HC Deb 13 November 1946 vol 430 cc205-22

[Second Day]

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [12th November] That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth: Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Mr. Henry Usborne.]

Question again proposed.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)

We come again to the consideration of the Gracious Speech from the Throne, and the Government's proposals for the coming year. As has been remarked on several occasions during this rather long, very necessary and interesting Debate, we have passed through one of the most strenuous Sessions that has ever been faced by any House. It is necessary, before I come to the details of the Gracious Speech, that I should make a few general remarks upon the situation which arises in these circumstances. As I have said, we have had a very long and strenuous Session. I understand that we have passed something like 84 Bills. The programme adumbrated in the Gracious Speech is nothing like as heavy as that which was contained in the Gracious Speech from the Throne at the beginning of last Session. The Lord President of the Council has told us that there had to be considerable pruning to cut down the proposals for the coming Session to an amount which the Government thought we could cover during the course of the year. The programme is undoubtedly nothing like as full as was suggested by the speeches which were made towards the end of the last Session by Members on the Government Front Bench. Quite a number of important Measures were being proposed or suggested, and we might have thought we would have to deal with them during the coming Session. They are not here, and for that relief, much thanks.

I desire to bring to the attention of the House an important change which is taking place in the Constitution of this country, owing to the times through which we are passing and the need for quick legislation. Very often we point to the advantages of our unwritten Constitution, with its flexibility and elasticity, which can be adapted and extended to meet any situation that may arise. There is a danger in this. Very often changes are gradually introduced, and it is not realised that they are being introduced until we have gone so far that at last everyone recognises that there has been a real change. One of these I referred to earlier, and that is, that to meet the needs of the present day situation we have become accustomed, ever since 1914, to make further and further use of Orders in Council rather than of legislation through this and the other House—legislation by the King in Council, rather than by the King in Parliament. This House has always been jealous of its rights in this respect—that legislation by the King in Parliament was the one which mattered and should override any other form of legislation.

An attempt was made during our history to make more and more use of Orders in Council for legislation. That battle was fought, and won, by Parliament. Parliament is now parting with a great deal of its rights to the Executive. The power that used to be exercised by the Throne is now exercised by right hon. and hon. Members who sit on the Treasury Bench. The power is passing into their hands. Parliament is giving them more and more authority as days go by. At the beginning of last Session one of the first Acts this Government introduced was one which gave power to continue, for another five years, the authority which the House gave to the Government during the war, for war purposes. My colleagues and I protested. We thought it was only right that that power should be continued for only one year, at the end of which time the Government should come back to the House, give an account of their stewardship, and explain the need for continuing the power. Legislation that affects every person is very often drawn up by an official who has a post in a Department. The Government refused our plea, and I regret it.

The time is coming when we must recognise that there has been, in the course of 32 years, a change in our Constitution. Legislation by Order in Council has come to stay. There is no doubt about it. But that means that we ought to exercise greater vigilance and control than we exercise at present, and that we ought to give this matter more serious and thoughtful consideration than it has yet received. The suggestions which have been made, and adopted, to protect the situation have not been adequate enough to deal with such an important matter. This House was really overworked last Session, and it may be overworked this Session. Let everyone understand that the position of a Member of Parliament today is an all time job. That is a very dangerous situation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] For this reason: The strength of this House is derived from the fact that it draws its experience from every corner of the country, from every type of life.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, Central)

Teachers and miners.

Mr. Davies

They do not cover the bulk of the people. The strength of this House lies in the fact that we draw on the experience of the whole country. There would be real danger if we became purely professional politicians.

Mr. Thomas


Mr. Davies

I am sorry, but I have not time to give way. Members of Parliament are having their full time used, and we probably shall again this Session and, it may be, for the next two or three Sessions. It is difficult in those circumstances to give these matters the necessary attention. This House has a great deal of its time taken up with purely local matters. Therefore, I suggest that the time has now come when the Government should consider a fuller measure of devolution, so that we may have whatever we may call it—a sub-Parliament or some authorities under this House dealing with their own particular regions, to enable them to pay more attention to the questions which arise in their regions. That has become more and more important, for this reason: The Government offices realise that they cannot work everything from Whitehall, and they are extending out into the various regions. Scotland, of course, has had a great deal of its local government conducted in Scotland over a great number of years. We, in Wales, have had a similar experience; and that is now being rightly extended to various parts of England.

The truth of the matter is that these offices, which are part of the Government Departments, are only extensions of those Departments, and the control remains in Whitehall, without that local knowledge and application and local working of democracy which is necessary for the proper working of the administration in this country. The time has come, if this House is to function properly, to relieve it of a great number of duties which it now undertakes, and which could be well undertaken by smaller authorities. An extraordinary position exists now. Scotland has enjoyed home rule for a great number of years, but it is not exercised in Scotland but in Westminster. We all know that when a Scottish Bill is introduced, the Scottish Members alone take part in the Debate. The moment that a Scottish Bill has passed its Second Reading in this House, it goes to a Standing Committee of Scottish Members. It passes through that Committee, comes back to the Floor of the House for Report and Third Reading, and, in the main, except perhaps for some intervention from the Government Front Bench, is dealt with by Scottish Members. It is home rule for Scotland and exercised here and not in Scotland. I do not complain. I am only suggesting that there should be an extension of that system for the regions that require it. The region that requires it most of all is the Greater London region, where we have a quarter of the population within 25 miles of this Chamber. So much for the general position.

Now I come more particularly to the words in the Gracious Speech, beginning with the first part dealing with the relationship between this country and foreign powers? I should like to say at once, while paying very sincere and wholly deserved compliments to the mover and seconder of the Address yesterday— and I know the task which was placed upon their shoulders and realise how well both of them performed that task—that I not only agree with, but heartily welcome, and am grateful for, the wonderful speech and the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Acork's Green (Mr. Usborne).

Very rightly he puts his faith, as I do, in the future peace of the world upon one thing, that there shall prevail everywhere the rule of law. What does the rule of law mean? It means that all shall be equal before the law, that there shall be no distinction whatsoever between the powerful and the weak, but one rule for all, one justice to which each can turn. That was the vision he had, and it is the vision that ought to be kept in front of the eyes of every statesman and every member of any legislative body throughout the world. It is all very well to say it will take a long time to achieve that. Of course, it will. The world has passed through hundreds, and even thousands, of generations of chaos, through thousands of generations of envy, bitterness, anger, war, and all the horrors that accompany war. It is difficult to imagine how all this can be changed in even one generation, but do not let us lose sight of that proper and true vision, which is the only one that will lead to complete peace on earth.

To my mind the most tragic thing at this moment is this. Eighteen months have elapsed since the main enemy surrendered unconditionally, beaten completely. About 15 months have elapsed since Japan also collapsed and surrendered unconditionally. But there is still no peace on earth. There is only a sort of armed neutrality. The angel of peace is still caged and confined; it is not abroad on the face of the earth. At the present moment there is in New York the meeting of the United Nations Assembly. Pray God that they may succeed in their deliberations. I only wish that there would be less talk about differences and an attempt to try to secure the greatest common measure of agreement amongst all nations, that there would be less attempt by representatives of this or that nation, not only to put forward what it regards as its own case, whether it interferes with its own country or not, but to go on criticising and pinpricking some other country—for what object? For what object when we all thought that that organisation had been brought together for one purpose only, to put an end to disputes, to bring charity towards all, and a complete understanding throughout the world?

While I am on this subject, may I refer to one other matter of foreign policy? It has long been the popular thing to do to criticise Versailles and the Treaty made there. It was the first real effort that was made to put an end to war. It was the first effort that was really made to bring nations together for the sake of peace. There was one great difference between Versailles and San Francisco, and in that respect I prefer Versailles. The basis of Versailles was that peace should be the concern, the duty, the work, the ambition of every nation, great and small, without distinction. San Francisco places that great duty upon the shoulders of five out of all the nations, and puts in the hands of those five the power which is denied to everybody else —the power of veto. That in itself is bad enough, and I am glad that we from these benches protested about it. It is not a liberal doctrine—and I do not use the word "liberal" in the party sense but in its proper sense—to give a privilege to one which is denied to many.

Not only that, but there has been this further difference, that ever since the moment when San Francisco was terminated different interpretations have been put upon the veto as to when and how and in what circumstances it can be exercised. If they will continue the veto, might I ask the Government to insist, at any rate, that there shall be one interpretation and only one, so that we may all know where we stand on this matter, which vitally affects not only the welfare of everyone of the nations of the world, but the peace of the earth. What is the use of us talking about this great legislative programme, for which many of us have been waiting for many a long year, if there is hanging above us the whole time this sword of war which may mean destruction to the whole of us. It seems to me almost sheer hypocrisy to talk about the future welfare of our younger people if we cannot bring some hope of reason among the nations.

I want to recall to the House the great words that were uttered yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) with regard to Germany when he asked: When does punishment begin? Might I also add, When does punishment finish? "How long, oh Lord, how long," are we to wait in this wilderness for peace to come, to give an opportunity for the ordinary man in that land to earn an ordinary everyday livelihood, to have again his family around him and to have again the ambition to improve their standard of life, at the same time denying to him for ever, of course, the power to exploit affairs for his own ends or act in the way he has hitherto acted to bring destruction to his fellow men by his nasty, bitter, horrible aggression? How long are we to go on waiting for that peace? At this moment when all of us are anxious about this is the very moment when His Majesty's Government choose to bring in for the first time a proposal to introduce conscription in time of peace, and put it on a permanent basis. I recognise to the full the tremendous burden there is upon the Foreign Secretary, and when I look at him and when I hear him I am grateful that we have had such a man to carry on that great task. He always seemed to me like a sturdy old English oak. It may be easy for us to criticise him, but we little know what he may have suffered and dared. He knows what we all know—the need for peace on earth. The extraordinary thing is that that desirability of peace is the one thing upon which all the nations seem to join in complete unanimity, but having said that they then begin to quarrel with regard to lesser matters, which should not affect the general lines of their policy. As I have said, this has been chosen as the moment to bring in conscription in time of peace.

Mr. Follick (Loughborough)

Conscription was introduced in time of peace in 1939.

Mr. Davies

I am glad the hon. Member reminded me of the fact. Let me not forget it, but I should like to make one or two things clear. First, the security of this country must be maintained. There is no doubt about that. We cannot indulge in unilateral disarmament leaving the power in the hands of those who might misuse it, so let us be perfectly clear about one thing. We, at any rate, believe as strongly as anybody that the security of this country and, it is more than likely, its whole ideal of civilisation and position as the moral leader of the world for three hundred years, must be maintained whatever be the cost. I agree also that there is nothing undemocratic in conscription, but that is not the point. It is introducing into our ordinary life in time of peace a new mode of life to which we are not accustomed. The hon. Gentleman opposite reminded me that conscription was introduced in 1939. When? In May—and in September the bombs were raining down.

Mr. Follick

The hon. and learned Member said earlier that it was armed neutrality.

Mr. Davies

I do not know that I want to refer to what has been said by the hon. Member's great Leader, the Prime Minister, said again, and supported by his party. I do not believe in these quarrels; they do not help at all. What we want to do is to consider the problem as it is, but as the hon. Member has challenged me may I just remind him of what was said by the Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition on 27th April, 1939? The right hon. Gentleman said that his Party were opposed to conscription because instead of strengthening the country it would divide and it would weaken. I did not mean to quote these words but now that the hon. Member has challenged me I am glad I had them with me. [Interruption.]I put them behind me. The House knows that I usually speak without even a note. I only wanted these words just to remind me. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that they denied that the voluntary system had failed to meet our needs. It was based upon the readiness of citizens to serve their country, and its effectiveness depended upon the peoples' confidence in their leaders and on the efficiency of Governmental machinery. Under a Government that understood the deep moral instincts of our people and had their confidence, this country would show that the voluntary efforts of a free people were far more effective than any regimentation by any dictatorship.

