§ 3.15 P.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
In calling on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Alder-shot (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton) to move the Motion on the Order Paper (Censure on Policy of His Majesty's Government), I thought I had better inform the House that I am afraid a great many hon. Members will be disappointed. I have worked out a list of about 30 names covering, I hope, most interests and, geographically, most areas, but that leaves something over 70 who will be disappointed. Naturally, in these circumstances, I have had to disregard, to a great extent, the claims of maiden speeches, and I am sorry to say, too, that I have had to disregard many old Members who have not spoken yet in this Parliament, but I really could not work them in under the scheme that I have adopted. I am sorry that 70 odd Members will be disappointed, but I simply cannot help it.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Could you indicate those who have been successful in the ballot, so that the feelings of those who have been unsuccessful can be relieved?
§ Mr. Speaker
I have a list here of those who have been lucky—or rather, will be lucky—and if hon. Members do not find their names on it, they will know the position.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
As one who is under a seal of silence, I make an appeal to Members, apart from the leading speakers, to confine themselves to fifteen minutes.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Will there be any possibility of an hon. Member, who keeps to the established practice of the House, and rises in his place, being called?
§ Mr. Maxton
I am asking you, Sir, if there is any possibility of an hon. Member, who keeps to the established practice of the House and does not try to make an advance booking, catching your eye?
§ Mr. Speaker
There is always a possibility because I watch the Debate, but I think it is extremely unlikely on this occasion to make many changes.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
May I ask if your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, is in the sense that you will follow the course and precedent of Debate in calling on any Member who may catch your eye, as well as on any Member from the list that has been put in front of you?
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)
I beg to move,"That this House regrets that His Majesty's Government are neglecting their first duty, namely, to concentrate with full energy upon the most urgent and essential tasks of the re-conversion of our industries from war-time production to that of peace, the provision of houses, the speedy release of men and women from the Forces to industry, and the drastic curtailment of our swollen national expenditure and deplores the pre-occupation of His Majesty's Ministers, impelled by Socialist theory, with the formulation of long-term schemes for nationalisation creating uncertainty over the whole field of industrial and economic activity, in direct opposition to the best interest of the nation, which demands food, work and homes.This Motion in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Churchill) and others, including myself, is a challenge to the present Government policy. It states that, to our mind, first things are not being treated first. Under labyrinthine control and regulations all our attempts, and by that I mean the attempts of everybody in the country, to get the country on its feet, to get our trade moving, our energies revived—and this is very necessary after six years of war—and our enterprise released, are being stifled. On the other hand, the crying necessity to re-establish some standard of consumption, to fill the shops with goods, and to restore some choice to the consumer is not being met. Our opinion on this side of the House is that, 2336 in face of the problems which press upon us, which crowd upon us every day, our action should be like that of Michael Angelo, who was said to have attacked the block of marble with hammer and chisel, in order to release the image he felt to be imprisoned within it. It is the will and the impulse to release the imprisoned energy that are wanted, and not the impulse which we see all around us, to restrain and impede.
Optimists may believe that we are going to emerge successfully from our present economic struggle. I am one of them. Pessimists believe that we shall fail. Both optimists and pessimists will agree that we are faced with what is, probably, the severest economic crisis that has assailed any nation in history, and that to meet it the vital energies in this country must be liberated. At every turn—and I am speaking of the industrial field—we find that the impulse to press forward is being checked by a mass of regulations, by a mass of theories, and by an attempt to solve the multitudinous problems of industry by too centralised direction. Days and sometimes weeks, and sometimes months, are spent in trying to 'get a Ministry even to acknowledge its responsibility for a particular project. It is not an unusual experience that eight, nine or more Ministerial veils have to be parted before permission to do something quite simple is obtained. Let me quote from ''The Times'' of Monday:More serious"—even than the things I have mentioned—perhaps is the continuous impact of purely departmental views during the whole process, throughout which some single department is required to sponsor the project. Incidentally, any objection by any Ministry at any stage usually means that the project—in the manner of 'snakes and ladders'—goes back two or three stages and starts afresh.In short, when the need is for production everywhere, the main preoccupation of the Government is not to get a lively vivacious industry going but is to ensure that by keeping industry in a sort of Whitehall twilight forms of production which they do not like are not made. We all know that a comprehensive armoury—that is not an exaggeration—is in the Government's hands in order to prevent industry from doing things, and it is necessary, in embarking on this subject, to remind the House of what some of those weapons are. They are first, the control of raw materials, in some instances 2337 absolutely necessary, though in others, we hope it may be relaxed; secondly, the control of building priorities and licences; thirdly, the control of capital issues by which industry gets capital from the public; fourthly, the control of foreign exchange; fifthly—although I think this is largely a sham—control and allocation of labour; sixthly, the export licensing system; and seventhly, to these are to be added schemes of nationalisation of all the services upon which industry relies.
When these powers are examined, they will be found to be almost entirely negative in character: "Thou shalt not." [An Hon. Member: "The Ten Commandments."] These are powers to prevent and not to promote. Before I begin on some of the facts of this situation, I think it necessary to say what a profound error it is to try to draw close analogies between the problems of war production and the problems of peace production. It is unwise, I think, to draw conclusions about how we can conduct ourselves in trade and industry from the history of our past production, and our almost unbelievable achievements during the war. That war production was achieved, with very small exceptions, by free enterprise working upon orders placed by the Government. In war, the Government themselves are by far the largest buyers, and the sole buyers of a large range of of products. The Government know how many aircraft they require, and during the war the right hon. Gentleman the present President of the Board of Trade managed as a rule to deliver them. The Government know what they require and when delivery must take place, and the manufacturer knows that he will be paid in pounds sterling when he delivers the goods.
The problem of peace is very different. The single, or almost single, customer—the Government—must be replaced and superseded by hundreds and thousands of customers, with hundreds and thousands of varying needs, and, be it said, of greatly varying ability to pay for what they want. The statement on nationalisation made by the Lord President of the Council, upon which I see he has been congratulating himself ever since he made it, says, in effect: Here is an anaemic, disreputable and rather inefficient industry, which has got to make a quick recovery and become vigorous 2338 again, if the damage and ravages of war are to be repaired. All the Government are going to do, is to ensure that the breathing of the patient takes place only through the "iron lung" of Government control. All the Government are going to do is to regulate the heart beat of the patient, and the circulation of his blood. In all other respects the patient is perfectly free to go where he will and do what he likes. Of course, I must add that if he does not run and walk as people in Whitehall think he should, of course, he will have to be treated permanently in the Whitehall infirmary. That is what it means.
All down the line the ineptitude and inefficiency and slowness of the Government's present policy are making themselves felt. I begin at what I think is the most important part of this problem. No one, I suggest, in any part of the House who has knowledge of the subject will dissent from the proposition that shortage of workers is the principal impediment—although there are many others hardly less serious—which is holding back, at every turn, our industrial recovery. The main reason for this lack of workers is the palsied way in which demobilisation is being hampered. I do not regard that as at all funny, although I see the First Lord is laughing. Perhaps I shall bring a more serious expression to his face. Let me turn to figures. We can draw some lessons from the American figures. The American Forces were certainly deployed in theatres of war further from the homeland than our own, taking the average length of the voyage. A recent statement of President Truman says the rate of release from the Armed Forces was 35,000 a day up to now and it is being stepped up to 50,000 a day.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I will deal with the hon. Member's point. I shall not shirk it. The comparable figures in this country are about 12,000 a day, and a somewhat smaller rate at the beginning of the year as far as I know. I challenge anyone to deny, making all the necessary adjustments for the difference in the size of the population, that this rate of release in this country is less than half the comparable rate in the United States. Now I come to the point raised by the hon. Member 2339 opposite. Let me say that the problem in this country differs very widely from that in the United States. In this country we have two jobs—I should say it was something like that—waiting for every single man or woman that we have to do them, and we cannot see the chill shadow of unemployment passing over our land for many years. In the United States, so rapid has been the increase in their productivity—the national income has doubled in four years—that clearly the adjustment to absorb this productivity in peace time is a great problem. One would expect, therefore, the United States to proceed slowly and tentatively with its plan for demobilisation while, on the other hand, the utmost audacity would be displayed by His Majesty's Government. We want men and women for whom industry is crying out and the Americans are more concerned, at the moment, with jobs than they are with men and women. But what has happened? The positions are reversed. All the energy and audacity is being displayed by the Americans, and they deserve credit for it.
§ Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the ship allocation for the return of troops was made by the late Government or the present Government?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
It certainly was not made by the late Government in relation to this time. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well the answer to his own question. What has happened in this situation? The positions are reversed. His Majesty's Government are fumbling and fiddling and kow-towing to unconscionable demands from the Army, Navy and Air Force. They deserve the' greatest censure for a demobilisation policy which, I say, is utterly unfitted to the needs of this country at this moment. I have only touched so far upon the release side. Let me turn for a moment to the intake side. There are very few things in this country which are more urgently needed than clothes. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer when he left the Board of Trade before the Election, indulged in some expansive statements to reassure the public. He said there were going to be more clothes, not at once, but in the next rationing period. I think that is the one through which we are now passing. Yet the present President of the Board of Trade slashed the 2340 clothing ration from 48 to 42 coupons—a rather sharp contrast between electoral promises and administrative performance.
But it is much worse than this. I say that the 42 coupons are not being truly honoured. I have no doubt figures could be produced to show that the weight of clothes against these coupons exists, but it is not honouring the ration fully, if a person who wants a pair of shoes finds all that he can get is a pullover. Shortage of clothing can only be relieved by increased production in the textile industry, and particularly in the spinning section. Under the present administration the labour force in the cotton textile industry has hardly risen by 2 or 3 per cent. I turn to the matter of transport, and I challenge the Government to give figures showing the staff necessary to meet railway requirements, including replacements of Italian prisoners, and the extent to which those requirements have been met during the last four or five months. I ask the Minister of Labour to give us the number of railwaymen still serving with His Majesty's Forces, compared with the number at the beginning of June. Such figures are not published, I believe, but I ask that they should be given today. I venture to say that if the Government are bold enough to give them the country will be astonished by the exiguous relief given to the overstrained body of workers on the railways.
I turn to another industry. In the heavy engineering industry the labour force is really falling week by week although we hear statements that this industry is to make a great contribution towards the restoration of our export trade. I happen to be associated with Associated Electrical Industries. [Hon. Members: "We know it."] Since when has it been considered seemly for the Labour Party to sneer at those who have to earn their living? I thought the House might forgive me if I quoted figures relating to my own company. We have received' back from the Armed Forces 850 of our workers. We have still in the Armed Forces 9,335. That is how the position looks from the intake side of industry. The English Electrical Company, which is another company in a big way of business, has 40 per cent. of its capacity unused. That is again because of this palsied treatment of demobilisation. The President of the Board of 2341 Trade was good enough the other day to make eulogistic comments about orders for electrical plant taken in Brazil. His phrases, welcome as they were, as coming from an unusual quarter, were not accompanied by any action by the Government to secure that the present needs of labour in these heavy engineering industries shall be met.
Now, I turn to the coalmining industry. We were led to expect that the psychological exhilaration of seeing the dawn of national ownership, would prompt an entirely new spirit. It may have done so but it has not been reflected either in production or in the number of men willing to remain in the industry. Let me give some figures. In the second quarter of 1945, the quarter ended 30th June, under the previous dispensation, the number of workers in coalmining had risen slightly from previous figures to 715,429. Since the dawn of national ownership the figures have declined very sharply to 705,656 in the third quarter, that ended on 30th September, 1945. I should be very interested to hear if the Minister of Fuel and Power will say that there has been any appreciable improvement in the situation since 30th September. Output too, has steadily declined, and so has the output per wage earner in the industry.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Shinwell) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The right hon. Gentleman is evidently in conflict with the President of the Board of Trade, because these figures are taken out of the "Board of Trade Journal." In the third quarter of 1944 output was 43,970,000 tons. In the third quarter of 1945 it was 39,671,000. In the third quarter of 1944 the output per wage-earner was 61.6 tons and the output in the third quarter this year has declined to 56.2 tons. The figures of absenteeism are no less striking.
§ Mr. Shinwell indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
It is really no good the right hon. Gentleman shaking his head. I will willingly give way to him if he wishes, but these are the figures, and they are not less striking. From the third quarter of 1944, when they were 14.5 per cent. voluntary and involuntary, the figures have risen to 17 per cent. in the third quarter of 1945, and the sharpest rise has, alas, taken place since the 2342 arrival of the present Minister. Let me make a slight digression from the main trend of my argument. The other day my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penrith (Lieut.-Colonel Dower) was sharply rebuked for what I think was an unprovocative remark. He was accused of trying to incite industry to sabotage the national interest. Mr. Arthur Horner, the National Coal Production Officer, of the National Union of Mineworkers, speaking of the Government's own Measure, the Industrial Injuries Bill, on the Sunday before last, according to the Press, said:We will not persist in attracting or attempting to attract workers to an industry where they are so liable to death, injury or disease when all they are entitled to in terms of compensation is this inadequate incomeprovided for them by the present Government. I would like to ask the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he regards this as an attempt to sabotage his efforts to increase the number of miners working?
I now turn to the subject of housing. So far, the contribution of the Government has been very characteristic. It has been all words and no houses. The Minister of Health refuses information about the present progress—if that is the right word—and the future prospects. I do not think we should blame him at all for this attitude, because the truth is, he has no idea of where he stands or where he is going. But this excusable silence at this moment is in sharp contrast to the expansive statements made by him and his colleagues during the General Election. The policy of the Government on housing rests insecurely on a contradiction—a contradiction which was first ennunciated, and which was first wrung out of the Lord Privy Seal during the Debate on the Address. He made, in reply to interruptions, two statements. The first was that he agreed with every agency, every means of building houses should be used to meet this, one of our most urgent necessities at home. That was the first thing. The second thing is that he later admitted that no subsidies would be paid to private enterprise or to private builders.
That is the contradiction and the policy the Government still rest upon it. It is common knowledge that before the war private builders built about two-thirds of the houses of the country, and 2343 it is incorrect, incidentally, to say that they built houses only for sale. In the two and half years before the war, they built 163,500 houses for letting. This matter appears, for the purposes of this afternoon, to be a very simple one. I ask the Government a very plain question: Do they consider that more houses will be built if no subsidies are given to private builders, or do they think that more houses will be built? Is there anyone who does not know the answer to this question, except perhaps the Government? I think that they know it, too. Local authorities are also well aware that the task which is being given to them is far too great for them. They are delayed all along the line by uncertainties, one of the principal of which is that they do not yet know what subsidy they are to receive. It will certainly be substantial. The housing policy of the present Government, far less their promises, will not be fulfilled and that for the simplest of reasons, that they prefer adherence to mere Socialist doctrines rather than to give the people the houses that they need; and they can only do that quickly if they bring into play what has been the greatest source of house building, namely, private enterprise.
I turn to the subject of export trade. The first delay that has been shown is, of course, the shortage of labour on which I have already touched, and the second, which is as serious, is the labyrinthine rigmarole and abracadabra through which it is necessary to go before getting a building licence to make those small additions, alterations or extensions to plant, the foundation of machines, which are necessary if the export trade is to be got going and the industrial machine working. As I said before, we have, first, to get a Government Department to sponsor the project. They are sometimes very unwilling to do it, but after a time perhaps the project is sponsored. Let us suppose that it is the Ministry of Supply. Then an approach has to be made to the regional controller of the Ministry of Supply. He probably makes an investigation, and after a time he refers to headquarters, and then it goes to the Regional Board and then to the Board of Trade. Then the Ministry of Town and Country planning intervenes, or is likely to, and the Ministry of Transport and the Minis- 2344 try of Agriculture are others who may have to be consulted. All these Ministries have to be consulted. Then the project will have to go to Panel A, and after considerable inquiry they will send it back to the original Ministry, in this case the Ministry of Supply. It is then inspected by the Controller of Building Contracts in that Ministry, who sends it on to the Ministry of Works. Finally, it will go into the Ministry's regional office, and, on the assumption that the original applicants are still alive, they will be issued with a building licence.
Many projects fall by the way, partly by the frustration of the people who put them up, and partly by the obstruction of one or other of this multiplicity of Ministries through which the thing has to pass. In the field of building labour, the Government have, apparently, only one preoccupation, the building of residential houses. I agree that this should be their first preoccupation, but it is necessary, if we are to begin to pay our way, that far more attention should be given—and there is very little given now—to the building needs of industry. Building permits, as I said, are delayed for months and months—this is not an exaggeration—and when we attempt to change our plant from war production to peace production, it is checkmate. Again the export trade suffers from the idea that the Government can dictate what exports should have the highest priority and accordingly how the national production for export should be organised.
There is no one concerned in industry who does not know that the base—and I use the word in the military sense—of exports must be the home trade. For one thing, in making a plan of production for a plant, we all want to have as many fixed things, or as many ascertainable things in the programme as we can get, and as few variables. Those more or less fixed and ascertainable things are the domestic demands and the extent of the domestic market. The plan of the President of the Board of Trade, for example for the motor car industry, removes all the facts that could be closely estimated, to remove all things upon which one could make a close estimation and leaves only the variable speculative export trade upon which to base this great industry. It is little wonder that the motor car manufacturers are now turning back to the Government plans which, under a wiser 2345 policy, they would have been able to use. A large part of the export trade of all countries, and most notably of the United States, depends upon selling the surplus production, after the home market has absorbed a large part of the overhead expenses. Remove the home market and there are very few industries whether American or British that can expect to be competitive abroad. But perhaps it is a policy which the President of the Board of Trade will learn not to repeat in other industries.
Now I turn to a wider issue, which is raised by the theory that industry should be rigidly planned from the centre. I want to take the most unfavourable instance from my own point of view. I hope that it will illumine the difficulties or some of the difficulties of this central plan. Take the manufacture of some luxury goods for women, for instance, jewels. The Government ban that manufacture because, they say, that it is a low priority industry, and I think there are few of us, here at any rate, who would dissent from the proposition that it is a low priority industry. But, of course, when production is banned, export trade is lost and the old export market will be filled by another country. Let us suppose that country is Belgium. Hon. Members may say," There is nothing very tragic in that because the labour and capacity released for making jewellery will be put into a higher priority export and so we shall be better off. But it does not work out like that. Belgium, on the supposition that she is taking our export trade in jewellery to say, South America, uses pesas which she has earned to compete in bidding energetically against us for meat in the Argentine, and, on a comparatively small demand for meat, puts the price up against the Ministry of Food on the vast tonnages of meat which we draw from the Argentine. So it may be that the adherence to what, at first sight, seems to be a simple piece of central planning leads us to a disproportionate loss and the Board of Trade gains a few shillings and the Ministry of Food loses many thousands of pounds. Expressed succinctly, it means that the ban on low priority production may cost a quite disproportionate loss on a high priority import. This is one of the insoluble dilemmas which constantly faces central planners and the worst mistakes in this field 2346 can only be avoided by relaxing and not tightening up the control. The Government go in an opposite direction.
I come to another serious feature of our present troubles, in some ways, one of the most serious, caused by looking forward into a visionary future of nationalisation, and not at the present problems which confront us at this hour. There is no one with a knowledge of the facts who will deny that at the present moment the administrative machinery of the Government—and in no Department is this more strikingly seen than in the Board of Trade—is hopelessly overstrained. I say—and that with intimate knowledge—the Board of Trade, with its present staff—and I think it is an efficient, if not a brilliant, staff; this is my own view which I strongly feel—cannot administer the things which it now has to undertake.
The plain fact is that the Civil Service is hopelessly overworked, and that even with the adventitious aid some of which they are still enjoying from the so-called "dollar a year men." and from the temporary civil servants, who are still retained. Most of those civil servants, by the way, in their misguided fashion are now trying to get out of the service of the Government and into the service of private firms and companies. This is not, by the way, one of those testimonials to the moral appeal of nationalisation, and everyone who knows the present Civil Service knows what I say is true and that is the temporary civil servants are beating their wings against the bars of their Departments like caged birds. On the top of this dangerously over-loaded machine is to be dumped a vast quantity of new problems, and according to the Leader of the House, during the life of this Parliament, not only the coal nines but the electricity supply industry, civil aviation, the gas industry, railways and road transport—administratively—are to be nationalised, and placed under public ownership.
This brings to the Civil Service no mere passing or peak load. First the legislation has to be prepared, and negotiations on compensation are completed. There is much more than all this. When all this has been done, the Department will have to administer from the centre these vast industries and undertakings. Where are the men coming from, making every allowance for the recruits that may be drawn from the nationalised industries 2347 themselves? New demands for highly trained civil servants will be created, and Parliament will expect to have some control over the direction of these industries. Again, staff to answer Parliamentary Questions, staff to brief Ministers, and a large staff to explain away the mistakes will be necessary.
I now turn to the subject of discipline in industry. We have been told that, in many cases, a man will not give to the full of his work, if the profit motive is lurking in the industry in which he is employed. I should like to ask if there is anyone here with a knowledge of the facts who will deny that one of the difficulties of getting a full week's work out of the labour force—as perhaps out of me—is due to the payment in Income Tax. Is there anybody who denies that? But if the Socialist theory is that people work more readily for the State than they work for private enterprise, how does that square with the unwillingness of the worker—a very human failing, with which I am in full sympathy—to work shifts for which a high proportion of his earnings are exacted from him by the State? Is this another of the testimonials to nationalisation which right hon. Gentlemen opposite are prepared to support by argument. I view with anxiety the tendency for men in many industries to break away from the guidance of the trade unions.
I have never been one—and the right hon. Gentleman will know that this is true—who has in any way underrated the contributions which the trade unions have made to our peace production, or underrated the contribution, which is inestimable, which they have made during the war; but the advent of the Labour Government, with the prospect of bringing political pressure to bear directly on Ministers, has led the men largely to disregard the advice of their trade union leaders. I fear that under the system of nationalisation the long-established and well-tried machinery of negotiation between employer and worker will be under-mined and be replaced by the dangerous expedient of men bringing direct pressure to bear upon the Government. In nationalisation and in public ownership I see a threat to the trade union movement, and I may tell hon. Members this, that there are many—and I am only 2348 guessing—trade union leaders who are friends of mine—[Hon. Members: "Name."]—who would very much like to subscribe to this sentiment in public if they did not feel that it would be disloyal to the intelligentsia of the Labour Party. [Laughter .] But whether this argument is overstated or wrong or not, it is clear that a new relationship—I beg hon. Members will listen to this, it is a serious point—between Labour and the Government, between workers and Ministers, will be set up by the far-reaching Government schemes. Would it not be well if some thought were given to the subject and if we were told how the adjustment is to be made?
Reverting to the subject of national planning, I ask the Government the plain question, whether they have decided to direct labour. There is no laughter now. If they have not, how is the national plan to work? The governing instrument in production is the human hand and mind, and how can industries be regimented into a series of priorities unless the whole driving force of industry, namely labour, is itself regimented and directed? I ask the Government a plain question, whether they intend as part of their industrial policy to lay down where a man or woman shall work and whether they intend to prevent them from working elsewhere? I ask that question, and I think we shall get an evasive answer. But the whole idea of national planning is a mere farce unless you are going to cancel the right of a man to leave one industry for another and deny the right of a man to accept higher wages in what the Government consider to be a lower priority industry than that in which he is working. Even if all the other Government powers under national planning were carried out the scheme would be ridiculous. The economic battle waged by a Socialist general would be like this: The general controls all the supplies, all the ammunition, the food, the clothes, the gas, railways, communications, the cables and wireless in his theatre of war. The battle must proceed, but there is one thing that the general cannot do, and that is to issue orders to the troops to concentrate or to disperse, to advance or to retire, or to use the weapons with which the general can provide them. That is the Socialist battle unless you direct labour.
2349 I repeat the question, Will the Government tell us this afternoon that it is their intention to direct labour to work where the Government wish and not where the man or woman wishes? I may say that if the Government do seek to direct labour by this means they will fail to bring it about, and I think it is right that they should fail to bring it about. Even today I challenge the Government to deny—and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make a note of this point—that the Control of Engagements Order is a dismal failure. I challenge them to deny that the Essential Work Order cannot be enforced and is not being enforced. But perhaps all this is very unfair, and ii is the case that the Government plan is to proceed to a national planning of industry by other means, not by the direction of labour but by direct Government control of wages in each and every industry, so as to secure that what the Government consider to be the naughty industries cannot attract the workers from what the Government consider to be the right industries. Is that it? If that is the scheme can we be told this afternoon what the attitude of the trade unions is to it?
I am afraid I have detained the House for a very long time, but I must refer now to the financial state of the country, and I treat this subject last because it is in a large measure the reflection and the result of the conditions which I have outlined previously. The total Budget for the year April, 1945, to 31st March, 1946, amounts to some £5,500 millions—rather more—a sum in the one year—and this is rather a sobering reflection, though it is nobody's fault—which is more than seven times as great as the total National Debt of 1913. About two-thirds of that year April, 1945, to March, 1946, will have been passed in peace, and yet the Chancellor now tells us—getting a nought wrong on the way now put right—that some £200 millions will be saved. Now this is a scandal. I ask why the savings are so nugatory. One reason, of course, is that our treasure is still being poured out in maintaining hundreds of thousands of men and women in the Forces drawing what is really an involuntary dole which they do not want, the Service dole for doing nothing useful whatever. Such expenditure is inflationary because it creates no money which is represented by production.
2350 That is only one side of the account. On the other side are industry and commerce, crying out for labour which is not forthcoming. With this imprisoned labour force, if we are not fettered by new chains which are in the forging, we could make a start to set the wheels turning again, and when they do turn then revenue would begin to come into the Exchequer. Nothing could be more wasteful than to pay the men and the women in our Navy, Army and Air Force for doing nothing, men and women who are longing to do something, when at the same time there is a great loss of revenue because they are not available to work in our empty workshops. And this is not by any means all, though it is bad enough. In reply to a Question put this week by the hon. and gallant Member for Stockport (Squadron-Leader Hulbert) the Minister of Labour was obliged to confess that at the end of September, 1945, little short of 3,000,000 persons were engaged in the manufacture of equipment and warlike supplies of all kinds for the Forces. He ingenuously added that under the present programme this figure would have fallen now to just below 2,000,000. Two million people making munitions at this moment. Those huge numbers of men and women are making munitions which will be as obsolete as the blunderbuss when they are finished. We hear all these things about atom bombs, and so on, and yet 2,000,000 people at this moment are working on the manufacture of munitions. I say that is a national scandal. I should like to hear from the Government how many tanks and landing craft, how many 25-pounder guns and how many wheeled vehicles, track and not-track, are now being manufactured. Why is it that this terrible waste is permitted? It is because the Government is too timid. It fears any risk, for more than a few days, of transitional unemployment, and yet everyone knows that to obtain the quick return to work, the quick reallocation of our labour force, we must run the risk of transitional unemployment. This transitional unemployment is an evil, we all recognise that, but a passing evil—which must be risked if we are to get a permanent and speedy return to work.
There is another feature of the national finances to which I must draw attention. The Chancellor, as befits all Chancellors, gives a warning against inflation and says 2351 he will fight it with all his strength. I applaud his words, but one part of the Government's programme is in direct contradiction to his words, and is inflationary, that is, the public acquisition of certain industries. I am well aware that in most cases, and I shall certainly not overstate the case, the transfer from private to public ownership does not create new money. To buy the shares of a colliery company quoted on the Stock Exchange, and to give Government stock in return for those shares, creates no new money. It certainly does something which is in itself inflationary. It increases the spend-able money, the velocity of circulation.
But in a great number of instances it does actually create new money. Let us think of the coalmines. Supposing two brothers own a colliery; their shares are not quoted on the Stock Exchange. Supposing they have very little spare cash, a supposition which I find easy to make; it is not an uncommon situation in industry today. Along comes the State and takes over the colliery. It gives them, let us say, £200,000, that is, new money in Government securities, in bonds. Before this happened the partners in the colliery owned the mine, a washery and a coke oven and no cash. Now they do not own the mine, etc.; the Government does, but they have £200,000 in cash. [An Hon. Member: ''Government bonds."] Perhaps the hon. Member is unaware of the beautiful machinery which exists by which one can turn a Government bond into cash at once.
§ Major Mayhew (Norfolk, Southern)
Would the right hon. Gentleman explain why, when these brothers are getting rid of their stock they are not automatically absorbing cash, just as much as they make it available to themselves?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I am sorry, but I simply cannot follow the hon. and gallant Member's question. The point is very simple. At the moment the assets are inert. By the Government buying the colliery they become quick, and are therefore released into the volume of circulation by means of negotiable securities.
Here is another dilemma with which the Government are faced. I assert that the financial situation of the country can be focused in two sentences. I assert that the paying out of these vast sums to 2352 men and women who are unwillingly and resentfully remaining in the Forces is wasteful and inflationary. Secondly, I say that all nationalisation schemes, in greater or lesser degree, are inflationary, and that all the time that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is fulminating against the drug inflation, his colleagues on that bench are peddling the "snow" and heroin of inflation. The main case I have to make rests there and I end as I begun.
Last things are being dealt with first. It is widely stated, and with some justification, that one of the major causes of Germany's defeat in the war was because her scientists, her engineers and her industrialists concentrated too much on far distant visions of new weapons of destruction, while neglecting those which were necessary to win the present battle. The Government are going to do exactly the same thing in peace, and from exactly the same cause. By devoting the most energetic and experienced brains they have, and there are not many, such as those, for example, of the Minister of Fuel and Power, on complicated, theoretical and ill-worked out schemes of nationalisation, they are neglecting the real tasks at hand, which are homes, our men back from the Forces, work, clothes and some improved standard of life. The Government will find every support from these benches in getting on with the present job. We see no cause to give it today. "Today and not tomorrow" would be a very good motto for the Government, and do not let tomorrow kill today.The eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth,and he stumbles and makes us all stumble with him. Let the Government be careful that their vision of tomorrow does not make them and us all stumble over the problems of today.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
The speech to which we have just listened has turned out, in the main, to be an indictment, not of the Government but of the right hon. Gentleman's own Government, and previous Governments. Never have I heard a speech intended to be for the prosecution provide such complete evidence for the other side. It is a condemnation of the failure of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to prepare for the peace. We cannot support this 2353 Motion, because it is wrong in its assumption, it is bad in its timing, and it is mistaken in its conclusions. With regard to the conclusions, the most surprising suggestion contained in the Motion is that uncertainty, which we all condemn, is due to the framing of a long-term policy. One would have expected that if uncertainty existed, it would only exist where you were legislating from day to day to meet problems as they arose, with no settled programme and no idea of where you were going. Apparently that is the very thing the right hon. Gentleman seems to think was right.
With regard to the timing, what is the occasion for this Motion? Apparently it was put down because the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council came to the House on 30th November and made a statement with regard to the Government's intentions on the nationalisation of mines, of railways, long distance road transport, electricity and gas—all of which were really indicated in the Speech from the Throne with which this Parliament was opened. The time to have protested against nationalisation—as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition did—was before and during the General Election. We all recollect those broadcasts of the right hon. Gentleman's, warning the people against nationalisation. If then he had wanted to protest against it in Parliament the moment to have done so was, surely, during the Debate on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech from the Throne. We all remember that the right hon. Gentleman really did not see much to condemn in certain cases of nationalisation, and he never saw fit to divide the House, or to ask his supporters to divide the House, on any one of them. Really I think it is about time that the right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway came to a final conclusion with regard to their views on nationalisation.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition saw nothing very much wrong with the suggestion for nationalising the Bank of England. He mentioned it during his speech from that Box, but when the Bill was produced and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen saw fit then to oppose the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman very carefully kept away from that Box until the whole thing was passed. One is not surprised. As recently as 1943, 2354 I remember the right hon. Gentleman mentioning with pride, that he had been in favour of the nationalisation of railways. He reminded us that at Dundee he announced with pride—I have his actual words here:The Government policy is the nationalisation of railways. That great step, at last, it has been decided to take. They had not decided on the nationalisation of shipping. That was a complex question more open to dispute.That was on 4th December, 1918. It seems he anticipated the very statement made from that Box by the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council.
I was also surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion trying to draw a tremendous distinction between production in time of war, and production in time of peace. He occupied a position which I wanted to create for him 15 months before it was created—as head of the Ministry of Production. It was a position very similar to that occupied by his leader in the last year of the previous war. His leader's experience of that office in the previous war, was a most interesting one, and it is one which ought not to be forgotten because the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition then said:I have not been quite convinced by my experience at the Ministry of Munitions that Socialism is possible, but I have been very nearly convinced. I am bound to say I consider on the whole the achievements of that Ministry, constitute the greatest argument for State Socialism that has ever been produced.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
Is it not true that all these quotations are from speeches made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, when he belonged to a party whose members were suffering from a split mind?
§ Mr. Davies
The trouble about the right hon. Gentleman is not only a split mind, but a split personality. The memory of the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) is short. He was with me in the last Parliament and, perhaps, he does not recall, as I am sure the Minister of Fuel and Power recalls, that in a Debate on the coalmines situation on 13th October, 1943, the right hon. Gentleman, then the Prime Minister, said:However, as I say, the principle of nationalisation is accepted by all, provided proper compensation is paid. The argument proceeds not on moral grounds, but on 2355 whether in fact we could make a better business … for the nation as a whole by nationalisation than by relying upon private enterprise and competition. … I could not be responsible … for undertaking any further great change … in the mining industry during the war, because that I think would require to be ratified, or preceded by a national mandate."[—OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th Oct., 1943, Vol. 392, c. 921–2.]It seems to me that the national mandate has been given and it now remains only to be seen whether the right hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with the compensation which the Minister of Fuel and Power provides.
I turn to other much more serious matters than the attitude of mind, split or otherwise, of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues above the Gangway. They must realise that the country to which they appealed has given its verdict, and that whatever else was decided, it has decided that, in future, the economy of this country shall not be confused, haphazard and day to day, but a planned economy. The best service they could render to the country, and through the country to the world as a whole, would be to try to make that plan the best. I would next refer to one or two matters in which I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton). First and foremost I agree that the rate of demobilisation is not good enough. We do not quarrel with the formula; the formula may be all right, but what we do ask for is more elasticity and more courage in dealing with the hierarchy—theheads of the various Services. I am not going through any figures. I would only remind the Government of the seriousness of the situation. It is all very well to be told that the President of the Board of Trade is making great efforts to try to get industries reorganised and to get them to make plans ahead. But those plans will remain paper plans, unless the key men to work those industries are released, and unless the industries get the necessary labour for production.
There is another matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and that is the tremendous waste of money which continues upon war projects and materials. That money is needed for extra production, not only to make up the leeway of the last six years, but in order to increase our export trade, so that we can buy the 2356 necessary raw material. Every effort should be made to put a stop, as soon as possible—I do not know why it has not been stopped already—to expenditure on war projects and war processes. I pass from that subject merely with that warning, because I do remember three points with regard to this. First, the Government have only been in power for four months, and it takes some time for a Government to get acquainted with the whole position. We realise that. Secondly, they are heirs, not only to the conditions which have been created by six years of war, but also heirs to the conditions created by 20 years of neglect. The third thing is, that with all possible good will to the new world, I remember that many of those who occupied high positions in the Coalition Government now occupy high positions in this Government and must take their share of responsibility for the failure of the previous Government to make plans for today.
I only wish that some of them had left the Coalition Government earlier. The war would not have suffered—[HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] I do not know why hon. Members are so ready to cheer that statement. Some of the ablest, if not the ablest, Members of the Coalition were to be found not on this side but on that. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was very proud to be associated with them then. What I mean is, that I am quite sure the country has suffered from the fact that we had not a strong Opposition during the whole war period. I believe democratic Government works best when there is a strong Opposition. The whole essence of democracy is criticism, and I would recall to this House the words of my great old leader Lloyd George who said, with all the solemnity that was in him, that it was criticism that won the last war. That is why I regret that some of the Members of the previous Government, even those who were there for war purposes, did not see fit to leave the Coalition earlier. I regret it even more, because it may be that we would then have had plans ready and prepared for the great day when peace arrived. We were asking for it, some of us, for at least three years before the war ended. We had our experience at the end of the previous war, and the sudden change from war to peace, the false boom that came for a year or two—which, 2357 apparently, is desired by the right hon. Gentleman—followed by years of anxiety, unemployment and disease and the disasters that ensued. Remembering that, we wanted plans prepared for the days of peace, as for the days of war, but all we had, as far as I can see, was a Four Years Plan, broadcast in March, 1942. Nothing has since been done. No wonder the Minister of Health has to draw up his own new plans for housing; no wonder the Minister of National Insurance has to draft his Bill today, although we were promised that Bill early in 1942. So, one can realise the difficulties at the present moment of a Government which came into office in that state of affairs.
What is needed? May I put it this way? I feel very strongly that for a very long time, probably during the whole of this century, there has been a lack of true political philosophy, of a drawing of the whole picture so that we may know where we are going, and know the meaning of each piece of legislation, and know that it fits into the picture and know what its purpose is. I feel that the Cabinet system of today is quite unsuited for the needs of this country. Who is there in the Cabinet now who can really spare the time to think out policy—every one of them with a full-time task? The Cabinet today consists of 20 Members and there are 12 Ministers of Cabinet rank—32 altogether. You might as well appeal to a sanhedrim as to them, for a true settling of policy. During the last war, we realised that for war purposes is was necessary to form a War Cabinet. A Government fell on that very question. A War Cabinet was formed, and from that moment, undoubtedly, there came a change in the whole conduct of the war. At the end of the war, and anyone who cares can read about it in the biographies of the men of that time, Lloyd George wanted to continue that small Cabinet for peace purposes. But he was defeated by his Conservative colleagues.
If a small Cabinet is necessary for war purposes, it is far and away more necessary for peace purposes so that it may formulate policy and have time to think, collect all the data, get the finest information possible and then present it to the public. I would like to see a small Cabinet of four or five, or six, not more than half a dozen, assisted by the finest brains this country can produce. We 2358 called them together during the war. Scientists from every university, the finest men from every industry were there ready to give their whole time and assistance to the Government. What is happening today? They are being spread and dissipated over the land and the right hon. Gentleman would like to dissipate them even more. What is wanted is the best guidance you can possibly give, in the true government of this country. It is time we had a policy formulated. One was formulated 150 years ago by Jeremy Bentham:The greatest happiness of the greatest number, for the greatest length of time.An effort was made to explain that by James Mill, and his son John Stuart Mill, but for a long time we have been lacking in political philosophy, and so I would press that first and foremost as the need for today. The second point, which will almost inevitably follow, is that if you are going in for these great schemes, it is absolutely essential to reorganise the whole Government machinery. The present form of Civil Service is quite unadaptable to these great Measures. Its members are not recruited right, they are not paid right, their conditions of service are not right. Believe me, if you do not put your machinery right to start with, and you pass these Measures of nationalisation with the Civil Service as it exists today, the whole fabric will come tumbling around your heads. The conditions will be far worse than they are today, and thereupon right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway will sneer and say, "We told you so"—but for the wrong reasons. It will not be that the thing itself is wrong but because the machinery is not well planned. I would ask them to make up their minds whether it is right or wrong, and talk to their leader, who does not seem to know.
I am neither exhilarated nor frightened by the word "nationalisation." I do not think it can be a panacea for all evils. If there is a problem with regard to industry or service to the people, which can best be solved by converting that industry or service into a national industry or service, if the service rendered to the people will be better, more efficient, fairer and better distributed so that all can have their chance, then I cannot see anything in it to be frightened about. We should 2359 apply the best method of solving the particular problem of the moment. That is how we would approach this problem. We want the Government to make perfectly clear what is their general policy, and how these matters fit into one another. They will nationalise coal, electricity and gas, and they will give service in a manner in which, at the moment, it is not being given and cannot be given by private interests, to the cottages in all the rural areas. They will nationalise transport and, I hope, in that way they will be giving to the people a better service than at present exists between the producer and the consumer. Let us see where it fits into the general picture. The people will benefit and will get better service. But one thing is inevitable, and it is happening today. The price and the value of land will shoot up. The Minister of Agriculture came to this House and announced what many of us have been asking, with our recollection of what happened during the last war, and since the last war, namely, giving to the farmer a settled price which can be reviewed from time to time, so that he can work to that price and give the agricultural worker a guaranteed wage.
What is also certain is that the individual land owner will benefit. Where does this come into the picture? What is the policy? Have not the Government the courage to tackle the land question? I am sorry that I cannot see along the Front Bench opposite, even when it is full, another Lloyd George. He had the courage as long ago as 1909 and 1910. What is happening to the Uthwatt Report and the Scott Report? What are we going to see with regard to the social problem, quite apart from the economic problem? What I am afraid of is this. We have so far had the experience that Bills introduced from the Front Bench opposite, bear the taint and smell of the Coalition and legacies of old. Let the Government take their courage in their hands and produce their own programme, but let it be a programme that we can understand, stating clearly to the people the inter-relationship between public and private ownership, and making it perfectly clear that the private, individual and personal liberties of men are not in any way to be interfered with. If they do that and plan as I suggest, I can then see for every individual a new hope and 2360 a better standard of life, and I can also see what has been denied to so many thousands in previous generations—a real opportunity to exercise the enterprise, initiative and drive with which God Almighty has endowed them.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
Having been fortunate, as a back bencher, to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, I would like, on behalf of this side of the House, to express our gratitude to right hon. Gentlemen opposite for putting down this Motion. We have lately spent a number of days doing the very important but, let us confess, not very exhilarating business of seeing Bills through Committee of the Whole House. Today we have an opportunity of spreading our wings a little more. I have no doubt many hard things will be said in the course of the next two days, but I think we might begin by offering that little bit of soft soap, anyway. On the other hand, I am afraid I cannot really congratulate right hon. Gentlemen opposite on their perspicacity in putting down this Motion. I was very surprised to see them so easily lured by the siren calls of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President. We all know what happened to the mariners who listened to the sirens. Their bones were found a long time afterwards, white and bleached on the beaches.
This Motion says, in effect, that the Government are neglecting the immediate needs of the nation and concentrating all their attention on Socialist theories. The words themselves have been enlarged upon in the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wood-ford (Mr. Churchill) to his own party the other day. The country as a whole indeed are, of course, much indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for all he has done in the war, but I think we ought to add a special note of thanks for the delightful political fantasies which have recently been conjured up in his mind. He gave us the Gestapo, and the affection in which we held our leader, the Prime Minister, was heightened by the beautiful notion of seeing him, dressed up in jack boots and a peak cap. Now we have something new. We are told that the Front Bench is composed of morbid and reactionary Socialists. I have been considering exactly what historical period might have been in the right hon. Gentle- 2361 man's mind. I have come to the conclusion that there are two possibilities. He may have been thinking of the prewar Russian Tsarist court. They certainly were a group of morbid and reactionary people, and, no doubt, in the right hon. Gentleman's mind, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health was playing the role of Rasputin. He might, on the other hand, have had in mind the Roman Empire. Later Roman emperors certainly were morbid and reactionary. That fits into the picture perfectly well. I think we might leave these fantasies, these purely imaginary details—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—they came from the opposite side—and get down to the facts of the situation
I think all of us agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) in one thing. We agree that the immediate situation is made difficult by shortage of manpower. Everything comes back to the shortage of manpower. If one takes the other criticisms in the Motion—shortage of houses, national expenditure, conversion of war industry to a peace time basis—they all come back to manpower. The right hon. Gentleman had many bold and general things to say on that topic, but I was surprised that he made no reference whatever to the figures which were recently announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, showing the extent of the transfer which had, in fact, already taken place. We have been told that by the end of this year, very nearly 4,000,000 men and women will have been released from the Forces and from the making of munitions. That is not really a very bad figure. It amounts, perhaps, to something rather more than half the toal amount of the men and women who have to be transferred. One might also add that in this transfer, which has taken place smoothly, without any serious unemployment and without any industrial friction, the number of working days lost through strikes during this period has been one-twelfth of the number lost in the same period at the end of the last war.
Can we really say that we have nothing of which to be proud in this? What are we supposed to do about it? This is the point on which we would press hon. Members opposite to speak. Do they, or do they not, wish to abandon the Bevin demobilisation plan? Are they going to stand by the principle of age plus length 2362 of service, or not? We want an answer to that question. The Leader of the Opposition has made a statement about this, not in this House but to his own party. He described the Bevin plan as "this ill-devised plan" which, he said, "is wholly inapplicable to the present actual position." Does that mean that it should be abandoned? Can I have an answer to that? Will anyone on the Front Bench opposite answer me? Does it mean that the Bevin plan is to be abandoned?
§ Mr. E. L. Gandar Dower (Caithness and Sutherland)
The hon. Gentleman asked for an answer. The Bevin plan was devised before the end of the Japanese war.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I am sorry I could not get a more serious reply than that to a perfectly serious question. Why are we short of manpower at the moment? Because demobilisation is not going fast enough, so say hon. Members opposite. There are two possibilities. Can we speed it up under the Bevin plan? In my view, the bottleneck of transport is, if I may use the phrase, being stretched to the utmost. I have not heard of any ships or aircraft being idle in this matter. The only alternative which can be put forward is that the principle should be abandoned, and that serving men and women who happen to be in this country should be released out of their turn. Is that what the Opposition are recommending? [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] We would like to know from the Front Opposition Bench if that is the case, because I have no doubt what the country generally and the men overseas think about it.
I turn to another subject on which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot dilated at some length, the question of exports. I want to emphasise the very serious situation that we are in. Our level of imports, when we have got back to more or less normal conditions, is likely to be about £1,500 million a year. We have disposed of something like half our overseas assets, losing thereby some £1,500 million to £2,000 million. We have incurred debt, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us, which was no less than £3,500 million in June. It must be £4,000 million by now. Therefore we cannot continue to expect to receive from abroad dividends and interest amounting to about £200 millions, as we did before. In short, we have to cover the whole of 2363 our import bill by exports of goods, or by very nearly £1,500 millions. The present level of exports is running at about £400 millions. It has got to that level from the £130 million to which, during the Coalition Government, it was allowed to drop.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The hon. Member has used a phrase which I am sure he would not wish to use—"allowed to drop." I must say that the Coalition forced the exports down to that figure as a matter of policy.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I agree entirely. They were deliberately forced down as a matter of policy. I would emphasise this point. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has made it plain because there are a number of men in the country, as well as a number of hon. Members opposite, who are all too fond of putting the blame for the difficult situation in exports on to the present Government. Now we have at last a clear admission that the forcing down to £130 millions was carried out by the Coalition Government. It was a deliberate act of policy, there is no doubt about that.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford has made some quite extraordinary statements on export policy. Here again we are entitled to ask whether this represents the best that the Conservative Party can put forward, and whether this is their considered opinion. This is what the right hon. Gentleman said at the party meeting:We are told"—he was speaking of what apparently the Government had told him—that everything must be concentrated on our export trade, but whoever, outside an infants' school or a lunatic asylum would suggest that, when our exports were the overspill of a successful home trade? Whoever thought of taking the home trade for export until the home market was satisfied?I can give an answer to that question. The right hon. Member for Aldershot was concerned, I think, with the export drive initiated by the Coalition Government in 1940–41. If it was not the right hon. Gentleman it was the right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir A. Duncan) who preceded him at the Board of Trade and who initiated the export drive for the specific purpose of diverting resources 2364 from the home market into the export market. It was by no means unsuccessful, and it continued until the Lend-Lease Agreement made it no longer so necessary.
