case. There can be no doubt that upon a solution of these problems rest the very bone and fibre of our post-war national existence.
Let me deal first of all with the matter which comes first, I think, in order of importance, and that is the question of inflation. The greatest danger which could possibly arise to our economic well-being, in times of war and peace alike, is inflation on a large scale. I do not deny the evils of deflation, which are very great, but for the moment I am concerned with inflation only. It should be realised to a greater extent than it is in this House that the country is interested at the present time in questions concerning a fairer distribution of internal wealth, far greater equalisation of opportunity and a social plan of great practical and organisational value, like the Beveridge Report. Those things should be effected not on political grounds, but on both practical and ethical grounds. In that connection it is most necessary to warn the country, and I think all Members of the House should make it their duty to warn the country, that serious inflation would absolutely knock the bottom out of all these schemes and plans. If ever there was a man who has been misunderstood and misinterpreted by opponents and supporters alike at the present time, it is Sir William Beveridge, and I think it is necessary to quote what he himself said in an article the other day, which has a very great bearing on this question of inflation. He said:All my proposals are concerned simply with the redistribution, as between the citizens of Britain, of the total national income so as to meet the most urgent needs before less urgent needs. If this Report, or anything like it, is accepted by Parliament—these are the relevant words:—that will not mean Britain trying to make itself more comfortable than other nations or 772 at the expense of other nations, or trying to get an undue share of the total wealth of the world. The plan of the Report is a plan for distributing whatever income we have in this country, whether small or large, in a certain way so as to meet the most urgent needs first.How few commentators have dealt with that purport which is the real purport and meaning of Sir William Beveridge's Report. Most people in this country are profoundly ignorant of what inflation would mean and how a comparatively small measure of it would completely destroy the whole financial basis of the Beveridge Report or anything like it.
I turn to the question of export trade. Here again I do not think I shall say anything with which any section of the House would be in disagreement. I submit that there is a lamentable lack of appreciation of the importance of the export trade, and I must say also a lack on the part of some economists of a willingness, or at any rate an ability, to state facts which are patent. May I give just one or two figures which I think will not be quarrelled with by anybody? As a result of the war and the extension of agriculture we now produce something like 70 per cent. of our primary food in this country. We might, I suppose, at a pinch get up to 75 or 80 per cent., but that still leaves things like tea, coffee and sugar, to quote only a few, to be wholly in the case of the first two, and mainly in the case of the third, to be imported. Let us take other commodities. I know something about timber production in this country. In no circumstances should we be able to produce more than a small proportion of our timber, about, say, 10 per cent. We must import things like rubber and natural oil at any rate until we can make enormous quantities of both synthetically here. That is a long way ahead. Therefore export or invisible export trade is essential.
I do not think anybody will deny this statement which I am about to make, that while we have had, quite properly, the fullest discussion of the Beveridge plan, of which I am a supporter, and things of that kind, the public mind has not been prepared by speeches in this House or in the country for the difficulties which we shall meet in the matter of export trade after the war. If we are to consider post-war plans and schemes, the country should be got into an export state of mind. There should be constantly 773 impressed upon it the need for maintaining, in some form or other, our export or invisible export trade. Everyone knows that we lost a large chunk of our invisible export trade as a result of the last war. We had some very serious losses before this war. Speaking with some knowledge and authority as president for some years of an organisation which was concerned with our trade and position in China, I would say that, as a result of events in China long before this war, the British investor lost something like £400,000,000 of investments in that country. These are figures given to me in confidence by one of the biggest firms doing business in that country. To some extent we made up for that loss of invisible export trade by trades which we developed after the last war, such as rubber and tin in Malaya, which have, for the moment, disappeared.
So I would sum up my questions on this point by saying that no one would dispute the statement, whatever his political views might be, that some form of export and invisible export trade in some quantity we must have to exist. And we must, I think, warn the minds of the public in this country against the idea which is prevalent in some quarters, not necessarily as a result of political doctrines, but because it is an easy, simple way of thinking, an escapist way of thinking, that any mere internal redistribution of purchasing power will give the average man and woman a higher standard of living without a very great foreign trade, in visible or in invisible exports. In other words, we must have a reasonable balance of payments to sell as well as to buy, and it is necessary to get the country thinking on those lines to-day.
I come to another question on which possibly there will be less agreement on both sides of the House or between me and some of my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House—the question of taxation. There seem to me to be two facts which are as demonstrable as anything in economics can be. If the burden of taxation on an industry mainly dependent upon export trade is very high, it is thereby handicapped slightly or fatally, according to the scale of that taxation. In the opinion of many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, if all land were nationalised and all industry collectivised, that would greatly 774 improve the national wealth of the country. I am not concerned to-day to argue either for or against that view. I would only say that, even so, if the cost of production here was higher than that of our competitors in export trade, that trade would simply cease to exist if handled on laisser faire or free trade principles. There is no escaping these ugly facts. I should have thought that all of us, whatever our fiscal views, must be concerned to promote post-war export trade, however much our methods of doing so may differ. And however much we may think—and frankly I do not—that high taxation is per se good, surely we must allow that it is a weighty factor in most cases against a flourishing export trade unless our competitors are equally highly taxed.
My next point, which is dealt with in the Motion—I hope my right hon. Friend will deal with it, though I appreciate most fully the difficulty and delicacy which must confront any member of His Majesty's Government in doing so on this particular question at this particular time—is the question of international postwar co-operation. I suppose I am representing the views of every Member of this House—and my hon. Friend who represents the Communist party as much as any of the rest—when I say that none of the questions which I have ventured to ask will be easily soluble, or soluble at all, without co-operation between this country and other nations. We must start, obviously, with the United Nations, that is to say, with the United States, the U.S.S.R., China, the Dominions and ourselves. Our next step must be to consult our smaller European Allies whose authorised Governments are here, and then enemy and neutral countries. But I suggest that it is not quite as easy as some commentators in the Press or indeed some hon. Members who have taken part in earlier Debates in this House seem to think. There are, to use a modern military term, a good many tank traps and land mines to be avoided. [An HON. MEMBER: "And sea ones too."] Quite true.
Let me deal with the first step which I have mentioned. As a result of the Ottawa Conference and the policy of the decade following, our economic policy—though to a lesser degree as a result of the war—was integrated to a much greater extent than it had hitherto been with that 775 of the Dominions. India and the Colonies. Many of my hon. and right hon. Friends, like myself, were in favour of the Ottawa policy. Others were against it, and that division of opinion extends to the Government as well as the rest of the House, as far as the past is concerned. But whatever our views may have been at the time, surely no one would deny this simple statement, that it would be the basest betrayal to abandon that policy without the fullest consultation with those units of the British Commonwealth concerned.
While there are obvious reasons against the Government making an affirmation of the kind which I am about to make, I think it is, just as well that such an affirmation should be made from this bench and that the world should know it. It is this: Leaving aside India, the Colonies and the protected territories, who, it may be urged had no real say in the matter, it is the fact that the free self-governing units of the British Commonwealth—that is to say, the Dominions—with the regrettable exception of Eire—Southern Rhodesia and Great Britain, with the Dutch East Indies, and such of our Allies as had sought refuge here, stood alone—and the emphasis is on the word "alone"—against Hitler and Mussolini from June, 1940, to July, 1941. That profound truth should never be forgotten, and it would be, indeed, an instance of that hyprocrisy which is frequently attributed to the British if we were afraid to state that, for fear of offending some of our present Allies. We freely shared men, money, goods, all we had, we risked all to save all, and we were bound together not merely by voluntary but by sacred bonds. Therefore, neither our present Allies nor the neutrals can have any moral or legal grounds for asking us to cut those bonds, so far as they continue in an economic sense after the war, without the free and full consent of the Governments of the Allied countries and the whole of the self-governing units of the British Commonwealth. [Interruption.] I say, without the free consent of the countries concerned—if they want us to cut the bonds, then, of course, the conditions are very different.
This question of Imperial trade is a delicate subject, on which we should not be all agreed, and I do not want to cause any Party dissension in this Debate. I would only refer therefore in a sentence to Colonial trade as opposed to Imperial trade. 776 Here I may say, in parenthesis, that it is a helpful and hopeful thing in this House at the present time that many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, with whom I and many of us are in disagreement at ordinary times, are combining with us to press upon the Government the need for doing certain things in the Colonies, both for developing trade and for improving the status and specially the well-being of the inhabitants. Whatever our fiscal views may be, we must recognise that one of the ways of improving the well-being of the inhabitants of the Colonies is to increase the trade of the Colonies, and especially the trade of the Colonies with other countries. It seems to me that if you abandon the whole idea of any inter-Colonial economic system, you are going to make it extremely difficult to carry out Colonial development for the benefit of the inhabitants as we are all anxious to do. I will not put it further than that.
Lastly, I wish to say a few words on the question of the purely financial arrangements to be made after the war. Here I intend to say something of which some hon. Gentlemen may disapprove but which I think ought to be said from the Front Opposition Bench if not by the Government. Nothing would so annoy the rest of the world and make a future war more certain than to try to create a post-war, exclusively Anglo-American financial plan, or to seem to aim at an Anglo-American financial hegemony. I must also say this. I think it should be realised that even though the United States is, to-day, by far the greatest industrial and financial Power in the world, she may not remain so for the next 50 or even 25 years. The U.S.S.R., or China, may take her place. Therefore, on purely materialist grounds, which are always supposed to appeal to the Englishman—it is often said with great truth, that beneath all our sentimental statements we have a pretty shrewd idea of which way business lies and we are a business nation—on purely materialist grounds, apart from any other, apart from obligations which are based upon war comradeship, we and the United States must treat Russia and China as equal partners in these discussions. I do not think anyone will deny that. If anyone here is prepared to say, "I differ from the noble Lord; I do not think you can treat China and the U.S.S.R. on the same basis as the United States," I will gladly give way 777 to him. But I do not think anyone would say so.
§ Earl Winterton
They may think it, but I do not think they would say it—not if they are going to fight an election. There is also a delicate matter to which I think reference should be made. There is some suspicion of Soviet Russia in some quarters in the United States. It is regrettable that it should exist, but we must not attempt to flatter that opinion and we must continue to assert the views of, I think, 90 per cent. of Britain, that however much the internal economic systems of Russia and Britain may differ, we want to maintain the closest working relationship with Russia in international affairs, including international economic affairs. The same applies to relations with China. I would like to say that the United States is our very great friend and indispensable Ally, but neither that friendship nor that alliance will be assisted by a failure on our part to state truths which may be unpalatable to some sections of United States opinion.
We often forget, in that connection, that the United States, like Britain, is a great democratic country. Contrary to the opinions of people who are always attacking the British Government and saying that it does not know how to carry out propaganda, there does not happen to be one united opinion in the United States on most internal questions and on a great many international questions. We are always being told that we should do more to please American opinion. The answer to that is, "Which part of American opinion? Do you want to please Republican opinion or Democratic opinion; those whose who support the President or those who oppose him?" The fact is that it is no part of our business in this country to interfere with internal American policy, any more that it is part of the business of the United States to interfere in the internal policies of this country. I thank Heaven that the United States, like ourselves, is a country where free speech is enjoyed, and where a great many people are ready to criticise their own Government. If I may be permitted to make a reference to a very great man, whom I have not the pleasure of knowing personally, I would say that I feel, in my humble position 778 in this House and in the country, a great friendship for Mr. Wendell Willkie.
§ Earl Winterton
I will tell my noble Friend why. It is because I share these two things with Mr. Wendell Willkie. He, in his great position, and I, in my humble one, are as anxious as any two people in the two countries to see this war won, and won handsomely; and we have the courage to do something which is almost lèse majesté in this country and in America—to criticise the heads of our respective States. I think that if there was occasionally more of the free outspoken advice which is given by Mr. Willkie, and of the generous appreciation which is given by him and by other Americans to the war effort of this country without necessarily agreeing with everything that is done, Anglo-American relations would be greatly improved. Somebody once said that the greatest harm to the relations of this country and of America is done by the dinners, attended by gentlemen in boiled shirts, of the Pilgrim Club—or whatever the Pilgrim organisation in this country is called. I agree with that. It is very necessary that we should constantly impress upon the public conscience the basic and all-important point that the post-war world will be a very hard World. I think, too, with all respect, that we should try to avoid two twin errors which are at opposite ends of the pole. The first is the easy-going optimism which leads people to assert that if only you do a few simple things you will have abounding prosperity without effort. The people who say that are flat-catchers, and the mugs they are out to catch are the less instructed voters at the next Election. Equally dangerous are the gloomy, liverish defeatists who say that we can never win back our proper share of the post-war trade, never come to terms with our Allies for an international financial and economic plan, and that, therefore, we must lower our standard of living and give up all idea of implementing the Beveridge Report.
§ Earl Winterton
My noble Friend, before she interrupts so much, should read the newspapers, including those which belong to members of her own family. There are 779 many people in the country who say it; and they are as much enemies of public morale as those who say that everything is going to be easy. These problems can be solved, in peace as in war, by the almost atavistic character and the inherited qualities of the British people, of honesty, ability, technical skill, and tolerance. I was very struck the other day by a very fine letter in the "Daily Telegraph"—obviously a genuine letter—which had been sent by an American soldier to his parents, in which he spoke of how much he liked this country. He said:Do not worry about me—I am now in a land of character, among people with the most admirable qualities of heart and soul.I think that that is very true. I go so far as to say that all the dangers with which we have been confronted in the last 150 years were surmounted by attributes of British character. It goes back much further than 150 years. The dangers in the Napoleonic Wars, when we made appalling mistakes—and, as everybody who reads Mr. Bryant's book "The Years of Endurance" will realise, our military operations then were calamitous in the first instance, as some of our military operations have been in this war—and in the latter period of the last war, and when we were confronted with the very real dangers of the world economic crisis in 1931, and again in the situation in which we found ourselves in 1940, the English really won through by certain attributes of character which they possess. We certainly do not win through by any superior intelligence, because we are often slow and stupid and indulge in a form of sentimental soliloquy which does more credit to our hearts than to our heads; but we do, in all classes, possess the golden gift of character. I believe that we have a great opportunity after this war not merely to take our due place in the world of economic and currency affairs, but once again, as in 1940, to give a lead to the whole world. We should not be too modest in this matter; we should not indulge in self-immolation. We should get out of the habit of thinking that the lead must be given to other countries. By showing the qualities we have shown in 1940, and so often, I believe we shall find the solution for these most intractable problems. I am very grateful to the Government for giving us an opportunity of having these 780 problems discussed, and of indicating our views.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I too am very glad that the Government have given us an opportunity to discuss this problem, because I am sure that the people of the country as a whole feel that the war and the peace are one single task, that they cannot be dealt with separately, and that we must have some definite positive aim, and we must let the world know clearly what that aim is. This arises particularly in connection with what is happening at present in North Africa. If it were thought, if it were the fact, that we were fighting for a Fascist France, a Vichy France, a monarchist France, or anything of that kind, it would have the worst possible effect in this country and throughout the United Nations. I am sure that that is not so, and that we are fighting for democracy and freedom in France, as in other parts of the world. Our programme must be the peace, happiness, security and freedom of all nations.