Those in effect were the words that were uttered from that Bench in 1939. The hon. Member's party voted against conscription even though war was so near and looming ahead. I, on the other hand, voted at that time for conscription because war was so near. But now we have come through six years of the most terrible war mankind has had to face. Have we so little faith in our statesmanship that we have now to continue as if war were inevitable and as if the horror had not been abolished from the earth?

Might I also call attention to another point? In the two great wars through which we have had to pass in my time, both conscript armies and voluntary armies—or rather, armies from countries that had been entirely upon a voluntary basis—were engaged. In both those wars the conscript armies lost. In some instances, Germany and Austria, they lost in both wars. The only ones that were successful in the two wars were the armies of Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States of America. By what were the voluntary people carried into war? They were carried in by moral indignation, because they thought that liberty was at stake. That indignation was worth hundreds of battalions. Who can forget the ringing tones of those inspiring words of the right hon. Member for Woodford during our darkest hours in 1940 and 1941? What was he expressing at that time but the moral feeling of free people, and their determination that anything was better than slavery? Are we to change that mode of life when the war is over, and the world is anxious for peace?

I have taken longer on this matter than I intended. It has yet to be discussed more fully when the Bill is brought before the House. This is the most vital matter facing this country at the present moment —a complete change in our outlook upon life. I would really like to know from the Government whether, before they came to this decision, they had any consultation with their three Allies, or with Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada? What are the United States going to do? I would like to know the answer.

Now I would turn—I am really taking longer than I intended—to the home programme. I shall not deal fully—it would be wrong for me to do so—with the proposed legislation. We can debate, when the Bills come before us, transport, railways, electricity, and all that. There is just one word I would say. I am glad that agriculture has now received attention in the King's Speech. I hope that when we see the Bill it will contain far and away more than the one hint that we have that the Bill will be confined merely to improved marketing systems, security and prices. I do not want to enter into details about these matters. Far more important than any question of legislation is that of production. That is the real, great need of the country. Reference is made to it in the Gracious Speech.

Increased production will depend upon improved management and organisation. Secondly, it will depend upon improved mechanisation. Thirdly, and most important of all, it will depend upon the individual and upon the incentive that we give to that individual. It is all very well for us to give utterance to high sentiment with regard to increased production. What are the Government's concrete proposals for giving that increased incentive to the individual, whether he be employer, manager or employee? I did make a suggestion to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in connection with the last Budget.

I can deal with it in a few sentences. I pointed out that in 1939 wages had been taxed to the extent of £2million but in 1945 wages had been taxed to the extent of something over £250 million. I believe the right figure was £281 million. I suggested that as an increased incentive to the worker he should be given relief for that year and that that action would be repaid by the increased production. That is only one suggestion. I would like to know the Government's proposals for increasing production, because that is far and away more vital than the mere change of ownership of any of these services. Nobody is more anxious than we are to get efficient services from the railways and transport and certainly electricity, but mere change of ownership will not accomplish anything. What matters is what is going to be done with the organisation and how production is going to be increased so that people get better service.

With regard to the legislative proposals, I repeat what I said at the beginning of this Parliament. In answer to the Gracious Speech from the Throne with regard to the legislation that is adumbrated in that speech and which the Government propose to carry out, we as Liberals will support every progressive Measure which is really for the benefit of the community as a whole. May I substitute a better phrase and say, which is for the benefit of the consumer everywhere, because we are all consumers? But that is on one condition, that whereas we want these radical economic reforms as much as any hon. Member sitting on that side of the House, we will not part with a single one of our spiritual liberties, which are far and away more important than any economic reform. I have noticed during the past Session a tendency among quite a number of hon. Members opposite and among a few on this side of the House above the Gangway, who take the view that I am putting forward, that what is really essential when we carry through the necessary reforms that will give an equal opportunity and an equal chance to everyone to exercise the talents with which God Almighty has endowed them, is that we should not take away any one of the spiritual rights.

Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)

We do not want to.

Mr. Davies

I am surprised to hear that because, as I understood it, the doctrine of the Socialist Party—and I want to put a question on this to the Government in a moment—used to be that they would socialise all the means of production, distribution and exchange. Is that still the full doctrine? I have not heard much of it recently. One of the main sources of production is land. I have heard nothing about that for many a long year from the Socialist Party—

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

Shame. I have spoken on it.