If that is really the view of the Conservative Party, how can they possibly explain how we are to get the exports? If rayon stockings—and rayon shows a very healthy increase in exports during the last quarter—are to be consumed at home, how can they be exported at the same time? It is no good the right hon. Gentleman pretending that this notion of diverting to the export trade is unnecessary and is pure austerity on the part of the Board of Trade. It is vitally necessary, if we are to pay for our food—and incidentally if we are to pay for the cigars which the right hon. Gentleman consumes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh," and "Cheap."] It is a perfectly serious remark.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter
May I ask the hon. Gentleman, because I believe he is in a peculiarly good position to answer the question, whether he would also include the inadvisability of paying for American films, or cutting them down?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Certainly, so far as that is possible.
I come now to the question of nationalisation. The right hon. Member made at the end of his speech some extraordinary statements in which he tried to prove that nationalisation involved inflation. I was very surprised at that. I have never 'heard it suggested that a switch from an equity to a gilt-edged, which is what is really taking place, brought about inflation. We have been accused of being doctrinaire and we are told that we are an favour of nationalisation for its own sake. We are certainly clear about one thing, and that is that hon. Members opposite and their party are singularly lacking in any kind of philosophy. We have a philosophy of our own which binds us together. On the other hand, the Members of the Conservative Party are bound together by something strong as well, namely, by ties of common interest. We believe, for example, that the present capitalist system is inefficient, that it produces insecurity and that it is unjust. Can anyone deny those things? It is perfectly clear that it is inefficient, from the state of some of the major industries in this country.[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Gaitskell
If hon. Members opposite want a shouting match they will be beaten in it easily. We believe all those things but, as it happens, we are not proposing in this parliament wholesale revolutionary nationalisation. We have singled out certain industries to nationalise because we think it necessary in the interests of efficiency. It is ridiculous to compare and contrast nationalisation with the satisfaction of immediate needs, as though they had nothing to do with one another. What is the alternative in the case of coal? Can it be left as it is? We had a temporary arrangement introduced during the war and agreed on by the Coalition Government because, for obvious reasons, they could not agree on nationalisation. It was specifically stated that at the end of the war the country would decide. The country has decided, and we are now ready to carry out that decision.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition also introduced a picturesque phrase—"the vultures of nationalisation." There are on the benches around me hon. Members who sit for mining constituencies. I have not seen any signs of their cowering at the approach of these terrifying birds, ready to carry them off and suck their blood. I have noticed, incidentally, that even the employers do not seem to be terrified. The President of the Federation of British Industries made a most striking speech the other day, and today we have the Report of the Heyworth Committee on the Gas Industry, recommending another vulture. Who is the chairman of that Committee? Mr. Geoffrey Heyworth, the chairman of Unilevers, one of the biggest businesses in the country. I am afraid that the Conservative Party is now left high and dry in an isolated position, bound by doctrinaire views of "nationalisation under no circumstances." They have been driven into putting down this Motion of Censure, which is a Motion of Censure not only on the Government, but on the people of this country. I have not 2366 the slightest doubt that just as the Opposition are going to be defeated in the Division Lobbies tomorrow night, so the country will defeat them in the next Election.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
It is with some misgiving and much trepidation that I rise to crave the indulgence of the House for this my maiden speech. Misgiving, because I feel that I might well have hidden myself behind the prerogative of the "silent Service" for some months, if not years, to come, and trepidation at finding myself addressing this House for the first time. It is indeed fortunate that I should have chosen to speak on demobilisation. I am afraid that I cannot answer from the front bench, geographically or in any other way, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, but I would like to attack, if I may use that word in a maiden speech, demobilisation from three first principles, as I call them. Those principles are, first, that we want men out of the Forces. Secondly, we want to know the number of men who should be retained in the Forces. Thirdly, we want to know whether it is possible to obtain faster release. The first of these principles needs very few words from me. It has already been covered by the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate. I would like to emphasise that wherever one turns in this country, be it to factories, businesses, shops or hotels, or any form of trade, one always gets the same answer, "We could do a jolly sight better with more labour."
There is another point of view which has not been mentioned. The women of this country have had a pretty hard war. They have stood up to it well, and all over this country there are families who want their menfolk back to run their affairs. In many cases they want them back to run their family businesses. In a great many cases of young families, a father's influence, and perhaps a father's hand, have been missing for too long. With regard to the number of men we should retain in the Forces, it is perhaps dangerous for a private Member to criticise too much the size of the Armed Forces, for he cannot possibly be fully in the strategic picture, but I would like to ask His Majesty's Government to reconsider most seriously the question of the Forces to be retained next year. I would ask 2367 them to reconsider most seriously the commitments which they think will be imposed upon our Forces. It does not seem logical to me that next Summer, about one year after the end of the war, we should retain Armed Forces far in excess in personnel of those which we would expect to have finally in peace time.
I come to the question of whether one can hasten the rate of release. There one comes up immediately against the Bevin plan. I fully appreciate that the plan was thought of some time ago when it was believed that we should be fighting the war against Japan for another eighteen months. I still think that the structure of the Bevin plan should be adhered to, but it must be made more elastic. Compassionate and other cases must be given much more consideration. And a particular reason why it should be adhered to is the statement made by the Secretary of State for War during his recent trip to the Far East. During the nearly 20 years that I have served in the Navy I have learned that leave means a great deal to the Forces. It is commonsense to say that demobilisation and release will mean a very great deal more to them. Therefore I do not like the idea of any compensation in hard cash. That sort of thing cannot be reckoned in hard cash, and I do not think any compensation should be offered to men in the Far East who cannot be got home.
The problem has to be tackled as an operation, and the men have to be got home. In the experience I had during the war of joint planning, I think I can safely say that no operation was carried out without it being thought, during its early planning, that shortage of shipping would be the limiting factor. It nearly always turned out that a shortage of shipping was not the limiting factor, and the operations were carried out. I would therefore ask His Majety's Government to make absolutely certain that the enormous personnel lift which we have is used fully and in the proper manner. I hope it is not presumptuous on my part to suggest that the Prime Minister should write a minute to the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Minister of War Transport in something like these words: "Let me have the best solution worked out. Do not argue the matter, the difficulties will argue for themselves." Those words, 2368 I understand, have produced very good results in the past.
Before I leave demobilisation may I say a word or two about Class B? I, in company with many hon. Members from all sides of the House, think that the Class B releases have been grossly mishandled. I would like to suggest that releases under Class B should be doubled and should be made compulsory. Men were conscripted into the Forces for the emergency of war, and I see absolutely no reason why they should not be conscripted out of the Forces for the emergency of peace. If they are to be conscripted out, the financial conditions for Class A and Class B must of course be made the same.
I would like to turn for a moment or two from demobilisation to derequisitioning. In the Borough of Chelsea, which I have the honour to represent in this House, there are at this moment some 230 premises, nearly all residential, held by Government Departments. That is going on all over the country. There are in the country 2,700 hotels and boarding houses alone held by Government Departments. Chelsea, as this House knows, in common with other parts of London, did not escape unscarred from nearly six years of total war, and there is therefore an acute housing problem. On walking round my constituency, what do I see? Building after building full of civil servants and drivers of motor vehicles who have to be accommodated in London. It is an accepted philosophy that necessity is the mother of invention, and I think it is time that the Government realised that the necessity which conceived requisitioning is now over, and that the present necessity is to find somewhere for people to live, somewhere for the people who have been bombed out, somewhere for those who have to return to London from other districts, and somewhere for those who are coming out of the Forces. I would ask all the Departments concerned to reassess their staffs and then to reassess the premises they require. I hope that that will result in the derequisitioning almost at once of at any rate the majority. I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House would much rather see civil servants overcrowded in their peacetime offices with a minimum of requisitioned property than see families of about six people of all ages trying to live in one or two rooms.
2369 A final word on a very personal point. I would like to say how much I disagree with the Government's decision not to thank the leaders of our Armed Forces by name. Throughout this war praise and blame have been fairly attributed where they have been due, and I am sure that the same policy will be carried out in the histories which are being written or are about to be written. Why cannot we thank our leaders, whose names will go down to posterity as the men who led us in this great struggle? In a recent statement the Prime Minsiter said that he did not think it would be in the spirit of the times. I do not think that is the point at all. I think it is merely another illustration of that Socialist doctrine of merging the individual into the masses, a doctrine which we on this side of the House abhor.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade(Sir Stafford Cripps)
It is my very pleasant duty to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) on the very admirable address which he has just given to the House. I am sure that his contributions, especially on matters of which he has such deep knowledge as Service matters, will always be most welcome in our deliberations.
It is quite clear, I think, both from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in which he heralded this Motion of Censure to his Conservative colleagues and from that of the self-styled "snow" and heroin pedlar of the Opposition in which he introduced the Motion, that this is in effect a Motion of Censure, not on the Government, but on the electorate. From the sublime height of his own infallibility, the Leader of the Opposition spoke of this "foolish lapse and error in domestic affairs"—referring of course to the results of the last Election—and he also referred to "our own fellow countrymen, who fell somewhat below the level of events." Well, they certainly had every opportunity to arrive at a sound judgment, considering the frequency with which the right hon. Gentleman addressed them over the wireless during the Election. At that time I happened to be in Yorkshire, and a gentleman who spoke to met here and who was very keen on cricket said he thought it must be a very weak side if one man had to bat so often.
2370 Indeed, when I read in "The Times" the other morning the speech made to the Conservative Party by the Leader of the Opposition, I thought that he must be under the delusion that there was another general election which he had got to lose. Having girded at the people for their stupidity in refusing to return him to power, the right hon. Gentleman expressed his views on certain current events, and those observations were more or less faithfully followed by the right hon. and gallant Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) when he opened the Debate today, though I must pay him the compliment that he was not quite so glaringly inaccurate as the Leader of his party. I have seldom, if ever, read any outpourings of a disappointed politician which so misrepresented the facts of the situation as did the speech of the Leader of the Opposition.
I propose tonight to devote the time at my disposal to dealing with the economic aspect of this Motion, leaving to my right hon. Friend who will speak later all the questions arising out of labour and demobilisation. There was one interesting forecast to which I would like to draw attention in the peroration of the speech to the Conservative Party. We know, from the history of Continental parties, how reaction struggles more and more to camouflage itself under liberal-sounding democratic titles. Already, at the last Election, the Conservative Party has tried to delude the people into the belief that it is a national party. That of course proved a complete failure. Now it is suggested in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks that the Tories of this country might adopt that much abused title, "The People's Party." All I can say is that I hope they will be thinking up some more titles, so that when that one has been used and discredited they can have another shot.
Anyone today who is out to sabotage the national interest has of course a comparatively easy task. It is the simplest thing in the world to suggest to people who have passed through six years of war and suffering that there are lots of good things easily available for them, were it not for the wickedness of the Government which withholds them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I do not want to stop that cheering, because it adds a great point to my argument. That sort of irresponsible advocacy—[HON. MEMBERS: 2371 "Hear, hear"]—I am glad that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen acknowledge the phrase—that sort of irresponsible advocacy of a policy of plenty at home when in fact there is a world-wide short-that of every kind of commodity might be excusable on the part of ignorant persons who do not realise the economic situation of the world, but it is not excusable from responsible persons who ought to know the situation today only too well. Let me quote a speech by the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate when he occupied the post that I now hold. In June last he said:Our exports are not just a balancing factor in our industrial economy, nor a convenient way of selling our surplus goods, but an absolute necessity without which we cannot live.I ask the House to compare these responsibly spoken words with the words of the Leader of the Opposition, which I now proceed to quote:We were told that everything must be centred on our export trade,—I do not know who told him, some friend I suppose—but whoever, outside an infant school or a lunatic asylum would suggest that, when our exports were the overspill of a successful home trade? Whoever thought of taking the home trade for export until the home market was satisfied?The answer to the question which he puts is a perfectly simple one. Every single person who has studied our present economic situation, including politicians of all parties and all the nationally minded industrialists and labour leaders, has joined in taking the view that we must concentrate on export trade. Let me quote as an example a recent speech from the late Chairman of the Allied Electrical Industries—not the present one, who has just recently addressed us—in which he said:I should however like to make special reference to export business, which has been seriously curtailed by the war. In that connection I would like to endorse Lord Warding-ton's speech at the annual meeting of Lloyds Bank, when he said, 'Of all the tasks before us, none is more important than the re-establishment of our export trade, without which we can neither eat nor work.Now that is a serious appreciation of the situation of our country, and it is strangely in contrast with the mischief-making irresponsibility of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. The curious thing 2372 about that speech is that, having made his bit of mischief, the Leader of the Opposition then proceeded completely to contradict himself, in these words:'We do not seek to live on the charity of other nations. Whatever is the standard of living we can maintain and develop in this island, we are resolved to achieve it by our own exertions. … Unless the Government could be compelled by public opinion and Parliamentary pressure to alter its plans, we should be left far behind"—In what—in the race for export markets on which we depended for half the food we ate and most of our raw material.So what does the Leader of the Opposition recommend?—that nothing from the home trade shall go into the export market until the home trade is fully satisfied, that we shall cut off all the exports at the very moment when we have a better opportunity than ever before in our history, or than probably we shall ever have again in our history, of establishing our export trade. I must really leave it to the House to judge as to who should be in the infants' school or the lunatic asylum. But it is just as well, in discussing some of these matters, that we should have some idea of the facts of the situation, and of what is really being done. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Those facts are all published, but no doubt hon. Members opposite have not had an opportunity of studying them. [An HON. MEMBERS: ''Give us the facts about housing."] I am dealing at the moment with the export trade; I appreciate it is an uneasy problem for hon. Members opposite, and they would like to get on to something else. The Government's policy, so far as exports are concerned, is, during the transitional period when our civilian industries are getting themselves back to full production, to do our utmost to start up again our export markets, even though this may mean keeping our home markets to some extent depleted. We will ease up the shortages in this country as rapidly as is consistent with laying firm foundations for our future export trade. The temporary restriction of supplies in this country that may result is the price both of the victory of the past and the prosperity of the future. The more rapidly we can expand our production, of course, the quicker shall we be able to accomplish those two ends at which we are aiming, to increase our 2373 exports and to renew the flow of goods into the home market.
The present position is that, within the very few months that have elapsed since the end of the war and the end of Lend-Lease, which as hon. Members know was a very great drag upon exports, we had succeeded in increasing significantly the volume of our exports side by side with increases in our home supplies. At present we have reached the point of exporting 50 per cent of our 1938 volume of goods. It is interesting to see the relationship between exports and home trade in some of the major categories of manufactured goods. The most reliable figure to take for this is the division of the labour force between the two, because actual values are very much affected by the changes that have been taking place in the export licensing system, and also by the dock strike and other matters of that kind which have been quite fortuitous. In all manufacturing there are about five times as many men working for the home market as for export. In textiles there are three times as many working for the home market as for export. In clothing there are 40 times as many working for the home market as for export. In metals, engineering and shipbuilding, 3½ times as many are working for the home market as for export. That shows how matters are proceeding and emphasises the comparatively small contribution that has so far been able to be made to the export market, and that is why it is essential for us to try to step up exports as rapidly as we can. In present circumstances, with an active sellers' market all over the world, it is not necessary to await as it might be in more normal times the development of the home market before boosting up exports.
As far as munitions manufacture is concerned, as regards which there was some comment by the right hon. Gentleman, there has been a very rapid winding up of contracts; quite as rapid as, and indeed in some instances more rapid than, the capacity for reabsorbing the labour in particular areas, and it is for that reason, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, that pockets of unemployment are appearing, and are bound to appear during the transition, in certain parts of the country. But comparing the figure of June last with that for October, which is the latest I have, if the figure for June is taken as 100 2374 covering all munitions manufacture, that for October is 39, which shows over a 60 per cent decrease between those two months. We are, therefore, carrying through a very rapid reconversion to civilian manufacture, and as was expected, of course, the time taken for many of those reconversions is such that we have not yet felt the full, or indeed anything like the full, benefit of the reconversion. Many preparations are now being made which in the New Year or in the Spring will produce the goods that will come from the retooling and rearrangement of factories.
Let me pass to the more general economic considerations. Our objective is to provide a firm basis of industrial production upon which the social reconstruction foreshadowed can be carried out. Without such a basis it is quite idle to expect or to promise that social reconstructive will take place. There is one essential factor in that problem that must be borne in mind and which is constantly overlooked. We are aiming at and calculating upon full employment, anyway for the next few years, whatever else may happen; that is to say, we are imagining a state of affairs in which the hitherto normal peacetime pool of unwanted labour will no longer exist. Without that pool it becomes absolutely essential to try and plan the use to which our labour and materials are put in peacetime just as it was in war. It was the shortage of labour and materials that necessitated the planning of war production, and if we are contemplating a similar shortage in the years ahead, we must similarly plan how labour and materials are to be utilised. Where there is not enough for all purposes, we must attempt to use what we have in the best national interests, for instance, to make necessaries rather than luxuries, and to produce rather than to elaborate the distribution services, as we were doing at a very great rate prior to the war; and it is to this end that we must use some controls, especially as long as the world shortages continue. The idea that more controls are being imposed, or that the intensity of wartime control is persisting, is, of course, a complete fallacy. [Interruption.] I will give hon. Members the facts in a moment; I am sorry they do not know them. When the right hon. Gentleman said, as he did, thatthe interference of Government with daily life is more severe and more killing; more 2375 forms have to be filled up, more officials have to be consulted, whole spheres of beneficial activity are frozen,and so on, it was a complete misstatement of the facts. I think, in the right hon. Gentleman's own inimitable phraseology, it was a terminological inexactitude.
§ Sir S. Cripps
It is the right hon. Gentleman's originality which I am quoting in aid at the moment.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The right hon. Gentleman lays himself open to constant quotation because of his originality. As we have always stated, we do not desire controls for the sake of controls, but we do consider that some degree of planning is essential in our national life. The only persons who would benefit from complete lack of controls today are the profiteers and racketeers, and they—I sympathise with them—are not unnaturally disappointed that they cannot repeat the depredations upon the public which they achieved so successfully after the last war. Curiously enough, where in isolated cases this profiteering still appears, I am at once begged by hon. Members on all sides of the House to make the controls more effective. For instance, in the matter of toys being sold for Christmas, I have been asked by hon. Members on all sides whether I cannot put on a more rigid control to stop this profiteering. The Opposition in this Debate have come forward as the champions of a return to the chaos of profiteering, although at other times they protest against its not being sufficiently controlled. In fact, of course, since the Government came into office, a great many controls have already been removed where they are not necessary for the decent and orderly development of industry in the present economic circumstances.
Let me cite, for example, practically all the controls on exports, except on items such as food and textiles, which are in short supply and which we must retain for our own market; and on some goods which are so scarce that we are bound under our international allocation arrangements with other countries to direct a substantial part of our exports 2376 to some particular specified Dominion, colony or foreign country. But I presume that that does not quite meet with the Opposition's wishes, since it does, of course, encourage exports—that was its object—and before the home market is fully satisfied. No doubt they would like to see me impose a complete prohibition on all exports—[Interruption]—it is very trying when one goes to the logical conclusion of statements made by the Opposition—in order that they might be quite certain that the home market was fully satisfied first. Other controls, such as rationing, will be retained as long as they are necessary to ensure a fair division of goods which are in short supply. I do not think anybody in this House would suggest that those controls should be done away with until we can show an ample supply of goods for all classes of the population.
The licensing of retail businesses, and the reopening of retail businesses, which is causing a good deal of trouble, judging by my correspondence from hon. Members of the House, is being maintained at the present moment in order to implement an express undertaking given by the Coalition Government to those who were called up and had to close or abandon their shops. I do not suppose that anybody would suggest that, at this moment, we should go back on that undertaking. In a number of other commodities, such as, for instance, paper and synthetic rubber, we are arranging their use by permit, in order that they may be used in ordinary manufacture. May I take the case—the most fallacious case mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot—that of jewellery? The right hon. Gentleman suggested that we were stopping the manufacture of jewellery.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am not suggesting it was not hypothetical. I think most of the arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman were hypothetical. If so, he happens, by chance, to have played into my hands, because I will now give him the facts about jewellery. I am only going to show that his supposition was wrong. The position in regard to jewellery is this. Since 1st October, anyone can supply up to £3,606 worth a year, without licence. Over that figure, a licence is necessary, 2377 which is only given if it is for the home trade, if labour is available and we are satisfied that it will not take the labour away from something more valuable. Licences for export, however, are given automatically, wherever they are required, and the result is that, in the first 10 months of this year, jewellery exports were just under 50 per cent of what they were in 1938. That only shows the care we take to remove controls when we think that it can assist the trade of the country. I could give a great number of other instances, such as stationery. There has, similarly, been a release of control as regards all exports of—
§ Sir W. Darling
I have applied to the Board of Trade for an export licence for £2,000 worth of business to the United States and Canada, and the right hon. Gentleman's Department has refused it.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I say that the hon. Member may very likely have done something he should not do. I really have not any idea—this is completely hypothetical—but I hope I may show the facts of the case to him, when I meet him in Edinburgh next week. The total number of forms, therefore, to be filled has fallen off very considerably already, so far as industry is concerned. [Laughter.] It is no good hon. Members laughing; that is a plain statement of fact, and it is a perversion of the truth to allege the contrary. As to the consultations of officials, and that presumably includes Ministers as well, that arises from the necessity in these difficult times for a closer co-operation between the Government and industry than was necessary before the war. Here let me quote, if I may, the report of the speech of the President of the Federation of British Industries on this aspect of the matter. He said this:The plain, inescapable fact is that the Government and private enterprise have appropriate roles to play, that their roles should be complementary and that we cannot hope to 2378 win the battle of reconstruction unless they operate in close and friendly alliance.What a much wider and saner outlook than is disclosed within the Motion which we are discussing. I would like to make one other quotation, while I have it in mind, from the same speech of the President of the Federation of British Industries. He said this:But I do not assert that private enterprise is without blemish. Nor do I share the view of those who see in private enterprise an alternative to Government in certain spheres. I believe we must be willing to face facts, and, where weaknesses exist, we should correct them rather than run risks involved in fundamental alterations in the whole structure of our industry.This need for getting the highest efficiency in our industries has led to the setting up of working parties as a means to guide the Government and this House as to all those many claims for assistance which are coming forward from industries, and to enable us to arrive at a sound judgment. Let me say one word about the working parties. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in his speech that I have already mentioned, made this statement, referring to myself—and I am not certain that he should not have said "she," in view of the way he said it—He has wonderful plans"—I am very glad he thought them wonderful—for putting Socialist nominees as working parties to interfere with such industries. The qualification of their chairmen was that they must know little or nothing of the industries concerned.I am sorry that I have not the same intimate knowledge of the politics of the members of these working parties as, apparently, the right hon. Gentleman has, and I do not presume that he would have made a remark of that sort without inquiring into their politics, and I would like the right hon. Gentleman now, if he will, to tell the House which of the gentlemen to whom he has referred are Socialist nominees.
§ Mr. Churchill
I shall take great pleasure in reserving my case until I—[Interruption.] They have all been nominated by the Socialist Government, anyway.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I rather thought the right hon. Gentleman was going to choose that way out, because I know that he has 2379 not got any facts. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that anybody reading that speech thought he meant people nominated by a Socialist Government? His intention was to suggest that these were political nominees.