This brings us to the question of the Beveridge Report. That is to be discussed in a Debate of its own later, but perhaps I may be permitted to say just one word about it. It has certainly captured the imagination of the people. The country is intensely interested in it, and people will discuss it whether they are permitted to or not. They are most anxious to see it carried into effect at the earliest possible moment. I have asked my constituents and others what they think of it, and their reply has been, "It is magnificent, it is just what we want, but it is too good to be true. They will not let us have it. There are forces of obstruction, vested interests of various kinds, which will stand in the way of preventing this great scheme being put into operation." That is their reaction to the Beveridge Report. I daresay many other hon. Members have had the same experience. Let us assure the people that that will not happen, and that although we here have not been in contact with the electorate for seven or eight years now, we do understand and are responsive to what they desire and will carry this great scheme into effect. I am told that in the Conservative Party the general attitude—no doubt it is untrue, like most generalisations—towards the Beveridge Report is affected by the age limit. Those over 50 are against it, and those who are under 50 are in favour of it. It would be 781 true, I think, to say that the younger members of the party, and at any rate those who are seeking re-election, are very much more keenly in favour of it than those who are not.
I turn to the subject of unemployment, which is part and parcel of the Beveridge scheme. We have got to solve that problem too. Personally, I wish that Sir William Beveridge might have an opportunity of investigating this difficult problem and bringing forward proposals, as in his recent Report, but I say that the test of any scheme in future will be its effect upon employment. Returning soldiers, sailors and airmen will insist on this matter being settled. They will not tolerate being brought back to a world of industrial conditions such as existed between 1919 and 1939. We must find full employment, and it can be done, but we have to bear in-mind that unregulated private enterprise and full employment are incompatible. I take these words from two interesting articles which appeared last week in "The Times" and with which I feel that many hon. Members in all parts of the House will be inclined to agree. Laissez faire is as dead as the dodo. It has been dead for a great many years, certainly all this century, and we do not want to hear any more about it. I think it is generally agreed that there must be plans of some kind. The question is, What kind of plans, and how much planning do we require? To suggest that we require no planning at all is to suggest something which I think very few hon. Members in this House would be prepared to argue. The short answer is that we must have enough planning to provide work for all.
We shall start off at the end of this war on the basis of the national and international controls which will then be in operation. It is generally agreed, I think, that for a time, at any rate, many of those controls will have to be kept in operation. We do not want to repeat the mistake of 1919, when controls were precipitately withdrawn and chaos reigned throughout industry, producing a boom, a slump and mass unemployment. We can avoid that by taking thought and not behaving in the same reckless manner as after the last war. The controls which I believe will have to be maintained for some considerable period are firstly those on imports and exports. There will be a great struggle for materials, and there 782 will have to be priorities for imports. It would never do for luxury goods to come flooding in when what we shall most require are the goods to satisfy the normal necessities of life. These latter must be given priority when supplies are short and when transport is short, as will be the case after the war. Raw materials will have to be strictly controlled for the time being.
Secondly, price controls will have to be maintained, for a period at any rate. Otherwise prices will soar, and the whole position will very soon get out of gear. I am inclined to think we shall want full publicity in regard to the profits of companies and the prices which they are charging for articles, and that the prices laid down by the price-fixing authority should be those of the most efficient units in an organisation and not, as is very often the case now, when it is left to private enterprise, the least efficient units of an organisation. In that way we can get lower costs, greater efficiency and the weeding-out on a proper compensatory basis of the units which are not up to date and are really not helping the country in the struggle for world trade. Thirdly, we shall have to keep what is, in effect, an investment board. The great investor at the present time is the Government—the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Government. It is the Government who are giving the orders, and after the war there will still have to be, in order to maintain employment, a power of investment by the Government, though perhaps reduced to a minimum. It would exercise very little influence when trade is good and booming, but when trade is beginning to slacken off and signs of a slump arise then the State will have to intervene if we really mean to achieve our object. The State can do so by stimulating private enterprise in various ways. It can do it by increasing purchasing power. It has been suggested that we ought to reduce taxation at such moments rather than increase it, so that money shall be available to stimulate trade. The State can do it by encouragement of public works, the kind of thing which was done on a considerable scale, but not widely enough, during the time of mass employment.
But I do not believe that that in itself will be sufficient. I think it will be necessary for the State to have a sufficiently wide scope within which it 783 can operate in insisting upon capital investment of a kind that will have a very profound effect upon employment. I am inclined to think that we shall have to go further in the realm of State control, in the form of a public utility company or something else of that kind. I feel that the industries which are the most suitable for that kind of thing are the mines and the whole of the transport system for instance—the railways. Further, we might well investigate whether the steel industry is not a suitable one to be placed under an organisation of that kind, for the reason that steel prices, if regulated by International cartel, are likely to be kept at a level which will make it very difficult for our engineering industries to sell their goods at competitive prices in the world markets. It may be possible to arrange this by some other means, without State intervention—I do not know—but it is a matter that ought not to be ruled out of account.
I hope that when in future we attempt to conquer unemployment we shall adopt something of the technique which we have seen during national War Savings Weeks. We have had weeks for tanks and battleships and now "Wings for victory." Let us try to set up a target or slogan something like "National Parks" or "Better health and houses." I cannot for the moment think of the most effective slogan, but I am sure we could find one which would make a great appeal to the country. If the people were made to feel, "That is the thing we are to strive for at this moment," we should get something of the war spirit, something above the purely commercial object such as we have not had in the past.
I come to the question of wages control, which certainly comes into the picture too. We require something in the nature of a new treaty with regard to wages between capital and labour. There ought to be a national minimum wage covering every person in the country, and coupled with that, the obligation for re-training in certain circumstances. It is obvious that we cannot undertake to find work for all necessarily in the trades in which they were occupied before. There will have to be a certain mobility of labour, and I think that that is generally recognised. It is not right to leave the control of wage policy purely to the strongest trade union in one particular section of an industry. 784 That is accidental. We ought to have an arrangement for the fixing of wages on a national basis, the trade union organisations as a whole viewing the matter from the point of view of every trade and industry in the country. In that way, we are far more likely to give general satisfaction to the wage earners and to keep them in full employment than if exceptional pulls went on without any regard to the national interest.
The trade unions would be far more inclined to agree to something of that sort because they would have three things which they have not had in the past. First of all, they would have full publicity with regard to the profits that were being made in a particular industry. It would not be enough for employers to say, "We are very sorry, we have been doing badly, and we cannot afford it," or "Prospects are bad," when the workers had not the means of checking it and finding out the real facts. If they could be told precisely the profits of each firm and the profits they are making from selling the main articles of general consumption, they would be in a position to judge what is fairly just to ask as a reasonable wage advance. Secondly, they would have what they have not had in the past, namely, full employment, a matter of immense importance. Thirdly, they would have partnership in industry through the development of workers' councils and production committees and would have an opportunity of being joint directors, as it were, in the conduct of industry in a way which has been completely unknown in the past. The industrial rights of the worker have been very small indeed, whereas his political rights have been immense. That has to be corrected. Democracy has to enter the factory, and in future they will have to play their part to the full with the knowledge of what is going on and with the power to give advice and to make suggestions in all that affects their daily work.
It may be said, "How does this affect the right to strike?" Certainly I would not propose that the right to strike should be affected at all. All that is suggested is that there should be machinery which would reduce the use of that final weapon, which must always remain, to a minimum and in most cases make it entirely unnecessary for that disturbing factor, disturbing to both sides and to the country as a whole, to be brought into play. Arbi- 785 tration will, I hope, play its part in delaying action, but finally there must always remain the right to withdraw labour. If and when trade is good, these controls continuing from the war period, to which I have referred, would, I believe, be lifted and made of very minor effect. But the machinery would be there, and whenever there seemed to be the possibility of a slump in the future it could be brought rapidly into operation. We would not have to improvise and search around as has been the case in the past. The noble Lord said that economists did not seem to agree at all, and very often they do not agree, but I think they are very much inclined to agree on the whole with the sort of ideas I have been putting forward. I believe that they make an appeal to business men, and certainly to "The Times" newspaper and to many of the younger Members of the Conservative party, and certainly to hon. Members on this side of the House. It would be the best if we could operate schemes of this scheme on an international basis, and best of all if we could do it with the United States of America. If for any reason they are not willing to play their part, it would be possible to operate with what remains of the world. Our position as a buyer will be very strong indeed after the war, and we shall be, as a purchaser of world goods, in a position to make good bargains on an international basis.
There remain two alternatives. First of all, that we should have no plan and should follow the precedent of the last war, that there would be chaos and mass unemployment, leading, some would say, to revolution, though I do not believe that, because English people do not do things in that way.—(Interruption) They have not done it for 300 years, and it would be unnecessary with our democratic machinery. The second alternative is that you should have a definite, carefully thought-out scheme providing jobs for soldiers, sailors and airmen when they come back, and for munition workers when they leave the benches where they will no longer be required, a scheme which will provide real freedom for the development of that individual initiative and personality essential under all regimes. I hope that we shall have the wisdom to choose the second of these two alternatives.
§ Mr. Benson (Chesterfield)
The problems raised by this Motion are so vast and interlocked and complicated that one is either liable to fall into the danger of dealing with vague generalities or alternatively with mere facets which must of necessity be linked up with every other phase of the problem, that one's treatment of them is entirely inadequate. Frankly, I do not see how any Member is going to avoid falling into one or other of these traps. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) stressed the fact that one thing will be essential—we must get back our foreign trade and our foreign assets. I suggest that so far from that being our object, this is merely one of the incidentals in a very much wider object which must literally be forced upon us. If we get back our foreign trade, it will be little more than getting back to the pre-war standard. That is not going to satisfy the country. We have to satisfy the country, not with the old standard, but with the standard of new aspirations which have grown up during the war. We have to satisfy the aspirations of the Four Freedoms, including freedom from want. We are committed already to vast schemes of expenditure. We have vast building programmes both of commercial building and housing. We are committed to vast expenditure upon education. We are committed to the Beveridge plan. Hon. Members may think we are not committed to it, but the country has committed us by its reception of it. Our commitments are already far too great to be met out of a national income equivalent to that of 1939. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reply to a question a short time ago, stated that our national income had grown by about 20 per cent. in the last 25 years. That rate of progress will be entirely inadequate to meet the needs of the postwar world, and we shall have to face, in some way or other, a stepping-up of our national income, of our real income, at a rate far higher than we have succeeded in doing in the past, or, at any rate, since the first explosive expansion of the industrial revolution.
I am rather appalled at the growth of an opinion in the country among people who ought to know better that we can do all that is necessary by a little financial jugglery—that is a very pleasant point of view for the Indus- 787 trialists to hold—such as by a little extra credit and by twisting the tails of the banks. I am always prepared to do that, though I regard it not as a contribution to economic thought, but as an afternoon's light amusement. I like to twist the tails of the bankers, not because they are inefficient, but because they are so eminently sedate. Our financial machine is highly efficient and economical. I do not suggest that it could not be improved; it could. Nevertheless, in comparison with our industrial machine, it is incomparably the most efficient part of our economy and, moreover, immensely flexible, and is capable of being used for government policy far more readily than the much more cumbersome and rigid industrial machine. The bottlenecks of progress will not be found in our financial machine. It is efficient enough to carry a far higher standard of progress and development. Whether or not it can be improved, I want to stress the fact that, if we try to achieve merely financial remedies for the problems that will face us after the war, we shall be chasing a red herring.
We are faced with two problems: first of all, the stepping-up of the national income and, secondly, dealing with the trade cycle. I do not believe that the people of this country will remain as quiescent in the future if we have to face an unemployment figure of 3,000,000. These questions of the trade cycle and the stepping-up of our national income are closely interlocked. I do not mean merely the fact that if you have 3,000,000 unemployed you are losing real income, but rather the fact that these two questions are more or less involved in the problem of the capitalisation of industry. If we are to step-up our national income at the rate which will be necessary, we shall have to increase the capitalisation of industry very largely. You cannot increase production unless you increase your industrial plant and improve its efficiency. We know how we have obtained more war production, by tooling up and by steadily increasing the quality and quantity of our industrial plant, and if we want peace-time production, we shall similarly have to look forward to a very great increase in the capitalisation of industry. Our cry will have to be, "More plant, better plant, and the continual renewal of plant." We 788 must make the industry of this country efficient in the workshop; we must have the highest and best quality plant and the maximum amount of plant that we can use.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise the immense improvement brought about in the development of productive plant through the process of the war? Would it not be more important to utilise the conversion of that plant for the capitalisation of new plant?
§ Mr. Benson
I am not speaking specifically but in general terms. I am not an industrialist, but I question whether a very large amount of the war plant in industry, which is highly specialised, can be utilised for the needs of the nation after the war. We have put in plant primarily of an engineering character to deal with steel and metal. War plant may be wonderfully efficient, but you cannot turn out a wardrobe on an automatic lathe. Moreover, much of it will be worn out. It is not a question of utilising plant we have now; we have to look forward to a policy of a steady increase in capitalisation and a steady improvement in the standard of our plant, not for the next five years but permanently. I am prepared to admit that such plant as is usable and can be modified should be adapted, and I view with horror the possibility of our great modern arms factories being abandoned as they were after the last war. But the question whether you can use a great arsenal to turn out fittings for, the immediate post-war building programme is only a temporary matter. I am concerned about the general policy, which shall be permanent, of stepping up our national income in the only possible way, namely, by the progressive, increasing capitalisation of the industry of this country.
With regard to the trade cycle, capitalisation is directly involved. The modern analysis of the trade cycle ascribes it almost entirely to the rhythm of investment. There are, of course, other factors that produce slumps, but the trade cycle as a cycle is now regarded by modern economists as the outcome of investment rhythm. What happens is that some fluctuation in investment produces a tendency towards increasing unemployment; that starts a downward grade and then, for psychological reasons, investment— 789 and I mean actual building plant and material—follows a similar rhythm. When a slump is imminent investment decreases, and then, when we are on the up-grade, investment increases, and the rhythm of investment is imposed upon trade variations and reinforces both the peaks and the troughs, with the result that you establish this rhythm of a cycle.
§ Sir P. Hannon
Does the hon. Gentleman anticipate the appearance again of a trade cycle in the future economics of this country?
§ Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)
Before the hon. Member answers that question, is it not a fact that every great world depression or slump, such as occurred in the 'seventies, the 'nineties and between the two wars, was preceded by excess foreign investments?
§ Mr. Benson
I cannot answer that question offhand, but with regard to the point made by the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon), most certainly I anticipate a trade cycle in the post-war world unless we take steps to stop it. The war will not end the trade cycle. The last war did not; it emphasised it. If the modern analysis is correct, then we have, in addition to the steady stepping-up of our capitalisation, to smooth out rhythm investment and to utilise it for the purpose of negativing the trade cycle. This theory is not very simple, but it has been worked out in considerable detail, and hon. Members will find it set out in the extraordinarily able pamphlet published by Lever Brothers. As I say, this is the modern theory, and, so far as I can see, the analysis strikes me as unanswerable. At any rate, it is the most modern, the best and the most widely accepted theory among economists, and, therefore, it is up to this House to take very careful cognisance of it.
The position, as I see it, is this: We have to visualise a steady increase in our capitalisation at a far greater rate than before the war, but we have also to control the rhythm of that capitalisation in order to prevent a trade cycle. We shall not do that unless the Government clearly recognise that it is their urgent duty to control the rate and the rhythm of that capitalisation. This applies to industry, whether that industry be under Socialism or private enterprise. With that point I am not concerned. We shall not 790 be under a Socialist State for some years yet.
§ Sir P. Hannon
Does the hon. Gentleman anticipate the accumulation of capital or the capitalisation of industry subsequent to the close of the conflict?
