HC Deb 22 October 1947 vol 443 cc165-223


Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [21st October]: That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as follows:

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. Blyton.]

Question again proposed.

6.40 p.m.

Lady Grant (Aberdeen, South)

The Debate on the Gracious Speech from the Throne gives us an opportunity not only to examine the legislation before the House for the coming Session, but to review the year of Parliament that has gone by, and to examine it against the background of what has been done during the past two years. At this time, when we are admittedly slipping into ruin, the Gracious Speech and the legislation before the House appears to many of us on these benches as but a hotch-potch of nationalisation mixed up with a tinkering with the Constitution. Above all, if I may say so with respect, there is a weakness and a lack of leadership that are terrible to see.

Unlike the hon. Lady who seconded the Address yesterday there are many of us on these benches who, on our travels round the country, have not found that the people of the country are wholeheartedly behind this Government, nor do they feel more secure than they ever have before. It is indeed this search for a stronger lead that is felt everywhere in the country today, with whomever we may speak, in whatever walk of life, whether it be industrialists, ex-Service men starting up business, young people searching for opportunity or, perhaps above all, the women of this country whom this crisis hits more hardly than any other sections of the community. Everywhere we will find this yearning for statesmanship in our affairs.

When speaking of this question of leadership, what is it that we look for? Surely it must be that there should be confidence by those who are led, in the ability of those at their head; confidence in the achievements of the past two years, confidence in their judgment to forecast future events, and confidence in their wisdom to deal with the unexpected, which must always arise however carefully plans are made. And I suggest to this House that there can be but little confidence in the country in this Government's past two years of achievement, when we remember the flush of promises at the General Election and we realise that to-day we face economic disaster. Nor can there be much confidence in this Government's ability to forecast future events when we recall scores of contradictory utterances, not least those of the late Minister of Fuel. Nor can there be much confidence in this Government's ability to deal with the unexpected when we remember with only too much familiarity the break-down of our productive industries last winter, when winter is an annual event. Even in the face of the unexpected, the rise in prices in America, and thus the obvious quickening of exhaustion of the dollar loan, we find that the Government did nothing to stem disaster until it was upon us.

Above all, surely there can be little confidence in leaders where it is suspected that they have not got confidence either in themselves or in their own expert advisers; because we remember that last summer this House was told that there was an irreducible minimum for the period of conscription and, a few days later, apparently in answer to protests by the Government back-benchers, that "irreducible minimum" was reduced still further. It set the country wondering on that score. Nor, surely, can confidence be greatly reposed in leaders where there is a suspicion of divided command, and also the existence of some outside body that can bring pressure to override their decisions. The T.U.C. has vital, valuable industrial functions to perform but it has at no time had any mandate for the government of this country. Its advice is essential to any Government, but if it should sway the Government's decision, then, surely, Parliamentary democracy as we know it, has, to a great extent, become a farce.

I suggest, too, that the leadership of our country at this time in the face of tremendous events cannot in any case be successful unless the people who are led are fully united. Therefore, may I, with great respect, suggest that this is not the time for a continual appeal to only a section of the community, because then there will always be only sectional support. Those who represent us at the international council boards and refer to this country as "Socialist Britain" might surely bear this well in mind. The unity of this country has been proved in two wars in this century, and right back in wars and crises deep in history, and without it we cannot possibly hope to overcome our present difficulties.

Yet even now we find that there are some who set one section of the community against the other, and I suggest that they are guilty of a direct act of sabotage against their country. In that connection, I would remind the House of a publication that appeared only two or three weeks ago, a Government-sponsored publication entitled "The A.B.C. of the Crisis," in which an attack of misrepresentation of the Tories was delivered which, I suggest, was quite unsuitable to the responsibility of a national appeal. In any case, surely, at this time it is not only leadership at the head of affairs which we seek, because even a great leader possessed of all the qualities of statesmanship can have no enduring influence unless he receives from the people an active response. That we are now, to a large extent, a nation of passive citizens is due to the system of government which is imposed upon us at this time, because we find that nationalisation has had the effect of putting the fortunes of a whole trade or, indeed, of a whole country, such as Scotland, at the mercy of the foresight and judgment of one single centre of decision. Quite apart from the fact that it is dangerous always to give power to the few—they are, after all, only fallible men—it always vitiates any possibility of delegation of authority. Therefore, we find, all over the country, lack of leadership in every sphere because, with no incentive of gain or of personal responsibility, the response to exhortation to work is passive to a degree.

Nevertheless, with the Gracious Speech before us, it is imperative that every one of us should make the nature of the crisis clearly understood to all the people of this country. There are a great number who do not understand its meaning as yet, perhaps because our economy in this country is so highly geared that we can carry on far longer than Continental countries which in similar circumstances would have collapsed long ago. It now behoves us to explain the nature of the crisis without misrepresentation; otherwise we shall never get a response to appeals to work harder, and it will only be a source of grievance if directed to workers who have neither the tools nor the materials to do the job.