§ Mr. Churchill
A nominee, according to all usage of English, is a person nominated by someone. You nominate a person, and he becomes a nominee. What his own politics, private opinions or religion are has no relevance.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I would guarantee that 99 per cent of the people who read this passage in the Press thought that the right hon. Gentleman was accusing us of making political nominations. If one reads the rest of the passage, with its mild and witless abuse of his past colleagues, which really does not matter two hoots to anybody, one is quite clear that that was the intention. I am very glad now to have the right hon. Gentleman's disclaimer and to know that he had no such intention.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Now, the right hon. Gentleman does not disclaim it. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman, before I reply to his observations on this remark, will let me know which he does mean—whether he means that these were political nominees, nominated because of their politics, or whether he merely means that they were nominees by the Government, which happens to be a Labour Government.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has neither the courage to stick to what he has said, nor the decency to withdraw, if he did not mean it. Now, perhaps, I may point out to the House what the facts are.
§ Mr. Churchill
That is an absolute misstatement, of which the House can be the judge. The reason why the right hon. Gentleman has been delayed has been 2380 because, entirely out of the ordinary course of Debate, he repeatedly challenged me to intervene, and, by these delays, induced me to rise. He is the person responsible for my intervention.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I only wish I had been responsible for a more useful intervention. What I was about to say was—
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman; I will be as quick as I can. The right hon. Gentleman's party behind him seem to be interested, so I am not worried. The employers' representatives on these working parties are nominated by the employers themselves. Whether they themselves are Socialists or not I am not able to judge. The employees' representatives are, similarly, nominated by the employees, and I should suppose that some of them, being from the enlightened leadership of the workers, would be Socialists. The independent representatives, the last third of the three, are technical men and women chosen for their qualifications and intelligence, and what their particular party affiliations may be I am afraid I cannot say, save in the case of one or two, whom I happen to know personally.
§ Sir S. Cripps
One is, and one is not. The impartial chairmen, to whom I may say I am most grateful for their contribution to this work of first-class national importance, have been welcomed in every industry where we have put working parties, and, I am sure, are as capable of dealing with the problems with which they will be faced as many persons appointed as independent chairmen of various bodies during the period of the Coalition Government. We intend by this method to do our utmost to stimulate and assist private enterprise in industry, and I have found that the younger employers especially welcome this method of ascertaining the facts and getting the recommendations as to what should be done.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot mentioned as one of the bad points against this Government the terrible state into which we had allowed the cotton industry to fall. Among the list of things which he went through, that 2381 we had neglected, about which we had done nothing, about which we ought to have done more, was the cotton industry. I had the great advantage, when I took over the Board of Trade, of having the advice of the right hon. Gentleman on what I should do about the cotton industry, advice which I immediately followed. I went straight to Manchester in order to carry on the work which he had started, and I have been most grateful to him for having started it. The whole difficulty, as he explained to me, and as everybody knew, was that in the spinning section of the industry, they were finding it impossible to get labour. Although labour was available they could not get the people to go into the mills. That is something with which we cannot deal, because it arises out of the bad conditions in many of the mills, and I hope very much that as a result of the Evershed Report, as the result of four reports by the Chief Inspector of Factories as regards the conditions in mills and their remedying, that the position now is better. Indeed there has been an accretion of labour of quite a marked amount in the last few weeks. Unfortunately, however, it takes anything up to nine months before that yarn which has been spun this month, gets through into the shops in the form of further supplies, and if that is a sample of what the right hon. Gentleman terms our neglect of immediate problems, I think again—whether hypothetical or not—he has chosen a bad sample.
So far as the question of coupons is concerned, he made the statement—which I certainly do not accept—that the present coupons were not cashable. Coupons have never been cashable for particular articles. Ever since the system started, they have been cashable over all, for one article or another, and the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that after the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to which he referred, a complete change took place in the situation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot is laughing, but when he is told what the position is, I think he will agree. As a result of the end of the Japanese war, and as a result of the much-accelerated demobilisation which resulted from that—my right hon. Friend will give the figures tomorrow—there was an extremely heavy demand in this period for more 2382 clothing, not only to give to the demobilised men, but also because they each receive 90 coupons and each woman receives145 coupons.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
May I get this quite clear? Is the President of the Board of Trade really suggesting that the extra calls on the coupons, owing to speedy demobilisation, amounted to the equivalent of six coupons over the whole population?
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am not suggesting what it amounted to, because it has not been, nor can it be, evaluated. What I am saying is that it has thrown on to the market something in the region of 100,000,000 coupons—or rather more—in this period, which were not expected to materialise until the next period. That is a very important factor which made it necessary for me, in anticipation, in order that the demobilised men might get some clothes, to adjust the coupon issue for this period.
Another matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was the question of building licences. I do not know whether my recollection is at fault, but I think the right hon. Gentleman was largely responsible for setting up this excellent machinery which deals with building licences today—Panel A and the other matters which he has mentioned. That was absolutely essential. The position was often discussed in the former Government, and with the anticipated enormous demand for labour for housing and for industrial rehabilitation, all the blitzed factories in London and other places, as well as the new building, it was realised that, unless we had a system of licensing to get the most essential work done as quickly as possible, we should simply dissipate the whole of our forces of labour over a wide series of projects which would not bring us the maximum value. It is ridiculous, of course, to give the list of Departments, as the right hon. Gentleman did, through which this thing has to meander up and down Whitehall. It is all dealt with in a co-ordinating committee at the centre. [Laughter.] Again the laughter of ignorance, if I may say so. Now there is one other important aspect which I only mention because the right hon. Gentleman did not mention it, and that is the location of industry on which I know he was very keen when he was at the Board of Trade. I should like to point out that, as one of 2383 the urgent methods of dealing with the immediate situation, few things are more important than this problem of the location of industry and building in the Development Areas, and I venture to say that the record of this Government in pushing forward that work is a very good record indeed.
The next point that was taken up was the question of the housing programme. Here, indeed, the Minister of Health has suffered from the chaotic conditions left by the previous Government—for which I am equally responsible with other people who were members of it—and their unwillingness to tackle the basic problem of land acquisition, which was left in abeyance year after year. Indeed, I think this is a typical case of what happened, perhaps of necessity in a Coalition Government, where, frequently, important and vital matters of future planning were put on one side and no agreement or arrangement was reached at all. Unfortunately, I think the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition never believed in planning for civilian enterprise—for military enterprise yes, but not for civilian enterprise—and I think it is partially from that disbelief and the disbelief of others that we are suffering today. We had to re-start, therefore, on the housing programme from the beginning and, at the same time, we had to try to prevent the housing of the people being turned into an orgy of speculative building as it was after the last war. We certainly do not intend, if we can possibly help it, to allow the acute shortage of housing with which the people are affected today to be the occasion of profiteering, whether in the building trade or by land speculators or by manufacturers. Even if it takes a little longer to provide the housing for the people, we are quite confident that, in the long run, the people would rather wait a few months, than be for years subjected to exploitation by those who seek to advantage themselves out of the needs of the people. Here again, the Opposition take up the cudgels of the profiteer against the people, and on that ground, we shall always be perfectly prepared to meet and defeat them.
Now into this general picture of an assisted and stimulated private-enterprise control—so far as it is necessary to assure that the public interest is not overlooked and neglected—we fit the major 2384 nationalisation proposals. These are an essential part of the general efficiency drive, as was pointed out in the recent report on the gas industry. Where we are concerned with great national services like the supply of power, transport and so on, it is essential that we should get those supplies on the best basis possible and, as has so often been pointed out by people as eminent as the present Leader of the Opposition, this is the most efficient and best method of running these great services, like the railway service. Nationalisation is not an end m itself, it is an attempt, by co-ordination and planning, to achieve a more economic use of certain national resources.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me, with regard to planning, whether we intended to direct labour as a permanent matter. The answer is we do not intend to direct labour as a permanent matter. That has been stated before. Nor, indeed, is it essential for planning, unless, of course, one is going in for the type of planning which the Fascists and the Nazis carried through, and in which we do not believe. Of course, in the transition period it may be necessary to continue certain controls for a certain period of time. [Laughter.] Everybody agrees with that proposition, so hon. Members opposite need not laugh. But we must rely ultimately on the power of the different industries to attract labour, and other controls dealing with raw materials prices, and so on, can be used to limit undesirable or unnecessary manufacture while there is, as we hope there always will be, a shortage of labour in this country. We do not seek an absolute and rigid plan, but one that will give the broad lines of desirable development, without the extremes of compulsion.
I have attempted—I am afraid rather at length—to give a sketch of what we are doing in the economic field, and what we have, I believe, so far accomplished. One thing is absolutely certain, and that is that we shall not be able to get the results which we must get from British industry, unless we proceed to develop it along some planned lines. The mere haphazard chaos that followed the last war, to which the Opposition and the profiteers would like to return, is not what the electorate put this Government in power to carry out.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The right hon. Gentleman asks me, "Cannot you do better than that?" Well, at the next Election we may, but we have to build for the future, and not concentrate too much attention upon merely achieving immediate abundance for ourselves in the home market. We are attempting, as I have said, to ease up those conditions in the home market as rapidly as we can, while at the same time seizing this golden opportunity to re-establish our export trade which very largely disappeared during the war. In the meantime, we shall do our utmost, by one means or another, to stimulate and assist British industry to reach that high point of efficiency which will enable it to meet competition in markets abroad, and to supply our own people with high quality goods at reasonable prices. To accomplish these ends, which represent the only road to a higher and more stable standard of living—which is our aim—we shall certainly take every step in our power to control profiteering, or any other propensity that shows itself, which is inimical to the interests of the people of this country.
This motion is an attempt to stir up a little activity in the Opposition, same shadow boxing of criticism, in order to hide the complete bankruptcy of their own policy. The people will not be deceived. They will not want a repetition of what the Conservatives gave them after the last war—the quick prosperity of profiteer inflation, followed by deflation, which brought more suffering and misery to our country that it had ever known before. That we are determined to avoid if we can, and it can only be avoided in our view by wise and long term planning, which is based, not on the desire of the profiteers, but on the interest of the people.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
It is so long since I have spoken in the House of Commons, that I am inclined to ask for the indulgence normally granted to a new Member when making his maiden speech. But, at any rate, it gives me the opportunity of congratulating my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble), whose speech immediately preceded that of the 2386 right hon. Gentleman, and as one of the most effective maiden speeches which I have had the privilege to hear. I hope that he will speak often, because I know that he will add greatly to the pleasure and enjoyment of the House.
I left England in 1942, and, from then till now, have made only the most fleeting visits to the House of Commons. I feel, therefore, like a kind of political Rip Van Winkle. Everything is so changed. I can hardly believe my eyes. On the benches opposite sit many old colleagues, with whom and under whom I served in the great Coalition Administration. Side by side with them, sit their old enemies. What a transformation! Ebbw Vale and Limehouse together; Wandsworth and Seaham side by side! The lion lying down with the lamb! How long it will last or what will be the end of it, I do not know. For the last few years it has mostly been my duty to attend to matters of foreign policy. In this field the new Foreign Secretary and the new Prime Minister are, broadly, carrying out the policy which they supported so loyally in the late War Cabinet. In all these matters they are talking sense; and in all these matters the Minister of Fuel and Power and the Minister of Health are, happily, precluded from taking part at all. One thing however never changes—the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House. He executed a manoeuvre which I suppose he has executed hundreds of times before. No one does it with greater skill. Sometimes it is on the hustings, sometimes in court. The right hon. Gentleman always skilfully follows the same method to avoid the issue, and never to answer questions put to him, but to try to draw a red herring. He has thought fit to make some observations critical of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. Well, it would not be improper for me to try to defend my chief. I think that he will find—I have found always—my right hon. Friend formidable both in attack and counter-attack. I have no doubt that when the counterattack comes from my right hon. Friend it will be of a calibre which will be very satisfactory to friends in this House, who are many, and his friends in the country, who are legion.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite thinks it clever to say of my right hon. 2387 Friend that he is a disappointed politician. The right hon. Gentleman is always disappointed, because I think he has never expected anything, except the worst possible, in the worst of all possible worlds. He made some scathing remarks about the advisability of the Conservative Party changing its name, and following the lines of the Continental parties. What is the position of the Continental parties? I can tell him what happens to the Continental parties: The Socialist Party gets swept away by the Communist. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] The Communist movement in Italy, Greece and France has made progress. With regard to the question of the working parties in industry, to which the right hon. Gentleman devoted so much attention, I was very glad to see that he disclaimed any question of seeking to know the political bias or opinions of any of his appointees. I hope that he may take the opportunity of communicating this very high sense of propriety to the Lord Chancellor. But he omitted to tell the House that there is one great attraction that the working party has, and that is, that you get a guarantee not to be nationalised. We have not had a working party yet for the publishing industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are going to have one."] Oh, are we? All I can say is that if it carries with it a guarantee that we shall not be nationalised, the right hon. Gentleman might even find me willing to serve.
I have, on my return, just one minor grievance which I would like to express to the House. After the declaration of the poll at Bromley I listened with some of my friends to the six o'clock B.B.C. news. The summary ran as follows:Conservative elected for Bromley. Fog and depression widespread over England.I thought that was a little hard. No doubt it was to dissipate this gloom that, on the following Monday morning, the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President decided on a timely display of the luminous rays of pure Socialist doctrine, and, if, incidentally, some of the limelight fell on himself, that is one of the penalties that a naturally self-effacing and modest politician has to accept with manly resignation. This House of Commons contains, on both sides, a very large number of new Members, and I hope I shall not be thought impertinent if, for the benefit 2388 of those who may not be fully cognisant of the inner workings of the Ministerial machine, I try to explain some further motives which may have lain behind the Lord President's declaration. There are moments in the career of a Minister or the life of a Ministry when a certain feeling of neglect oppresses the most ardent spirits, and, at that time, it is natural for the Minister and for the Parliamentary Secretary, if he has one, and the permanent officials, and above all that vital, that key figure in modern administration, the public relations officer, to hold a conference. They say: "Something has got to be done. There is something wrong here in our Ministry. We are not getting enough in the news. The other fellows over the way are getting all the news. What are we going to do about it?" Various suggestions are made. "What about a slogan?" says somebody, "Go to it"? "Keep at it"? "No, we have had that one before. What about 'Get away with it'? That's more the idea."
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me if that describes the kind of conferences and consultations that took place at the Air Ministry, when he was Secretary of State?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I was thinking further back—earlier in the life of the Coalition. Then, when nothing else can be thought of, some one says, "What about a Parliamentary statement after Questions?" That always goes well. It is a good time —good for the Press, and, if it is a little provocative, there is always the chance of a row and so they say, "Now let's hurry up and do it before the boss comes home." In any event, the Lord President made a statement, which is within the recollection of the House, and I am not going to bother the House with all its details. I am bound to say, however, that it lacked the clarity and precision for which he and I used to strive when I was his Undersecretary. Of course there was some very thin ice to be skated over. Take the case of the municipal road passenger undertakings. They have to be co-ordinated, so we are told, but whether by purchase or by merger, with a seat on the joint or regional boards, is left to be settled later, because municipalities have strong vested interests and they have to be handled very carefully in this hard world. Meanwhile who is to decide what is to be 2389 the fate of the 80,000 road hauliers, and whether these kulaks of transport are to be liquidated. They may be collectivised or just disappear quietly, and, we hope, humanely.
Then there followed in the Lord President's declaration a few general observations which clearly illustrate the attitude of the present Government to the major industries of the country. They are treated with a combination of patronage, threats and cajolery, which the victims find increasingly unattractive. The Lord President closed, let me remind the House, with a pompous reference to pulling together in a high public spirit, so that these great changes may be carried out smoothly and successfully. Let us all pull together, indeed. I have no doubt that this is the common formula between the hangman and the condemned man. In the circumstances, it seems to me that the formal reply of Sir Clive Baillieu, President of the Federation of British Industries, was a model of patriotic restraint.
There is, nevertheless, a very curious omission from the Lord President's statement, to which I would like to call the special attention of the House. All of us, in recent months, have been subjected to an almost fatiguing barrage of exhortation about the importance of exports. We seem today to have got a little confused about exports. I know that the importance attached to exports is only, for the Socialist Benches, a post-election doctrine. Before the Election, the Minister of Fuel and Power said:Is it not sheer madness to go chasing after the will of the wisp of exports and international trade, when we have so much to do in promoting our own soil and industrial assets, to say nothing of the development of industrial expansion in the British Commonwealth.In one of the famous books of the Labour movement, "Why not Trust the Tories?" they say.By some twist of the Tory mind it is good trade to persuade some one in a remote part of the world to buy our goods, but ruinous to allow the same goods to be consumed by our own people.The same book contains the following:Should you prove obdurate and insist on the Tories fulfilling their promises of a better time after the war, they have a bogey man in reserve to frighten you into acquiescence. This bogey man … is built around our need to export.In any case supposing, as I think, that the reality lies in the broad acceptance of 2390 the facts of each particular industry, there is a great variety and in many cases it is possible to make effective large exports on a firm basis for home trade. It depends on the character of the industry. I know that from my own practical and personal experience. Indeed, the higher and more costly the quantity of capital and plant involved in production, the more important it is to use the home market as the buffer and buttress of exportable surpluses. All that I think was admirably said by my right hon. Friend who opened the Debate and not answered by the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
In any case, is it not remarkable that in the statement of policy by the Lord President no reference is made at all to any export trade except shipping, which is specifically excluded, and the cotton industry and wool industry and so forth, which were excluded by implication? If it be true that nationalisation is a universal cure for human ills and a kind of stringent tonic, which alone can produce life and vigour, is it not a remarkable fact that all these great export industries should be deprived of this precious medicine? Perhaps the truth is that the Government hesitate to prejudice or risk the industry and commerce upon which we depend for obtaining foreign currency. They may think it wiser to confine these experiments to the home market, where prices can be raised and the burden be thrown either upon the consumer or the taxpayer. The final effect on the exporting industries will of course be equally serious, but it will be delayed.
There are one or two more fundamental questions which I would like to put to Ministers arising out of the Lord President's statement. I understand, and indeed agree with, the conception that the modern developments of our economic society require new treatment and new solutions. During the years between the economic crisis of 1931 and the approaching menace of war, I tried to put forward the view that it was wrong to apply a simple and single solution to a complex and diverse problem. In 1938, I published a book from which I will quote one short passage:From time to time there will be spheres of economic effort which will have to pass under some form of public utility or statutory control. While this is happening, new opportunities will be occurring for private enterprise in the initiation and development of new enterprises."—2391 I might have added, like civil aviation—And it is by approaching the subject in this way that I am led to the conclusion that, for as far ahead as we can see, it is both possible and desirable to find a solution of our economic difficulties in a mixed system which combines ownership, regulation or control of certain aspects of economic activity with the drive and initiative of private enterprise in those realms of initiation and expansion for which it is, by general admission, so admirably suited.This was stated with greater force and clarity by my right hon. Friend in 1943, when he said:There is a broadening field for State ownership and enterprise, especially in relation to monopolies of all kinds.[Interruption.] I am trying to put this very fairly to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite; I am trying to be fair.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I am not running away from the Motion; I am speaking to it. My right hon. Friend said:The modern State will increasingly concern itself with the economic well-being of the nation: but it is all the more vital to revive at the earliest possible moment a widespread healthy and vigorous private enterprise.If this philosophy is accepted, a philosophy which I have tried—I do not attempt to conceal—to preach for a number of years, it must be possible for the actual economic situation at the moment to be taken into account. All our pre-war problems were concentrated in the paradox of "Poverty in the midst of plenty." Over-producton was the nightmare—[An HON. MEMBER: "And under-consumption"]—of the primary producer and the manufacturer alike. Lack of purchasing power in the hands of consumers seemed to present the insuperable difficulty. All in our different ways laboured to try and solve that problem. The position is almost entirely reversed. Consequently, it is more important to let loose the powers of production than to keep them in leash. Our decisions, therefore, must be taken not on ideological or on theoretical, but on practical grounds; and these decisions must not only be right, but they must be rightly timed.
At this moment, long-term plans—especially that kind of regulating and balancing machinery which seeks to check an excessive boom for fear of the follow- 2392 ing slump—must give way to short-term needs. The chief thing now is not to devise gadgets to regulate excessive motoring speeds, but to get into the car, somehow get it started, and drive it off. At this moment, when urgency in administration is the crying need, the Government should be content, in my view, with exercising and supervising the broad strategic plans of reconstruction, leaving their tactical operation and execution, whenever possible, to private and individual management. Above all, in this vital period, they should do nothing to disturb confidence or to create uncertainty. There is an old saying:The best is the enemy of the good.Let us be content with any piece of machinery, so long as it works. The larger questions of the ultimate adjustment, for the next period, of the rights and functions of the State and those of individuals need careful study and solution in an atmosphere of reasonableness and normality. There are many new issues to be faced and dangers to be avoided in achieving this balance. Even to determine the most desirable system of management for any service or enterprise in the public domain, requires careful and objective experiment. The rights and position of labour, especially of organised labour, need to be protected and defined, as well as those of management.
Moreover, there is a great difference between the application of public ownership or control to a service necessarily monopolistic and the policy of trying to eliminate competition from a field where it is in the interests of efficiency that it should remain. The fundamental divergence between us comes to this. Socialists—and that part of the Labour Party which is really Socialist—want to find every possible reason for applying their nostrums, in season and out of season. The rest of us would bring an open mind to each problem as it arises.
Industry is now asked to adopt a new conception. But what confidence can it have in plans which are so vaguely described, the future development and range of which is so uncertain? At the same time, there is a marked encroachment by the Government in that part of the field which is to be reserved for private enterprise—that is, outside that earmarked for selective nationalisation. Certainly we need a true partnership between 2393 the State and private enterprise, including in that phrase both employers and employed, but partnership demands confidence. The spirit of initiative, enterprise and adventure cannot be forthcoming except upon a basis of mutual trust. We must know where we are. Are we to assume that the policy, as defined, is final? If the Government succeed in carrying out all these measures, is it a case of "Thus far and no further" or is it the real purpose of Ministers to create a Socialist State, bit by bit? Ministers propose to trust private enterprise over the whole range of production not covered by these schemes. Even if those measures are carried and they entrust to it the whole of the export field—[An HON. MEMBER: "Except coal."] Except such part of coal which may, happily, again be exported; we shall have to do better than now if it is that. If they want to pass over this wide field to private initiative, do they accept the profit motive as a laudable thing? If not, what becomes of all the Socialist propaganda against the entrepreneur? Can it be that they are "backsliders" from the Marxist revelation? Or are they specially chosen brethren, who can touch the accursed thing and yet keep themselves without defilement while they are waiting for the opportunity of a further advance; or do they propose to use in the economic field a technique which was found so effective in the political sphere—first in Austria, then in Sudeten territory and then in Czechoslovakia—always claiming finality, but always nursing further and unsatisfied desires?
The answer is that Ministers do not know, or are divided. Some of them are the prisoners of their past, others of their future. Meanwhile, in place of mutual confidence and a sense of unity throughout the nation, all is flux and uncertainty. Ministers are incapable of strong, effective, imaginative administration powerfully directed upon the immediate tasks which confront us. The industrial and commercial world suffers from a sense of impotence and stagnation, made all the harder to bear, because in addition to being ill-digested and ill-timed, these schemes are presented to us with a kind of cocksure, jaunty, cockney levity—all very well in their place—but singularly ill-suited to the present mood and sufferings of our hard-pressed and anxious people. The creation of uncertainty seems 2394 indeed to be one of the chief pleasures of Ministers. They have expanded into almost every field, the social as well as the industrial. The approved societies are under sentence of death, the voluntary and municipal hospitals are on the rack, and when the war of nerves has gone on long enough, then I suppose they will be said to be ripe for taking over.
