HC Deb 16 November 1944 vol 404 cc2112-5
49. Sir Edward Grigg

asked the Prime Minister if he can make a statement about the continuance of controls after the end of the German war.

The Prime Minister

As the answer to this Question is rather long I will, with permission, make a statement at the end of Questions.


The Prime Minister

It is not possible to look beyond the end of the Japanese war, and my reply relates to the period between the defeat of Germany and the defeat of Japan. Until Japan has been defeated the war must have first call on our efforts. After the defeat of Germany it will be possible and necessary to turn ever an increasing part of our resources to civilian production. Thus we must make exertions to restore our export trade and to re-equip our industry. The shortage of houses, both permanent and emergency must be grappled with as if it were a war-time measure. Active steps must be taken to relieve the shortage of civilian goods.

As stated in the White Paper to be published to-day, the existing system of allocating man-power to the Forces and to the various industries will be maintained. Nevertheless, it is intended to mitigate so far as possible the rigidity of the existing controls over labour. Many of the war-time controls over raw materials, industrial capacity, agriculture, food, transport and so forth will likewise be as necessary in this period as they are to-day. In these fields also, relaxations will be possible and will be made whenever circumstances permit and in an orderly manner. Any other course would result in violent disturbances which might well lead to inflation; would be harmful to the economic life of the country; and would make it impossible to ensure that the Nation's resources are devoted to essential needs, and are fairly distributed during periods in which demand will still be without any economic relation to supply.

It is too early to forecast the stages by which control will be relaxed. But the House can rest assured that the whole matter will be dealt with in a severely practical manner, each case being considered not only on its merits but as part of an organised scheme. It is important in this phase that theoretical, ideological or partisan tendencies either way should be excluded, and the governing consideration in every case should be the public interest.

Sir I. Albery

Arising from the statement which the Prime Minister has just made, has he anything further to say about the restoration of the protection of the liberty of the individual?

The Prime Minister

That is a matter which might more properly be addressed, in the first instance, to the Home Secretary, but it is, of course, a matter which will be continually under review, as the danger of the proximity of war recedes from our shores.

Sir E. Grigg

May I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply, and assure him that its general purport will give widespread satisfaction?

Mr. George Griffiths

The hon. Member has not understood it properly.

Viscountess Astor

Will the Prime Minister assure the people of the country that houses will come ahead even of beer?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, certainly if it were proved that one necessarily excluded the other.

Captain Cobb

The Prime Minister has referred to the need for grappling with the housing situation. Could he give an assurance that we shall have at least one day before Christmas, in order to discuss the housing situation generally?

The Prime Minister

I certainly feel that there is a great deal of need for discussion, but the Debate on the Address may furnish an opportunity. We have only a certain amount of time between the date on which we meet again after the impending short interlude, and Christmas, and all those days can be devoted either to the Address, or to other special points. There are only so many days available, but I should certainly think that housing would stand high in that category.

Mr. Woodburn

Is it not more necessary that we should stop discussing, and get on with the legislation to get the job done?

The Prime Minister

We cannot have any new legislation before Christmas, but I certainly agree about the urgency of getting the job done. It is only that Parliament likes to take a hand in these matters, and very often gives a very valuable driving impulse, which the Government welcome.

Captain Peter Macdonald

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is considerable feeling that undue restriction is being placed upon our export industries in this country, in making personal contacts abroad? Will he, having regard, of course, to the needs of housing and other matters, see that these restrictions are mitigated in some way, in order that exporters from this country will have an opportunity of making personal contacts abroad with a view to securing export trade?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, I certainly endorse the spirit of my hon. and gallant Friend's remarks.