§ Mr. Benson
It seems to me that that question has no bearing on the subject. It is the Government's duty to see that we get the necessary capitalisation, because that will be essential to increasing our national income, and it will be the Government's duty to see that that capitalisation takes place at the necessary tempo. If it cannot be done by private enterprise, it will have to be done by other methods. The Government have very great powers in this matter of capitalisation. They possess them already, not as a result of war-time legislation, but as a result of their Budget policy, and one very effective influence which can be used is the policy of depreciation allowances. I suggest that in this matter the Government will have to get busy with these two urgent necessities in mind—the increased capitalisation and the control of the rhythm of capitalisation—and work out a policy which will involve the complete recasting of our whole depreciation system.
Much can be done by the depreciation allowances—varying them, increasing or decreasing them, giving, as it were, bonuses when necessary and imposing penalties when necessary. But that will have to be worked out, not on the Floor of the House of Commons, but in the quietude of the Board of Inland Revenue. If the manipulation of allowances is not sufficient, then other steps will have to be taken. The key problem that faces us is this stepping-up of the national income, and the only effective method of dealing with that will be through capitalisation. It has this advantage so far as we are concerned—that it is entirely under the Government's control. Foreign trade and international agreements are not, but control of the rate and rhythm of capitalisation is something which the Government themselves can take hold of, control and enforce, because it is entirely an internal matter. I have tried to deal with the key problem that will face us, not immediately in the post-war period but permanently. There are so many other problems, with which this problem is linked, which we shall have to meet. I know that what I have said is inadequate, but I have tried 791 to put before the House what seems to me to be the major problem that lies ahead.
§ Mr. Lewis Jones (Swansea, West)
I agree with what has been said by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) and subsequent speakers, namely, that it is very opportune that the Government have thought it wise to arrange for a two days' Debate on this very important subject. I think the Debate is opportune for two reasons. The highly satisfactory news that has come to us during the last two months from the various theatres of war has encouraged people to take a longer view of the study of post-war conditions. To-day, people are anxious that when the armistice comes we shall not be unprepared to tackle all the very serious problems that will confront us. In the second place, within the next fortnight or so the House will have an opportunity of discussing the Beveridge Report. The calculations and recommendations of that Report are based on, among other things, certain assumptions concerning the state of international trade at the termination of the war. That is another reason why it is opportune for us to discuss the postwar prospects of trade, and we hope to hear from representatives of the Government some declaration or some hint of the steps they are taking, or intend to take, to deal with the tremendous postwar economic problems to which the Noble Lord referred.
It would be a good thing for the House, when it discusses the Beveridge Report, to have as a background a real knowledge of the Government's post-war policy. Sir William Beveridge has built up his computations on a very definite assumption as to the post-war commercial activity of this country. I would like to know what were the factors he took into consideration when arriving at the assumption, for example, that our unemployment figures at the termination of the war would go down to 8½ per cent. I am confident that a very great economist like Sir William Beveridge would never have proceeded on that assumption without some consultation with, say, the Board of Trade, the Overseas Trade Department, or the Treasury. As a student of economic and trade matters, I am very anxious to hear from the representatives of those Departments what facts and what information they 792 were able to give Sir William Beveridge and which, I hope, they will now pass on to us. Hon. Members who have read the Report of that remarkable civil servant, Sir George Epps, the Government Actuary, will realise how very careful he has been in making his estimates which are attached to the Beveridge Report. In making his calculations he has been very careful to safeguard his own position. On page 180, paragraph 14, he states:I have assumed, after consultation with Sir William, an average unemployment figure of 8½ per cent.On page 185, he states:I have consulted Sir William Beveridge and he is of the opinion it would be reasonable, in the circumstances which he envisages in his Report, to contemplate an average rate of unemployment of the order of 10 per cent. among the industries at present governed by the general scheme of enemployment insurance.He is very careful in making these assumptions about unemployment or employment after the war, which are all, he says, highly speculative. Sir George Epps uses the phrase "highly speculative" a number of times in his Report. Personally, I cannot help thinking he is right when he talks about the highly speculative nature of these figures. I have been examining very carefully the figures of the export trade and of unemployment in the period between the end of the last war and the outbreak of the present war. The average unemployment figure during that period was 13½ per cent., and indeed, only once since 1920 did the unemployment figure come down to as low as 10 per cent.—in 1929, when it fell to 9.6 per cent. An examination of the export figures and unemployment figures shows the obvious relationship between the fall in exports and the rise in unemployment. Every student of economics or trade realises the close relationship which exists, and has always existed, at any rate as far as this country is concerned, between the export trade and unemployment.
As the noble Lord stated, although it may be only one factor of post-war trade, we must give close consideration to the problem of our post-war export trade. The war and the Lend-Lease measures between them have practically wiped out the export trade of this country. We have withdrawn our exporters from the markets of the world. Our Dominions have increased their manufacturing enterprises at 793 an alarming rate. For example, Canada, which in the early days of the war produced about 3,500,000 tons of steel per annum, is now producing 6,000,000 tons. Practically the whole of our foreign investments, which are of vital importance to us as a trading community, have been realised since the outbreak of the war, and, therefore, an annual income of £200,000,000 which came to this country from those investments has practically disappeared. We have lost a very considerable portion of our shipping, so that revenue from shipping freights and insurances have been seriously affected. It is not pessimistic to say that there is very little hope of our recovering our leading place among the shippers of the world. One has to face the facts; one has to be realistic in this matter.
To what extent can we hope to regain our place in the export markets of the world after the war? Take South America, for example. I have said that the Lend-Lease measures have practically driven us from certain export markets. Let me give an instance relating to one of the most important export trades of this country, the tinplate trade of South Wales. Under Lend-Lease we have had to import some steel from the United States of America. It was discovered by the Americans that we were using certain classes of steel for the manufacture of tin-plates for export to certain markets, such as our own Dominions—Australia and New Zealand—and South America; the Americans said to us, "If you are taking steel from us under Lend-Lease, then you must not use any of your own steel for tinplates for export to other parts of the world." The result was that the whole of the export industry of the tinplate trade dried up, and the Americans said, "We will look after your export trade." Therefore, we have lost the South American market by force of circumstances and Lend-Lease. We have lost a considerable quantity of our export trade to Australasia, our Colonies, and abroad. Can we hope to get it back? According to "The Times" Engineering Supplement last week, the American Government are encouraging their traders, even during the period of war, to expand their trade interests in South America, and they are encouraged to prepare for the post-war period to the extent that the American Treasury have told traders that even if they cannot export at the present time, the 794 cost of their propaganda work for postwar trade will be allowed them for taxation purposes.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)
The hon. Member has been stressing export trade, and now he is referring to trade in general. When he deals with trade, that does not mean only exports, but imports as well. While I can appreciate the point that, in regard to many of our exports, America might succeed in cutting us out of certain export markets, will he explain how America is to receive payment for the exports, because up till now one of the difficulties has been that countries, including America, wanted to export but refused to allow anybody to pay for the exports?
§ Mr. Lewis Jones
May I say to the hon. Member that what I am concerned about is this? We have been forced to import about £900,000,000 worth of goods to this country, and we have been exporting £500,000,000 worth. The remainder of £400,000,000 has been made up by invisible exports—revenue from freights, insurances, financial deals, and by £200,000,000 from our investments.
§ Mr. Lewis Jones
What I suggest is that the shrinking of these invisible exports, and at the same time the fact that one cannot see any hope of getting back export markets, is a very serious matter. That is the line of my argument. There is this gap that will arise in our exports which will make it difficult for us to pay for the imports which, as a nation, we are bound to have. Those are some of the problems that British industry and the British nation have to face. The adaptation of British industries from their ordinary peace activities to war activities was a tremendous task, and it has been successfully undertaken. The vast production of British industries during the war speaks volumes for the adaptability not only of British employers but of all those who are engaged in British industry. Naturally, it is hoped that when the war is over we shall be able to negotiate a transfer from war activities to peace activities quite as successfully.
The House knows, of course, that in order to satisfy war needs it has been necessary in most British industries completely to change industrial plans. Lopsided development has taken place in 795 many of the heavy industries in order to meet war needs, and this lopsided development will, at the end of the war, leave many important undertakings and industries unbalanced for their ordinary commercial activities. I well remember the serious handicaps under which the iron and steel industry suffered at the end of the last war because of the lopsided development that had taken place. That kind of development has been very expensive, and for that reason alone is bound to be a very serious handicap at the end of the war. Again, under compulsory concentration schemes, many works, particularly in South Wales, have been closed down; some have been taken over for storage purposes, and a number of them have been applied to other processes totally different from those for which they were originally built. At the end of the war those works will have to be readapted to their normal production, when they are freed from Government control. Labour which has been transferred from South Wales to other parts will have to be retransferred and rehabilitated in its own industry. Those are tremendous problems, and British industrial leaders, both from the employers' and the trade union sides, are endeavouring to direct some of their attention to the solution of those problems in anticipation of the termination of the war.
But, of course, it is not easy, because most of the people who are concerned with these adaptations are now giving practically the whole of their attention to problems of war production. I know that committees have been set up to take evidence from trade associations and trade unions on post-war problems. In fact, I read the other day that 300 industrial associations had set up committees which were already considering the question of post-war trade and export problems, and the complaint on all sides is that they are groping in the dark. The one question they put is: What is the general structure of international trade to be after the war? Is there to be competition between nation and nation, or is there to be some general understanding among the leading nations of the world? The United States and this country are already co-operating, and I hope will continue to co-operate, in the rehabilitation of Europe immediately after the war. We are committed to re-clothe, re-house and feed the people of subjugated 796 Europe, and, if what I read is correct, to rehabilitate European industry. This will take some time, and it may be that, while the work is being undertaken by the Americans and ourselves, with the assistance of other Governments, British industry may be very busy for a short while, but this kind of charitable work cannot be looked upon as return to normal commercial activity. Statesmen representative of Great Britain, Soviet Russia and the United States have undertaken to co-operate in matters affecting international trade also. The Atlantic Charter definitely says:They desire to bring about the fullest co-operation between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing for all improved labour standards, economic advancement and social security.But we go further. On 23rd February, 1942, there was signed in Washington a Mutual Aid Agreement between Britain and the United States which is still more definite. These are its terms:In the final determination of the benefits to be provided to the United States of America by the Government of the United Kingdom in return for aid furnished under the Act of Congress of 11th March, 1941, the terms and conditions thereof shall be such as not to burden commerce between the two countries but to promote mutually advantageous economic relations between them and the betterment of world wide economic relations. To that end they shall include provisions for agreed action by the United States of America and the United Kingdom, open to participation by all other coutries.An earlier speaker hoped that when we were discussing international relations we should not forget Russia and China. But this Treaty definitely states that the Agreement shall be open to participation by all other countries of like minddirected to the expansion of appropriate international and domestic measures, of production, employment, and the exchange and consumption of goods.There is set out in this Article 7 that there is an understanding and a definitely declared policy as between the United States and ourselves, and the latter part of the Article states:At an, early convenient date conversations shall be begun between the two Governments with a view to determining, in the light of governing economic conditions, the best means of attaining the above stated objectives and of seeking the agreed action of other like minded Governments.There is no limitation in this Agreement as to the number of Allied Nations which may come within the scope of this inter- 797 national agreement. [Interruption.] That does not worry me at all. For the moment I am only concerned about the international agreement which was foreshadowed in this Treaty of Mutual Aid. All these other questions will come up for discussion in the conversations. British industrial leaders have been invited by various Government Departments to write memoranda on post-war conditions. There is nothing easier than to write a memorandum on the state of your own industry prior to the war, your capacity and your markets. It is easy to write a memorandum on your present capacity, what you can produce at the end of the war and what you are hoping your export markets may be, but these memoranda are pretty valueless. The tinplate industry of South Wales prior to the war had an international agreement with America, Germany, France, Italy and other countries, and the markets of the world were allocated among the producers. To-day the industry asks, Under what superstructure can it trade at the end of the war? We can give all the information that Government Departments require. We say it is in the interest of the British nation, of the State and of industry generally, employers and employed, that we should know as early as possible what is the international trade structure under which we are expected to work when the war is over. British industry wants, to adapt itself to those conditions only when the Government themselves tell us how far the negotiations visualised in this Treaty of Mutual Aid have gone, when it is possible for them to tell British industrial leaders something about the type of structure that they must expect when the war is over, when by agreement with the United States and other countries it is possible to come to some definite understanding about methods of production, the allocation of markets and the distribution of raw materials, can British industrial leaders with confidence go forward and plan for the future.
Reference has been made to a brochure issued by Unilevers. [Interruption.] I wish I were as cocksure of everything as the hon. Member. I think that any document published by responsible business people is worth reading, whether I agree with it or not. I even read the hon. Member's speeches. This is a very fine document and good reading. It is very careful to state that it is impossible to regularise 798 productive capacity in any one country with any success without some international co-operation such as is visualised in this Mutual Aid Agreement. I hope that in this Debate the Government speaker will be able to tell industrial leaders something which will give them courage as to the likelihood of successful negotiations with America and other countries, or how far they have already gone.
§ Sir Granville Gibson (Pudsey and Otley)
I hope I shall not be ruled out of Order if I express a deep sense of satisfaction and pleasure at seeing a fellow townsman occupying the Chair in which you, Sir, are now sitting. I hope and believe that for many years you will not only fill that office but maintain the prestige of this honourable House. Two remarks were made by the Noble Lord which struck me forcibly. One was that the evil of inflation is very important, and the second was that the post-war world will be a very hard world. I remember the Minister of Production foretelling great post-war prosperity, but I think I should be more inclined to agree with the Noble Lord that the post-war world will be a very hard world for us. This Motion, to my mind, is a most extraordinary one inasmuch as it stands in the name of four Members sitting in various parts of the House, a National Liberal, an Independent Liberal, an Opposition Conservative and a National Conservative. If these names indicate anything at all to me, it is that they realise that this is a matter of such importance that it should be raised above the level of pure party politics and from the point of view of doing what we can to assist the country in discussing the future of trade, industry and commerce. I also have read the brochure which received commendation from the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson), entitled "The Problem of Unemployment." I should like to read one sentence from it:Responsibility for the social well-being of the population obliges Governments to take a guiding part in framing economic life, and this same responsibility makes it incumbent on politicians to safeguard economic policy from those influences which would make it haphazard or failing in international spirit.It appears to me that the hon. Members whose names are attached to this Motion have been inspired by some of those words. While there are many of us who 799 feel that we should concentrate 100 per cent. of our energies on winning the war—and I believe the country is doing that—at the same time that does not preclude our giving reasonable consideration to what may have to happen after the war in the industrial, commercial and financial spheres. What we must strive for, no matter whether we are employers or employed, is a happy and contented people and to try and find in every possible way regular employment at fair wages and to maintain a good standard of life for those who are working in our factories and workshops. It has been stated in the Debate that we should set the standard or try and influence other countries to raise their standards of life. We cannot affect the standards of other countries. I cannot imagine, for instance, how we could influence Japan to raise her standard of wages of about 10s. a week for a skilled man to the level applied in this country; or to raise the 1½d. and 2d. an hour in India to our level; or to raise the natives of South Africa with their low level or the people in Brazil with their 10s. to 15s. a week for a skilled man to our level. That, however, need not prevent our striving to influence those people, because not only would it help to give them a better and fuller life, but it would create a greater purchasing power in the world. Each country must work out its own destiny, but there is no reason why we should not do all in our power to assist them to get a higher standard than they have yet reached.
I realise that in this country after the war there will be plenty of building of houses, rebuilding of premises and putting up new premises where there are now empty spaces where buildings have been blitzed; there will be production of goods in short supply at the present time owing to coupon control and the refilling of the markets which are now so bare. When all is said and done, however, I submit that, despite what the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has said about the fixing of wages, wage boards and so on, these things will not bring prosperity in the commercial and industrial sphere. We are dependent not only on home trade but on foreign trade, which is just as vital to us as our home trade. I have heard a report, which I can hardly conceive to be correct, that the Minister of Labour has stated that it 800 will not matter after the war if we have no foreign investments. That is an entirely mistaken idea, because one of the difficulties with which we shall be faced will be that we have lost £200,000,000 invisible imports in the form of dividends on investments which we had when the war started.
The hon. Member for Chesterfield said that there were lots of people who felt that after the war we could make everything work out all right by financial juggling. The best example I have heard of an attempt in that direction was one I heard in the House only a few weeks ago in a Debate on children's allowances. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) said that if we were spending £14,000,000 a day on the war, why could we not spend a few more millions on children's pay and allowances? That type of thinking does not lead the country anywhere. We know that we would sacrifice anything and everything at this time in order to win the war. We would sacrifice willingly all the material wealth of the country. When the war is finished, however, we shall come into a different world. We shall have to start rebuilding, and this country cannot be rebuilt by keeping on the expenditure which we are suffering at the present time. If, after the war, we import, as we did before the war, £800,000,000, and export £400,000,000, the difference must be corrected either by greater exports or reduced imports, or else the pound sterling will depreciate with an increased cost of all that we import. I have heard it said by a civil servant who is secretary of the Post-War Trade Export Committee that after the war it will be necessary for us to increase our exports by £150,000,000 to £200,000,000 a year above the 1938 figure to meet the loss of dividends on investments abroad. It will be a very difficult task, for at the end of this war the financial position of this country will not be by any means as sound as it was before the war. I think that we can say without hesitation that we shall become a debtor instead of a creditor country, and if we fail to increase our exports our standard of living and the level of wages will be adversely affected.
Hon. Members will remember how during the last war other countries, particularly the Dominions, encouraged their own secondary industries. They will desire to export more of their surplus secondary 801 commodities after this war, many of them to this country, and that will accentuate the difficulties of our own position. The hon. Mr. Stuttaford, who until recently was Minister of Industry in South Africa, stated only a few months ago that during this war they had in South Africa set up certain factories mainly for the production of manufacturing chemicals, and he said that it was only reasonable that after the war they would desire to continue to manufacture those goods. We cannot blame them for that, but it will create a difficulty for us. Therefore, we have to consider ways and means of overcoming such difficulties.
There are many people under the impression, as I was until about two years ago when I was in South America, that the Argentine was almost entirely an agricultural country. It is a remarkable fact that the industrial processing of the Argentine has gone up in recent years enormously and that their agricultural production has gone down. For instance, in 1927 livestock in the Argentine was 1,532,000,000 pesos; in 1941 it had gone down to 1,473,000,000 pesos. In other agricultural industries, apart from livestock, there was a reduction from 2,057,000,000 pesos in 1927 to 1,908,000,000 pesos in 1941. On the other hand, industrial processing in the Argentine has gone up from 1,541,000,000 pesos in 1927 to 3,400,000,000 pesos. These figures are extraordinary. An estimate of Argentine's working population shows that 2,750,000 men are engaged in industry, 48.3 of the total number and double the number in industry in 1914. This is happening all over the world. Two years ago, when I was there, I remember going through a factory, owned by a Scot, employing 5,800 workpeople. I have never seen a higher standard of efficiency in any similar factory. Again, from India, the 1½d. and 2d. an hour country for skilled workers, they are exporting to this country goods of the industry with which I am connected. I am not complaining that during the war they are increasing their exports, because we want these goods at this time. I can, however, foresee by the way in which their exports are going up by leaps and bounds to the extent of millions of pounds that there will be a terrible amount of competition with India after the war, particularly as their goods come in free and our goods going into India have to bear a 25 per cent. duty.
802 What I fear after the war is inflation, or, to put it in another way, the depreciation of the value of the pound sterling in the markets of the world. We know perfectly well that if sterling falls from the rate of to-day of four dollars to the pound to three dollars, or the peso falls in a similar ratio, it means that everything we buy from every country in the world where the currency has depreciated similarly will cost us 25 per cent. more and will reduce the purchasing power of the wages of our people. It seems to me that one of the most important things for the Government to consider is how to avoid this fluctuation of the exchanges which, to a- great extent, is so often the cause of booms and slumps. After the war, arrangements should be made between this country, the United States and the other important countries of the world, to stabilise the exchanges and to prohibit as illegal any speculation in foreign exchange, for other than trading purposes or for the payment of debts. It was an abominable shame in the past that it was possible for men on the New York, Paris or London Exchange, either to bear or bull the market with millions of pounds of exchange, and so alter the prices of our goods, when such men were not intending either to buy or to sell, but were interested only in the exchange.
Only two days before the outbreak of the war I was in the hide exchange in New York. There are three exchanges there, for hides, silk and rubber. I sat there and saw the price of hides advance by 10 per cent. in one hour, although not a single hide more had gone on to the market. I am satisfied that the men who were pushing up those prices by buying forward were simply banking on what they hoped would happen and what did happen at the beginning of the last war, namely, an enormous rise in prices. They were hoping to get rich quick. If the people of this country knew, they would never cease to thank the Government of that day for the controls which were put into operation the moment the war started. The gentlemen who were buying hides forward, although they did not want the hides but only the profits and had no interest in buying or selling hides for industry, hoped they would make big profits, but the controls stepped in. The result is that during this war prices have remained perfectly steady. I pay my 803 tribute to the powers who had the foresight before the war started, maybe a year or two before, to arrange these controls so that they came into operation smoothly when the war started.
I would make dealings in foreign exchange illegal, except for purposes of trade. A very important task after the war will be that of keeping prices steady. There is no doubt that if exchanges were stabilised as I have suggested it would cut out the exchange speculator and would obviate one of the avenues which were so often explored and have lead to slumps and booms. Hon. Members know as well as I do that there has never been a boom that was not followed by a slump. [An HON. MEMBER: "There would not be a boom, otherwise."]—I quite agree, but what I say is still true. Neither boom nor slump benefits any country. In the boom period there are demands for increased wages, and the cost of living rises. In the slump, wages are reduced, there is widespread discontent and there are unemployed armies. Those things are no good to this country or to any other country. It is no use New Zealand or Australia putting huge supplies of wool on the markets of the world and wallowing in a boom period when they know perfectly veil that they will have to eat the bitter fruits of a slump later on. I hope that the Government will take such steps as lie in their power to bring about stabilisation of currencies.
Some people say that exporters in this country have been inefficient and out-of-date. Speaking as one of them, my answer would be that no matter how inefficient or out-of-date we have been, the fact remains that we are still the, most important exporting country in the world. I entirely agree with the Atlantic Charter, which said that all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, should have access on equal terms to the raw materials of the world, but I hope that we shall never recognise the German method of controlling Colonies. I remember having a conversation with a young man when I was in Berlin, on the subject of Lebens-raum, that is, elbow room or living space, which the Germans have been so keen about. They said that they could not purchase in the Colonies or Dominions of the British Empire. I put to this young man a point about currency, and I asked him, 804 "Supposing we handed Tanganyika over to you and a farmer said he wanted to buy a motor car and would buy one from Canada, what would you say?" He replied, "We should not allow it. We should insist on his buying one in Germany. We make cheap motor cars in Germany. We should impose the mark currency on every Colony we had, in order that they might buy all their goods from the Fatherland." I am satisfied that this House would never sanction a method of colonisation of that description.
On the other hand, we must ask for duties being reduced, particularly between the Dominions, the U.S.A. and ourselves. I was glad to read in a newspaper cutting the other week of an agreement which had been arrived at between the U.S.A. and Canada by which the two Governments agreed that the post-war settlement must permit mutually advantageous economic relations, and lower tariff barriers, as well as betterment of world-wide economic relations, a post-war system of enlarged production and exchange of consumption goods for the satisfaction of human needs in the U.S.A. and Canada, as well as all other countries willing to join in the effort. I submit that it is along those lines that we should work. If we give the Dominions a free market here for their goods, they ought to give us the same freedom in their markets, and they must not place barriers against our exports of secondary commodities to them if we give them a free market for their secondaries and primaries in this country.
A word about subsidised exports. I hope that the Government will do all in their power to stop subsidised exports from any country with which we have dealings after the war. The subsidising of exports is a nefarious system which undermines fair trading, I remember being on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, where I saw in a factory a machine similar to one which was manufactured in the West Riding of Yorkshire by a firm of the same name. In pre-war days those firms were connected. The machine was delivered free of duty and freight into that factory for £450, but the firm in the West Riding of Yorkshire could not have supplied it on their own doorstep at the same price. I asked the manufacturer in Rio about it, and he admitted that the machine was cheap. I said that it was not possible for fair trading to compete with that type of trade. I hope that the Government will 805 take the same steps, if necessary, as were taken by the U.S.A. When Germany started sending subsidised goods to the States four or five years ago, the U.S.A. immediately imposed, on top of the usual import tariff, an additional tariff, equivalent, in their view, to the amount of the subsidy on the goods carried from Germany. There was a very large protest from Germany, but the U.S.A. did not take any notice of it. That was quite proper action to take. It is not fair that any country should be allowed to take unreasonable, unfair and iniquitous advantage over any other country.
In the post-war period, private enterprise will still continue to assert its greater efficiency.
§ Sir Granville Gibson
Private enterprise is prepared to take risks of success or failure, and to take quick decisions in a way which no Government Department can do.
§ Sir Granville Gibson
There will be all the work of settlement of frontiers, rehabilitation of shattered countries and the repatriation of millions of people to their homes. This work may take many years to accomplish. There will be the question of emigration to the Dominions. There is great scope in that direction if the Dominions will show a greater desire to absorb population. When I have been in New Zealand, Australia or Canada I have noticed a definite disinclination to take immigrants from this country, except those possessed of reasonably substantial means. There will also be the absorption into industry of men and women discharged from the Forces, the replacement of women in industry by men when the men come back from the war, and the question of what to do with the women when they are displaced. Hundreds of thousands of civil servants may be out of a job if and when the controls are closed down. There will be the deconcentration of industry and its change-over from war production to peace production. There will be plenty of work in the rebuilding of blitzed areas, the restocking of home markets and the reconstruction of foreign 806 markets. The destruction in foreign countries will have to be made good, and to enable those countries to buy our exports we may have to finance them or give them long credit until they can send us goods with which to pay their debts.
Despite the destruction of wealth, the powers of recovery of a country are very great, and can be rapid if people are prepared to work. Unless we work harder—and I include employers as well as employed—we shall not be able to maintain the standard of living or our social services, but if we put our backs into it, we shall emerge triumphant. If we put into those efforts of the post-war years the same spirit which is present to-day, all will be well. It is the duty and the opportunity of everyone in this House and this country to play his or her part, if there is to be a future in this country worth living for.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
The hon. Member who has just spoken said a number of interesting things, with some of which most of us will agree, but he will no doubt forgive me if I say that the sting of his speech was in its tail. His comments upon the value of private enterprise in the post-war world were of such a kind as to cause disagreement, particularly from Members on these Benches. The Motion which we are discussing contains many sound propositions, but it is rather too general. It has left out a number of very important aspects of our post-war problems which this country will have to deal with, and which I think this House ought to face now.
In his opening speech the noble Lord said many things with which most of us agree, and there is no doubt that after the war the country will be faced with a situation very similar to that which faced us at the end of the Napoleonic wars, when this country was probably never nearer industrial and social chaos and even to revolution. The then Governments, particularly the Government of Lord Liverpool in the five years following the Napoleonic wars, succeeded in steering this country through a very difficult and dangerous time. I suggest that we shall be facing just such a situation again, and I believe that we shall have leaders and statesmen who will be able to see us through if certain things are done in time.
807 I agree with those who have said in this Debate that we cannot expect after this war to have a higher standard of living or even as high a standard as we had before at least for a time. Ultimately, perhaps we shall reach as high a standard and even a higher, but I believe we shall be passing through a time in which our standard of living will be lower than it was, and that, probably, for many years. Our agriculture to take an example, has passed through a very difficult time prior to this war and is now living in a quite artificial economic condition which cannot possibly last. That industry, along with many others, will have to face an entire readjustment, I believe, when these artificial conditions end. I agree with the Noble Lord who moved this Motion when he said that we cannot expect as high a standard of living here unless we think in terms of the export and import trade. I should be the last person to desire that we should aim at self-sufficiency or bolster up our agriculture with that object in view, as I realise that the aim of self-sufficiency is bound to lead to a permanent lowering in the standard of living through the decrease of our import and export trade. There have been the symptoms of disease in the whole world economy for many years past.
When we look at the graphs or the figures of pre-war world production and prices, we can see that for a long term of years in the Victorian period there was a steady and progressive increase in world production of the staple articles and prices at times going up, but in the main remaining stationary. Following the last war we have had periods of violent fluctuation, first the immediate post-war one, and then the most disastrous one from 1929 to 1932 on a world scale. All these figures tend to indicate that private enterprise, which the hon. Member who has just spoken was praising so much, had lost control of the great machine of world economy. That was indicated, too, by the economic policy of the Governments which have been controlled by private enterprise in different parts of the world. There have been a number of attempted remedies—first of all, tariffs. These have only further restricted world trade and made the position still more difficult. There have also been some who have stuck to free trade, which, to my mind, would equally not 808 effect a solution either, because it would only lead to unregulated dumping and price fluctuation. There are those who have sought to tinker about with the currency, a very common and very easy way of dealing with these problems. Then there are those among the industrial leaders of the nations who have argued for, and have succeeded in some cases in building up, big combines for the purpose of keeping up prices artificially, and indirectly thereby decreasing consumption.
All these four remedies which have been tried in this period of violent fluctuation between the two wars indicate that private enterprise cannot handle the situation and will only lead the world into still further difficulties and disasters when this war is over. Against that I suggest that we have to look upon the whole problem from an entirely new angle. Instead of organising restrictions and scarcity, the one salvation of the world is to organise plenty. I think that that can only be done by continuing in some form or other—I do not say entirely as now but with possible modifications—the war-time restrictions and controls Which have been imposed on the staple articles of industry. We were moving tentatively in that direction before this war; particularly with regard to the agricultural industry we were moving in the direction of standard prices by agreement and arrangement between producers, the State and the consumers. For instance, we had the Wheat Act of 1932, giving us a wheat quota of a limited amount.
Later we had the milk scheme, the Livestock Industry Act, the Bacon Industry Act, hops control, and so on, all aiming at standard prices. Now we have war-time controls, some of which no doubt are irksome, but I think that the principle is right and must be continued in peace-time. I would warn against the great danger which I think there is also to-day. The owners of private capital, the private enterprise sponsors, are trying to cash in on the situation by arguing in that publication, which came out in November from a certain number of leading industrialists, for a kind of self-government, for industry to be independent of Government control—to carry out the controls themselves. That kind of corporate State is something which I think this House will be very wise to beware of.
§ Sir Granville Gibson
Will the hon. Member give the House more specific information with regard to the statement he has said was made in that brochure to which he refers, which was; issued over the names of about 120 industrialists, as to whether they ever said or suggested that they should control industry apart from the Government?
§ Mr. Price
That was the implication, in my opinion, of much of the argument contained in that brochure. For that reason I consider it was extremely dangerous, cutting across State control, which I believe is desirable to meet the post-war economic situation. We shall be faced after this war with a situation in Europe which I imagine will be quite unprecedented, famine threatening large areas and in other parts of the world outside Europe collapse of currencies, all of which indicates that we must retain the controls and international arrangements which have been set up during this war. It is foreshadowed in the Atlantic Charter; we have it in existence in the Middle Eastern Supply Centre, which, situated in Egypt, is the organisation by which the economy of the Middle Eastern countries can be regulated and controlled by arrangement between those various countries. All these are things which we must continue. I wil not pledge myself to say just what form it should be in, but I do say that in some form or other that must continue.
As I have said just now, the organisation of plenty is what we must work for. In other words, we shall have to work for full employment. Public works schemes to ensure a high standard of living in this country is something which must be aimed at, but I am not prepared to leave it at that, because I realise that full employment on public works and improvements of amenities aiming at increasing our standard of living is bound to mean greater imports, and that means the import of articles which we cannot produce here and which must be paid for. The obvious corollary, as the noble Lord who moved this Motion rightly said, is our export trade, without which we cannot keep that standard of living or even finance full employment. In that respect I entirely agree with him and with other speakers who have pointed out the difficult situation we shall be in because of the loss of our foreign investments and the loss of much of that carrying trade 810 throughout the world which have accounted for many of our invisible exports hitherto. But it does seem to me that we must therefore aim at obtaining all that proportion of the export trade which it is possible for us to obtain. We can only do that by bargaining our imports for our exports. We can only do that by seeing that our Government, by trade agreements, bilateral, trilateral, multilateral, starting first with the United States and our Dominions, extending also to the South American Republics and the Colonial parts of Africa and Asia, do not leave it to the unregulated movement of goods between one country and another, but that we do ensure that what is imported to us, what we require to keep up our standard of living, is paid for by those exports which have to be arranged by Government action. This is one of the reasons why State control must continue, because I do not believe that private enterprise is in any shape to organise so colossal and difficult a problem.
The Canadian and United States farmers are producing large quantities of food, and are sending it to us and the other United Nations. But I am informed that they are worried about the situation they will have to face after the war. Agriculture, because of its dependence upon nature, is not an industry which can be shut down as a factory can. These farmers will be faced with the need for a market after the war. They are worried as to whether we shall be able to pay for what they send us when things are again plentiful. Our reply must be, "We can take it; but, in order that we can pay you, you must take back from us some manufactured goods of high quality." Here we come to the crux of the matter. We have lost, and no doubt we shall continue to lose, that portion of our export trade which is concerned with the more simple staple articles, such as the lower qualities of textiles and of manufactured iron and steel goods; but we can retain, and extend, the market for higher quality goods which we have hitherto been preeminent in producing. But there are two conditions. One is that we keep at the highest pitch of perfection our technical education and scientific research, and the other is that we summon the State to their aid, to initiate treaties to enable our goods to be sold abroad. The skill of our workers, after many generations, and of our industrial managers, coupled with the 811 action of the State in working for the improvement of our export trade, is all that we can now rely on. It has been said that if the Beveridge plan is put into force it will increase the cost of production in this country. I have seen the figure of 2½ per cent. mentioned, and the highest figure which has been suggested is, I think, 5 per cent. That does not worry me. I believe that such an increase can be more than covered by improving our industrial processes by the methods I have suggested.
I have referred to the need to develop public works at home, but we must also organise public works on an international scale. There will be more chance of an increase in world trade after the war if the standard of living in the undeveloped parts of the earth—in Africa, in China, and in India, where great masses of the people are living on a very low standard—are raised. The development of all kinds of public works, which I will not specify here, would, I believe, raise the standard of living in those countries. It must be undertaken on an- international scale, and by agreement with the United States. Our trade with Russia, too, can be developed. So much of our trade with Russia in the Tsarist days depended on concessions—mining concessions, railway concessions, and so forth—but all that has gone. I believe that we can still utilise the high standard of efficiency of our manufacturing industries to obtain a considerable portion of Russia's trade, by meeting her insatiable demand for the finest products of industry.
What about Germany after this war? There will be no chance of peace in Europe until the power of the Rhineland heavy industrialists, allied with that of the Prussian Junkers, is destroyed finally and for ever. Ever since the end of the Franco-Prussian war German military power has been based on an alliance, often by marriage ties, between the Prussian Junkers and the heavy industrialists of Western Europe. After the last war, when the Weimar Republic came into existence, never once was that alliance affected by the so-called peace of Versailles. The war continued. A 30-years war it is indeed, although it broke out into the open again only in 1939! Until the heavy industries of Western Germany are brought under international control there will be no hope 812 of peace. When that is done Germany will be entitled to, and must receive, her fair share of whatever is going, but in such a way that she will never again threaten the peace of the world. So I end as I began, by saying that I am very glad the Noble Lord has put this Motion down, and that, although it is rather too general in its terms—I should have liked it to go further in dealing with some of the points I have enumerated—I think he has done a very useful work, and I hope the Motion will be considered by the Government in due course.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Kingsley Wood)
I am sure we are indebted to my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) for introducing this Debate. I may say at once, on behalf of the Government, that we believe, after the recent Debate on our immediate financial affairs, that it is wise and timely to survey the wider and much more difficult subject of post-war financial and economic policy. My right hon. Friend said that this was undoubtedly a matter to which the Government, Parliament, and the country must devote unceasing consideration, and I have no doubt that this is only one of many Debates we shall have on the subject. I would like to re-echo what my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) said in the Debate on the Vote of Credit the other day, when he issued a warning. We must not, of course, in taking part in this Debate get into the danger of thinking that the war is already won. Victory has yet to be secured, and while we face the great task which confronts us in the coming year with confidence we must not minimise the perils, the trials, and the difficulties which may for some time lie ahead of us. But we should be unwise and imprudent, and certainly we should not be meeting the ardent desires of vast numbers of our fellow countrymen and fellow countrywomen if we failed to look ahead and to take all steps open to us in the vital field we are discussing to-day. As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) and the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Lewis Jones), who made two very useful contributions to our Debate, we have a very formidable task, but it is by no means an impossible task.
It is obvious that a world-wide war of such an unprecedented, devastating and 813 crippling character must mean that not only this country but the whole world will be much poorer, and much disabled, and that in many countries there will continue to be acute distress, misery, and bankruptcy. The economic disturbance caused by this war is much greater than that caused by the last. There has already been a much deeper and more widespread shortage of all kinds of civilian supplies. Active military operations have already spread over a far wider area, and have even now entailed greater destruction and economic disturbance. We have drawn more heavily on our reserves and foreign assets. The economic position of this country will indeed be far from easy; and it could become dangerous. No new economic theory or financial manipulations, however ingenious, can displace or alter this hard but inescapable fact. We should be living in a fool's paradise if wishful thinking led us to believe that a great and cruel war brings in itself better and happier days. That does not mean that we need feel depressed about the future. I would reaffirm my unshaken confidence in our will and power to surmount our difficulties; and, as we have already shown during the war, in still graver times than this, our difficulties and dangers are but a challenge to all that is best in us and a spur to all that we can achieve.
There is a basic consideration which we must always keep in mind, and a basic objective. As regards Britain itself, we shall find, for some time, a fundamental change in our economic position. Before 1914 we were a very substantial creditor country, and the monetary income we were obtaining from our shipping and foreign investments was of substantial importance to our whole economy. The last war shook that position, though it did not break it down, but for a number of years between the wars, and particularly in certain industries which had previously made our great staple exports, there was a decline in the volume of exports. We suffered especially as the result of the international depression which swept the world in the early thirties, and we suffered an appreciable diminution of our foreign income. I regret to say that that process has been taken further and at a much faster rate under the conditions of the present war, and we shall have to face a considerable adverse balance of international payments, a con- 814 siderable loss of overseas investments and exchange resources, and a serious position in our export trade.
The basic objective that we must set ourselves is active employment for the people of this country. It is not only that we must not repeat the tragic story of the years between the wars, but that we must realise that all our hopes for the future will depend upon our success in achieving this. If we are to succeed, it will depend by no means upon Government policy alone, nor shall we achieve prosperity and security painlessly and comfortably. It will largely depend upon the enterprise of industry and trade, the skill of our workpeople, the courage of our investors, and the willingness of all to work for the better things we all desire to achieve. And no plans or schemes of post-war economy, wise and progressive as they will have to be, can in fact take the place of expansion, efficiency and enterprise. But Governments, for their part, can certainly do much in co-operation and good will to secure the necessary conditions upon which the steady advancement of mankind can be achieved, just as narrow and selfish conceptions can defeat it. During the war our main economic task has been to transfer resources both of equipment and labour from the production of unessential civilian requirements to use in the Armed Forces or in the production of munitions, essential goods and services.
The outstanding problem of the transitional period immediately after the end of the war will be to reverse all this and transfer our resources as quickly and smoothly as possible back to peace time use, to promote employment and to revive export. This transfer—we cannot disguise it—will undoubtedly have its difficulties, but there is, another, and I think more hopeful side, which I should like to put before the House. We must not assume that all the industries engaged even on war work are doing work of a kind entirely different from their peace time work. Iron, steel, engineering, shipbuilding, the motor and aircraft industries, may all have had an especial emphasis during the war on certain aspects of their production, but the productivity of these industries is greater than ever, and the switch over should not be long delayed.
There is a further aspect which should serve to stimulate that transfer. There will be a very considerable shortage of all 815 kinds of goods for civilian requirements. Stocks of clothing, furniture and household equipment will have to be renewed. There will be a high demand for capital goods to re-equip and stock our civilian industry. War damage to property will have to be made good, and considerable provision will have to be made for the housing of our people. Side by side with the efforts we shall have to make for the necessary increase in our export trade there will be additional demands for goods and services in this country. I know that many may well be disposed to regard the end of the war as a time for ease and the spending of money freely and widely. Such feelings are natural enough after a long period of hard work and considerable strain, but in many respects these days after the war will be very much like those of war itself, and in some cases even more difficult. Much will depend upon our endeavours, our patience, our discipline, our saving and particularly our willingness to continue to bear restrictions, at any rate for a time, and to shoulder burdens not for our own sakes alone but for those others whose sufferings and hardships have been so severe and cruel. While a continuation of many of the discomforts, of the war economy will, therefore, be inevitable during the transitional period if orderly development of economic life is to be achieved they need only be temporary. As channels of trade re-open and resources are transferred, so something more like equilibrium will be established, and there should then be hopeful possibilities not only of restoring but also of progressively raising our standards of living. Technical progress after the war, as in past years, should enable real production to be steadily increased, and there should be many opportunities, if we take advantage of them and act with forethought, that should make it possible year by year to increase and to improve the community's capital equipment and thereby to raise progressively the national income.
It should be obvious that if at a time when goods are in short supply there is a widespread effort to spend money freely the only result can be to force up the price of goods. Fortunately there is a much wider recognition of the fundamentals of economics in many quarters to-day; it is goods which in the end are riches, and the man with £1 and two coupons is to-day much richer than the 816 man with £2 and no coupons; it is not worth having money if there are insufficient goods to buy, and the power and willingness to work are worth in many respects more to the nation than money. Finally, though remuneration, wages and benefits may be raised the real matter is the purchasing power of money, and if £2 buys no more than 10s. formerly did one is no better off and may be worse off.
My right hon. Friend the Noble Lord who introduced this Debate said, and I agree with him, that one of the first of our problems in the economic field will be to guard against the danger of inflation. Our recovery and progress will both alike be impossible unless inflation and deflation alike are avoided. We must profit by our bitter experience and learn the lessons of 1919–24. While it would be wrong to see that whole period as one of widespread economic distress, it is equally wrong to forget the grave economic and human troubles that arose from the rapid rise in prices in the boom of 1919–20 and the depression that followed, with all that it involved for some of our trades and businesses, particularly for those who were employed in them. Inflation will undoubtedly be one of our greatest dangers after the war, and there is no doubt that inflationary tendencies will then be more potent even than they are in war to-day, and that they may last longer than after the last great war. An hon. Member asks "Why?" I have already endeavoured to indicate that then will be the time when people think there can be considerable expenditure of money and when there will also, in fact, be limited goods which can be purchased. We shall need to maintain for a time at any rate a considerable measure of control of our economic life, and I believe that the great majority of our people are prepared to accept this not only as inevitable but also as in their best interests.
The main problem in this part of the post-war period will not be that of stimulating the effective demand for goods and services but rather of controlling and directing it so as to secure the orderly recovery of our economic life, including above all adequate production for export. It may well be that it will be desirable to continue the policy of the stabilisation of the cost of living and the prices of goods in common use on the lines we are maintaining to-day. While the main object of 817 policy after the war must be to remove limitations of supply as soon as possible, the controls which relate to the demand for scarce materials or manufacturing capacity will have to be carefully co-ordinated with such a general stabilisation policy. The Government believe that, subject to certain conditions, it should be possible for the general price level to settle down after the war at a figure not far different from what it is at present, without imposing an impossible burden on the Exchequer. Two other controls which, I think, would be regarded generally as in all our interests are the control, of the release of raw materials and the control of issues of capital, in order, in the case of the latter, to see that capital irrigates those developments which are nationally most important and to help, with other measures, to make it available on reasonable terms.
I come now to the second great problem—the restoration of the balance of payments. It is improbable that at least for some time after the war we shall be able to dispense with the limitation of imports, but restriction of imports cannot be our major instrument. The chief imports to this country are foodstuffs and raw materials, both of which are essential for the standard of living. Too many people forget that we import much of what we need to maintain our standard of living and our manufacturing capacity. In 1938 we imported, at 1938 prices, about £850,600,000 worth. This was divided into £418,000,000 for food and drink, including tea, coffee and cocoa, and also tobacco; £315,000,000 for raw materials and semn-manufactures; £45,000,000 for minor on, and not quite £75,000,000 for finished products. These imparts were paid for partly by the money we earned on shipping freights, the income derived from our investments abroad and a small sum for commission on various types of business, but mainly by our exports. We are not likely to finish the war in the same relative position of shipping as in the inter-war years, or, still less, before 1914. We have realised, as I have already indicated, a substantial portion of our investments and put them into the war Some others have been damaged and will have to be reconstructed. It will take us time to recreate the sources of monetary income represented by shipping and foreign investments. We must there- 818 fore rely in the main upon a considerable expansion of exports. They are our life blood. Upon them will largely depend our standard of life after the war, and our future hopes and plans for the betterment of this country greatly rest upon them. No nation's interest in the maximum growth and freedom of commerce will be as great as ours. We shall want to secure as large a volume of international commerce under conditions as free from restrictions as is possible consistent with our commitments. Unless, in fact, we can effect a great move forward in our export trade, our relatively high standard of living must inevitably fall. We must never forget that we can only achieve this by providing our customers with the goods and commodities they want at prices which they are able and willing to pay, and we shall have, I am afraid, notwithstanding one or two observations made by some of the speakers to-day, to compete with others both as regards price and quality, and we must make a profit. Therefore, I would say to the House that, when they come to consider this important question to-day, there must be a high priority for the export trade in all our post-war efforts, and if we can get that right, most things may be possible, and at an earlier time.
This leads me to the next question that I want to put before the House, and which has been touched upon by several of the speakers—the all-important question of active employment. I mention this as the basic objective of all our policy. Whatever changes in economic organisation this country may embark upon as a result of the lessons of the past years, it is certain that for the immediate period after the war a very large part of productive industry will depend on free enterprise. Our efforts may well take the form in certain cases of public enterprises, as the Home Secretary said recently, but there will still be the same need for enterprise and initiative and it must be given a fair chance. When we look back at the period between the wars we may be tempted to believe that it was a period of continuous unemployment. It was not. There were years of very bad trade and years of relatively good trade, taking the country's production as a whole, but throughout the period there persisted an obstinate inability on the part of some of our most important industries to recover their 1914 position. These industries em- 819 ployed large numbers, and some of them were localised so that we had the tragic spectacle of areas of the country suffering from continued unemployment, much heavier than the average of the country.