Nevertheless, I have often observed a certain sense of anxiety even among some of our most patient and hopeful Ministers. The Minister of Fuel and Power is a very buoyant, even exuberant figure. I have hardly ever seen him daunted, but even he has his moments of trial. I saw the other day that he made a speech at a dinner. It is true, it was at the Dorchester Hotel, but I really cannot forbear from quoting it. He said:We are about to take over the mining industry. That is not as easy as it looks. I have been talking of nationalisation for forty years, but the complications of the transfer of property had never occurred to me. I wish I could convince you to agree to the principle of confiscation. Then my task would be simple.Is that the new policy of the Government?When you get on the slippery slope of compensation, complications, legal financial, and otherwise, come one after another. I hope my problem will be solved before I introduce the Bill in Parliament.Of course the right hon. Gentleman may say his speech was intended to be facetious, and if he says that, of course I must accept it, but I would beware of being facetious about the Eighth Commandment. It has led a lot of fellows into trouble before now.
Perhaps it would be right to refer at this point to the Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), and his Friends. I think, Mr. Speaker, it will probably not be your intention to call it, but I would like to make some reference to it. The hon. and learned Gentleman was so busy reading the past speeches of my right hon. Friend, which is indeed a very good occupation, that he did not seem even to have read the Amendment which he and his Friends had placed on the Paper; but I read it very carefully and I found it very encouraging. First of all, it applauded the Government's foreign policy. We all do that. Criticisms of the Government's foreign policy have not 2395 come from this side. We are in agreement with our Liberal Friends there. It appreciates the difficulties arising from the war and previous Administration.
That is rather a curious conjunction of causes, I thought, and a little bit hard on Sir Archibald Sinclair, but on all the immediate questions, on demobilisation, production both for home and export, on the social needs, such as housing, and on the rate of national expenditure, the Liberal Amendment vigorously denounces the present Government. Both Liberal Parties join together in the defence of liberty. It is a happy augury, and on this high issue, of which more may be heard as the months and years go by, I see a prospect of fruitful co-operation between us. The Amendment ends on the very point to which I shall now present myself, the uncertainties of the future economic structure and the many unsolved problems that lie ahead. Therefore I trust that all Liberals will vote for this Motion of ours.
I will now try to sum up what I see are the purposes of the main tasks which lie ahead of us. We are trying in this Motion to put them into proper relation. We say that these other schemes, right or wrong, are not relevant. An immediate problem with which we must deal is the reconversion of industry, getting it back into balance. We have had a very uncertain reply to the question asked by my right hon. Friend on the future direction of labour. All of us knew when we were working at planning—and I am as keen as ever on planning—that that was one of the great problems. The wage policy is part of the planning policy, as is the importance, at the start, of seeing that labour follows where you want it to go. The right hon. Gentleman gave us no reply. I agree that it is not possible to keep 9,000,000 people under the kind of labour direction that we had in war. That will not do. That may be a sort of caste system. Once you are in you can never get out. It may be suitable to Orientals, but it will never suit the British mind. The only way to provide labour today is to get on more rapidly with demobilisation, and not to apply ourselves so pedantically to the absolute letter of the scheme as it is drawn, but to make it more elastic, and; above all, to apply all the powers and resources that the State possesses.
2396 I think it was the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Leeds (Mr. Gaitskell) who began his speech with a very kind reference to my right hon. Friend as a war leader which, I am sure, we appreciate. I would reciprocate it, but I am not exactly aware in what particular field the hon. Member for South Leeds served during the war. He raised the question of shipping and he said, "This cannot be done, because this Bevin plan was made in the old Coalition Government and you cannot hasten it up." He appears not to observe at all that, between the fall of my right hon. Friend's Administration and the first months of the new one, one great event had happened, which was that the Japanese war had come to an end. That appears to have been entirely passed by in the shipping calculations. I am quite convinced that had we had the powerful combination that we had in war, of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition directing the Government and Lord Leathers directing the shipping, we should have got the men home at a far greater rate.
The second great task is housing. There has been so much spoken on housing, both in this House and in the country, that I will not attempt to add to it, but once more I would say that the same fanatical adherence to theory and the same avoidance of common sense practice is producing a general sense of frustration and stagnation. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the possibility that somebody, in some unforeseen circumstances if a house was built too rapidly by this Government, might gain something by holding a piece of land. Rather than that terrible thing should happen, that somebody might actually make a little money out of some land—[Interruption]—or make a lot of money, he would rather postpone the houses for the people. Even if that argument had been relevant, I think it would have been cruel, but it is not relevant because we all know that there is in the possession of the housing authorities, by and large, enough land to build 700,000 houses.
Finally, the third great task to which we must set ourselves is the curtailment of national expenditure. The figures which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition gave the other day, and which my right hon. Friend who 2397 moved this Motion gave and expanded today, are really formidable. They have not been answered. They present an alarming prospect. I do not see how the most austere Chancellor, as indeed this Chancellor has shown himself, can avoid some relaxation of taxation. I do not see how the volume of savings, especially combined with a falling rate of interest, can be maintained, still less, increased. If at the same time the public expenditure remains at this tremendously high figure, and industry is not put into a position to produce the goods and services on which the people can spend their money, then I do not see how we can avoid an inflationary spiral which must overwhelm us all.
As our Motion says, Ministers have been preoccupied with long-term schemes in lieu of clear and effective administrative action. These schemes of public control and public ownership may be right or wrong, good or bad. As I have said, they are irrelevant. They are not contributing to the immediate problems of the day. They will take time. All of them will create a sense of general uncertainty. All of them will necessarily hold up the development of the types of industries which are to be taken over, and the development of the types which are to be left in private hands. It may be that these schemes fulfil an important political purpose. I know the Lord President is a very skilful political manager. I should hesitate to apply to a Minister, under whom I served very agreeably, the harsh description which the present Minister of Health applied, "A third-rate Tammany Boss." Third-rate? No, that is not, fair. Nevertheless, I would urge Ministers, with all the energy I can, to take stock again. All of us in every part of the House wish to see the great human problems dealt with, and dealt with successfully and expeditiously. No one will be more pleased than we to see the houses built and that prosperity return for which we all struggled and worked so long.
There is hardly a man in this House who has not fought in one of these two great wars which have devasted the world twice in 25 years. Some of us have had to undergo this experience twice, first as sons, and then as fathers. Twice, in a single generation, we have lost our friends, our comrades, and our loved ones. These searing wounds, both physical and mental, 2398 we shall carry with us to our lives' end. Surely there is no one of us to whom party spirit is so high as to overtop our patriotic hopes. We want this to succeed. No one will be more pleased than we. The fortunes of electoral fate have placed in the hands of Ministers a great Parliamentary majority. Nearly half the country are behind them. They have the tools. They might, at least, begin the job. If Ministers apply themselves to practical and immediate tasks, if they will only let sleeping dogmas lie, then in spite of the scant courtesy with which we have been treated, we will offer nothing but constructive help and assistance towards the fulfilment of this high national purpose. Failing that, it is our duty to call the attention of the House of Commons, and of the country, to the grave mishandling of our affairs, and to ask the House to meet it with their reprobation and censure.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), who has just sat down, complained that he had been so long away from the House that he really needed the indulgence which is customarily extended to a new Member. Will he therefore forgive me if I do congratulate him upon his return, because in the last House of Commons he was one of the Members who spoke most frequently from the national point of view and not from the party point of view? I am glad to see him back for that reason, because today I feel that my position must be inevitably rather a lonely one. Any Debate upon a Motion of Censure inevitably involves a great deal of recrimination across the Floor of the House. But I venture to remind hon. and right hon. Members that the situation still feeing our country, although the war is over, is so grave that we cannot afford too much of this party back-chat. The dangers are less obvious than they were in 1940, but they are still very great, and they are very difficult for the simple reason that, being less obvious, it is so much more difficult to persuade the people that they must still continue making a great many sacrifices and that they still have a very difficult job ahead.
I believe this Motion of Censure today is a mistake. The Government which is being censured is the British Government. It is a Government which was elected less 2399 than six months ago by the ordinary procedure of British democracy, and anything which damages the Government in the eyes of the world does damage the prestige of Britain. We cannot get away from that and also there is no getting away from the fact that to a very great extent the fate of every one of us in this House and in this country does depend upon the success or failure of this Government. Therefore, every one of us, whatever political affiliation he may have, should wish the Government success. That is why I believe that a Motion of Censure should only be put down when the criticism supporting it can be really constructive. I could not help worrying when I read the Motion of Censure as put forward by the Conservative Party. The Liberal Motion of Censure—I am sorry there is not a very large body of Liberals present to hear this—is one to which, I think, the Government would have no right to object, because judging from questions that come from hon. Members of the Labour Party they also feel worried by the various delays, troubles and so on. What worries me about the Conservative Motion of Censure is the constant complaint that the Government is too much preoccupied with long-term schemes of nationalisation. The right hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate was so worried about long-term schemes that he produced an argument to the effect that the German Army lost the war very largely because it paid so much attention to long-term planning. I might point out that one of the reasons we won the war is that we paid attention to long-term planning in the form of the atomic bomb. It should not be forgotten that work upon that had gone on for years.
Why this Motion of Censure? It is an attack on the nationalisation policy of the Government. But it was for that very purpose that the electorate gave the Labour Party its great majority six months ago, and I would point out to my right hon. Friend who has just sat down and who made a joke about the Labour Party getting nearly a majority in the country that—I think I am right in saying this—they polled about 49 or 48 per cent. of the total votes but that only once in the last 20 years have the Conservative Party got even more than 40 per cent, of the votes, and I do not remember that they claimed then that they 2400 did not represent the country. Whether we are members of the Labour Party, or the Conservative Party or the Liberal Party, we must remind ourselves all the time that this Government is in office as the result of democratic election by the people of this country. The electorate decided that the problems of full employment, of the recovery of our export trade, the import of the necessary raw materials, stable markets and stable prices for our agricultural produce, and so on, could only be brought about by a much greater measure of national control, national organisation and national ownership than we have had in the past.
Now it seems to me, the Conservative Party are censuring the Government for doing exactly what the electorate told them to do. That may be good party politics. It certainly is easy enough to criticise any Government at this moment. It is "money for jam." I do not know what the phrase means, and I think that at the present time many people would rather have jam for money. At any rate it is a very easy thing to criticise. There are an appalling number of problems—I am sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend who shouted the whole time: ''What about shoes?" is not now present. We are all faced with all sorts of problems. Only last night the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. S. Shephard) started a very important Debate on the wastage of stuff in Government dumps. Well, that is nothing new. It is something which hon. Members do right to bring to the attention of the Government, and they must keep on worrying the Government until we get something done; but it is nothing new. If a slight political accident had not put Sir James Grigg out of the House of Commons he would remember that a year ago I was on at him day after day with a similar problem in my own constituency.
In a Debate like this it is essential that we should remember how dangerous it is in the national interest deliberately to lessen the prestige and influence of His Majesty's Government. I do not care two hoots what party forms that Government; it is the Government of the British people. Anything that diminishes its prestige should be avoided. It will make an immense difference to every man, woman and child in this country, for example, if we achieve a decent financial settlement with the United States, and yet we know that there are a certain number 2401 of American business men who would prefer to see a breakdown of international trade rather than that by helping the British people at the present time they should also help a British Socialist Government. I hate to criticise the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, because having been in the last House of Commons I remember with deep and affectionate admiration how, in those very grim months of 1940, he said what every one of us in this country wanted to hear said. We were very grateful; we cannot be too grateful that he was there at that time; and therefore I hate to criticise him, but I cannot help wondering what those same American bankers felt when they heard that great man saying that the present Government, by carrying out the very policy that the majority of voters want, "could destroy Great Britain more surely than it could be destroyed by the magnetic mine, by air raids, or by U-boat warfare."
I cannot believe that it is wise to tell the people in Europe who have been filled with admiration because we passed through a great political change with so little bitterness that "events are moving, and will move, towards the issue: The People versus The Socialists." After all, who are the Socialists against whom the right hon. Gentleman wants to rally the nation? They are our own kith and kin, the men and women who fought in the war and worked in the factories. They are ordinary people, who have come to the conclusion that the best method of getting rid of the unhappy legacies of the war is by putting several major industries under State control or ownership. There is nothing very startling in that; it is happening all over the world. But what could do more to create alarm and despondency among that ordinary British electorate, what could do more to destroy their faith in the future of the country than for the right hon. Gentleman to tell them that because they used their own judgment at the time of the election, because they behaved like democrats, because they voted as they thought right, their vote had been "one of the greatest disasters that had smitten us in our long and chequered history?"
I venture to believe that this Motion of Censure is a grave national mistake. The right hon. Gentleman the other day criticised the Government for paying so much attention to exports. The right hon. 2402 Gentleman who replied on behalf of the Government dealt with that with some vigour—much greater than I can command or perhaps would want to command—but how much more vigorously and how much more justifiably the Leader of the Opposition would have criticised the Government, if they had not concentrated on exports, and had tried to win cheap popularity by releasing to the home market the few commodity goods that were available. The right hon. Gentleman criticised slow demobilisation. I believe that all of us, on both sides of the House, feel that the Government could, and should have been more active in that field. It is by far the weakest, part of the Government defence. But, again, I venture to ask, how much more vigorously the Leader of the Opposition would have criticised the Government if they demobilised more vigorously than the Service chiefs deemed safe. The right hon. Gentleman complained also that we were "hag-ridden by the Socialist doctrinaires." Many Members of the Government Front Bench whose hair is much shorter and whose appearance is very much more respectable than that description might lead one to believe, were his colleagues in the last Government only a few months ago. Is it really to be believed that they have lost their patriotism in winning the Election? We have been told that queues are longer and shops are emptier. Well, they are, but all over Europe the shops are empty—it is not a case of being emptier; they are empty. All over the world there is a shortage of food. How could anybody expect an immediate return to comfort and luxury in so few weeks, so few months, after the end of Lend-Lease? It has nothing to do with Socialism that the American business man has decided that he wants to be paid for his goods and that Lend-Lease has, therefore, come to an end. It may be argued that the end of Lend-Lease is due, above all, to the fact that the American Government have not more control over the business of the United States.
There is only one other point I wish to make in criticism of the right hon. Gentleman's speech the other day. He criticised the Government for arguing that spending must be damped down, or there might be danger of inflation. Is there no such danger? Was there no such danger during the war? If there was no such 2403 danger, what damnable hypocrisy it was to send Members of Parliament round the country to National Savings Weeks, urging the people that they must save their money. If there was danger of inflation during the war is not the danger inevitably much greater in the months immediately after the war, when people who have put up so patiently with an immense amount of hardship naturally want to go out and buy the few commodity goods there are? And that, inevitably, does help on inflation.
For these reasons I venture to believe that this Motion of Censure is harmful in the country and harmful in this House. I was distressed when we first met after the General Election by the way in which certain hon. Members in the Labour party laughed and scoffed at the Leader of the Opposition when he declared that he only wanted to oppose when it was in the national interest that he should do so. He still spoke as a great national leader, who had only just ceased to be Prime Minister in a great Coalition Government. It is only natural that a good many of my hon. Friends opposite, coming here for the first time, fresh from their party's victory at the Election, should fail to realise how, during the war, there was a great sense of national unity in this House, and how perfectly honestly the right hon. Gentleman then spoke. I like him very much more when he speaks as a national leader than when he speaks as a party leader. I do not suggest that there should be a sacrifice of principles. I do believe that there should be the maximum sacrifice of our personal interests or even our party interests in the national interest. If the Opposition is really constructive in its criticisms, it is equally important that the Government should resist the temptation to force through their programme by the mere weight of votes. I have sometimes felt, in the last week or two, that the Government forget that democracy is really government by persuasion. As I say, if the Opposition only oppose in a constructive way, then it is the duty of the Government not to use their great majority of votes more than is absolutely essential. But what is the corollary to that? If the Opposition try to make party advantage out of circumstances, which would have placed immense difficulties in the way of any Government—any Government taking 2404 over at this present time, have a rotten job ahead of them—I fear that Government supporters will inevitably take their job to be the forcing through of their programme, irrespective of the doubts and fears of a large section of our people.
It is for these reasons I have ventured to take up the time of the House. I hope that I shall not be looked upon as impertinent or priggish in trying to remind hon. Members of the national point of view. I have seen, in a good many countries of Europe in the last 20 years, the failure of the Parliamentary system, be-cause the national interest was forgotten in party fighting. It has always seemed to me that we have come through these difficult years because we have developed the very great gifts of tolerance, good humour, and understanding of the point of view of the other man. It is obviously great fun to have these Debates on Motions of Censure, in which people go for each other and laugh a lot, but, at any time, even in a Debate like this, we should not forget how very much more important the national interest is than party successes or party failures, how very much more important is the continued success of our Parliamentary system, than anything else we shall ever live to see.
§ 7.20 p.m.
Mr. MacAllister (Rutherglen)
I count it a very great honour to have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, in this important Debate. If anything could add to my pleasure in being given this opportunity, it would be that I should follow the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett), who shares with me the distinction of being a journalist. He has spoken with that restraint and moderation which should characterise the speeches and writings of all who belong to our profession. I was interested in one particular point which the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) made. He attempted to take Members of this House behind the scenes in the Civil Service in Government Departments. That touched me very closely because of the conditions he then described, in which a temporary civil servant, such as I was during the war, resigned from his office because he felt he could do more useful work elsewhere.
I did not find very much with which to agree in his speech, but I did agree most heartily with him when he described those 2405 conditions, because I had the honour to be a member of the reconstruction group appointed by the Leader of the Opposition under the direction of Lord Reith as Minister of Works and Planning. 1 saw in Lord Reith—and he is not a member of my party, and I am not attempting to make capital for my party—a man who was anxious to get ahead with town and country planning in Scotland, England and Wales. What was the result? The result was that one week-end he was sacked, sacked by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, sacked without being told he was sacked, until he read about it in the papers on the Monday. I remember that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal was removed from his office in that same fatal week-end from the position of Minister of Reconstruction. They were two key Ministers on which much of the peace-time future of this country depended, and they were removed by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition simply because they were determined to get on with their job. One appointed the Beveridge Committee, which gave rise to our great scheme of social security, and the other appointed the Committee under Lord Justice Scott and the Committee under Mr. Justice Uthwatt.
If I have any claim to inflict myself on the House in this Debate, it is because I have spent many years in trying to produce a better kind of arrangement of the physical environment of this country in order that the men, women and children of this country may have happier lives. Yet, if I can indict the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), it would be that he forgets entirely the kind of person the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping was in the last Parliament. He could say with more than justice that it was impossible for him, directing a gigantic operation in a most terrible war, to give due attention to these problems of reconstruction. No one would blame him, no one ever had such a mighty excuse, but if even only 400 people had been withdrawn from the war effort—and it would not have affected the war effort in the slightest degree—and given the opportunity to go ahead with real planning, we should be in a very different position today.
May I remind the House that the Bar-low Committee, which submitted its report 2406 to Parliament just as the guns were 1iring across the Channel in September, 1939, said that its recommendations were most urgent? May I remind the House that the Scott Committee said:Not only is the vision of the future the stimulus for the present, but plans must be made in advance and be ready when the time for their execution comes … our great failures both in war and peace, have been due to a failure to think ahead and to make plans in advance.I think this is entirely true and no one would blame the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition because the British Expeditionary Force was rolled back before the mechanised might of the Germans. They would rightly lay the blame—and he has rightly laid the blame —on the incompetence of his Tory colleagues who led us into such a disaster. But here we are unprepared today, in spite of the Scott Committee urging the importance of this question and the Uthwatt Committee bringing forward a plan which I was not prepared to accept as a Socialist, but which I was prepared to accept as a planner in order that we should get something done. Who held up the recommendations of the Uthwatt Committee? Was it not the Leader of the Opposition? Faced with the grimmest kind of revolt inside his own parry, a revolt only equal in its sordidness to the revolt on the Catering Bill, did he not come down to this House and save the landlords of the country because the Tories would not agree to a just and reasonable arrangement? Then we had the sad spectacle of the Ministry of Planning passing into the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison), the Member whom the party opposite always seem to bring out when they are determined that no progress of any kind will be made.
It is impossible to change from wartime production to peacetime production overnight. It cannot be done in weeks or months, but if the right hon. Gentlemen opposite had been serious about town and country planning and about housing, they could have made great preparations which would have enabled us to get ahead with the job immediately after the war was over. We have not heard much reference from hon. Members opposite to the achievements of their Minister of Works, Lord Portal, yet if we take our minds back to May, 1943, to that great broadcast of the right hon. 2407 Member for Woodford, when he bored the entire continent of America with the wonders of the Portal house, he told us that as soon as the conflict came to an end the Portal house would be running off the production lines. Lord Portal spent over £2,000,000 on that house, and we still have to see houses of that kind.
The housing record of the party opposite is so shocking that it is astonishing that they should first challenge the Minister of Health and then bring it again into this Debate. There is no subject of which they can speak with less conviction than the question of housing. If we had gone ahead during the war with only a tiny staff of skilled technicians—led by such a man as Sir Patrick Abercrombie—harnessed to the task, we could have produced great plans for the development of our towns and countryside. I know that many members of the Conservative Party are just as anxious as I am to see that kind of reconstruction of the countryside and of our towns taking place, but they know, as well as I do, that until we have taken definite decisions with regard to the future of land ownership, all our plans are in jeopardy. I have to reconcile myself to the fact that because of the delay of the Ministers responsible in the Coalition Government for this subject, I shall have to see town and country planning brushed aside in the handling of our houses in the immediate period. This Government has to start almost from scratch in the preparation of plans which will co-ordinate our houses, our industry and our agriculture in such a way as to produce a better Britain. I cannot imagine that it was completely accidental that when the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition was forming his Cabinet in the war, and when at various times he was reconstructing his Cabinet, that on no occasion did he put it into the hands of Labour Ministers to get on with the job of housing and town planning. It seems clear to me that he was hoping when the General Election came that he could claim the credit for such achievements as had been made and that they could be claimed for the Conservative Party. Unfortunately, for whatever dreams and hopes he had, they produced achievements of which no one would care to boast.
I come from the West of Scotland, where they are interested very much in 2408 the terms of the Motion of Censure and in the Debate which is taking place in this House today and tomorrow, because in the West of Scotland they know very peculiarly just how terrible were the results of the non-planning in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite still so fervently believes. I was born in a little industrial town of 25,000 inhabitants, where, after the last war, by the decision of a board of directors, a great steel works was closed down and 5,000 people were thrown out of work. Between 1919 and 1939 there never was a time when there were fewer than 5,000 unemployed in that little town—over half the insurable population were unemployed for 20 years. Boys who went to school with me and left school at 14 did not do a day's work between 1919 and 1939, because there were no jobs for them, and they only found employment eventually when the second world war broke out.
In the West of Scotland they are not going to have the agony and distress of mass unemployment, industries in decay, agriculture neglected, the fishing industry impoverished, or the grim situation in which shipbuilding, iron, steel and coal industries are shut down, and in which there is no opportunity for anybody in that part of the country. They remember those things, and they are looking forward to this Government taking such control of these industries as is necessary in order to make sure that they produce the necessary goods for the community and provide the opportunities of employment for them. There is no question of the confidence which the country still feels in His Majesty's Government. The party opposite never had any confidence in us—indeed, we should be shocked if they had—but the country still believes, and rightly believes, that his Majesty's Government are trying to produce a better order of society than that in which hon. Members opposite so passionately believe.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)
I would like to congratulate the hon. Member who has just spoken on what I believe is his maiden speech. I am sure that all who heard it must have been impressed by his sincerity, and I hope we will have the opportunity of hearing him on future occasions.
I know how many hon. Members are anxious to speak in this Debate, and it 2409 is not my intention to detain the House very long. I have sat through this Debate and have listened to it with great interest from the beginning to the present moment, and I feel that the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett), who suggested that by moving this Motion of lack of confidence in the Government we on this side of the House are doing something which is not in the national interest, is perfectly absurd. Having been a Member of this House for some little time, he must realise well enough that the revival of party government must mean party conflict, that party conflict is our Parliamentary system, and is perfectly understood by the people. If we on this side of the House believe in our case strongly, it is our task to attack the Government; equally if Government supporters disapprove of what we say, they should say so in no uncertain terms. If one has political beliefs one must stand by them, and that is what the party system in this country means. I am one of those who regret that we returned to party government so soon after the war. It seems to me a great pity that we should not continue with the Coalition, which brought us through the war, during the years which are now ahead us—the first years of reconstruction. There was a great deal in common between us in the last Parliament, and I see no reason why that spirit of comradeship should not have continued. I think it is a misfortune for this country that there is such a large Government majority. It would have been infinitely better if we had been able to continue working to gather for the common good during these first critical years—for they are undoubtedly very critical years for our country.
I doubt whether any Government speaker today has emphasised sufficiently the fact that we are in a position of the most acute difficulty, so far as our trade and commerce are concerned. The Government, rightly I think, have emphasised the importance of the revival of our export trade, but how are we successfully to revive the export trade unless we can agree among ourselves upon the methods by which we can do it? We must first, I feel, put a tremendous effort into getting going our industry at home, because foreign trade does depend upon the vigorous growth of our home trade. 2410 When one faces facts, and bears in mind the difficulties which exist whenever one wants to get a new industry going anywhere—and most hon. Members must know of examples of what I mean—one realises that the present methods of Government control are not working properly; there must be some greater reduction of such control. I can remember so well after the last war the tragic years of depression in the area in which I live. Naturally I am on the watch to see what is being done to prevent anything of that kind happening again. I am not altogether happy in my mind, not by any means so happy as the President of the Board of Trade appeared to be, about what is being done on behalf of what are known as the development areas. I am more or less confident that there should be no need for me to worry unduly for we now have five Cabinet Ministers and the chief Government Whip and a great many Members of Parliament on the other side of the House as our representatives in the North-Eastern area of that party. I am satisfied that they, being human, will do their best in the interest of that part of the world. My own experience, however, still leads me to say that unless there can be a real understanding between us all—that we are all working for a common purpose—there will be no really satisfactory results.
Our real complaint today is that the Government are so busy looking to their long-term policy that they are forgetting the immediate necessities of the people. They tell us that they have been returned with a mandate to effect the socialisation of this country. They are entitled to say that if they like, inasmuch as they have a large majority; but they won the Election in my opinion so decisively because they made the people believe that if they were returned to power they would get the husbands, sons and fathers back from the Forces quicker than the Tories would: that houses would be built quicker, and the standard of living improved. In other words, the electors wanted a change; they voted for the Socialists because they believed the Socialists would bring about a change. The reason for the Socialist victory was really put in a nutshell by a Labour organiser in my part of the world. He said: "I knew we should win this Election, because we were ready and the Tories were not. There's a revolution taking place." Then he added with 2411 laugh, "The funny thing about it is that the people don't know it." I think what he said is true. A revolution has taken place but it is the continuation of a revolution which had already begun. It began after the last war, and it was to the credit of the much-maligned Tories, and their then leader, Lord Baldwin, that we came through that revolution without most of us realising that it was going on.
There is much talk today about a planned economy, but few people who discuss it seem to know exactly what they mean by the expression. I have heard it alluded to by the President of the Board of Trade himself this afternoon. It is asserted that by a planned economy this country would benefit tremendously. If it is to be successful, it must not be the kind of economy which we had during the war, a complete control of industry by the Government. We had to submit to such control in the war—the direction and distribution of industry—in the common cause and in the national interest, but it was frightfully expensive, and far from efficient as we all realise.
Planned economy sounds splendid but it may cause delay, which may be disastrous for the nation in the post war period. The Government will no doubt go on with the work to which they have set their hand; they are pledged to nationalising the coal industry. I fear that it will not be a cheap arrangement for the taxpayers or in the best interests of the country, or that it will bring about peace in the mining industry. The Government may well have to meet a difficult state of things when they take possession of the mines. They presumably will be the employers. Whether that will lead to peace in industry, only the future will decide, but I do not think that the Miners Federation will be in a happy position. I feel that the Government are going entirely in the wrong direction. I am always slightly self-conscious, perhaps a little ashamed of myself when I admit that I belong to a Victorian age, that I date from the days of Queen Victoria, yet I console myself even today, when old age is rather looked down upon and out of fashion, with the reflection that when I was young I felt exactly the same towards the old people as the young 2412 people feel towards them today. I thought I knew better than my elders.
But during the years that I have lived, I have seen great social changes for the better in this country. I suppose that in the last 50 years the improvement in the social and economic conditions of the people have been greater by far than in any period of history. And thus a happier, healthier and richer state of society has arisen under the capitalist system—a state of society infinitely better than anywhere else in Europe and with a higher standard of living. The present generation are inclined to think that we were all wrong in the past, but they have much to thank their grandfathers and fathers for—for the courage, energy, initiative and power of decision of these men who made the country's industries and built them up.
It was during those years that this country built up the great financial strength and the resources which have carried us safely through two wars and have won those wars for us. If the time has come when there must be changes in our economic system, let us not condemn the past entirely. Let us not try to make the people of this country believe that everything that was done in the last 25 years was wrong. Let us rather make them understand the truth; that during those years much was done to improve the lot of the workers and to lay the foundations of a new economic system largely by the party to which I belong. I shall vote against the Government tomorrow as a protest, not so much against the long-distance policies which they may have in view, but because I believe that the Socialist Party got into power by false pretences and by making people believe things that they are not carrying out. When I go out and about in the streets I am finding that that kind of feeling is growing perhaps more quickly than some Members opposite would like us to believe. The by elections do not show, I admit, any change—it may not be apparent for some time yet. But unless the Government get to work and prove that they are really doing what they said they were going to do when they won the Election—to build the houses quickly, to demobilise the troops, etc.—their popularity will quickly ebb. I shall vote for the Motion of Censure. If we are beaten we shall watch as an Opposition should, the Government 2413 closely; and we shall not scruple to put forward another Motion of Censure if we think it necessary and if the Government have done nothing in the next few months.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Major Younger (Grimsby)
In asking the indulgence of the House for a maiden speech, I am very conscious of the difficulty with which I am faced in contributing in an uncontroversial manner to a Debate on a Motion of Censure. Perhaps my best chance of succeeding will be if I invite the House for a few minutes to consider not so much the present administrative discontents as the general condemnation which is contained in the Motion of the whole broad sweep of the Government's policy and particularly their policy of nationalisation. It is alleged against the Government that they are engaged in bringing about a fundamental change in our economic relations; that they are doing it to gratify Socialist theory and not to meet any urgent needs, and that because they are doing that, they are necessarily neglecting the real job which has to be done. With the first of those allegations I do not feel inclined to quarrel. I think it may well be that this policy represents fundamental change. I think the blindest of us is bound to realise that fundamental technical change has been taking place, at a great and increasing speed, all over the world for many years past, and that process is still going on. When great technical changes of that kind have taken place in the past, they have always had to be accompanied and matched by major political and economic adjustments in any country which wished to survive and retain its greatness. I was, therefore, not in any way dismayed when I read the other day, in what may fairly be termed a Conservative newspaper, that what the Government are doing is to bring about the greatest change which has occurred in our history since the dissolution of the monasteries. That was, of course, intended as condemnation, but it seems to me that it is quite a fair analogy, and one of which we need not be in any way afraid.
What exactly is this change about which we talk? It has, I think, two main aspects today. The first, if I may be forgiven by the hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam)—who has perhaps fortu- 2414 nately left the House—for prating about planned economy—
§ Sir C. Headlam
I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that I should not have been so discourteous.
§ Major Younger
If he will forgive me for prating for a minute or two about planned economy, I think the first aspect of the Government's policy is that for the first time this country is avowedly turning over to central planning. That in itself, however, is not really the fundamental aspect of the change. After all, before the war individual industries had begun long-term planning, which had gradually spread to wide industrial groups, and I feel convinced that the Government which came into power after the war, whatever complexion it might have had and even had it been a Conservative Government, would nevertheless have been compelled, by the logic of events, to indulge in a very considerable measure of planning.
What I think gives to the planning of the Labour Government its fundamental significance is something rather different. I think it is that the object, or one of the main objects, of the plan is to break the grip which has been exercised upon production and upon industry generally for many years past by sectional groups. The interests of those groups no longer coincide, if indeed they ever did coincide, with the interests of the general public, and it is one of the objects of the Labour Government's programme to transfer the power which those groups once enjoyed to public authorities directed by the Government and responsible, therefore, to this House. To the extent that the Labour Government succeed in doing that, or at any rate to the extent to which they do it by the method of nationalisation, the driving power of our economy will cease to be the private profit motive and will become what one may call either the public interest or—and I think this is more accurate—the satisfaction of a good job well done, a motive which I think most of us found was a very compelling motive in time of war, at least.
We have been told by critics of the Government that in attacking the capitalist stronghold we are attacking a stronghold which has long since been abandoned. The hon. and gallant Member for Devizes (Squadron-Leader Hollis) who, I am sorry to see, is not at the 2415 moment in the House, said in a very brilliant maiden speech a week or two ago:There may have been a time …when the capitalists had too much power. Hon. Members opposite are eminent Victorians if they imagine that is the danger today. … Nobody could imagine that it was capitalists who had too much power today when the poor, cringing creatures could hardly blow their noses without getting relief from a Government Department."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c.858.]I would like to tell the hon. and gallant Member, and any others who may think like him, what I think I shall very rarely have occasion to tell him, and that is that I believe him to be a year or two ahead of the times. It is perfectly true that capitalists have had their wings clipped to a very considerable extent during the war for reasons which we all know, but it is very early days to be assuming that those wings cannot grow again, and indeed, it is my belief, that if a Conservative Government had been victorious at the last Election those wings would have been very nearly at their full span once more. That is why we on this side of the House support a very considerable measure of transfer of power to public authority, and that, I think, is also the reason why hon. Members opposite oppose that policy.
It is said that we are engaging in these long-terms schemes in order to gratify the theorists—"impelled by Socialist theory," I think are the words of the Motion. I hope hon. Members on this side are impelled by Socialist theory. I should certainly claim that for myself, but if the implication is that their only motive, and the only reason for this policy, is to gratify some preconceived theory, then, of course, we cannot accept it. I do not accept it for a moment, and I would invite hon. Members who believe that that is the case to look at the matter in the context of the world situation. I feel the more entitled to do so because I have the good fortune at the moment to be engaged not far from here in a Conference of the United Nations, where we are all making the basic assumption that the problems of the nations, and particularly their economic problems, are closely related, and that remedies may very often be found in consultation between the nations on similar lines in different parts of the world.
2416 If we look across the Channel to France we find that fairly drastic policies of nationalisation—more drastic in some respects than what is going on here, or what is so far proposed here—are already being put into operation. We look further East, and we see in Czechoslovakia a policy of industrial reform which is really astonishingly similar to the programme which was put forward by the Labour Party in this Election. I was astonished, on reading an interview given by President Benes to a British citizen some two months ago, to find an almost exact catalogue of the industries which this Government proposes to nationalise, and for very much the same reasons. The same is true of Belgium and of several other countries in Europe, and also of one or two very well-respected members of the British Commonwealth. Surely, nobody can really believe that this process is going on in so many countries simultaneously in order to please the writers of Socialist text-books, or, indeed, that it is going on owing to some series of flukes.
The truth, of course, is very different. Some of the nations to which I have referred are going through a serious crisis. Many of them are in the direst need, and the reason why they are adopting these policies is because there are there men who are determined to reconstruct their countries, and who see that as a purely practical measure it is vital for them, in the first place, to plan all their resources, in the most careful manner, and secondly in order to be able to do so it is necessary for them progressively to eliminate the selfish, sectional interests which would otherwise be obstacles to national planning. Those, I am sure, are the practical reasons which are valid abroad, and they are the reasons for which I personally, and I am sure many other hon. Members of this House, support the present policy of the Government here.
Of course, any policy of major change of this kind brings with it its own problems. The present Government's programme will be likely, and is indeed intended, to reduce the effectiveness of the motive of private profit over a very considerable field. This motive must be replaced by developing some fresh and more effective incentives. Again, the Government's programme will give increased power and much increased responsibility to labour in the direction of 2417 policy in industry and in the contribution which it must make to production. Accordingly, labour itself will have to make one or two difficult adjustments in its relations both with the management of industry and the community as a whole. This programme is likely to bring within the orbit of Government decision a range of matters which in the past have mostly been decided, in a somewhat arbitrary manner, by private individuals. As we watch that process going on and try to guide it, we must learn to distinguish very clearly between those individual liberties which must at all costs be preserved and the mere right to exploit, which is the freedom upon which we have declared war. Hon Members opposite do us less than justice if they think that hon. Members on this side have not fully recognised the seriousness of many of the difficulties which have to be overcome in the course of our programme. After all, who is more likely to be aware of those difficulties than people who have for no short time past been advocating the necessity of such a programme in the face of a critical and hostile world.
My real condemnation of the present Motion is that it makes no contribution whatever to the solution of the type of problem to which I have referred. To stand up in the year 1945 and condemn all forms of public ownership and play down all forms of planning is simply to have no policy. If the opposition were to awake from their Nineteenth Century sleep and were to turn instead to assisting the British people to adjust themselves to the new era in which all of us are compelled to live, whether we like it or not, then I think they would be performing a task rather more worthy of His Majesty's Opposition. They might also then be rather more able to convince us that these poor effete capitalists have not only lost their grip upon the Government Benches of this House, but are also beginning to feel some chilly draughts eddying around them in the corridors of the Carlton Club.
I am convinced from my experience in my constituency of Grimsby, both during the Election and since, that the electors knew very well that they were voting for widespread change and for a very considerable measure of nationalisation. I am equally convinced that the action for which the people are now looking is 2418 precisely the long term Socialist planning of which the outlines are now beginning to be seen in the programme of the present Government
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Colonel Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
I rise to address the House for the first time in circumstances which are, I believe, different from those of most hon. Members in that I spent overseas not only the greater part of the war years but also 10 years before the war. Before I enter those conflicts to which the Lord President of the Council has issued an invitation, I would like to be clear about what the Government intend to be the rules by which we should play in the future. I would like to put one or two general points to the Government. Like other hon. Members on this side, I would like to have some clarification of the rules by which we arc going to play, and I hope we shall play by rules more fruitful than some of those suggested by some of the Ministers in the Government. My most urgent criticism is of the failure of the Government to give any real inspiration to the country as a whole to face the tremendous problems we are up against today. My second criticism is of the attitude of mind which I find in Members of the Socialist Party and the Government towards the method which I am convinced we must use in order to solve these problems if we are to win the future.
Before particularising, I want to put one or two general points. With regard to individual enterprise, about which we hear so much, the impression I get, on returning to this country after some 15 years abroad, is that the Socialist Party maintain that anyone who has dared to rise above a certain mean has got there by deceitful or dishonest methods deliberately to the detriment of someone else. There appears to be no suggestion that hard work and skill have played any part, or that their efforts have brought any benefit to anybody else. This, I believe, is the same as what was generally called the "idealisation of mediocrity" which was given up by Russia in the 20's, when they took on instead the policy of intense virility which led them through the war. Nobody who has visited Russia, as I have had the pleasure of doing, would believe that there is any discouragement of individual enterprise in Russia today or that there has been for the last 20 years.
2419 If the Government's contention is true, do they really believe that our commerce throughout the world would have built up the reputation it has for fairness and integrity? I ask the Government to consider whether London would have become, and would remain, the financial centre of the world. Would this Commonwealth and Empire of ours have survived as long as it has if the foundations on which our past had been built were as wicked as the Government and the Socialist Party would have us believe? If this contention of the Government is true, I ask them to remember that in those years following the outbreak of hostilities there was remarkably little criticism of individual enterprise. Let us remember that the winning of the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic, and the holding of North East Africa in those dark years were due to the Regular and volunteer Reserve Forces of this country, built up by individuals despite the Socialist Party's opposition to military preparedness and national service in this country in the years immediately before the war. That was individual enterprise. It was the spirit which saved this country and civilisation in those years, and there was no criticism of it then. Why, today, should there be criticism of that spirit because those individuals again wish to do something to build up the material prosperity and greatness of this country of ours?
There is another general point I wish to put to the Government. From 1938 I, like many others, watched very carefully the progress of the late—I am glad to say—Herr Hitler in his preaching of class hatred and racial discrimination throughout Europe. I think those who have had an opportunity of studying what he has done in Europe in the past few years will believe with me that the greatest evil he has done has been the poisoning of men's minds
. Buildings and materials, and even bodies, can be rebuilt. I believe that to be essential in the next few years if we are to see Western civilisation survive. I think the greatest factor in its dissolution will be the deliberate preaching of that class hatred and race hatred adopted by Hitler in the last few years, and the disruption of nations and races, and even of families, and turning one against the other. To that end, I was surprised, on coming back to this country at the end 2420 of May, to find myself described by my Socialist opponent as a Tory Quisling. Luckily, the people of North Oxfordshire liked it about as little as I did, and so I am here today. But that attitude appears to me—although I hope I may be proved wrong by the Government—to exist in certain members of the Government opposite. It is an attitude that may win elections, but I am certain, like most of the people of the country, that it will not win the peace or win the future of this country in the titanic united effort that is now needed to regain our place in the world. I believe the majority of people in this country do not want the deliberate introduction of this factor of class hatred into our political affairs today. They wish this Government, and this country as a whole, to pull together and continue that co-operation which we showed under the Coalition Government.
I would put to individual Members of the Government one or two illustrations of what I mean. Most of the right hon. Gentlemen, I am afraid, are not here but perhaps some will read HANSARD and possibly answer my questions to-morrow. I ask the Leader of the House whether he really believes that it is in the long-term interest of this country that we should legislate in an atmosphere of "first-class rows". If the right hon. Gentleman wishes that, let him make it clear once and for all, and I am sure we shall be prepared to give him all he desires. Secondly, I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he believes that due encouragement is being given to new industries in Britain in the light of the spirit, rather than the words in which he announced the increase of Surtax in his Budget. I think the assent of the people of this country and of this House would have been given, if he had required extra money for necessary expenditure in the national interest. I am certain that, on this side of the House, it he had come to the House in that spirit and had asked, not for £7,000,000, but for £I7.000,000 or £77,000,000, there would have been no objection. But the spirit he showed in putting that across was that this and other taxation was to be used for penal, punitive social purposes.
Does the right hon. Gentleman think that that is in the long-term social interests of this country and of our national finances at this moment, not only on the moral ground, but also on the ground of 2421 the wisdom of such action today? This is the moment when great new industries are to be developed. If that attitude is maintained, men will be afraid of starting up in this country and will go off to other parts of the Empire. If that is said to be unpatriotic, I have no sympathy with that remark. Now, I put a question to the President of the Board of Trade. Is he studying, with his working parties, what the Americans call the working level? Is the right hon. Gentleman really studying what is needed in the way of selling our goods oversea and not merely interesting himself in setting up this Socialist superstructure, into which our trade is to be bent? Has he really made any study of the tremendous sentiment that exists in Western Europe for this country? There are enormous opportunities for mutual benefit in trade in those countries of Western Europe which looked to this country, above all others, for their salvation in the past six years. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman may feel somewhat shy in going to those countries, when that sentiment is so closely linked with one or two names on this side of the House. I do not believe there is any reason for being shy. I believe he will find a wish to work with Britain for the mutual benefit of Britain, and the countries concerned.
I wish now to put a point to the Minister of Health. I have the privilege of representing the Banbury division, in which agriculture is the greatest industry. We wish, therefore, to implement the policy announced by the Minister of Agriculture which, we feel, when properly assisted from all quarters, may be the charter of agriculture of this country for the future. But this policy depends on a labour force which, today, is lacking. We have prisoners of war, the Women's Land Army, Irish workers, and people over age, but they are going away. Others, we hope, are coming back. These people have been living mostly in hostels, as no cottages are falling vacant. How are the Government going to rehouse the labour force which is coming back to agriculture? If we do not rehouse them next summer, when the big groups are demobilised, how are we to stop them drifting to the big cities, to settle there permanently and leave the countryside once and for all? The Minister of Health unilaterally denounced the Housing (Rural Workers) Act so far as the Minister 2422 of Agriculture is concerned, and, so far as we are aware, has put nothing in its place. It is alleged that he would prefer that no houses should be built rather than that they should be built by private enterprise. I hope he will deny that, but there is no visible sign in our part of the countryside that he is giving any opportunity to private enterprise to get on with those small groups of houses in every village, which are essential for the benefit of the countryside and of the agriculture of Britain. The local authorities cannot supervise this sort of work efficiently The Minister has said that it is to be left to them, but it is quite impossible, I maintain, to leave this detailed work to them, as they are not yet, and never will be, I believe, sufficiently staffed.
One last point, which is addressed to the Minister of Health on the question of temporary houses. As the policy has failed in the last six weeks, I suggest that there are, throughout the countryside of Britain, many temporary huts maintained by the Services, which could be made available for two or three years on a strictly temporary basis in order to house these people who will be coming back next year and in 1947. I believe that an appeal could be made to Forces personnel living in them, or near by, to help to condition them on a strictly temporary basis. It would be to the detriment of nobody, because even these men may have the opportunity of taking up such a hut. This has been done, I am proud to say, by my own regiment with the co-operation of one local authority, and, so far as I know, to the satisfaction of all. All I can get out of the Minister, under this Socialist policy, is that the right hon. Gentleman asks me to put up a case, and says he will consider it.
Finally, I would say that, at this moment, the country, under this Socialist Government, needs, as once before it needed, leadership, encouragement, guidance and inspiration. We need every scrap of imagination, enterprise, and energy if we are to regain and maintain our former position. We are finding, in this Government, only doctrinaire rigidity practised at the price of those great qualities which made us great in the past and which alone can make us great again in the future.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
It falls to my lot to perform the very diffi- 2423 cult task of offering congratulations to two maiden speakers. It is very difficult, because one dare not make invidious comparisons. Maiden speakers are told by older Members of this House that, when they make their maiden speeches, they must not be provocative, they must not get into controversy. That is not true. A maiden speaker has greater liberty in his maiden speech than ever he will have at any subsequent time in his Parliamentary career. The one on whom restrictions are laid is the poor person who has to follow him, for however much he may dislike the speeches to which he has listened, the courtesies of the House compel him to say that he enjoyed them very much, and that he hopes both the speakers will have many opportunities of taking part in the future Debates of the House—which, of course, he does not want them to do because time is so crowded. I say the usual things.
It is a great pleasure to me to see the hon. and gallant Member for Grimsby (Major Younger) who is the grandson of a very famous Scotsman—
§ Mr. Maxton
—sitting in this House, though his grandfather sat, in his time, in the place where the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) now sits. It represents a comparison of personalities and the progress that has been made in political thinking in this country in the last 30 years.
May I say to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Banbury (Colonel Dodds-Parker)—who said that he had been 15 years overseas, of which five years were spent in the Forces, and that since then he had been round about Banbury—that, so far as the general public opinion of Great Britain is concerned, he might as well be overseas as down at Banbury. I hope that when the new Tory revival gets going, his party will give him opportunities of travelling abroad—in this country—and that he will do me the honour of visiting my constituency and one or two other places to which I could direct him. He was asking about Oxfordshire housing. I do not know his constituency at all. His predecessor, if I may say so, was a great friend of mine in this 2424 House. He has now gone to the other place and become Lord Sandford. Lord Sandford distinguished himself, over a long period of time, by being very energetic about organising the Whips Department and keeping his mouth strictly shut in this House. I know a delightful little village in Oxford called Stanton St. John, and in that village, inside the last twelve months, there have been erected some 20 of the nicest little cottages that I have ever seen by the operations of Oxfordshire County Council. Compared with the private enterprise houses which compose the rest of the village, they are palaces. Now if that division of Oxfordshire has advanced, and the Banbury division has been entirely neglected, that is a matter which the hon. and gallant Gentleman should take up with his county council at the earliest opportunity.
Now I have congratulated the two hon. Members and seen them happily on their way, may I say to each of them: I have been here a long time now, and I can talk like one of the elder statesmen, although I am not I can say this, that there is no place in Britain where a man can lead a more happy and useful existence than in this House if he sets the right way about it, and I hope that, for longer or for lesser periods, they will have a happy, useful existence here.
Next, as to this Motion of Censure, my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) tells me—and he has been for years an expert in this—that this is not a Motion of Censure at all, it is just an irritation; that the Tory Party felt somehow or other that they had to make a show of doing something, and they said, "Well, we will put down a Motion of Censure," and they put down something which looked a bit critical but which, in the ordinary, Parliamentary sense, falls a good bit short of being a Motion of Censure. My colleagues and I have examined it with the greatest care. I think the right hon. Gentlemen and the hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway who have been in previous Parliaments will give us the credit of voting on most occasions on the merits of the question in front of the House, and we are not afraid, though sometimes ashamed, to go into the Lobbies with the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the few occasions when we feel that the merits of the question are on their side—
§ Mr. Maxton
The result of the General Election was a very inflated Labour Party and a very deflated Conservative Party. Every other group and party in the House suffered a big change, up or down, but we remained precisely the same, so that we can claim in these shifting, transitional times, to be the one element of stability in the House which is able to approach any Parliamentary problem of this description with some degree of objectivity and, if not complete detachment at least semi-detachment. I say semi-detachment because the principles in which we believe are the principles that the party opposite have always professed, and, therefore, there is a slight weighting of the scales on that side which would never entitle us to do anything wrong.
On this occasion we feel we can support the Government without any qualms of conscience or with any great intellectual labour in advance. I must say to the party above the gangway that they will have to do better than this. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), whose bright mentality makes an appeal—one likes his bright, breezy way of dashing into it—but there was never the punch of a Motion of Censure in one word that he said. In some parts of his speech he reminded me of the old story about the two prize-fighters who had got into a clinch in the ring. They hung round one another's necks so long that the impatient spectators shouted: "Oh, well, kiss him and make friends." I feel that it would have been the easiest thing in the world for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot, in what he was saying and feeling, to make up any little quarrels he had with the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He buffooned the process of the Civil Service and the various Departments.
§ Earl Winterton
May I ask the hon. Gentleman: Is he seriously suggesting that anyone wants to kiss the President of the Board of Trade?
§ Mr. Maxton
The right hon. Gentleman must have appreciated that I was speaking metaphorically. Would he want to kiss the President of the Board of Trade, any more than the President of the Board of Trade would want to be kissed by him? The right hon. Gentleman when 2426 speaking of the various Ministries to which the poor private enterprises have to go, used one of his finest phrases—the most awful mixture I ever came across, a labyrinthian rigmarole of gibberish. I am going home to look up the Oxford Dictionary to find out what they mean. He buffooned the civil servants, but there has not been any new Ministry set up by the present Government. All these Ministries that the poor private enterprisers have to go around have been in existence at least since the Coalition time, and most of them have been operating in the time not only of the Coalition but of the Conservative Government before it. If the civil servants are dilettantes—and I do not believe for one moment that they are—but if they are, then their methods of working and their way of looking at things have grown up and developed during the years when the hon. and right hon. Gentleman have been in charge of the Government Departments. I say that it is a bad father who makes a fool of his own children.
The right hon. Gentleman made two points with which I find myself in a considerable amount of agreement. He pointed out, what I have not, I must admit, noticed, that if you compensate the owners of big enterprise and the nation is taking them over you thereby create inflation. I need to think that over before I can agree—but it is a point. I must ask my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give the most serious consideration to it. We must devise some means of getting the industries over without causing inflation. On the other point, I am somewhat in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot. The Prime Minister in his public speeches, and, I think, intentionally or not, the Government, are giving the impression that they are more concerned about export trade than about home trade. The right hon. Gentleman gave a pretty satisfactory answer to that today, but he did lay emphasis on the necessity of recapturing markets abroad or obtaining new markets abroad. It may be very necessary to establish some credits at the present time in a disorganised world, and trade contacts in some cases, but when the Government begin to think in terms of satisfying the demands of foreigners, however friendly and decent those foreigners may 2427 be, rather than satisfying the needs of the whole 45,000,000 of population at home, I am perfectly convinced that they are thinking; along wrong lines.
Several Members have talked about regaining our old place in the world. I hope that we shall not struggle too hard to do that. Great Britain's place in the world was that of the great moneylender of the world. Is the moneylender very often the most admired and most beloved figure? It would not do the people or the Government of Great Britain any serious harm if, after being for 300 years the moneylenders they were on the borrowers end for a short time. I noticed in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, when rallying his forces outside this House, that he said that he was afraid—no, he was not afraid—that this country was inevitably moving in the next few years towards quarrels on fundamental issues. He said, "I do not fear it." He need not have said that, because never at any time during his long and variegated political career have we ever accused the Leader of the political Opposition of lack of courage. That has never been questioned by his political opponents. I think that it would be a fine thing if we moved towards quarrels on fundamental issues, but before we start on the road to aligning ourselves in these fundamental quarrels let us make up our minds what the fundamentals are.
For good or for ill, the party above the Gangway has established itself in the minds of the people as the party of the select few. The Socialists, for better or for worse, have established themselves as the representatives of the people. It is impossible to get a decent fight going on that basis. They must find something else. For the proper working of democracy, a good Government needs a good Opposition. It needs good controversy, not cheap nonsense, such as "What did you do last week?" and "Why not let more men out of the Army?" Had the Tories been returned to office, they would be talking to us about the Bevin Plan, and nothing but the Bevin Plan, except that they would not have used Bevins name. They would not have moved an inch because that is the nature of the Conservatives. Once the thing is laid down, there it remains; no playing about with it. We shall have to get a real, big, fundamental issue, an issue that needs brain 2428 to put—not just mere sloganism—and brain to answer, and which provides the raw material for hard, serious controversy throughout the country, which the highly intelligent democracy of Great Britain can get its teeth into. Unless you can do that, leave it alone.
Remember, the Labour Party have arrived where they are after 53 years of struggle; and, may I say, without being unduly boastful, it was we, the Independent Labour Party, who first thought of it. Since the first Member of that Party arrived on these Benches, half a century has passed, and during that period the Tories Have fooled and laughed and jeered. The Liberals adopted and misrepresented the Tory arguments. I give them credit for being consistent in their arguments. But the Labour Party, over the years, grew and grew, until there it is. The Tories could not beat it by their traditional methods when it was weak, and they will have to produce something better to beat it now when it is so alive. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] A jeer of that sort does not take you one inch forward; in fact, it seems to me almost indecent. The Government have been only four months in office and are making as good a shape of things, man for man, as any Government ever did. Nobody who has got a decent sense of his country wants to see a Government only four months in office fail, nor does he want, at the outset of its office, to prophesy sure and certain failure. I want the Labour Government to succeed in doing things for the people of this country that have never been done before. If they fail, the curses of hundreds of thousands of men who have laboured and sacrificed to put them there will rest upon their heads, and rightly so. But, should that day come, the power will not shift from that side of the House to this, but to an even more fundamental party. I think that even the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is with me there.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Mayhew (Norfolk, Southern)
I ask for the indulgence of the House in addressing it for the first time, and perhaps I shall receive special sympathy for having to follow such a splendid speech from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). For a Norfolk Member there is one encouraging feature of this Censure Motion. In the long list 2429 of shocking crimes which the Motion attributes to the Government, there is, at least, no mention of their agricultural policy. That, I suppose, is just a mistake, but, nevertheless, it is striking that the Opposition could find no fault with our policy of the land. However, that is not what I wish to speak about now.
I want to talk of the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), that the nationalisation proposals of the Government were interfering with more immediate problems. The Opposition are obviously trying to persuade the serving men waiting to be demobilised and the civilian who is looking for a house that their troubles are the result of the Government's nationalisation programme. That is a popular line of attack, and it is worth while considering just how much truth there is in it. Surely, the truth is that any responsible Government at the present time would be bound to spend much time and great energy in reorganising the basic industries of this country. Furthermore, even if it was possible to postpone the reorganisation of basic industries, it would make no difference whatever to the rate of demobilisation or to housing. The Opposition will surely agree that we cannot leave these basic industries as they are now. Even the "Caretaker" Government were forced to commit themselves to what they called "a drastic and immediate overhaul of the coal industry." Similar reorganisation under private enterprise was planned for civil aviation. We now have the transport industry in this country under its purely temporary wartime arrangements, and that splendid body of doctrinaires, the Hayworth Committee, has just reported that the gas industry must be immediately nationalised.
In view of these facts, surely we all agree that, even if we do not nationalise these industries, we must, at least, reorganise them. What the Opposition seem to be saying is that if you reorganise them under public ownership, that will hold up demobilisation and housing, but, if you do it under private ownership, it will not. What is the evidence for this point of view? What is behind the minds of hon. Members opposite? Do they, for instance, believe that if the Ministers of Fuel and Power, of Civil Aviation and of Transport, and all their civil servants downed tools suddenly and stopped 2430 nationalising the industries and went to help the Ministry of Health with housing, that it would help? Is it their view that what housing needs is more Ministers and more Government officials? It may be true, but that is a strange line of argument to hear from hon. Members opposite.
The Government have wisely decided to tackle both their short-term and long-term problems together. Of course, if hon. Members opposite were in office, they might find themselves incapable of tackling more than one job at a time. Nothing is more likely than that, but we say that it is the only sane and sensible policy to pursue, and that now is the time, when war has unsettled the old structure of these industries, to rebuild them in a new form of Socialist organisation. The wise and sensible policy is the bold one, to fulfil our obligations to the people and nationalise these industries as quickly as we can. We say we must merge this transition from private enterprise to Socialism with the transition from war to peace. Hon. Members opposite will maintain that we should—in fact, they are urging us to do so—break our Election pledges. Other Governments before us have broken their Election pledges. But hon. Members opposite should not expect continuity of policy from us in this respect. That is one of the precedents which this Government intend to break. We hold that not only is the nationalisation programme of the Government not holding up these other immediate problems, but we maintain that without a large measure of nationalisation reconstruction cannot go ahead on solid grounds.
I would like to take one instance of this, and that is the effect of our nationalisation programme on the prospects of full employment in the next five years. In this period these industries, whether under public ownership or private enterprise, are certain to invest to the tune of at least several hundred millions of pounds. If left to private enterprise and the workings of the profit system, that investment would be undertaken, or would not be undertaken, without any reference to the needs of full employment in this country. If past experience is any guide, the investment would be undertaken in the wrong form, in the wrong amount and at the wrong time, contributing to our problem of unemployment. 2431 Hon. Members might argue that by setting up a National Investment Board we should, perhaps, control this investment expenditure without the nationalisation of industry. That is possible were it a matter of cutting down investment during a boom period; it is one thing to stop a man investing when there is profit in it, but far more difficult to encourage him to invest if there is no profit to be seen. The sate way to deal with the problem is to nationalise the industries and to time their investment programmes. In that way we shall be making a real contribution to a full employment policy. Reconstruction, after all, means not only getting men out of the Forces, but seeing that they get good jobs and fair wages when they come out. We, in this way, would be learning the lessons of the last post war period when the Conservative Party was in power and trusted to private enterprise and let the serving men down.
I am, therefore, extremely happy to see the present Government standing by their Election programme and showing real courage and energy in putting through Socialist Measures. I would go further: I would like to see them make a clear statement of their intention to nationalise the iron and steel industry. However, I am not complaining at the moment; they have made a good start. The penalty for all this is that hon. Members opposite call us doctrinaires, because, having preached Socialism for many years, we now intend to put it into practice. But if we fail now, if, after preaching Socialism year after year, we forget our Socialist faith now we have the opportunity to do something about it, how they would despise us on the benches opposite, and how right they would be.
These ideas are embodied in this programme—ideas which we on this side of the House have been putting forward for many years past, on village greens, at street corners and at factory gates. We have put these ideas forward fairly and democratically as citizens of a great democracy. We have used all our rights, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of writing—we have used all these splendid things for the purpose they were meant for—the peaceful persuasion of free citizens to new ways of thinking. We have won, and now our chance has come, and we deserve that 2432 chance. Now that our opportunity has come, we shall be true to our ideas, we shall be true to the movement that has put us here, and to those old Socialist pioneers who set the ball rolling. I maintain we on these Benches have more than the courage of our convictions; we also have the knowledge and the capacity to put across our plans. I say to the Government that, if they stick to their guns and continue showing energy and drive in putting forward the Socialist programme, they will always have support and respect in this House and in the country.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
I am sure the House would wish me to express our pleasure at the maiden speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Southern Norfolk (Mr. Mayhew)—an earnest speech, an informed and moderate speech and one which makes us all feel that we hope he will contribute further, and often, to our Debates.
Before I devote a very few minutes to the particular matter of demobilisation, I would make one or two passing comments upon the important speeches we have heard today from the Front Bench opposite. The President of the Board of Trade seemed to be seeking to demonstrate the extraordinary pleasure it gave him to prevent anybody from making a profit. He used the word "profit" and the word "profiteering" in almost every paragraph of a long speech, and he must have realised the inconsistency of this attitude, because he is, at the same time, going up and down the country creating working parties and claiming that he is trying to get industry back on to its feet presumably in order that it may give good employment, make the goods we need and make a profit. There is either a great deal of humbug about this—which I suspect—or else there is an intention on the part of many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and particularly the President of the Board of Trade himself, to do what the eloquent maiden speaker said—take advantage of this occasion to put into force the whole of the Socialist doctrine as we have heard it since Keir Hardie's day. I do not myself believe that that party will survive in this country as a Socialist Party at all. My own belief is that from now onwards, after this first readjustment by 2433 nationalising these great services, it will move away from Socialism and become a middle class party, but if it does that, it will be without the leave of the President of the Board of Trade, who will move further to the Left.
I want to ask this question—so many Members want to speak that there is no time to argue it out—What is the objection that hon. and right hon. Members opposite have to the making of a profit? Can they conceive, within the lifetime of this Parliament or within the lifetime of themselves or any of us, of Government organs taking over the whole of the means of distribution, production and exchange? As has been said, they may say that on the village greens but can they really imagine that it is possible? I doubt it. I do not believe for a moment that it is possible or practicable.
§ Sir I. Fraser
I am not sure the hon. Member does believe it, but I have not time to argue the case. In my view this country is in a sick and sorry position. The renaissance of hope and fervour which went into the return of a new party with new ideas, all that uprising of the people represented by the majority on the other side, will be lost if they do not realise the practical difficulties that lie ahead of getting back to the making of profits in business. I mean exactly what I say. I want to see the largest possible number of businesses great and small making profits, because only if they have a balance on the right side can they give good employment, and only then can they give increased wages and better standards of living. May I observe that this dreadful word "profit" is translated into the word "surplus" when dealing with a local authority like the London County Council. Then it loses its evil flavour, but even the London County Council, even the Labour Party itself, will fall back if it does not have a surplus.
The reference made by the President of the Board of Trade to land was a shocking piece of political chicanery. He said that in this House, as no doubt he has said it on many platforms from which he is now invited to speak but from which he was forbidden to speak not so long ago, although he knows perfectly well 2434 that all the land is available which could possibly be used for the biggest housing programme than any Government could put down in the next few years. That is a fact which cannot be gainsaid.
§ Sir I. Fraser
I have one comment to make on the export trade. The President of the Board of Trade suggested that this party wanted to stop the export trade. I have very little time for this argument, but let me say this. The whole point is that we believe in freeing enterprise more quickly, in bringing back the men more quickly—all these things are matters of degree—in freeing the right to make a profit more quickly, and encouraging the making of a profit. I believe that is the mainspring of our immediate recovery: free labour and free capital as quickly as you can, and thus you will get back to the normal conditions in which, if it seems right in all the circumstances, you can nationalise some of our great industries; but by hurrying on that process you cause uncertainty, you bring about the very reverse and thereby slow down all our processes of recovery. In order to get enough to export you have to starve the home market to an undue extent. Let people make as much as they can instead of limiting them. We shall then have a big home sale upon which to base a big export sale. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite have a majority. During the Election they told us that we had had a majority for 18years and that there was still very much in this country which was shocking and shameful to many of us, to many on this side too. The implication was that all that you needed to do anything you required to do was a majority. I am quite sure that hon. Members opposite—if not right hon. Members—who are new to this House, will learn as time goes on that you can pass Acts of Parliament with majorities, that you can get Motions through this House with majorities, but that you cannot change human nature or economic law by majorities. It is just as futile as passing resolutions against the atomic bomb.
Of all the things which the Government are neglecting I will mention just a few. Where is their policy for full employment? We have heard no word of it in this House except in the contribution of the hon. and gallant Member who spoke just 2435 before me. I heard no other word about it. It was one of the baits they held out to the electors, but we have not had it. Are the Government going to implement the White Paper published by the previous Government? They have not told us so. They have been too busy planning nationalisation in political studies.
I said I would mention only some of the things they have neglected. Owing to the slowness of demobilisation, on which I shall say a particular word, in a moment, our rural transport is in a shocking condition. There is petrol about, and there are vehicles about which could be released from the Army and transformed. There are mechanics and drivers about in the Services. Yet in country districts like my constituency, and many others throughout the length and breadth of the land, there is no improvement over the meagre transport of the war years. One had to put up with it then, but why should the people have to put up with it now? They deserve better than that. If the Government had administrative initiative instead of so much political initiative they would have solved this problem, and got some transport in our country districts. Another matter affecting the countryside is, Why are the Government not importing more feeding stuffs for our cattle? Why is there no mention in their agricultural policy of an increase in our herds, our sheep, our poultry? If only they would bring in some maize, we could quickly produce millions of shell eggs, of which we have been so short for so long.
Can it be true that shipping is so short that they cannot bring in these things now? I do not believe it. If it is true, they should give us the figures to convince us that it is. We said to the farmers during the war, "Adjust your methods and change your plans. You, the fanners and farmworkers, are the people who can help to save our country by making up for the shipping shortage." There is no reason for the great stringency to be continued. The shipping should be there now, if properly organised, and we could bring more feeding stuffs and more maize in. Will the Government tell us why that has, so far, proved impossible?
I come to the question of demobilisation. The essence of the Bevin scheme was that men should come out of the Ser- 2436 vices on a particular date which was related to their age and their service, and it was planned that they should come out on that particular date, no matter what particular theatre of war they were in. The equity and justice commended itself to large numbers of serving men and women. The House should remember that the plan was devised as an interim measure for the reallocation of manpower during any period—I am quoting more or less from the text of the White Paper—between the end of the war in the West and the end of the war against Japan. It commended itself because it had in it the essence of fairness, that men of the same age and service would come out at the same time. Broadly speaking, we must maintain that equity, that sense of fairness in which hundreds of thousands of men have come to believe, but it must not be carried to the extent to which the Government are carrying it. Also, as a matter of fact, the Government, without having the courage to say so, and as it were over the body of the Secretary of State for War—though the right hon. Gentleman is not yet dead, I am glad to say, because he is a good friend of mine—and in spite of what he said, have themselves broken the theoretical equity which the Bevin plan provided.
When originally it was put into operation, the idea was that the men came out of the actual demobilisation station—the actual release building—on the same day, and the Foreign Secretary took enormous trouble to bring the men back from the Far East, in such good time that they should come out on the same day as the men from round the corner. The Government have just realised that this is impossible and they have now said that the men will come out in the same approximate period, and this has had the effect of putting the man in the Far East a couple of months behind the time at which he was due to come back.
It is my belief the Government should have the courage to go to our soldiers, whether they be in Germany or the Far East, and explain the position to them. As I see it, this is the position. Our country is held up in its recovery because of lack of manpower, and particularly because of the lack of large numbers of skilled men. No one has a greater interest in the quick recovery of this land than the men who fought to save it, and 2437 if the matter is explained to them, they will, I am sure, appreciate the good sense of the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in his last big speech here on demobilisation, a speech which I want to reinforce and emphasise. In order to get the utmost possible number of men back in the shortest possible time, we have to differentiate between those who are geographically near, and those who are geographically further away. The matter cannot be avoided by the simple statement that you are not going to do it, because all you do then is to hold up 1,500,000 men in Europe and the Middle East, on account of, perhaps, less than 500,000, or less than 250,000, who are in the Far East. Nobody in the Fair East, if this matter was explained to him, would say: "I want the recovery of my country held up, I want 20 men held up from release until I myself can be released." No one would be so selfish, and no one would be so foolish.
I have heard some people say, "You cannot compensate a man for keeping him away in the Far East; there is no compensation." When he has done his time and feels it is due to him to come back, it is hard to find a compensation he will regard as adequate, but, if the facts are that he is obliged to stay there—and I think that will be the case if there is trouble in the Dutch East Indies which involves the transportation of large additional troops there absorbing Air Force, and trouble in Palestine—which it is not impossible to imagine—and transportation difficulties there, and all the other hazards—I regard it as inevitable that the men in the Far East will be held up beyond their time unless we are going to hold up 10 or 20 times as many in Europe, for no reason whatever. This is where we come to the view of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, a man who can see this thing big by comparison with the view taken of it by the present Minister of Labour. Comparisons are odious, but I must say I prefer the view of my right hon. Friend who has had wide experience in such matters, and who can see the big issues.
What is the big issue here? It is that, whether in farm, factory, little shop or home, the country needs the men back. The men are now being paid to do absolutely nothing at all, except lose their 2438 morale and see civilians go in and take their jobs. The whole recovery of the country is held up because of the pedantic adherence by the Government out of fear to the detailed arrangements of the Bevin plan. I claim that the Bevin plan ought, broadly speaking, to be worked, but that we should as swiftly as possible release those whom we can get home, and explain the difficulties to those whom we cannot get home and give them compensation. Although there is no real compensation for not coming home, the man who cannot get home will be glad to take what we can offer him. What we can offer him is increased pay for every day he stays away beyond his time, and a preference for a job when he does come back if he is not already assured one under the Reinstatement Act.
In the last Parliament we argued with the then Ministers about preference, and they resisted the plea which many of us made that ex-Servicemen as a whole should have some preference for employment in the event of unemployment occurring. They did not see fit to agree with us, and I am not raising that general question now, but I am saying that if we want to compensate the man in the Far East, the thing to say to him is this: "Here is more money for you for every day you are away, and here is a guarantee that when you do come back you will be put at the head of the queue at the labour exchange for any suitable job for which you wish to apply. You will be given preference. As regards houses, you will be put at the top of the list, whatever the hardships of others, because you must not lose the pride of place you would have had, had you come back on your due date." Such a matter of preference for jobs and houses would go a long way towards making good to those of our soldier citizens who are being held up by misfortune, the war, the continuance of the occupation, transport, or whatever it may be, and the Government would then feel themselves free to release for the vital work that lies ahead those who are near home and who can be brought home.
I have one last word to say to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council. A frog went into a field and met a bull. The frog had the idea that, by giving himself frequent doses of self-esteem and inflation, he could teach the bull his business, and in the end h burst.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Nally (Bilston)
In a book written by a distinguished servant of this House giving invaluable advice to an apprentice Member of Parliament, I find it is suggested that on the occasion of a maiden speech a Member should show diffidence. Diffidence is not the word for it. I am positively awestruck; I am awestruck largely by the supreme courage of the Opposition who, on the basis of the content of the speeches they have so far made, are apparently going to insist upon a Division on this Motion of Censure.
The main charge against us, so far as I can discover, is that we have departed from a precedent long set by previous Governments. We are, at least, making an attempt to carry out our Election pledges. This is distressing to the Opposition, not only because we are carrying out our Election pledges, but because during the course of the Election campaign they were at great pains to assure the electors that, whatever we promised, we had not the guts to carry out our promises. They find themselves in this dilemma: Having argued that we were too weak to govern, they are trying now to substantiate the charge that we are rough-riding over a nation that fundamentally is opposed to us. To reconcile those two points of view, or to attempt to reconcile them, in public, strikes me as being the reason why we should pay tribute to the impressive lack of sensitiveness shown by hon. Members opposite.
It is true that as a Government we face great difficulties. Our Socialist argument, and our basic indictment against the system for which the Opposition stand, always was that it created shortage, that it created starvation in the midst of plenty and that it refused to build houses while we had builders out of work. It happens to be true that, at the time when Labour has got power, the shortages are there, very real shortages which did not exist before the war. All the difficulties we recognise, and we are compelled, before we can make anything like a reasonable start upon tackling them, to prepare the basis upon which to build the better Britain. The basis is, to a large extent, schemes of nationalisation for the basic industries.
I have been in the Socialist movement ever since I was a child. My father was in it before me. I have never heard a Socialist argue that nationalisation was 2440 some magic way of solving all those problems. My father spent most of his life in the coalmines. He was intelligent. All miners are intelligent and that is why all miners vote Labour. He advocated nationalisation, but no Socialist ever advocated nationalisation as a solution in itself. They said that it was a start upon which to create a better spirit in our industries, a basis for the better exploitation of technical resources. That is the basis of our claim. As against that, what do the Opposition produce to justify their case against nationalisation? One thing that has been overlooked about this party in the many analyses that have appeared in the intellectual Press is its composition. It is suggested that the party has changed from the old-fashioned trade unionist type to a preponderance of Members representing the middle class and the professional classes. Let not the fact be overlooked that many of us who now call ourselves professional people came, as I see on looking round this House, in practically every case, from working-class homes. We combine, therefore, two strengths. First, the working-class background and, secondly, at least some of the advantages to which other Members have had an automatic right, but which our parents have had to give us by their own sacrifice. Therefore, the Labour Party which the Opposition face today is one, as the Opposition have discovered with horror, that has the courage to do the job it was sent here to do.
Many people not here tonight will be going down on their knees and praying for the success of this Motion. They will hope that visitors will be so many in the Lobbies that, by some mischance, many Labour Members will be missing and that the Motion will be carried. Suppose we had a black marketeer in a big way of business, and he had a vote in this House. On which side would he vote? Suppose we had any land racketeer, any racketeer of any kind waiting to reap a rich, fat harvest out of the famine that exists in so many spheres of production. Who would he vote for? Would he walk into the Lobbies with us, or would he march in led by the right hon. Member for Alder-shot (Mr. Lyttelton), who so gallantly carried in one hand the banner of freedom and doubtless had in the other the Directory of Directors, as a basis for the membership of the new "People's 2441 Party" the Conservatives propose to form in due course? Quite clearly, all those elements are with the Opposition, irrespective of the motives of the Opposition, which I regard as completely honest if rather stupid.
May I, in conclusion, say something that I am not certain I ought to say, although I do not think I can be accused of being controversial, because my view is shared by so many hon. Members? I ask both sides of the House to believe that I am speaking from the bottom of my heart. It was a privilege to many of us on both sides of this House to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), the Leader of the Opposition, in what he once described "the good days and the bad." We saw him in his great days, both here in London and overseas talking to the troops. Many of us had that experience; he was, and I do not think anyone in this House would deny it, a great man. As far as my reading of political history goes, there have been many great tragedies in the history of this House, many moments of pathos and many great careers that have gone out like a guttering candle. There has been no greater tragedy in the long history of this House than that which is now being enacted on the Front Opposition Bench. There we see a great man being deliberately humiliated and his past record used in order to prop up the falling fortunes of the Conservative Party. We in this party have been accused very often of not having the sportsmanlike instincts of the other side, but I do assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am absolutely sincere in this. It is a horrible sight to see a stag dying with the hounds at its throat. But when the hogs are grunting at its hindquarters at the same time it is even worse. I ask the House to forgive me if I have appeared provocative. I can only offer as an excuse the fact that many of my predecessors who have made maiden speeches have set me an equally provocative example.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Gridley (Stockport)
It has never before fallen to my lot to follow a maiden speaker, and I do not find my task of congratulating him any easier in view of the remarks which the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Nally) has just made. Until the last sentence or two of his 2442 speech, I could have congratulated him wholeheartedly on his first effort, but with regard to his concluding remarks, honest and sincere as I am sure he meant to be, I think I might say that he can leave us on this side of the House to decide what is really the true relationship between our leader and our party
. The principal speech from the Government side today was, I think, that of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. As I listened to it I felt that I was listening to an advocate, to a defending barrister in court, who was with difficulty defending a client or a batch of clients whom he knew to be guilty, but for whom he had to make the very best case he could. If one could give full credence to the steps taken to resuscitate industry which were explained to us by the President of the Board of Trade, one would imagine that in industry there are no difficulties at all and that everything is surely, if slowly, being put right. I have the experience, however, of meeting very frequently leading business men from the important industrial centres of the country. I have, indeed, met some 40 or 50 of them today. I find that in Coventry, in Manchester, in Sheffield and elsewhere, what was a few weeks ago a spirit of determined optimism and a desire to proceed with new developments as swiftly as possible has, for some reason or other, now changed into a spirit of frustration and despondency. One would not have gathered that from the speech of the President of the Board of Trade this afternoon.
Why have we moved this Motion of Censure? I think it is largely due to the way in which the Lord President of the Council announced to the House on 19th November an extended programme of industries to be nationalised, when, in reply to comments from right hon. and hon. Members on these benches, he retorted that if the Opposition did not know their business, they must be lectured, and then proceeded to lecture them. Perhaps at the end of this two days Debate, the Lord President of the Council may consider the Opposition to be not so incapable as he seemed to think. But it cannot be contested, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman said on 19th November, that the statement which he then made went far beyond the declaration of the Government's policy as out- 2443 lined in the Gracious Speech on 15th August. The right hon. Gentleman twitted us for not having taken up the question of the nationalisation of industries in general in the Debates on the Address. Let me remind the House of two paragraphs in the Gracious Speech which I am sure the Lord President of the Council must have had in mind:In order to promote employment and national development, machinery will be set up to provide for the effective planning of investment and a measure will be laid before you to bring the Bank of England under public ownership. A Bill will also be laid before you to nationalise the coal mining industry as part of a concerted plan for the co-ordination of the fuel and power industries.That was a definite programme. The next paragraph reads:Legislation will be submitted to you to ensure that during the period of transition from war to peace there are available such powers as are necessary to secure the right use of our commercial and industrial resources and the distribution at fair prices of essential supplies and services."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th August,1945; Vol. 413, c. 56.]That was quite indefinite, but I think it will puzzle anybody to read into that paragraph that it was the intention of the Government to nationalise civil aviation, Cables and Wireless, municipal and company-owned trams, trolley buses and petrol buses, docks and harbours, and possibly iron and steel. [HON. MEMBERS: "And electricity."] I challenge the Lord President of the Council, who will reply to the Debate tomorrow, to show how the intention to nationalise all these additional industries which I have mentioned could be read into the Gracious Speech. In contrast to that speech, and I believe the intention of the Lord President was quite honest, was the fact that—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."] I am sorry if I cannot be heard, but it is the first time I have ever been accused in that way, and I think that, if hon. Members will only be quiet, my voice will carry. I have got a rather nasty cold, and am not in the same voice as I usually am.
I was saying, when interrupted, that I think the Lord President was perfectly honest when he said on 19th November that he thought it right to make this statement of the Government's intentions to nationalise certain additional industries because industry would know where it was. But the very fact that that 2444 announcement was made has caused the greatest disquiet, because what industry does not know, and what it wants to know, is whether this is but the first instalment—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear."] I am not asking the rank and file; I am asking the field marshal, when he replies, if he will say whether this is but the first instalment or whether this is a programme that is going to suffice for the lifetime of this Parliament. We have every right to know now, and I ask that we should be given that information.
No one, and certainly not I, would reject State ownership and control of certain industries on the grounds that it is inherently wrong, but what we have every right to demand of this Government, before they take any industry out of the hands of its present owners, is that there should be submitted clear and unmistakable proof that the customers service, the position of the workers in it, and the efficiency of the business, are going to be improved by transferring it to State ownership and control, and that its ability, where it is an export business, to compete in the markets of the world will remain unimpaired. What proof has ever been submitted that those benefits will ensue?
§ Captain Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)
How is it possible to give unmistakable proof that any experiment that has never been tried is likely to be successful?
§ Sir A. Gridley
I am not sure that this is an experiment that has never been tried. The argument presented to me in the General Election was that it had been a success wherever it has been tried. [HON. MEMBERS: "In this country."] Forgive me, I am answering the hon. Gentleman. Wherever it has been tried, the evidence on whether it was successful has been all the other way. Following up this point, I rather wondered what my Labour opponents in the General Election would have to say on this subject, and all they could say was that the failure of so-called private enterprise to satisfy the requirements of the majority of our citizens called for the application of Socialist principles which have proved so advantageous when applied, but the hon. Member on the other side of the House says they have not been tried. [HON. MEMBERS: "In this country."] That 2445 was a pretty bare statement. On the other hand, what did my Labour opponent say at the time of the Election?
What claims did the Labour Party put forward at the Election? In the manifesto which was put before the electorate of the constituency which I have the honour to represent, was a summary of what they described as "immediate service for the people." What did that include? A vast building programme of houses to be let at reasonable rents and for purchase at low prices. Where is purchase now in the proposals of the Government? To assist the return of directed labour to jobs of their own choice. An improvement in old-age pensioners grants and status —[An HON. MEMBER: "That is coming"]—but not the full demands that so many promised to support. The demobilisation of the men and women in the Forces without favouritism. To assist the rehabilitation of men and women in the Forces in industry. The provision of a separate home for each family. A health service for all, with one standard of medical service for rich and poor. Social security, broadly, on the Beveridge proposals, security from want and jobs for all. Lastly, collective security and an enlightened foreign policy for safeguarding the peace of the world. They are points to which we can all subscribe, but there is not one word in this immediate programme about nationalisation as a matter of urgency. [An HON. MEMBER: "Read the lot."] Why do I, a moderate-minded man, support this Motion of Censure today? I do so for this reason: I said during the last Election, and I say it again today, that whether nationalisation be right or whether it be wrong, the state of affairs of this country following a great war is so serious that we ought not to allow ourselves— no matter what our political views may be—to be diverted from the primary tasks which face us in rebuilding Britain.
What do we find today? Nothing on our shelves, little in our cupboards, queues, and faces as long as they have ever been at any time during the war. We cannot get our labour back—indeed, more is being taken away from us. We are met with frustration at every corner in endeavouring to get our industries going. We, who are engaged in industry, cannot promise goods to our oversea customers, and the result is that we are losing a great deal of business, much of which is going 2446 to the United States of America, which is much more free of controls than we are here —[An HON. MEMBER. "What about their unemployed?"]— If we want to employ our people and restart our export trade we must be assisted in every possible way to get that going, and it is no use the President of the Board of Trade going to the motorcar industry and telling them that they must manufacture for export, when anyone who has had any experience in production knows perfectly well that you cannot make for export at a price at which you may hope to sell your products unless you base your export on a full home market. That is elementary. The President of the Board of Trade is going to men who have built up great industries to try to teach them how to do their job. We are told by the right hon. Gentleman that we must have another two or three years of austerity—that one must tighten one's belt and go short of this, that and the other. I do not know whether he listened to the eight o'clock news on Saturday morning, when we had a nerve shattering announcement. Although the shops are empty of the things that are necessary, it was announced that "Nail polish will be on sale in the shops." I hope that hon. Members opposite will use it to polish up their wits.
I say to the Ministers on the Front Bench—many of their colleagues, I notice, are absent—with the responsibility which they have willingly undertaken of re building- Britain and making a better world, that we feel, rightly or wrongly, that they are building on the sands of Socialism-cum Nationalisation, and the edifice will, sooner or later, come crashing about their heads. They may today look upon this Motion merely as a cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, but let them beware. It may not be long before the winds, the rains, and the floods will sweep them out of office.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)
I am very glad that this Motion of Censure has been moved, and that is to be argued for two days. I think it will clear the air on thisside, and expose the nakedness of the land on the other. The hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley) suggested that it was done because the Lord President of the Council announced a some what fuller programme of nationalization 2447 than some of the hon. And right hon. Gentlemen on the other side were expecting. There is nothing in the Motion of Censure to suggest that that is the cause. Certainly, it has not been because the Government have been detected, at the moment, in doing anything wrong. I have a shrewd suspicion that the Opposition feel that, with the pressure of their supporters in the country, they must do something, and they are in much the same position as the police constable who has had a severe wigging from his inspector because he has not "pulled in" any one lately—and then he pulls some one in and the man gets acquitted, and the policeman loses his job.
I want to deal with some of the observations that fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) in the opening speech—although I do not think it opened very much, because I can honestly say that it was 100 percent negative from start to finish. It did not disclose that the Opposition, if they were to face the problems of to-day, had one single bit or scrap of policy with which to face them. The first of the right hon. Gentleman's points was that the Government were not attending properly to the reconversion of industry. Would hon. Members opposite take more or less care? Would they interfere more or less? According to all their preaching about abolishing control they would do less. They would leave it alone. Then we would get, not the things which we need first, guided by a priority, but the things which industry could most swiftly make a profit out of—motor cars for the automobilocracy, long before we got stoves for the working class and middle class housewife. There would be no criteria as to what we would construct first, only the "free for all" of what, I think, is called "private enterprise. "I need not add anything more about that; it was dealt with sufficiently by the President of the Board of Trade.
What is the next thing? Housing! It is a little early to start condemning the Government about housing; indeed, my suspicion is that one reason why the Opposition have a Motion of Censure now is that, if they waited a few months, they could not keep their faces straight while they moved one, because they would discover that the Government were by then delivering the goods, which they have not 2448 yet had time to manufacture. What would the Opposition be doing about housing now? Would they be ruthless with landlords? Would they be getting the land more quickly and more cheaply? Would they be dealing with bulk purchase. [An HON. MEMBER: "No, we should be getting on with the job."] That is just the sort of semi-imbecile observation one would expect. How would they be getting on with the job? By bulk purchasing—yes or no?
§ Lieut. William Shepherd (Bucklow)
Is the hon. And learned Gentleman suggesting that the right way to build a house is to stop the private builder?
§ Mr. Pritt
I have not come to that yet. I am asking, but I do not ask any interrupter to give me the answer now. I ask only a rhetorical question. Would the Opposition be purchasing goods in bulk? For, if not, every house would cost £100 more. If the answer is "yes," why did they spend two days of Parliamentary time this week putting down Amendments to try to prevent an Act for bulk purchase working properly? What sign is there that they could do it any better? What proposals or suggestions have they made to show that they could? I leave any details to the Minister of Health to answer, if he thinks they have said any thing that requires to be answered.
Then, there is demobilisation. I do not want to talk very long about that either, but I listened attentively to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot who talked about quickening this and that and avoiding this and that, but there was one thing he did not mention. The hon. And gallant Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) who has even less Parliamentary experience than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot, but who made a good speech, did mention it. He realise, and mentioned, that one of the elements of demobilisation is how many people you require to maintain in the Armed Forces. That never occurred to the right hon. Gentle man the Member for Aldershot, although I always understood that they manufactured Armed Forces in Aldershot. If he and his colleagues were in charge, would we have fewer or more troubles in various parts of the world, and would we have to have more Armed Forces or less? The party opposite has committed itself to a pamphlet in which they tell us that, what- 2449 ever it costs, we must maintain Armed Forces capable of defending these shores and capable of carrying out any commitments required. Of course; but if so, how are you going to be able to organization the Army? I need not say anything more about that; it was largely disposed of by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Leeds (Mr.Gaitskell).
Then, there comes in the Motion—although we did not hear so much of it from hon. And right hon. Gentlemen opposite—the matter of the reduction of expenditure. We must cut our expenditure down; but what do they propose that we should cut down? The social services and the policy of full employment? Hon. Members will notice that these great-hearted people who are going to fight for the people against us have nothing in their Motion of Censure about employment, except that they put the word "work "in the last line because somebody reminded them of it. Or are they going to cut down on necessary expenditure for housing; or, finally, are they going to cut down the money by not organization trade as they did, by direct subsidies to manufacturers, who cannot stand on their own private enterprise, all the years between the wars.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare) rose—
§ Mr. Pritt
I cannot give way—I have not very much time. On employment, I am reminded that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot seemed a little hurt that we on this side knew he had a directorate in, I think, the Associated Electrical Industries. We were not being unkind. We naturally take a friendly interest in the resettlement and rehabilitation of our casualties. We would much rather see the right hon. Gentleman as a director of Associated Electrical Industries than of the Metal-gesellschaft.
I come to the attack on long-term nationalisation. We are told that we have apre-occupation …impelled by Socialist theory, with the formulation of long-term schemes for nationalisationIn other words: "Dirty dogs, they are fulfilling their mandate." There is one fundamental point about this. Hon. And right hon. Members opposite talk as if nationalisation were a sort of obstacle to getting on with the job just as they used 2450 to explain that we could not prepare for war because we are a democracy. It is not an obstacle to getting on with the job. It is essential to it. You have to make up your mind how to run the country in order to get on with the job. We on this side of the House have made up our minds that you cannot get on with the job of rehabilitation, building, construction, manufacture, distribution, or any thing unless you go in for a pretty wide measure of nationalisation. That is what the country voted for. The alternative policy is what we call private enterprise. I am not going to dilate on the point, which has been mentioned by a good many hon. Members. Private enterprise was very useful 100 years ago, but it demonstrated through the years before the wars that it could never keep the peace, nor keep the population fed, nor keep industry going. Private enterprise made a loss of 7,000,000,000 man-hours in one year. That is what unemployment figures of 3,000,000 mean. If there is one trouble about attacking nationalisation and having no alternative except private enterprise, it is that so many of them have sold the pass.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is deeply committed to nationalisation in various fields, and the honest truth is that hon. Members opposite do not know whether they oppose nationalisation in general or not. We do know that we support it and we believe that it is absolutely necessary to the working of industry today, and that the mass of the people have voted for it at the General Election—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and if we did not carry it through, we should be running away from our mandate. Well, if I am counted in, we had 12,000,000 votes, and you had 9,000,000, and if I am left out we had just under 12,000,000 votes. The hon. And gallant Member for Banbury (Colonel Dodds-Parker) used a rather useful phrase. He spoke not of private enterprise, but of individual enterprise, which enables one to point the difficulties. Private enterprise does mean trying to make profits for yourself by making some thing and hoping to sell it, and then ultimately, of course, going bankrupt. Individual enterprise means using the opportunity of enterprise and adventure, actually taking a little risk, and so forth. The hon. And gallant Member pointed out, and though I did not expect it from 2451 that quarter I am grateful for it, for it came sincerely, that there was no discouragement whatever for individual enterprise in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and I am moved to ask this: If individual enterprise or private enterprise is something which is going to be ended by the Socialists, so that all the gay, adventurous spirit that leads some of us to the House of Lords, some of us to the Old Bailey, and some of us to honest work, is going to be killed, in what country between the wars, was there endless development, endless effort, endless establishment of new industries? The U.S.S.R. alone, where the private profit motive has been substituted by the public profit motive. [An HON. MEMBER: "And no unemployment."] Unquestionably, but as hon. Members opposite are not worrying about unemployment, I allowed myself to leave that out. I wonder whether it is still part of their private enterprise to destroy shipyards, to destroy spindles. I remember being very amused by the right hon. And gallant Gentleman who is now the Member for West Bristol (Colonel Stanley), whose family built itself up on those who worked in the cotton industry in Lancashire—bringing in a Bill in the last Parliament, and getting it passed, to destroy spindles. When my ancestors destroyed spindles, his ancestors had them hanged. Is it the policy today to destroy machinery in order that what is left shall make a profit; and if it is not, what replaces it? Are hon. Members opposite still in favour of the restriction of production? I watched private enterprise building up restriction of production until, logically and notably, they brought about the restriction of manufacture of Tory Members of Parliament.
I want to end by pointing out two real dangers in this situation. I do not want to be more than usually offensive, and I do want to be serious. One real danger in this House is that the Opposition is so uncertain, so devoid of any doctrine, so spineless that it does not provide sufficiently good opposition to keep the Government up to the mark, and the Government will have that disadvantage, unless the Opposition pulls itself together, for the next four and a half years.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)
Is the hon. And learned Member speaking as a member of the Labour Party?
§ Mr. Pritt
I thought my young and amiable Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) would know that I was not a member of the Labour Party, and I cannot very well speak as one. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who are we?"] I. think I said "the Government "but I claim the right to say "we." I have been a member of the Labour movement for 25 years at least, and I shall go on being a member of it until the party opposite laugh themselves to death. [Interruption] I really cannot go on giving instalments of my personal history to the hon. Member. This is the more serious danger, partly because the times are serious, partly because the Opposition in the House is so weak and poor, and partly because the battle is bound to be fought out on a larger scale. The real fight against this Government will take place outside this House, by provocation in industry, by stirring up trouble abroad, by stirring up trouble in this country, by the unworthy exploitation of crises in England and in Europe.
§ Mr. Pritt
No, not the trade union movement, which supports this Government with a greater intelligence and greater understanding than hon. Members want to believe. It will take place among some of the forces behind hon. Gentlemen opposite who want to rebuild the strength of Germany. What happens when we get the real opposition outside this House, and when there is that opposition against the forces for which the country voted is that we get nearer and nearer to Fascism. That crowd of people is a particularly Fascist crowd. The effort completely to ignore the verdict of the country on nationalisation is wholly undemocratic. I will just give the House one short illustration of how the phrases and the ideas creep in. I think most hon. And right hon. Members will remember that Mosley used the cry against the Socialists in this country that they were "propagating alien theories," as if capitalism had been invented here, instead of in Italy. I find in a Tory pamphlet the following passage. It says:… our freedom and democracy …can be threatened also from within by reckless reformers—2453 if I have any complaint it is that I wish they would be more reckless—and inexperienced enthusiasts—some of them with the experience of half a century behind them—for alien theories.There you have the exact Fascist phraseology. I remember a Tory Party pamphlet urging young men not to join the Fascist Party because they could get all they wanted inside the Tory Party.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
What did Lansbury say? And what did the Lord President of the Council say in 1914?
§ Mr. Pritt
It is going on record that at the end of the first day of the Debate on a Motion of Censure moved in 1945, against the new Socialist Government which is fulfilling its mandate, that the best the right hon. And hon. Chatterboxes can say is "What did Lansbury write, and what did the Lord President of the Council say in 1914?"I confess I am much more interested in what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in apparent anticipation of his speech tomorrow, said at the meeting of the Tory Party two days ago, and what hon. Members have said today. That is much more relevant and if hon. Members cannot find a newer stone to throw at us than what was said in 1914—
§ Mr. Pritt
I cannot even ascertain at the moment what the noises opposite mean. [Interruption.] We shall never know how much we have lost by not knowing what is passing through the minds of hon. Members opposite. I had hoped and intended to close in a shorter time, but so many people have shared this speech with me, that it has not been humanly possible. Once again I sincerely thank hon. Members opposite for putting down this 2454 Motion, which I think will do everybody, including them, a great deal of good.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Mathers.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.