Mr. Davies

I know the hon. Member for Ipswich is the only true follower of agricultural policy. I used to count myself a colleague of his, but I am not so sure I am now. We do not believe in nationalisation as a mere doctrine. We realise that it is incumbent upon a Government which is going in for nationalisation to prove that it is necessary, that it will give a better and more efficient service than any other form for the people as a whole. That is a doctrine to which I and my colleagues have always adhered. Is that their doctrine today, or is it only a step towards the formation of a Socialist Commonwealth? Not only are we en titled to know, but I know that many hon. Members opposite are doubtful. Many of them were brought up in the same old radical path that I was. We fought for the same trade union rights throughout the whole period. They also are wondering what the tendency is, and we are all entitled to know the answer. There is no true democracy in a Socialist commonwealth; there cannot be, it is totalitarian. What I am anxious to know is, is it the Government's intention to go on to form that commonwealth, or are they merely carrying out what I would call the radical reforms necessary to give greater liberty, and greater spiritual liberty, to every man and woman than they have ever had before?

Rightly, owing to the troubles there have been, the emphasis has had to be laid upon the economic situation, upon the material situation, upon the need for a better distribution of material, upon the need for a change with regard to these matters, upon materialism. Quite right. That should be emphasised until there is a better distribution but, far and away above that, are the spiritual rights of men without which those things are worthless. What I would like to see emphasised more and more in this country is the moral side of life as well as the mere material side. I do not regret that the material power in international affairs has passed out of the hands of this country into those mighty countries of Russia and the United States, for I think that it gives us and the Government of the day a greater opportunity than any Government ever had before of assuming the moral leadership of the world towards a proper and spiritual life, bringing not only a better distribution of materials for the benefit of men, but an opening of their minds and their talents for the benefit of the world.

9.38 p.m.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)

At the last General Election there was almost complete unanimity amongst the working class, and we were supported by a large section of the middle class, with the result that we obtained an overwhelming majority in this House. From that majority was selected a Government which carried through during the last Session a legislative programme which has pleased the people of this country. I refer in particular to the social legislation, and there can be no doubt in the minds of people who are closely in touch with the industrial centres, that the people are very pleased with that programme. It needs to be said, and Members of the Government need to be reminded, that it was the working class which built up this party and forms its backbone to this day.

The Gracious Speech will be well received in the country. When it is implemented, it will be another contribution towards putting the basic economic services of our country upon a better foundation. The economic strength of our country would be much greater had this policy been carried out 20 years ago. We need to remind ourselves that service and efficiency should be the aim of all nationalised services. It should be remembered that there is not enough power at the service of industry, or at the service of the householders of our country. Transport costs are far too high, productive industry continues to lower its cost of production while it finds overhead charges constantly rising. We who represent productive industry are getting more and more alarmed about that. Now that our national services are to be placed on a sounder economic basis, I hope that this question will be looked into.

On behalf of the people of North Staffordshire and Lancashire, I protest against the statement made on the future of Japanese trade. I ask the Government for a reconsideration of the policy contained in that statement. I want to ask whoever is to reply for the Government: Did the whole Cabinet see the statement before it was made? If so, did they approve of it? Were the responsible commercial and industrial representatives of our country consulted before the statement was made? Some of us cannot forget the effect of Japanese competition on our standards, our wages and conditions, prior to the war. Japan had deplorably low standards, long hours and slave conditions due to the small number of families in Japan dominating the whole of Japanese economic life, as a few of them would like to do in this country had the people not made the progress they have made. We all owe our position to that, and need to remember it. The Japanese flooded the world markets, and menaced better conditions throughout the world.

Our men and boys did not sacrifice their lives in order that a policy of this kind should again be introduced. They gave their lives to preserve democracy, and the rights that have been hardly won to preserve our relatively decent wage standards and hours. Are those to be menaced again? Tom Johnston and John Wheatley would never have stood for a restoration of this menace. I remember as a boy reading "Forward", week after week, when they used to devote practically the whole of the front page to dealing with this problem. I admit that we cannot allow Japan to remain in its present position, but, having said that, I want to ask, "Who has won the war?" Surely before a 'statement of that character was made, we are entitled—especially the trade union movement, especially those toiling millions in Lancashire and North Staffordshire—to ask for reasonable safeguards before we are subjected to a resumption of this kind of trading, which menaces our livelihood. I ask the Government if it is a fact that agreement had almost been reached over the £2½million worth of British surplus stores in Czechoslovakia; that a four years credit was to be granted, and that they were almost at the point of appending their signatures to this agreement, when the Americans intervened? Is that true? If so, surely it is a serious state of affairs.

Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)

Intervened to what effect?

Mr. Smith

I do not know the inside story. What I do know is that the agreement has not been signed, and I am informed that they were on the point of signing it. If this is so, some of us think we have let Czechoslovakia down quite enough, and that on this occasion, if this is a correct statement, they ought never to have been a party to that intervention.

During this weekend statements have appeared in many newspapers about our economic position and the American State Department's policy which were very disturbing. Let me remind all parties in this House that they have agreed to pursue a policy of full employment. This party, in particular, accepts that policy, and within limits is pursuing a policy of full employment. If that line of reasoning is accepted, surely the logic of it is that we must support a world policy of full employment. If we have a repetition of the prewar economic warfare it will produce the same conditions that gave rise to Hitlerism, and later to war. The Government should make it clear beyond a shadow of doubt, that we will support and work for world collective economic expansion. The challenge to democracy was made not only by Fascist military power; it was, and is being made today, by the same economic forces that gave rise to slumps, Fascism, and later, to war. I am not prepared to sit here while we see again the same forces slowly at work.

It is the duty of the British people's Labour Government to take the initiative in the world more than they have done up to now, in order to play their part, to organise as we did for war, to defeat world reactionary anarchy. The first step is to build the British Commonwealth for world progress. On 20th December, 1938, Sir Maurice Hankey broadcast a warning to foreign countries not to underrate the attitude of the Dominions if Great Britain was attacked. He was proved correct. There are similar forces at work now economically. There are great economic potentialities throughout the British Commonwealth, especially in Australia, Canada and New Zealand and India, if we do not leave it too late. Prior to 1946, I was very friendly with the Foreign Secretary. We had many conversations. I remember his ideas very clearly. Here is what 'he said on 20th December, 1938, to a few of us: A frank discussion with the Dominions is essential, efficiently planned, at which all the ambiguities of the present constitutional position could be worked out, with the reciprocal defence and trade arrangements for the people in the Dominions as to the facilities they may expect, and what they are expected to contribute to the plan; we on our part undertaking what we are prepared to undertake in this country. I wish to ask whether that is still accepted, and if so, what concrete steps are we taking to carry it out. In the past, progressive people in the Commonwealth dreaded London finance. They were afraid of its power and influence, afraid that it would retard any forward movement of social progress. They need have that fear no longer. As a result of the action taken by this Government, that fear has largely been taken away but not to the extent that many of us feel that it ought to be removed. Now, we should be arranging Commonwealth loans. The great National Savings Movement should be developed in this direction. Many Commonwealth Tennessee Valley schemes should be in course of preparation. I am confident that this is the road forward in the world for the British people, and that the Commonwealth would respond if this Government would take the lead. The rise of Japan took place in the course of 50 years; the rise of mighty modern Russia took place in 30 years. We are only at the birth, relatively speaking, of the British Commonwealth. The progressive countries of the world, together with the British Commonwealth, could build international cooperation and avoid further war. This is the only road forward for mankind. Some of us have been involved in two world wars. As far as I am concerned, my only desire is to reflect the feelings of the people. The people in our country and throughout the world are, I am convinced, heartily sick of war and all that it involves. They now expect progressive Governments to be taking the initiative in order to deal with mankind's economic problems which have given rise to two world wars.

I have here a letter which I do not propose to read, because there is a limit on my time. It was published in the "Manchester Guardian" on 4th October, 1946, and was written by a director of the great C.W.S. He points out that he went through Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and everywhere the people of the Commonwealth were eager that we should take the initiative on lines similar to those I have mentioned. I would like the Government to consult the C.W.S. more often than they do. We have a great deal for which we should thank the cooperative movement. That movement is part of our movement and, in my view, they are not consulted and encouraged to the extent which they have every right to expect whilst we have a Socialist Government. We should make it crystal clear that we stand for a policy of international cooperation in every question that arises. Until we are organised on those lines we should resolutely apply a policy of planned expansion of world trade by agreement with all who are prepared to cooperate, by bulk purchase, long-term agreements, fixed prices, and the elimination of speculation and gambling. I understood that was to form the basis of the Labour Government's policy. This was the policy that was outlined by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary at Blackpool on 23rd May, 1945. If I had more time I would have quoted extracts from his speech in order to provide evidence in support of my case. What a world market there would be if we organised on those lines with the British Commonwealth in hearty cooperation with the U.S.S.R., India, and all other countries prepared to work with us. World peace and world trade are now indivisible.

Britain's share of world exports in 1919 was 13.93 per cent.; in 1924, 13 per cent.; in 1928, 10.92 per cent.; and in 1938, 9.8 per cent. The need to increase our exports no one can doubt. The industrial population of our country know that, and they do not need to be preached to like they have been far too often just lately. Where the difference arises is on what is the best road to take, in order to increase our exports. The year 1938 should never have been chosen as the basic year, for it was a year of under-employment and under-consumption. The United Kingdom is the largest importing country in the world, and, with years of full employment, our needs would be increased more and more, should we pursue a policy of the kind that I am outlining.

We should aim, in my view, at linking our economy with the world by a concrete policy of international economic cooperation. I understand that right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench need to listen to the reasons being given why a certain policy should be adopted. If we continue to link our economy with the United States, we are in for a slump of unpredictable dimensions. No one can say when it will end; it may be four, five, six or seven years, but, as sure as I am standing here, if we continue to link our economy with American big business, then we- are in for a slump of the character I have predicted.

Mr. Osborne (Louth)

Will the hon. Gentleman say on what evidence he is making that statement?

Mr. Ellis Smith

Everybody, including the Lord President, has recently pointed out that economic conditions must be dealt with in order to clear the road for trade. We all accept that, but what concrete steps are being taken to build up economic cooperation?

Mr. Osborne

Can I have an answer to my question?

Mr. Ellis Smith

I have very little time. The British people expect their Government to apply this policy which I have outlined. The Henry Wallace controversy was not wholly a personal issue It was far deeper and more fundamental than that, and it is symptomatic of the uneasiness of the peoples of the world. Henry Wallace is not a Socialist, but he is a man of great character, of fine qualities, and, above all—and this we need in the world —of manliness. He represents in the United States the forces that are the hope of the world. Millions of people in our country and throughout the Commonwealth want to hold out the hand of friendship to the forces which Henry Wallace represents. We want the friendship of the American people. The people of our country have elected this Parliament, hoping that it will rebuild our country and enable it to make its contribution to rebuilding the world. To do that—[Interruption.]This is a serious discustion, and, if the hon. Gentleman were in touch with the people of this country, he would know that the people are satisfied that we are rebuilding it and not pulling it down. To do that, we must not accept either the new financial imperialism or atomic dollar diplomacy, with which the world is faced far too much. The war dealt a deadly blow at world reaction for the time being. It is true that, as a result of American big business, it is again beginning to exercise an influence which is far too great, but the war not only dealt a deadly blow at world reaction, but also gave hope to all progressive forces throughout the world. It gave the people hope, and what I am pleading for is that this Government should take the initiative in order to prove to the world that we are on the side of world progress, that we are no longer going to be dragged at the heels of American big business and their representatives, and that the British people, as the result of sacrifices in the past, have built a great democracy in our country. We want that democracy to function, and, now that we have elected a real people's Parliament, we expect it to be on the side of progress, and not on that of reaction in any possible way.

It being Ten o'Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.