§ Sir K. Wood
For some of these great industries the immediate post-war future offers better things, but they are industries which will be subject to strong competition in the markets of the world, and it will be imperative that we should look beyond the immediate post-war years when almost anything that is made can be sold to a period when purchasers can once again select according to quality and price. I agree with what has been said by my hon. Friends on the opposite side of the House in the course of this Debate. We are clearly living in an era of very considerable industrial change and it is obvious that a rigid industrial structure would be impossible. Our leaders in trade and industry have played—I think most Members will agree—a splendid and important part in the war effort, and I know that they have rightly given much consideration to the vital matters that I have been discussing. But undoubtedly we shall have to adapt and develop our industrial and commercial organisations, machinery and methods to new and unexampled conditions. We shall have to regain our technical leadership and pay more and more attention to training and scientific research and go on steadily developing new and more efficient processes. War in all industrial countries releases a high potential of invention and development over a much shorter period than would ordinarily occur. Behind the present scene we can discern very important changes at work, such as the chemistry of oil, the development of plastics, the increasing use of light alloys and new processing for foodstuffs. Our industrial skill and experience will be thrown away unless we turn ourselves willingly to the new products. For development, the mobility or fluidity of labour and all the similar things we talk about to-day, all in fact mean, in no small degree, the willingness of capital, management and labour to turn to these new things, while maintaining and improving many of those old and substantial undertakings which have served us so well in 820 the days before the war and during the war itself.
I would like to indicate three or four ways in which I think the Government, for their part, can make a large contribution to this very important matter. First, and above all, they can make a great contribution by their general policy in regard to foreign affairs, their continuing interest in the promotion of the export trade and their policy internally in relation to finance and the economic development of their general social policy. In these ways the Government can certainly help to produce conditions under which natural forces leading to good employment and active trade have their chance and in which our true assets of commercial enterprise and industrial skill and experience can take their full part. A great part of our industry, including service industries such as power and transport, is engaged in supplying the needs of the ordinary consumer, and if these needs are met at proper cost, one of the underlying conditions for active employment will be fulfilled. Then, there is the provision of capital equipment, which the Government can no doubt directly stimulate. We shall have a large building programme to undertake to repair the ravages of war, to overtake the arrears of building of all kinds which the war has interrupted, to extend public utilities and, in particular, to continue and extend our housing programme. A well-considered building programme, planned for several years ahead, can produce an immediate effect upon unemployment and can help to stabilise it. But it will need not only materials for the construction of the houses and for the work on the houses themselves, but also all the products of the trades which supply the internal needs of a household. There will be many other possibilities in this respect, but we must remember that the fountain of capital resources upon which the capital requirements of the country depend is not an inexhaustible spring. It is fed by the savings of the country each year. If we draw off too much for one type of capital requirement we may run the risk that others forms of capital requirement will be starved or severely affected.
§ Sir K. Wood
I am expressing my own opinion. Furthermore, when industrial investment is hesitant or stationary, the properly timed stimulus of capital equipment by measures of credit and in other ways can help to bring the processes of production into gear. Such a general policy, linked with a policy of co-operation in the international field, may go far not only to reduce or prevent the tragic swings of commercial and industrial prosperity which caused so much disappointment and bitterness between the wars, but may go a good way towards securing confidence and good employment, which must be the basis of our future prosperity.
The Noble Lord referred to taxation and stated very forcibly his views upon the present position. The present abnormal level of taxation presses not only on each taxpayer but upon industry, but we must not forget that our community has received great benefits. For instance, Britain to-day has the best and most extensive social services in the world and in many other ways can rightly point to a large advance over other nations. I see that it has been estimated—and I think with truth and accuracy—that the approximate net burden of taxation, local rates and other compulsory contributions per head of our total population was £5 19s. in the years 1913–14, that in 1937–38 it had reached £24 16s., and in 1941–42 had grown still further to £51 14s.
§ Sir K. Wood
We must be prepared—and I do not hesitate to tell the House and the country—for a continuance of considerable taxation after the war. [Interruption.]
§ Sir Granville Gibson
Would the Chancellor mind repeating that sentence, as some of us could not hear it?
§ Sir K. Wood
Certainly. I said that we must be prepared for a continuance of considerable taxation after the war, not only to discharge the obligations which the war has cast upon us, but also to pay for the maintenance of the comparatively high standard of our services. I realise, however, that future yields of taxation must come out of the annual productivity of the country and that if taxation is above 822 the figure that is absolutely necessary, it will certainly have the effect of depressing and retarding that activity. The aggregate gross personal income of the country in 1941–42 was estimated at £6,350,000,000, of which £4,750,000,000, or 75 per cent., was in incomes of less than £500 a year and £1,600,000,000 in incomes of £500 a year and over. Income Tax and Surtax took £295,000,000 from the incomes below £500 a year and £625,000,000 from the incomes of £500 a year and over. As I have said to the House before, if everything over £2,000 was taken from people with incomes of over £2,000 a year, I should obtain only an extra £30,000,000, and if it were necessary to obtain further substantial sums in this way, it is obvious that we should have to look to the lower income groups.
I know I am the chief culprit, but I must say that our taxation, in its weight and scope, is heavier and more widespread over the community than that of any other nation to-day. It is impossible when we are incurring such large expenditure in connection with the war, which will have to continue so long as the war lasts, to speak of any reduction in taxation, but it is obvious that when peace comes it must be mitigated as soon as possible, if for no other reason than to enable this country to have a fair chance of restoring trade and business and greatly increasing exports.
There is another matter to which I would like to refer and which has been referred to by several of my hon. Friends. I notice also that "The Times" of today, in an interesting article on the subject of this Debate, referred, as one must do in a consideration of it, to the condition and the standards of our workers. Obviously, that is a matter we must have always in front of us in considering our post-war financial and economic outlook. In any consideration of our economic future, we must rightly have regard to the conditions of our people, their health, the conditions of their homes, their families, their security against want and unemployment, and above all, we must see to it that opportunities are afforded to them to strike out for themselves and so to enjoy for themselves and their children the fruits of their own efforts. Every civilised country must, to the utmost of its capacity, have all those vital things which I have just mentioned as being so neces- 823 sary and requisite for the life of the workers of this country among its first and most dominant objectives.
There are two other things which, above all, we must secure for the nation. There is the one to which I have referred—the restoration of trade and business and active employment. The other, in my judgment, is paramount, for no business or trade is possible and no social or economic security can be obtained without it. We must, first and above all, make adequate provision for our contribution to the Armed Forces which will be necessary after the war for international security, so that we shall ensure that there is no repetition of the evil and aggression which twice within a generation have brought such disasters to the world. That, I believe, is rightly demanded above everything else, and whatever the price that bill must be paid. After that, we have to consider a large number of matters which undoubtedly have strong merits. Agriculture, housing, education, roads, forestry, Colonial development, civil aviation, have all been mentioned in the course of the Debate, as well as Social Security itself. Our willingness to deal with them is not in doubt; our capacity to do so and the extent to which we can meet them must obviously depend upon the measure of international security we can enjoy after the war, our success in maintaining employment, and the growth of our national income.
There is another thing that I want to say to the House. I believe, although, of course, it does not come within any of the categories about which I have been speaking, that one of the first requisites for the reasonable direction of our economic activities is adequate knowledge of economic facts and tendencies. In the past this country may have lagged behind some others in the collection and publication of economic and financial statistics, but we have made considerable progress during the war, with, I think, general approval, in further information that I have supplied the House, and we have been able to do this largely, but not wholly, because the Government themselves, through their many controls, are in such close contact with the facts of our constantly changing economic life. I would like to say, on behalf of the Government generally, that it will be one of our objects after the war to see that the 824 nation, to the greatest extent possible, has up-to-date statistical information; this, I believe, will be of great assistance in connection with our economic and financial policy.
When we turn to our long-term problems, their solution again depends not only on our own actions and policy but upon those of others. The Atlantic Charter affirms the necessity for the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field, and Article 7 of the Mutual Aid Agreement refers to the need to promote mutually advantageous economic relations between America and ourselves and the betterment of worldwide economic relations between all the United Nations. As I have previously informed the House, the Government have given much time and attention to the best means of attaining such objects by agreed action between the two countries and—this is in answer to the Noble Lord—of seeking the agreed action of other like-minded nations. I include all those nations about which the Noble Lord spoke at the beginning of the Debate. I also agree with the Noble Lord and others when they say that on this and on all other major policies we must, of course, act with the knowledge and co-operation of the Dominions and of India, and, of course, it is essential that we should have the active co-operation of our Allies. The Government attach the greatest importance to getting such an agreed policy settled and worked out well before the end of the war on bold and constructive lines. Just as so much depends upon national unity at home in connection with our domestic affairs, so in the wider world sphere what" President Roosevelt has described as "Victory in Peace" depends upon the United Nations remaining together as strongly and as firmly as they have done in war. We believe that the best future for mankind lies in full co-operation and good understanding between all the peoples of the United Nations and that our policy must be continually directed to that end and purpose. Mr. Cordell Hull said the other day with great force that it is impossible for any nation or group of nations to prescribe the methods or provide the means by which any other nation can accomplish or maintain its own political and economic independence; but he also said:It is for all nations to give and to receive help.825 I believe that in all those great affairs a strong and prosperous British Empire can continue to take its full part in the leadership of world affairs and the advancement of mankind.
There is, I think, a large measure of agreement as to the main directions in which we can advance. First, we need a policy of expansion so that employment is maintained and production serves the ends of consumption. We need an expansion in international trade and the orderly reduction of unnecessary barriers and other practices which interfere with the flow of goods between one country and another and give lasting benefit to neither. Secondly, we need a strong effort to prevent those disastrous swings in the prices of the raw materials and primary products of the world. We are apt to forget that a large majority of the people of the world are engaged not in industry but in producing foodstuffs and other primary products. Thirdly, we need an international monetary mechanism which will serve the requirements of international trade and avoid any need for unilateral action in competitive exchange depreciation. Fourthly, there is another phase of international economic co-operation which has proved itself and which we hope will be of increasing importance—the work of the International Labour Office, with its interest in the standard of working conditions in all countries, a matter which is not only of great interest in itself but has a great bearing on the orderly development of international trade. Finally, as the world begins to settle down after the war and each country has a clearer picture of its own resources, we may well need some international organisation for assisting the direction of international investments for development. While we are not likely to be in a position to make long-term loans in the transitional post-war period, there is every reason to expect that we shall take our place again when the difficulties of readjustment have been overcome. These are some of the main lines of development in which we hope to see full economic co-operation between the nations, as envisaged in Article 7 of the Mutual Aid Agreement.
As one example of the thought we are giving to problems in this field, I should like to say something a little more detailed about the need for constructing again the international exchange system. This is 826 something in which all nations have the same degree of interest, since without it the wheels of international commerce cannot be expected to run smoothly. We want a system in which blocked balances and bilateral clearances would be unnecessary. We want an orderly and agreed method of determining the value of national currency units to eliminate unilateral action and the danger which it involves that each nation will seek to restore its competitive position by exchange depreciation. Above all, we want to free the international monetary system from those arbitrary, unpredictable and undesirable influences which have operated in the past as the result of large-scale speculative movements of short-term capital. We want to secure an economic policy agreed between the nations and an international monetary system which will be the instrument of that policy. This means that, if any one Government were tempted to move too far either in an inflationary or a deflationary direction, it would be subject to the check of consultations with the other Governments, and it would be part of the agreed policy to take measures for correcting tendencies to dis-equilibrium in the balance of payments of each separate country. Our long-term policy must ensure that countries which conduct their affairs with prudence need not be afraid that they will be prevented from meeting their international liabilities by causes outside their own control. If the objects of Article 7 of the Mutual Trade Agreement are to be attained, it is essential to maintain an increased volume of world trade, and in this the monetary mechanism which I have indicated must play a very important part. There is nothing secret about any of these ideas. They are in themselves sensible and reasonable objectives, and it is right that various groups should go on working upon them. Their ideas, we may well hope, will converge. We shall, I need hardly say, be ready and willing at any time to use our wide experience of international commerce and trade, gathered over the centuries, so as to give these ideas practical shape in the interest of all nations.
I have endeavoured to give the House some account of our post-war economic position as I see it. It is, as I have said, a challenge to our national character and capabilities. It is upon the work, the perseverance and the ingenuity of the 827 people of this country that their economic future largely depends. There were those who before the war thought we had passed over the top of our national strength. There are some who, even during the war, have spoken as though we were anxious to abdicate our responsibilities because we were too tired to hold them. Anyone who looks at the achievements of this country during the war knows how far from the truth such conceptions are. We took up alone heavier burdens and faced a graver future in 1940 than we shall face in the economic world after the war. It may be that it takes hard fortune to pull out of us all our strength, but we can surely retain our belief and our confidence, not because we think things will go well for us without much effort on our part, but because we know and have proved that we can achieve and work out our own salvation. We can, I think, regard the shape of things to come with hope and good promise, because they will be based upon freedom, justice, unity and the continued advancement of mankind. There could be no greater contrast or bigger gulf between this and another projected world order, that of Hitler, not heard of much to-day and already rejected by those who are free to do so, conceived and founded upon force and fear. It is designed to secure still further German exploitation and ruthless oppression of the conquered countries which are to be her subject states and their inhabitants her slaves. These two orders, indeed, once more demonstrate the fundamental issue, spiritual and moral, of this great conflict and all that we are fighting for. We believe that they will be settled by the triumph of the right and for mankind a free and decent world. We also believe that, just as they have so fully given in the war, so the British people can make a great and decisive contribution to the making of the peace.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
It is full time that we had this Debate. We are witnessing great events abroad and, as I said the other day, it would be folly if this led us to relax our efforts. On the contrary it should lead us to sustain and extend them. The defeats suffered by the German arms are not the end of the war, which may go on for a very long time yet, but they are the end of the Hitler myth, and we cannot tell what their effect will be on German 828 morale. That being so, it would be as foolish of us not to get ready with our preparations for the post-war world, as it was for us not to be prepared for war itself.
In this interesting Debate, opened by the Noble Lord, the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), Members have tried to avoid controversial issues, not perhaps always with complete success, and I propose to follow in their footsteps and to paint in broad outlines on a big canvas. First, may I say a word or two with regard to some of the points made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer? I shall deal later with several of the other things which he said, but I should like to say in the first instance that I was glad to hear his reference to inflation and deflation and the necessity of retaining some measure of rationing after the war. I am sure that that is essential if we are to prevent a repetition of what took place after the last war. I was also glad to hear what he had to tell us about other post-war arrangements. He mentioned something about a discussion with the United States. I was not very clear how far his plans had gone, but I can assure him of support, I think, in all parts of the House for talks with the United States and with our other great Allies, Russia and China, as well as with our own Dominions on this vitally important matter.
I am not quite so happy about some of the things which the right hon. Gentleman said with regard to the mechanism of exchange. It will be remembered that after the last war Lord Baldwin, who was then, I think, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, went on a mission to America, and we were tied up thereafter in a very rigid relationship with regard to the matter of the National Debt. That particular problem is not likely to arise again, but I should be sorry to see us tied rigorously to a system of exchange relationships with other nations, and particularly with the United States, without giving very careful thought to where we were going in this matter. This country has had a long and somewhat bitter experience of this question of exchange, and I think I may venture to say, what the Chancellor, in his official position probably could not have said, that we know a great deal more about exchange and monetary policy than is known in other parts of the world. Anything which placed us under a rigid system whereby we were bound to accept 829 decisions of other countries not so well-informed or so experienced as ourselves would not, I think, be an advantage in international co-operation. It might easily lead to very serious consequences, and I hope that we shall avoid them.