I wish to repudiate the suggestion that hon. Members on these benches have no confidence in the ability of this country to weather the tremendous events that are before us. We all remember the great Roman leader Fabius Maximus—a name with cherished significance to hon. Members opposite. It was said of him by his grateful fellow-countrymen that "he never despaired of the Republic. "None of us despairs of this country's ability to recover her prestige, but it is idle to hope for success without not only a coherent plan of action, but inspired leadership to give it life. It is not only a desirable objective, it is the price of our survival. I, therefore, suggest that in the face of the admitted economic disaster that is before us, the task of His Majesty's Government now is not to try to create greatness in the people of Britain, but to inspire it, because the greatness is already there.

6.52 p.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, Central)

I hope the hon. Lady the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant) will not mind if I do not follow the course she has taken. During the Debate yesterday, the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) made certain comments to which I would like to make reference. He said that the international situation at the present time is indeed a sombre one. He bemoaned—and I agree entirely with him—that the relationships between Eastern Europe and the West are not so good as they were. But then he went on to refer to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) and hon. Friends who accompanied us on a visit to Eastern Europe during the past month. We have heard from time to time in this House a great deal about the "iron curtain," and it astonished me that the right hon. Gentle- man, who is usually so fair and courteous in his statements, should be so anxious to seek to discredit hon. Members before their stories could be heard. Apparently, to travel to America is quite all right; to travel to France is quite all right, but merely to visit Eastern Europe is in the eyes of the right hon. Gentleman an offence in itself. An hon. Member opposite says "Hear, hear." Why should we bemoan the lack of information from Eastern Europe, if at the same time we seek to cast venomous scorn on hon. Members who go there to see how people are living?

Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)

I do not wish that there should be any misunderstanding. I do not think that could have been put on record. I never suggested that hon. Members should not go to Eastern Europe. I have been there a good many times, and I think it a very good thing that hon. Members should go. What I was objecting to was the use made in Warsaw by foreign Press agencies of an attack on His Majesty's Government by hon. Members who are supporters of the Government.

Mr. Thomas

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for making his position clear, but he did say that we were Communist in all but name. The right hon. Gentleman made that statement, and I suggest it would be quite as realistic, and quite as courteous, for me to refer to some of his hon. Friends, not as Communists, but by a far more ugly name in the minds of the people of this country. I think no advantage is gained by seeking to adopt that line.

During our visit to Eastern Europe eight Members of this House were privileged to meet four Prime Ministers, to meet the heads of the trade union movement, to meet Foreign Secretaries, and to meet people with whom it is important that this country should have an understanding. Have we now reached a position when relationships between Eastern Europe and Great Britain are so bad that for an hon. Member merely to visit there, and to say what he has seen, becomes a crime? So much for the love of freedom of speech and movement, of which we hear so much. The outstanding features of Eastern Europe as I saw them were, first, that there is a tremendous enthusiasm for reconstruction. When we realise that we are dealing with a people who suffered destruction on a scale far greater than anything we had, fortunately, in this country, and when we realise that they suffered Auschwitz, Belsen and Buchenweld——

Mr. Michael Astor (Surrey, Eastern)

And the Soviet.

Mr. Thomas

I do not see the point of the interruption, but this much is true, I hope—that no one in any part of this House will seek to take away from what was done by any of our honourable allies during the war. I am not seeking to take away the credit of anyone. We are dealing with people who suffered deep wounds and whose economic life was entirely destroyed, but they have somehow managed to find among their people an enthusiasm which we would welcome among our working people in this country. I believe it is fair to say that without American dollars, without aid at all, they are getting on with the job, and the humblest worker in Europe knows his plan, and this is where we, too, might gain advantage from looking at Eastern Europe. Whilst this little island country has given much to the world in other days, she too can learn much from other countries that have experienced this rebirth of spirit, as it were, on the Continent of Europe I believe we ought to learn from them the lesson that every worker in every factory ought to know what his part of the plan is, and he ought to be given his target. In the whole of industrial activity a target should be set and general enthusiasm aimed toward that end.

Another outstanding feature I found in Eastern Europe was that amongst people everywhere there is a deep and anxious fear concerning the possibility of another war. I found it among the ordinary folk. I found a fear due to Press reports which they read, and Press cuttings from abroad. We are sometimes told in this country that the people there cannot find out what is happening beyond the iron curtain. My hon. Friends and I were kept well in touch with what was happening outside merely by reading the Press. One of my hon. Friends could read in each of the Slav languages; I could not, but I trust my hon. Friend. In the Slav papers there were reported all the important events of the world outside. There is a tremendous fear in Europe about Germany being strengthened at the expense of the victorious countries, which in their victory lost almost everything except their spirit. We were reminded that the average income for Europe as a whole is 450 dollars per head per year; for Poland it is 250 dollars per head; but the proposed income for Germany under the American proposals for reconstruction there would be 650 dollars per head per year, which would give to her a surplus of which she would have to get rid. The great question over there is whether we should once again allow that country so to establish her industrial and economic machine that she can be a menace to the nations that are around her. We might regard that question as rather pedantic in view of the state of desolation in Germany at the present time, but if we had had our 4½ millions lost in Auschwitz alone, and if we were living next door to Germany, I suggest that we might take a more realistic view of that question.

All of us are anxious at this time not only about the international situation but about our economic affairs at home, and I am convinced that the international deterioration finds adequate reflection in our economic crisis here at home, that there is a link between the two, for Eastern Europe can provide much of what we need, without any dollars having to be paid. The trade agreement which was in a state of negotiation between Soviet Russia and ourselves broke down, and both Governments have now expressed their earnest desire for the resumption of those negotiations. How crazy it is that when both countries stand to gain, and both Governments say quite openly that they want to resume negotiations, that some formula should not be devised. I believe that we have a right to ask His Majesty's Government if indeed in the negotiations with the Soviet Union it was possible for us to obtain timber and grain without having to provide dollars, and, if there is a difficulty that with our less planned economy we are unable to provide definite dates for delivering our equipment, whether there should not be a tightening up of controls and a greater measure of planning in order that we, too, might meet our side of any agreement which might be entered into.

I am convinced that the way for this Government to tread at this time of crisis is not to have less Socialism, but more. I believe that our economy needs far greater planning, for it is pathetic if we are sending our experts to negotiate with other countries only to find that they are unable to give specific dates for delivery when other countries can put their finger on definite dates and definite quantities. We could be having grain, lumber and tobacco without any attempt being made to dictate to us our internal domestic policy here at home, without any attempt to control the way of life of Britain, or to say that steel should not be nationalised, or any other issue of that sort, but on a basis of mutual understanding. I am convinced that it is possible now for us to reach an agreement.

I am bound to refer to the war of nerves to which this nation has been subjected in connection with the Marshall plan. We have had dangled before us like a carrot the promise of help, only to have it disappear every now and then, and then it is brought back, and we are told "You must take the report back, alter it, improve it." All this tends to reduce our prestige in the eyes of the world to that of a very small Power indeed. I am one who believes that this nation must realise that whilst co-operation with America is highly desirable and necessary, co-operation with Eastern Europe is equally desirable and equally necessary to our own survival. We cannot allow political prejudices of any sort or personal bias to stand in the way of assistance to our nation at the present time. I believe that if a real gesture is made now, the way of life for our people can be made easier and the standard of life might be more assured, because it is possible—I reiterate that it is possible—for us to have from over there things of which we stand badly in need. The capital goods which we make we cannot sell to America; they are ready to sell to us. The only market we can find is either our great Empire or Eastern Europe. I advise His Majesty's Government to look there.

I cannot sit down tonight, in this Debate on the Address, without a reference to my Socialist comrades in Greece. At the present time while we here, and His Majesty's Government, are in friendly relationship with the Government in Greece, thousands upon thousands of people are exiled to the Ægean Sea, to the little islands there. People are dying—465 political executions have taken place, women as well as men amongst them. Numbers of people in Greece are being sentenced without trial, and though their name be not Petkov, surely their lives are just as precious? I do not want so say anything about the Petkov trial. I am not trying to be unreasonable about that. If he did not have a fair trial, I am sorry I do not know enough about it, but I do know something about what is happening in Greece.

I know that although they are about 2,000 miles away from us, they are human beings. They fought with us, and it is those who were on our side during the war who are now in the prison camps, and those who collaborated, not all, it is true, but there are known collaborators with the Nazis, who are in power at the present time. What a farce we make of democracy if we say that we are supporting democracy by supporting what is happening in Greece today. It is a slur upon our national name that we, with a rich tradition for helping democracy everywhere, with our care for humble people, should today turn our backs upon our friends and take the bloodstained hand of some people who in the days of the war were prepared to work with the security battalions of the Hitler regime. I trust that in this coming year we may look to His Majesty's Government for words about what is happening in Greece as strong as they have used about Petkov.

If we are to be indignant, let us be indignant for small people as well as for the leaders of great parties. Let us realise that this House can give to the world a moral tone by denouncing the awful tyranny, the secret arrests, the beatings up, and the judicial murders that are taking place in Greece. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that these murders cannot even be called judicial murders, for they have nothing about them that smacks of a fair judicial trial.

I know that I have spoken with some feeling. The reason is that I have seen what has happened to comrades in Greece. Almost every person who gave me any hospitality or who had any dealings with me in Greece has suffered. Within a month of my departure from that country, they were away in exile or fleeing from the hands of the gendarmerie. [An HON. MEMBER: "I am not surprised."] I am not surprised that the hon. Member does not seem to be disturbed. When I think of those people, I think of family people. I sat at the family table with them and they discussed the glories of English history. They were friendly towards us. They spoke with pride of Byron and of Gladstone. We cannot let these people down. I say to His Majesty's Government that we should recognise that our Imperial position and our strategic routes are better protected by a friendship with the great mass of the common people than they can be by a friendship with the handful who hold power at the moment simply because the American and British Governments are behind them. If the support of America and Britain were withdrawn, the Government in Greece would not last for a fortnight, and the whole world knows it. So much for this Government which is said to represent the free people of Greece. I leave these suggestions to the House, and I earnestly trust that His Majesty's Government will bear in mind that at this critical time in our economic distress we can find a way of regaining our strength, keeping our independence and freeing ourselves from a state of being pensioner upon another great country in the world, by looking to the common peoples of Europe.

7.13 p.m.

Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)

My hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) has made his apologia. I know him sufficiently well to be satisfied of his good intentions in visiting Eastern Europe, but I do not think he has met the point that was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). If the purpose of these visits was to acquaint the people of this country with conditions there, and to try to secure understanding, co-operation and good will between them and us on an honourable and just basis, without any offensive references to other countries with whom we want to be on friendly terms, we should all welcome it. I feel, however, with the hon. Lady the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant), that it is necessary that there should be much more national unity if we are to get out of our economic troubles. Therefore, whether the abuse comes from the Left or the Right, I deprecate that we should introduce into party politics in this country some of the venom und bitterness which unfortunately exist in other countries and that we should accuse those from whom we differ of being either Communists or Fascists. The over- whelming majority of our people are neither one nor the other.

In view of the economic crisis, this Session is bound to be a critical one for the people and for the Government. I am not one of those who blame the Government for the existence of this crisis. The Government, in my view rightly, will be judged by the way in which they handle it. The country is in a jam. It is the duty and responsibility of the Government, by the right kind of leadership, by wise policy and sound administration to enable us to get out of our economic troubles. If the Government fail in this, they will fail in all the other things they hope to do. The country is not likely either to forget or to forgive easily. I regret that the Government have not begun this Session very well. It is no use appealing for the co-operation of everybody and then attempting to play the party game. I feel very strongly that in proposing to amend the Parliament Act. 1911, and to nationalise the gas industry, the Government are doing that. I ask them to consider very seriously what possible contribution to our economic recovery can be made by either of those Measures. Can the Government honestly say that either of these Measures is really necessary at this time?

What the nation requires is that the Government should concentrate all their energies on trying to help the country to recover her prosperity. What do the people want? They want a secure job, they want food, houses, and the reasonable amenities of life. They look to the Government to frame such a policy as will give them these things in the shortest possible time. Neither of the Measures which I have mentioned will help in any way to bring these things about. Rather they will impede our recovery because they will tend to split the nation at a time when we ought to be united It is not that the proposal to reduce the veto from two years to one is in itself an unreasonable thing or, in view of the Hey-worth Report, that there is not a great deal to be said for the nationalisation of the gas industry. The point is that the Government ought to view these proposals in the light of the economic situation. I say without hesitation that the harm which will be done to national unity will far outweigh any good which may be achieved by passing these Measures.

In his speech yesterday the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister made some debating points in regard to the reduction of the veto, but really in these days arguments of that kind do not cut a great deal of ice. The Government want to impress upon the people the urgency of the economic situation. It is wrong to seek to put off the people on a wild goose chase of this kind and to divert their attention from the real critical issues of our time. For a Government who call themselves progressive, they are amazingly out of date. Do they not realise that the people are no longer interested in this constitutional question? There was a time when they thought their salvation was to be found by settling constitutional questions and that they were of first importance. The time may come again, but I do not believe that at present there is the slightest interest in the country in this issue. As has been generally assumed, it can only have been introduced as a result of a deal between two sections of the Government. That is a fact which does not reflect any credit upon them at all.

I regret, too, that the Gracious Speech has nothing to say about the reduction in Government expenditure, except in so far as there is a reference to the reductions in the Armed Forces, due to the fact that we are cutting our commitments and are no longer required to maintain troops in India, and also I hope that, in a very short time, they will have gone from Palestine. Rut if the Government want to appeal to the people of this country and to our local authorities to cut expenditure, they ought, in my opinion, to set an example, and I think they ought to say what contribution they are prepared to make from their administrative machine to provide the men whom the country needs for essential occupations.

I thought the Prime Minister yesterday was very uncommunicative about the things which the people want to know. For instance, we have read in the Press and have been told by Ministers during the Recess that it is the policy of the Government to try to prevent any increase in wages. There is a great deal to be said for that, in view of the fact that any increase in wages not accompanied by an increase in production is bound to make it more difficult to sell our goods abroad, which, of course, we must do, but if that is the Government's policy, they must make it perfectly clear that they will see there is no increase in the cost of living. They cannot, at the same time, allow the cost of living to rise and expect wages to remain the same. We all know what happened in France when an attempt was made to do this sort of thing, and I am sure the Government do not want to have, added to their other difficulties, all the industrial strife and official strikes from which, happily, we have been free during the past two years.

Therefore, I hope that it is not the Government's intention, and I hope that the people will be told so at an early date, to interfere with the subsidies on food. We are told that at present there is a great surplus of purchasing power, and that one way of meeting that difficulty is to remove the subsidies. We know how that will work out in practice. For a household of four, it will mean, in effect, that the housewife, when she goes shopping, will find that it costs her 14s. more a week to provide food for her family, and that will inevitably result in a request for increased wages to meet it. Where this surplus purchasing power exists, I do not know. I do not find that the great majority of my constituents have any money to spare in existing conditions, but if there is an excess of purchasing power, as we are told, the proper way to deal with it is not to increase the cost of living, but to take away the labour and materials from those luxury industries which constitute a serious danger of inflation. We have to realise that at present it pays a great many manufacturers to provide goods for the home market because they can sell them more easily than they can by exporting them, and very often make bigger profits. The only way to deal with that is for the Government to withdraw labour and materials drastically from those industries so that their goods shall not be available.

I feel that, in all the Measures they propose, the Government must realise not only what the economists tell them is necessary, but also what is politically practicable. They must take into account the effect on the people of this country of any Measures introduced. I believe that the present Government's damping down of the housing programme will have a most depressing effect, and I believe it will affect production. In my own constituency, for instance, though, for- tunately, we suffered very little from bomb damage, we still have over 3,000 families that need houses, and I know from my own experience of the terrible conditions under which they are living. This is bound to have its effect upon their work. Even at the present slow rate of house-building, it is a gloomy prospect, in view of the long time they will have to wait before they get a house. If they are told that there is to be a slowing down still further, I am afraid the position will be very serious indeed.

I feel that some lack of consideration of the reaction of the public was also shown in the abolition of the basic petrol ration. I do not subscribe to a great deal of the exaggeration which has been used with regard to this matter, but it is a fact that it has appeared to a great many people to be most unfair to decide on the complete abolition of the basic ration. I would also like to say that I do not think that the giving of a supplementary ration is a fair substitute, because, in point of fact, there is a great deal of inequality in the conditions under which supplementary rations are given. In some cases it may be that the regional controller is a little more generous than in other areas, and even in the same area some people can get supplementary rations while others cannot. The fairest way is that what is available should be shared equally among all who need it, and I believe that, if only in a reduced form, the basic ration should be maintained. I think that, if the Government could agree to allow the basic ration to revert to one unit without the 50 per cent. addition and make the coupons available for two months instead of one, there will be such a feeling of relief and satisfaction among the people that it would be reflected in production, because the incentive provided would be something worth while.

I am also concerned about the threat of inflation by the abolition of the basic ration. It means that people will have to lay up their cars, and that the money they have been spending on maintaining their cars will be available as surplus purchasing power. How the Government propose to deal with that, I do not know, but it is a fact of which the Government should take account. We are told that the real reason is the abolition of he black market, and that the only way to deal with the black market is to abolish the basic ration I do not think it is fair to punish all owners and users of cars because a certain number resort to the black market. Personally, I believe that the Government will be driving people into the black market. I would give short shrift to anybody found guilty of dealings in the black market, and I think that if offenders' cars were confiscated and they were told that they would not be able to drive a car for 10 years, that in itself would be a sufficient deterrent. Anyhow, I should try it, and trust the people.

I appeal to the Government to put first things first, and to realise that their prime duty now is to get this country out of its economic troubles, and that they will do it best and most effectively if they can win the support of the overwhelming majority of the nation. But they must make the gesture. They are the Government, and it is no good their blaming the Opposition because, so far, they have not, apparently, done what the Government think they should have done to make this possible. I realise that a National Government is not possible, but I believe that national co-operation is, and I really believe that if the Government would hold up their party legislation—because there is a great deal in the Gracious Speech about social proposals which are admirable, and a great deal of legislation that could be passed by this Parliament which would benefit the people of the country—they could win that support without stirring up a great deal of party hatred and disturbing national unity. I ask the Government to concentrate on these things. Never mind what the Opposition are doing; I am concerned with what the Government ought to do. I appeal to them, even now, to do everything they can to preserve national unity, and so help us to get out of our critical situation.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

My main criticism of the King's Speech is its failure to present us with a promise to nationalise the steel industry. For that, the Communists cannot be blamed, although, according to the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition, they are responsible for every other evil in the world. I have known the right hon. Gentleman for a great many years. His speech yesterday was a woeful and melancholy effort; it was the speech of a mendicant. It is amazing how rapidly dollar diplomacy can change the faith of man. The right hon. Gentleman and others, used to say that Britain stood between two extremes—the extreme of Soviet Communism, on the one side, and unbridled private enterprise in the Western hemisphere, on the other. But now the right hon. Gentleman has joined the mad witch dance of the un-American Committee that is giving such an exhibition of freedom of opinion, tolerance and democracy to a blaze of floodlights reminiscent of the Kroll Opera House.

According to the right hon. Gentleman, one is either against the Communists or one is a Communist. That is how he put it—the Communists of Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe against the Western European and American democracies. It is a nice way of putting it, if there was any truth in it. He, a Tory, a defender of the robber landlords and capitalists, is a democrat, while I, a proletarian who has been fighting all his life to put an end to the exploitation of his fellow men, am an enemy of democracy. No, the correct way would be to say that the countries of Eastern Europe are carrying on their reconstruction on the basis of Socialist economy, attacked by the jaundiced, vicious hatred of the remnants of decrepit capitalism, whose only hope for survival is dollars from the monopoly capitalists of America. I challenge him, or anyone else in this House, to dare to get up and say that, if America were put out of the picture, capitalism in Europe would continue to live. Put America out of the picture, and within six months capitalism would be out of existence in every country, including this.

Mr. Eden

May I ask the hon. Gentleman one question? If Russia were put out of the picture, how long would Communism last?

Mr. Gallacher

There is not an idea, a revolutionary slogan, or a revolutionary symbol existing in Russia, or any of the European countries which, in the first place, was not exported from this country. As long as there is the exploitation of men by robber landlords and capitalists we shall have to fight for the realisation of Communism. Even if Russia were out of the picture, I would still be fighting for Communism, and more and more of the masses of the workers would listen to my plea for the support of Communism. Put America out of the picture, and capitalism would vanish from Western Europe. I would ask hon. Members on this side not to have any illusions because in the un-American Committee it has been laid down that un-Americanism is holding opinions against capitalism and private enterprise.

Take Germany. We find that in Germany the British and the American zones are united. Then, there is the Soviet zone. What is the issue there? Is it Communism in the Soviet zone versus democracy in the British and American zones? Will any hon. Member say it is? No, in the Soviet zone it is Socialist economy, and in the British and American zones it is capitalist economy. That is the division. Can the right hon. Gentleman deny that?

Mr. Eden

It is up to the hon. Gentleman's Government.

Mr. Gallacher

No, I am asking the right hon. Gentleman. The division is Socialist economy in the Soviet zone—and I recommend him to read the articles in "The Times"—and capitalist economy under the control of America, because, unfortunately, our people in Germany and other places have been very subservient to America. But the right hon. Gentleman says that the Communists in France and Italy use the same language against the Marshall plan. That is a terrible indictment. He forgot to mention that Britain and the other countries in Western Europe use the same language in support of the Marshall Plan, and it is American language. Has the right hon. Gentleman, or any of the other Marshallites, ever mentioned the fact that America has put us on the means test? Has he ever mentioned the fact that any number of means test inspectors have been sent to this country and other countries in Europe, both officially and unofficially, to examine our position, and to find out whether we have any furniture which is not actually necessary, and which we are able to dispose of? The whole Paris meeting was based on a means test, and the whole attitude of America towards us is that of means test officials. It is an abominable position in which to place this country. A theme song ran right through the right hon. Gentleman's speech—as it runs through a lot of the speeches which we hear. It goes something like this: We once were great, mighty and strong; We built an Empire that spread around the world. Now we are down and cannot get up. Buddy, can you spare a dime? Is it necessary that we should have to undergo such humiliation? No, it is not. Everybody ought to have understood that we were bound to be faced with an adverse balance of trade because most of our goods had to come from America and are needed by us, whereas America does not need ours. Therefore, we should have been looking around for other sources of supply on the basis of goods for goods. The hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) was correct when he said, "Trade for trade, goods for goods." That is how to solve the crisis, how to put an end to the gap which has brought it about.

The other week the "leader of the economic orchestra" struck up a march. It was not, "We are marching to Zion—beautiful, beautiful Zion"; it was a paraphrase of the "Dead March in Saul." He told us that unless we got dollars immediately, all kinds of evil would come upon us, leading to economic strangulation. Why did he want the dollars? He wanted the dollars from America to pay them back to America because it is from America that the stranglehold comes, and he is pleading with America to loosen the stranglehold. That is not the spirit of this country. The spirit of this country is to call upon the workers to break the stranglehold. The Minister of Food was at Liverpool the same day meeting a consignment of Soviet tinned salmon and crab, and he and his wife had a very good diet. He said, "We sent the tins, they filled them up. That is how to do business." Yes, it is a good way of doing business—by sending empty tins and getting them back full. But he went on to say that it is also possible to get grain and timber from the Soviet Union—the timber which we need so badly for houses and pit props—and they will take our machinery in return. Surely, he added, it is not beyond the wit of man to make a trade agreement. I hope it is not beyond the wit of this Government. We should be looking to the Soviet Union and to the food-producing countries of Eastern Europe, helping them to recover so that more goods can come from there on the basis of goods for goods.

I notice that the right hon. Gentleman has "adopted" the Minister of State. Apparently he is a good lad. I have watched and waited and searched the records, and I have never found the Minister of State or any of the other members of the Government saying one word in criticism of anything that has been done by America. The Minister of State said by way of admonition to the Soviet delegates, "No country has a monopoly of truth." Why did he not say that here? When have we ever had anything but truth on our side? We have never been in error; truth has always been with us. It is always the other fellow who is wrong. It is a very smart trick to accuse the other fellow of doing what you are doing yourself. That is an old game.

We had something of that kind before Parliament went into Recess. I hope that none of the hon. Members opposite will be prepared to make any speeches or take any action in connection with that affair, because at Brighton the right hon. Gentleman and his friends made an attack on the Communists, and said that they were out to oppose subversive Communist activities. We had an exposure of subversive activity in this country not so long ago. We read in the newspapers of case after case of the most wicked subversive activity. I refer to those people who were dealing with Max Intrator and who were sabotaging the economic and financial stability of this country. Who were they? Were they Harry Pollitt or the hon. Member for West Fife? No, it was a bunch of Tories. That is where you get subversive activity.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about Petkov, and used very extravagant language. He seemed to be deeply affected by it. Was he affected by the case of Sacco and Vanzetti in America, or of Joe Hillstrom, or the hundreds of others who have been done to death there by "frame-ups"? Does he get indignant when he reads about the lynching of the Negro citizens of America and the horrible treatment that they get? Why is it that everything that is done by these countries in Eastern Europe, who are laying down the foundations of Socialism, is wrong, and everything that America does is right? It is no credit to the right hon. Gentleman to take that line. I would like him to develop a more sympathetic attitude towards Communism, and he will find that Communism has the solution for all the worst ills of humanity. There is no question about it.

I am very sorry that the Government accepted the proposals of the Federation of British Industries. That is a tragedy from the point of view of the great Labour movement. Here let me say again that for a long time I have been a member of the Labour Party; I have loyally paid my dues and will continue to do so. I consider it is a tragedy from the point of view of the Labour movement that the proposal of the Federation of British Industries was accepted. The decision to cut capital expenditure is all wrong. It means the cutting down of schools, hospitals and homes, and what we want more than anything else is to solve the housing problem. In the early days of the Labour Government we were told time and time again that the Government would stand or fall by its solution of the housing problem. They should never have accepted those proposals of the F.B.I.

As one who wants to see the Labour movement and the Government prospering in the great cause of Socialism, I say to the Government: Cut down profits to zero, cut down the Armed Forces, build homes and more homes for the people, keep up wages, keep down prices, give the workers a real say in the control of industry. Above all, hit the Tories and those whom they represent. Hit them hard, and the harder you hit them, the greater the response will be from the workers of this country.

7.48 p.m.

Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)

We always enjoy the speeches of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I think this evening he has given us a most brilliant resume of the Moscow radio in the last few weeks. I can always get on with Communists because I always know where I stand with them. I always assume that the first loyalty of every Communist is to Russia.

Mr. Gallacher

That is wrong. It is shameful that anything like that should be said about a Member of this House. I have been loyal to my class in this country all the years of my life, since before there was a Russian Revolution, and I could never possibly be loyal to people outside the country if I were not, in the first place, loyal to my own people in the country.

Mr. Gammans

I am glad to hear this new interpretation of Communism.

Mr. Gallacher

It is no new interpretation.

Mr. Gammans

I have always understood—and we have plenty of evidence to support it—that the first loyalty of Communists throughout the world is to Russia. They may have a secondary loyalty to the country in which they happened to be born, but, on the whole, they manage to disguise it pretty well. What the hon. Gentleman said with regard to America is interesting. He apparently thinks that we do not need any help from the United States, and, what is more, he thinks we did not need it in the past. May I suggest to him that for a short time he might do without all those rations which come from the American Continent, and live solely on those rations which come from the Soviet Union? He might then realize the exact meaning of what he is suggesting.

I can understand the Communists. The people I do not understand are the neo-Communists and the crypto-Communists. Where do they stand? Where stands, for example, the hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas), who I am sorry is not here now? I think he misunderstood us just now when he thought that we were objecting to his going to Russia. We do not object to his going to Russia. We envy him in being able to go there. I only wish someone would come along and offer to pay my fare to Russia. I would willingly go. What strikes us about these visits to Russia is how selective the Russians are in the people whom they invite. Apparently, the Russians read HANSARD and the effusions in our Press very carefully before they invite them. I would be obliged if the hon. Gentleman could tell me how I can get an invitation to go to Russia free of cost.

The point I want to mention tonight, so far as I know, is absolutely non-controversial, and I am sure hon. Members opposite will be glad to hear that. I want to make this one point. I regret very much that in the Gracious Speech there is no reference to any suggestion of an amendment of the law on rent restriction. So far as I know, that is not controversial, unless two Ministers of the Crown are going to swallow what they said two years ago. May I remind the House of the situation? In 1945 an interdepartmental committee, under Lord Ridley, made certain recommendations. On that Committee were the present Minister of Pensions and the present Minister of Works, and both those Ministers assented to those recommendations. I think most hon. Members know the absolutely chaotic condition of the Rent Restriction Acts. A learned judge said the other day: The Rent Restriction Acts are as difficult and complicated as any on the Statute Book. A county court judge put it rather more picturesquely when he said: I think King Solomon had much to be thankful for that he had not the Rent Restriction Acts to deal with. This matter was raised in the last Session by hon. Members in all parts of the House. It was raised by the hon. Members for West Leicester (Mr. Janner), Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett), the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) and by others. In another place Lord Ammon, speaking on behalf of the Government, said: The matter seems to be one of great urgency. The Minister of Health did not deny that there was a case for revising these Acts. He merely said that in the last Session there was not enough time. The last Session is over, and what I am dis-appointed to know is that, apparently, the Government have not found time in this Session.

May I remind the House that there are three very serious anomalies at present? There is the anomaly of houses of the same size in the same street which carry rents which may differ by as much as 50 per cent., and some of them more, merely because they happen to be controlled by different Acts of Parliament. The second problem is that of the deteriorating position regarding the repairs of houses. Two years ago the Ridley Report said that on a reasonable estimate, the increase in the cost of repairs had already risen by between 50 and 75 per. cent., and since that time, of course, it has increased still more. What they recommended—and I hope that whoever answers on behalf of the Government will reply to this point—was that a technical committee should be set up to advise the Government on the question of the cost of repairs. That technical committee requires no Act of Parliament, and I should like to know why it has not been set up, because the problem which faces us is this: unless we repair our existing houses, they will fall down quicker than the present Minister of Health can build new ones, and we shall soon find large areas in this country becoming virtual slums. If that happens, nobody gains—neither the tenants, property owners, nor the country generally. What strikes me as being so anomalous about the whole position is that local authorities all over the country are increasing rents of council houses in order to meet the increased cost of repairs. Tenants of those houses have no protection whatever against these rises, and they have no means of knowing whether the extra money they are compelled to pay is used for the repairs or not.

The third and last point is this. It is a rather technical point, concerning a limited class of property, namely, those blocks of flats the rents of which carry an obligation to provide services—such services as lifts, porters, hot water, central heating, and so on. The Ridley Committee were satisfied that the cost of providing these services had risen very considerably. If it was obligatory on the landlord to go on providing the services, it was reasonable that the tenant should pay for them. They went further than that, and said that consideration of this particular case should be given high priority. I cannot, perhaps, give a better illustration of what is the anomalous and ridiculous present law than this. If one is living in a block of flats and the landlord brings up one's shaving water in a tin mug, that constitutes service for which he can charge; but if the hot water is supplied through a tap, that does not constitute service within the meaning of the law. That is the utterly anomalous position of the law at present.

What is the remedy? No one in his right senses wants to abolish rent restriction when houses are in short supply. No one wants to allow rents to rocket up according to the law of supply and demand. The Ridley Committee did make recommendations. What they recommended was that rent tribunals should be established to fix fair rents. We have had experience of rent tribunals in the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act. So far as I know, the Minister of Health is reasonably satisfied that they are working well. Why cannot we get over this admittedly anomalous and deteriorating position by having tribunals for unfurnished houses as well? As far as the cost of repairs is concerned, the recommendation of the Ridley Committee was a technical committee. Why not set it up? It does not require any legislation. With regard to services, that anomaly can be remedied by amending Section 7 of the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act.

I must apologise to the House for bringing up this one rather technical matter when there are so many other questions to be considered, but I should be glad to know if something can be done in the present Session either partly or wholly to remedy a state of affairs which, I think, is deplored on all sides of the House.

7.59 p.m.

Mrs. Leah Mannin{ (Epping)

It was inevitable that we should find in the very forefront of the Gracious Speech some reference to the economic crisis, the inexorable aftermath of modern warfare in which there are no victors, and which has caught the whole of Europe in this great crisis which we are now facing. The Government have set their course. I think it is a wise course, although it is a very austere one; I am not sure that in some respects it is not altogether too austere. However, they have set their course with great courage, and I know our people will give all the resolution and fortitude they can in carrying out that difficult programme. But I think it is important that the Government should make it known, and make it known emphatically, that not for the first time in the history of our island our people must look to themselves; that it must be by their own fortitude, their own resolution, and their own endeavours that we shall overcome the difficulties we are now facing.

Nevertheless I was one of those people, one of many, who in June this year, after reading the speech of Mr. Marshall, felt a lift" of the heart. I thought here, at last, we were back in the days of Mr. Roosevelt. I thought here, perhaps, was another Lend-Lease, another gift from America. Because I do not believe that loans are either acceptable or of any value whatsoever at the present time. I do not believe—and I think we should say so quite definitely—that we shall ever be in a position to repay such loans. Therefore, when I read that speech I was heartened because I thought we were back again in the days of the New Deal, in the days of Roosevelt and the days of Lend-Lease. But, like many other people, I have had time for reflection, the more careful as a result of the seven weeks I have just spent in the United States of America—seven weeks in which I travelled from one end of the Continent to the other, in which I met the common people of America, and found out what they were thinking and talking about, and was at the same time able to read in the Press the reports that came from the many fact-finding Congressmen and Senators roaming over Europe at the expense of Congress to find out what our difficulties are all about. I think it is necessary for the Government to give the most careful consideration to the social and economic situation in America today. I am not referring here to witch hunts. Red scares, war hysteria, and loss of civil liberty—of which there is quite enough in America today—making the people of that country extremely apprehensive. I am referring to the cold finger of fear reaching down to the heart of every American man and every American woman, the fear of a future depression.

Those who fall from the greatest heights fall the hardest. There is in America today an assembly of all those factors which were present when, in 1931 and 1932, America had her last depression. They have rising prices. In every American city I visited there were processions of women with empty baskets. Do not let us think that every American lives high, wide and handsome. There are as many hungry people there as there are in every other part of the world. There are as many women there who cannot buy meat more than one day of the week as there are in other parts of the world. Nevertheless there is enough wasted in America to feed the whole of this country. In every city I went to I saw those great processions of women who were unable to buy the food in the shops because of the enormously soaring prices, prices which had gone up ever since they were so foolish as to discard price control and to discard rationing. I saw rent strikes as a protest against the 15 per cent. rent increases which are now being fixed in every city; these protests are made by all sections of the community, by Democrats, by Republicans, by everybody who is hit by the possibility of a 15 per cent. rise in rents. I saw in California people in the dry food industry and in the moving picture industry and friends of mine who are tobacco growers; all of them are deeply worried at the loss of markets in this country.

There is a situation in America today, as I have said, where all the factors leading to depression are present—rising prices, unemployment, inflation, and, what affects us more than anything else, a growing stagnant pool of idle investment capital. The American people are looking round today for places where they can invest their capital. They look round and see Europe as, in the days when we had capital to invest we looked at China and other so-called backward countries and thought, "Here is a place we can exploit; here is where we can put our capital, take out the profits and bring them back to our own country." