HC Deb 11 July 1957 vol 573 cc535-7
38. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will consider the appointment of a Select Committee of the House or a Royal Commission to inquire into the subject of inflation and the cost of living.

Mr. Birch

No, Sir.

Mr. Shinwell

As the Economic Secretary does not know how to solve the problem of inflation and the high cost of living, and neither does the Chancellor, nor, apparently, the Prime Minister or the Government—and some others sitting beside me do not seem to know what the solution is either—would it not be desirable to refer it either to a Select Committee or to a Royal Commission in the hope that they will be able to provide a solution, or are the Government to do nothing about it?

Mr. Birch

As the right hon. Gentleman already knows, there is already a Royal Commission on Monetary Policy, which is a very important aspect of this problem, but I do not think that what he mentions is an aspect of policy which would be suitable for reference.

Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

Is it, in any case, necessary to hold an inquiry of this nature, when everyone knows that one of the chief reasons for the rise in the cost of living is the failure of the nationalised industries, which produce less at increased cost? How can we as a nation ever solve this problem when power and transport, on which the production of everything depends, keep rising in price?

Mr. H. Morrison

Can the Economic Secretary say whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer realises that this really is a most serious and grave matter? One can hardly open a newspaper without seeing signs of a steadily developing inflation which, if it continues, will put the country in a very serious condition. When are the Government going to take hold of the problem, together with the employers and the trade union leaders on a genuine basis of co-operation, instead of drifting along, with this inflationary process going on all the time, which will ultimately land the country in a state of ruin?

Mr. Birch

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman can have studied with attention my right hon. Friend's speech yesterday. He is also making an important speech tomorrow to the National Production Advisory Council.

Hon. Members

What about the House?

Mr. H. Wilson

But is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Chancellor's speech yesterday, while very grave in tone, produced no answer to the problem but represented a posture of complete abdication—unfortunately, not resignation? Is he aware, also, that the Radcliffe Committee—which, incidentally, is not a Royal Commission—is not likely to report for two years? Are we to have no economic or financial policy during that time?

Mr. Birch

We have an admirable economic and financial policy.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the speech of the Chancellor yesterday did not propound a solution, and he did not pretend that he had one; nor will his speech tomorrow or on any other day provide one. Speeches cannot solve the problem. In view of the fact that the Radcliffe Committee is lot looking all round the wicket on the subject of inflation and the cost of living, but is confining itself to monetary policy, would it not be wise—I appeal to the Prime Minister now—if he were to consider the appointment either of a Committee of this House, which would deal with the matter impartially, or a Royal Commission?

Mr. Birch

As I said before, I do not think either a Royal Commission or a Select Committee can really deal with these matters which cut across every possible line of Government policy.