To leave for a moment the speech of the Chancellor, I want to make a number of general observations with regard to this extremely important subject. I am not going to talk in controversial terms, as far as I can avoid doing so. I am not going to talk of public and private enterprise, free trade and tariffs, and many other party controversies. We shall be bound to revert to those in the days to come. For to-day we are trying, as well as we can, to see how far we can get general agreement. The first proposition I would lay down, and I believe it will be generally accepted, is that there must be no return to the law of the jungle. By the law of the jungle I mean the scramble for life among different sections inside our own country and among different nations. I mean the existence of millions of unemployed persons in all countries of the world and destitute peoples all over the world.
I would like to paraphrase the famous saying of Lincoln about a nation not being able to exist half-free and half-slave by saying that a nation cannot exist with half its people rich and half its people destitute. The civilised world cannot exist with half the nations healthy and prosperous and half poverty-ridden and diseased. This is no new idea and I venture to hope that it is shared by Members in all parts of the House. It has been stated by their leaders in days gone by. Great Conservatives like Lord Shaftesbury and Benjamin Disraeli stated it over and over again. Great Liberals like Campbell-Bannerman and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and Labour men like Keir Hardie have also stated it. This then is a common attitude which, I believe, can be shared by all reasonable people in all quarters.
Can we go a step further in agreement? I think we can. Before I come to that I want to say a word about the 19th century. In spite of its disregard of individual life there was an element of grandeur about the conception of the 19th century. The world had lived too long in 830 the tight grip of old customs and regulations and it was in the act of sloughing its skin. The 19th century had a new theory to which it pinned its faith. By some immutable law, it was held, if everybody was free to go his own way and to serve his own immediate interests, then prosperity would come to the world and there would be a general advance all along the line. Though there were many failures in that respect there was a certain measure of success. Of course, it was at times ridiculous. There was a fire brigade, for instance, that belonged to each particular fire insurance society, and when it came to a street in which fires were burning, it squirted its water and did its best to put out the fire in house No. 5, while house No. 7 next door was left rigidly alone because it belonged to a different insurance society and required a different' fire brigade to deal with it. That was typical of the views of the 19th century. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that it was in some ways barbarous, cruel and unfair, the system of the 19th century did work to a certain extent. It worked so long as the units with which it was concerned were small.
As the century drew to its close and the twentieth century began there was a great change. Small units gave place to larger units and the larger units to still bigger units, until monopolistic or semi-monopolistic conditions began to prevail. Then the country was confronted with two evils arising from that condition. The first was the political evil that these monopolies were rivals of the Government, and the second was that these monopolies led to a restriction of production and millions of unemployed people throughout the world. A heavy share of responsibility for this state of things rests, I think, with the Bank of England. Montagu Norman was under no illusion that things left to themselves managed themselves. He had very strong views about what was required in the management of finance and he managed it with great knowledge and skill. The objectives for which he managed, schemed and contrived were, however, in my view, wrong. He was like a great general who sacrifices 100,000 men here and 100,000 there, in order to gain some end. He seemed indifferent to the enormous bodies of unemployed that were created by the policy of deflation for which he was so largely responsible at the close of the last war.
831 Alter that diversion I will come back to what I was saying. I think there is general agreement that the Government of our country will have to play a very much larger part after the war in the control of industry, commerce, economics and finance than previous Governments have played. They will have to do so, not to restrict, but to promote and increase production and to guide economic policy and international trade. In case there should be any feeling that I over-stated the case when I said there was general agreement, I would like to give three extracts from current statements on the matter. First of all take the leading article in "The Times" to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already referred in his speech. In that leading article these words are used:Joint planning by the United Nations on a future expansion of national production and international trade must be undertaken without delay.I take another quotation from a very interesting document which has recently been published by Levers. On page 32 of that statement these words are used:Responsibility for the social well-being of the population obliges Governments to take a guiding part in framing economic life and this same responsibility makes it incumbent on politicians to safeguard economic policy from those influences that will make it haphazard or failing in international spirit.My last quotation is from a speech delivered by the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) who is one of the promoters of the Motion, but has not spoken yet in the Debate. He used these words:I believe that for as long as we can foresee, Governments in countries like ours will need to keep a firm hand on the control levers of the economic engine.Therefore, I do not think I have exaggerated in saying that there is a large measure of agreement for the view that, in the years after the war, there will have to be a very considerable measure of Government control.
What are the matters in which Government control will have to be exercised. I purposely avoid specifying to-day the precise nature of the control which will be exercised, but I will enumerate the principal matters and say a word about them in more detail later. They are finance, power, communications, war production, public health and basic human needs. With regard to finance it can no longer be 832 divided into two parts, budgetary finance the province of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and credit and exchange that of a private institution presided over by a private individual. The business of finance is to lubricate the machinery of the economic and industrial life of the country and not to limit and restrict it. Policy must be decided upon by the Government and I agree with what the Noble Lord and the Chancellor of the Exchequer said about inflation and deflation. The Government must take the prime action in preventing either of those calamities falling upon our country. It will be the business of the Government to try to avoid trade cycles such as have arisen in the past from some of the causes to which I have referred and which the Government had not then in their power. The policy which the Government may have to adopt would very likely have appeared revolutionary to our fathers, but I believe that proper steps can be taken with regard to it in the Budget and in other ways by which the Government may have a very large influence in the future in preventing a repetition of those most dangerous and lamentable cycles in trade.
As to power, it includes, of course, all the fuels and electricity. Power must be under equally strict control after, as it is during the war, as the motive energy of the industrial apparatus. Communications include not only the postal and telegraph services which are already in complete Government control, but transport by rail and road, shipping and civil aviation. It has always seemed inconsistent to me that if I send a letter or a parcel by post the Government take the utmost responsibility and assure me of punctual delivery, but if I send a consignment of goods which may be equally or perhaps more important, or if I myself go by train, the Government take no responsibility and the matter is left to the caprice of a private company. As to war production, the war has, surely, demonstrated that preparations for defence must be under complete public control. Private manufacture of arms has to be subordinated during the war to a far greater amount of control than ever before, and it ought not to be relaxed in time of peace. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has forecast a period after the war when we shall have to keep up some measure of military control. I suggest that if that is the case, and even 833 after that ceases, the Government cannot hand back to individuals the manufacture of what is essentially a governmental apparatus, the weapons of defence.
I come now to public health. It speaks for itself. I was glad to see in "The Times" to-day a report issued by the Society of Medical Officers of Health, from which I quote:A national medical and health service should be established on a whole-time salaried basis with the complete facilities outlined in this report…. Private enterprise cannot provide and maintain complete hospital, medical and allied services.I have seen other statements by eminent doctors and I think by bodies representing the doctors, bearing that out. Now I come to basic human needs. The first basic human need is food. Is there anyone who thinks that food supply and distribution can revert after the war to purely private enterprise? We have found a means during the war of providing a basic nutrition policy that we cannot abandon. Of course I am not suggesting that anyone in his senses imagines that the whole apparatus of restriction which we have at the present time will be retained, but I was greatly interested to notice yesterday that the financial editor of "The Times" saw some merit in a permanent retention of the points system after the war is over. I remember a few months ago a very interesting speech made by the Minister of Health. People had been complaining of the limits on our milk supplies, and the Minister of Health told us that, in fact, in spite of that apparent restriction, the consumption of liquid milk was actually higher to-day than it had ever been before. The reason for that is that the people who really need the milk, those who are the priority classes under the scheme, are getting that milk to-day in a way they never did in days, gone by. If some restriction, some Governmental control, ensures that basic nutrition of the people, I am for its continuance into the period after the war.
Food control also covers agricultural policy, and it covers immense international agreements, and only the Government can make these. To-day food is bought not in large consignments; it is bought in whole crops in whole countries and though, as I said before, we cannot expect the same kind of procedure to continue, this large scale method of handling vital foodstuffs of a people both 834 for the growing nation and for the importing nation will have, in some measure, to be continued. After food come a great number of other needs, education, clothing, shelter. These are very large questions, but housing, I think everyone will agree, is a national service. I understood the Chancellor to take that view in remarks he made, and when he used the pronoun "We" he meant the Government or House of Commons and did not refer to the nation as a whole. This still leaves a very large field of less essential matters which may be outside the special control to which I have referred.
I would, before finishing this part of what I have to say, make one reference to the Beveridge scheme. Sir William Beveridge himself, and it has been frequently quoted, says that one of his primary assumptions is that there shall be full employment, subject to the margin which he indicated, and it has been said that, of course, without that full employment the Beveridge scheme cannot be implemented. That may be true, but the opposite fact has also to be borne in mind, that the provision of purchasing power to the great mass of the people—their basic needs—will in itself be a stabilising influence on employment. I always took the view in the early years of the present century that the provision of Old Age Pensions, slight as it was, and meagre as it is in our view to-day—though of course the value of money was much higher previously than, it is now—did exercise a very considerable effect in producing industrial prosperity and was a factor in the growing wealth of the country.
There is only one other subject to which I must refer before sitting down; that is the international position. I agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the economic situation throughout the world after the war will demand, the greatest care and attention, and I think it is quite right that one of the great priorities of the post-war world will be to secure help to all those countries who have fallen by the way. International trade is also, I agree, of supreme importance. It is true that I think some people exaggerate that importance. They seem to think that the only way a country can grow rich and prosperous is by international trade, and that the domestic market means something like trying to get rich by taking in one another's washing. That, of course, 835 is a grotesque overstatement. A nation grows rich by its production, and a vast part of its production is for its own internal needs. Nevertheless, it remains true that international trade is of very great importance because there are certain things which any one nation, and particularly our nation, cannot produce for itself—part of its food and a great number of its raw materials. Therefore I, certainly, am not one who would minimise the importance of preserving our export trade, and I agree with the Chancellor that it too has to be given an early priority after the war is over.
I do not want to talk in terms of tariffs or the Ottawa Agreement. I want to stress a somewhat different aspect of the matter, that is the importance of securing to every country throughout the world a measure of economic health. From the shortest point of view, this is essential, because unless our customers are prosperous they will not be able to buy our wares, and I hope that, in view of the great difficulties which will arise after the war, it will be found possible to adopt something analogous to the Lend-Lease procedure. But I look at the matter from a larger point of view than that. The world must be regarded as a unit. The health of one part is vital to the health of the whole, just as the health of one of our members is vital to the health of our whole body. Economically, politically, militarily, there can be no well-being for any nation unless all nations and all their peoples enjoy a reasonable standard of prosperity.
§ Mr. Liddall (Lincoln)
When I read the terms of the Motion my first reaction was that an exhortation to the Government to direct their economic and financial policy so as to ensure that employment, industry and commerce were increased and developed, was an indication that the promoters of the Motion had little faith in the present form of the Government. Any Government which failed, at least to make an attempt to carry out these principles, without being told so to do, would, in my opinion, soon cease to exist I, therefore, came to the conclusion that the Motion merely served as a peg upon which to hang either some private schemes devised by the movers or to permit a statement of policy by the Government themselves. We have had a wonderful state- 836 ment from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think Members of all parties will agree that it was a most helpful statement, but one which we all desire to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest to morrow.
The exhortation to co-operate to the full with other members of the United Nations seems to me to have been addressed to the wrong persons and to the wrong place. The people of this country—and they may in general be held to be represented by the Government—have been said to have a genius for compromise; and compromise is the essence of co-operation. Co-operation presupposes action by two or more parties. It seems to me that when co-operation is required exhortations might more pertinently be addressed to parties outside these islands. Let me remind the House of some efforts towards co-operation which have been made. In 1846 Mr. Cobden said, "If you adopt free trade in its simplicity, there will not be a tariff in Europe that will not be changed in five years, to follow your example." We did adopt free trade. What amount of co-operation did we get? We stuck to this lopsided, one-way co-operation for over two generations, and it came within an ace of making us bankrupt. What type of financial co-operation did we meet with at the end of the last war? We were owed vast sums of money; we wrote off practically the whole of them, and continued to pay to America the debts of those people for whom we had contracted the obligations, until it became a physical impossibility for us to carry on. What happened within the League of Nations? We did our best to carry out its principles, and when a dastardly attack was launched on Abyssinia we did our best to play the game according to the rules laid down. Who co-operated with us then?
Let us come to later times. For two years this Empire of ours stood between the world and horrors unimaginable. I do not for one moment forget the wonderful work of President Roosevelt, surely one of the best friends of the British Empire; I do not forget the miracles worked by him, and the ultimate co-operation which we have received; but I repeat that for two years co-operation was not forthcoming. Surely exhortations should be addressed elsewhere. I do not believe that co-operation can justly be described as giving everything and getting nothing. I do not believe that we shall 837 ever obtain co-operation with other nations until we learn to stand up for ourselves and to maintain with vigour the conclusions arrived at by the process of our own sane judgment. We have some right to claim to be authorities on the subject of co-operation. There has been no finer example of the complete co-operation of diverse elements than is to be found within the bounds of the British Empire. In spite of vast differences in outlook and in requirements, we hammered out a modus vivendi at Ottawa. The history of the British Empire abounds with examples of friendly co-operation. No better illustration can be found than in the history of New Zealand. Both 1914 and 1939 showed to the world what co-operation really means. These examples alone, I believe, are sufficient to justify my plea that the people of the British Empire are the last people to need urging to more co-operation.
I do not wish to confine myself solely to negative criticism. I venture to offer a concrete suggestion as to the first step which should be taken to implement the terms of the Motion. Let there be formed a Council of the British Empire, composed of representatives of this country, of the Dominions, of India, and of the Colonial Empire, which shall have, as a first step, under its own direction the economic and commercial policy of the British Empire as a whole, so as to ensure that employment, industry, and commerce may be increased and developed. When that policy has been laid down, when the interests of every item in the Empire have been considered and co-ordinated, when it has been judged in what manner and with what generosity the British Empire shall co-operate with the United Nations, we can throw ourselves whole-heartedly into the task of working with those nations in the reconstruction of the world. If, on the other hand, we allow ourselves, as in the past, to interpret co-operation to mean that we shall give up for the benefit of the world at large those vast benefits which the British Empire has conferred upon the world, and if we permit the Empire to be taken piecemeal and subjected to financial and economic policies which will either spell ruin or bring part of the Empire under the domination of other countries, we shall have betrayed our trust, and we shall deserve the calamity which will be the inevitable result.
§ Mr. Hannah (Bilston)
Some of the older Members may remember an event which happened as long ago, if I remember right, as the beginning of the present Parliament. A member of the party which was at that time in Opposition asked the Minister of Agriculture a question about the throwing of herrings overboard, and the Minister, having satisfied the curiosity of his questioner, went on to explain that when the questioner's party was in power a very much larger number of herrings had been thrown overboard. It was a magnificent debating point. The Minister had completely triumphed. He beamed; he cocked a snook; he said, "Yah, yah." I must explain that I am relying rather on my memory than on Hansard. I know that Ministers of the Crown do nothing of that kind, although I am certain they sometimes feel rather like it. The Minister had scored a point, and yet one could not help feeling that the general conditions disclosed were as as they are so often described by our honoured and honourable friend the Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère), "most unsatisfactory." I could have eaten some of those herrings which had been thrown overboard, and so, I imagine, could about a million other people. The whole incident disclosed a thoroughly unsatisfactory state of affairs.
I think we may say that there is a starting point for what we are discussing to-day. Production is not the great problem of the world. The industries of mankind produce enough and to spare. There is a surplus that nobody can say is not wanted, but somehow or other it cannot be paid for. The problem is not very' different from what it was during the 18th century, when one of the greatest of all Scottish professors, Adam Smith, of Glasgow, wrote his famous work "The Wealth of Nations." We accepted the principle of that work; other nations did not. I do not entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall) that it was disastrous from our point of view. I think that beyond a doubt out-free trade policy did a great deal in many ways to build up the position of this country as the leading commercial nation of the world. A new movement, I think, has been instituted that is full of hope in this particular respect. It is called, I believe, the "world trade alliance," but it might be called anything else. Nothing turns upon the name; I do not care much 839 about names; but we do want a better position of commercial affairs in the world at large. I think we can well allow trade to flow along its natural channels as far as it possibly will. That will be a very good start. It will hurt nobody; it will be to the benefit of all the commercial nations.
There will undoubtedly be a very considerable surplus. This surplus should be bought by what may be called the "world development commission"—or it might be called, anything else; I do not think the name matters. This surplus having been bought, it should be sent to countries that need it, whether they are the starving nations of Europe, Asiatic lands, or some of our Colonies. But I very strongly disagree with those who say that China and India are backward countries. They were leading the world when our fathers were naked savages. We enter to a very great extent into the glorious traditions that they gave to mankind. Distribution of the surplus to those countries that can use it, on something like Lend-Lease principles, is an extremely constructive proposal. It will help to bind up the wounds of the world. It will, I hope, by raising the standard of living in all those different lands, give us new markets and countries with a very much stronger position than they have at the present time.
I venture to think that a splendid beginning has been made with the Wheat Agreement. I believe we are going to help ourselves and very largely going to save Europe. The statesmen of this country, of Canada, of Australia, of the United States of America and of Argentina have come together in that matter on an exceedingly satisfactory basis. Some may object to the scheme because it is Socialistic. I will not give the arguments, because I am sure I should not put them very well, and I do not myself agree with them in the very least. Some may object to this Wheat Agreement on the ground that it is reactionary, and we all realise, or should realise, that the precedent on which it is based is something like 3,000 years old. To me it is a source of very considerable inspiration that the first time a Jew ever rigged a corner in wheat it was for the benefit of Egypt and the world and not merely for private profit, and I believe that the splendid work that was done by Joseph, the chamberlain of 840 Pharaoh, when he made the Egyptians think imperially and not merely locally, in terms of villages and farms in the matter of corn, is indeed the foundation on which this Wheat Agreement has been built.
§ Mr. Benson
The hon. Member must not forget that Joseph used that corner in wheat to enslave the Egyptian people. Only the priests were left free.
§ Mr. Hannah
I will accept the correction, but it was on the whole, I think, of benefit to Egypt. It did keep alive a good many people who otherwise would have starved. It was surely a constructive proposal. The actual position of Joseph in Egypt is not, however, very relevant to this Motion which the right hon. Member for Horsham has very properly put down. I believe the Motion is one of the best we have had an opportunity of discussing for a very considerable time. I want that principle of the Wheat Agreement to be extended to other industries, other products, and I believe that it can be. We can go gradually and slowly, we can learn from experience, but we must not be satisfied for a moment with the chaos and anarchy of slump and boom of the years before the war. None of us wants to go back to that. World trade must be planned on a really practical basis.
It is a memory of my childhood that I was once being taken through Bournemouth by my godfather, and we came to a shop over the window of which was written up in large letters "Practical Umbrella Mender." Now the inference was that the owner of that shop did not go into wild theories. He did not discuss whether umbrellas should be nationalised, whether we should have an umbrella diplomacy, whether the management of umbrellas should be entrusted to some Cabinet Minister or what Department it should be put under, or whether appeals regarding umbrellas from the subjects of the King should be to the national Government or the local authorities. He went ahead. He mended umbrellas in a practical way. I believe that in exactly the same general spirit we need to attempt to bind up the wounds of the world, to reorganise international trade for the benefit, not merely of this country but of all mankind. I do hope that all that has been said about parties will lead to 841 something. We do not want parties just now. I am as loyal as anybody can be to those who were kind enough to send me to Parliament, but still I do believe in Macaulay's great saying:Then none was for a party;Then all were for the state.I am rather sorry that my honoured and honourable colleague the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has somehow or other proposed that parties should be divided still further. He wants Conservatives to be labelled "over 50" and "under 50." One's first remark is, How are the Liberals to be re-divided, since I do not think that anybody can say that they are a particularly united party? [An HON. MEMBER: "They have all been wiped out."] If we look round this House at the present time I think it will be seen that the "under 50's" are probably in the minority—if you can find them—but at any rate in my particular case my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton guessed entirely wrong. I do not believe in these eternal labels. Let us tear up the labels and sample the contents of the bottle. Then we shall make progress and we shall really do something for the benefit of the world. The Treaty of Versailles was the worst treaty in all human history because it took away everything from Germany, everything that we could take away, colonies, trade, territory, everything else—except the power to re-arm. I hope that the Treaty that ends this war will do exactly the opposite; that we shall take away from Germany for ever, the power to re-arm, if that can possibly be done, and that when that has been accomplished we shall try to absorb the German people into the commerce of the world. Every day we refer to the debt in which we stand to Germany in trade. I imagine that the original Hansard who printed the Parliamentary report must have been descended from one of the merchants of the Hanseatic League of the London Steelyard who were for so long a very large element in the commerce of this city and nation; and when we talk about our sterling currency we speak of the money that was traded in by the Hansa merchants. In the post-war world there cannot be any room for hatred or for trying to push any nation out of the pale of civilisation. If our re-organisation of the earth is to have any value it must comprise all mankind, conquerors and conquered 842 alike. Anyone can see the evils of these nightmare days, the terrible time in which we are living. But long ago a Roman poet, Vergil, wrote something which I think is rather suited for this day:Lo, time in its revolving course has brought what,No god dared to promise to your prayers.We, surely, have a remarkable and an extraordinary opportunity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has put very well indeed the general lines in which our finances must be modified. Our ideas must be changed if we are to give the world a better future than anything we have known in the past. I believe that all Europe, if not the whole earth, is looking to this House and to this Government for leadership in the new period of the world that we are entering. It may be, perhaps, that the evils which were brought about by the Renaissance with all its glory but with its excessive materialism, may be near, and very near, the end. The world is looking to us with hope. We must not fail.
§ Mr. Bartle Bull (Enfield)
I fully support the terms of this Motion, because we all agree that employment, industry and commerce should be increased and developed after the war to the fullest possible extent. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) mentioned international co-operation and went on to say that we stood alone for a little over a year for the early part of this war. With that, of course, everyone agrees. There were many occasions during that time when a great many of us prayed for a second front, about which we heard so much later. He also said that he hoped that after the war there would be no exclusive Anglo-American financial hegemony. Well, anyone who has seen the vastness of America recently, her enormous man-power, wealth and industrial development will realise that the Noble Lord might be a little more worried not that there should be Anglo-American hegemony after the war, but that America could do it alone without the help of anyone else if she chose.
§ Earl Winterton
Might I suggest that if she did, she would find herself in exactly the same position as she was in 1931?
§ Mr. Bull
Yes, but America has three times the population of this country. The Noble Lord went on to say that we should co-operate equally with Russia and China after the war. I agree with him, but I am not certain that this is a very good thing: to tell the Americans at this time. I cannot remember any Lend-Lease from either Russia or China. I may be wrong, but I do not recollect it. I heard the gratitude expressed by various Members of this House for the Lend-Lease help we had received from the Americans. Then the Noble Lord said that those who would fight elections would not say anything against co-operation with Russia. Well, nobody wants to say anything against it. We must all be full of admiration for everything that country has done, but after all Russia, like China, was attacked; she did not declare war. Surely our only guiding principle now is to bend all our energies towards the winning of this war. The Noble Lord talked about outspoken advice to America and mentioned Mr. Willkie. I would suggest to him that when we give outspoken advice—
§ Earl Winterton
I must interrupt the hon. Gentleman. I did not use the phrase "outspoken advice," which was the last phrase I should have used. What I said was that I do not believe that Anglo-American relationship would suffer through outspoken statements on both sides of the Atlantic, even though those statements might be in conflict.
§ Mr. Bull
I apologise and accept the Noble Lord's correction. Although we may make outspoken statements or criticisms, the trouble is that you cannot guarantee to get these statements or criticisms in the newspapers in America, and one phrase taken out of its context might have an extremely bad effect. You cannot make newspaper owners in the United States print speeches in full, particularly if they do not share the views of the person making the statement. Therefore, I think as little as possible should be said now on the question of Anglo-American relations unless we are quite certain that what is said will be properly published, and published in full, in America; and I regret to say, from recent experience there, that 844 that definitely is not the case. Small sentences are printed out of their context, and Americans get an extremely wrong opinion as to what has been said on this side of the Atlantic.
§ Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)
I should like to refer to what was said by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall)—who unfortunately is not in his place at the moment—concerning free trade. I do not want to enter into any controversy on free trade and protection, but I believe the hon. Member quoted Cobden as saying that the tariffs of Europe would be lowered if we followed a free trade policy. The hon. Member said that nothing of the kind happened. I would like to remind him that after all we did become rich and at the same time we laid up vast foreign assets which enabled us to fight this war for the first 18 months. If we had not had those foreign assets which were built up under the old free trade regime before 1931, I do not think our prospects in the early part of the war would have been too good. I do not say that with reference to the attitude which I think ought to be taken at the present time, but simply to put the matter in its proper place.
Let us for a moment try to face the realities that will have to be faced by this country when the war is over. There has been a great deal of talk about international planning and so forth, but what in reality shall we have to face? In the first place, we shall have to face the countries of the world which are normally primary producing countries rapidly becoming industrialised. We have seen the tremendous strides taken by the United States very recently in intensive industrialisation and productive capacity. War always stimulates that sort of thing. In the United States there was a colossal industrial capacity before the war but after the war that capacity will be increased possibly threefold or fourfold. In addition, Canada and the other Dominions are making rapid strides in that direction and will compete with us in the products we manufacture. Canada is no longer a primary producing country only, but a country which has vast mineral wealth which she is rapidly, under conditions of war, learning to turn into production. Canada is even building ships. In Australia there is development of secondary industries. That is the condi- 845 tion of things that we shall have to face when the war is over. In addition, another thing we shall have to face will be the fact that we have lost the whole of our foreign assets, of which we had about £3,000,000,000, producing interest of about £400,000,000, which was brought into this country in the form of raw materials and foodstuffs to fill the gap which our own farmers could not fill. Moreover, there will be foreign markets which will need recapturing. Although we have considerable goodwill throughout the world, we shall nevertheless have to rebuild it. Now is the time to consider those matters. We shall not regain our markets by merely talking about them, but we will have to make every endeavour.
Another point that must not be forgotten is that we used to fill up our balance of trade by invisible exports. Shipping formed a considerable invisible export. Before the last war we were the carriers of the world and even up to this war we had still a large shipping industry- and carried for different countries, which helped us to fill up the adverse balance of trade. But our shipping position will not be so fortunate when the war is over. It is clear that America will probably become the shipbuilders of the world. We shall still retain a shipbuilding industry undoubtedly through our efforts and endeavours, but nevertheless, various industrialised countries have learned to build shipping in large quantities and will perfect that industry as time goes on, so that we shall not have the same advantage as we had in the past. In addition, we shall have a vast population of 47,000,000 to sustain, dependent for prosperity on the goods, raw materials and food that it can get from abroad. There will be considerable purchasing power. Savings have been encouraged, and there will be tax repayments, which can be drawn upon and utilised for the limited quantity of goods available. These are a few of the points that we should consider now.
I do not believe there will be any great degree of unemployment after- demobilisation. Our people will have to work very hard indeed to obtain their raw materials and foodstuffs, but the worker will not be working only for himself. He will be working largely for the foreigner. We are told that in order to get over these difficulties and to put the world right, we 846 should continue control. We shall have to continue controls, much as we dislike them, but we must always remember that countries never continue controls voluntarily, unless indeed they are preparing for a war, or are at war, where it is essential to put the whole national endeavour in one channel: you cannot allow industries to develop which are not needed for the war effort. Another reason why countries have control is that they are without luxuries, and very often without large quantities of the real necessities of life, and you must have control in order to distribute the goods that you have. Control either suggests a country at war or a country which is impoverished, unless the control is applied in order to distribute wealth, as some people who hold certain political views would desire.
How are we going to meet this state of things? We must face it. One of the first things we should do is to encourage a balanced international economy, but that is one of the most difficult things to achieve, because it must essentially involve the sovereignty of different States. We talk about it airily enough, like the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah). If you are to have a limitation of the primary products of the world, if you are perhaps to have tariffs to regulate their entry into other countries, if you are to dictate to a country how much primary production it should go in for, you are seriously interfering with national sovereignty, and that is not an easy matter to get over. But, nevertheless, now is the time to consider schemes in that regard. Schemes have been put forward by different people. I do not say I agree with them, but schemes have been put to the Overseas Trade Department such as whether the ordinary small goods of the world should not be free and the great primary products regulated, but these schemes are full of difficulties. Another point which we should bear in mind is that primary producing countries will be compelled to sell their primary products and therefore this fact should be used to our advantage as it might well control the degree of industrialisation they indulge in. That is where we should always be ready to get in and we must prepare the ground now.
It has been suggested—and it is a good idea—that we should prepare a scheme of post-war co-operative selling. Firms 847 which make similar things should be encouraged to send their own representatives abroad to act as their salesmen and to push their products in different countries. Representatives abroad were seldom employed by British firms except by those that were very prosperous. Frequently our agents abroad acted for 40 or 50 companies unconnected with one another, and the consequence was that they pushed only those things that were most profitable. The whole of that should now be correlated. Now is the opportunity to lay the foundations of our foreign trade and our marketing arrangements, so that British goods which are still the best the world can produce, will be advertised and sold. Our agents would arrange shipping, bills of lading and so on, thereby facilitating delivery. If we can have proper marketing arrangements and see that our goods are properly advertised abroad, I believe that Britain will still lead the way in workmanship. We should have a scheme for selling our high-grade products. If we can sell them, it frequently paves the way to the selling of the secondary goods which, though less important, mount up in the national bill.
Another thing we must think of in order to meet our difficulties is a policy of emigration: Our people probably will not want to emigrate, but we shall have to encourage them by co-operative schemes with our Dominions, in order to fill the wide open spaces. No man wants to leave the country in which he was brought up, unless he has an adventurous spirit. That spirit is not so marked as it was 20 or 30 years ago. The tendency when we have all kinds of social services, is for people to lose the spirit of adventure. People who have security at home do not offer themselves on the markets of the world to seize a life of adventure with all its ups and downs. We should, therefore, encourage emigration by every possible means. We must not, however, reduce the population of this country too far, because population is essential to us in order to retain our power in the world. If we drop in population, pleasant as it would be, our power must go.
These are a few of the realities that the Chancellor must face. I would emphasise three of them. We must lay the foundations of our post-war export trade now. That is the main thing. Then we must 848 think out schemes of emigration and how the burden of taxation can be relaxed; In this country the home market is not sufficient. It is impossible for us to live on it. Our main raw material is coal and we must get most other raw materials from abroad. In order to gain prosperity our people must work hard so as to recapture our foreign markets. Whatever internal economy we have in this country, whether it be Communist, Socialist or any other, any government will always have to face the same external difficulties, and unless they overcome those difficulties they cannot achieve their ideals, and those who imagine a post-war Utopia will find it but a dream.
§ Ordered, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Major Sir James Edmondson.)
§ Debate to be resumed upon the next Sitting Day.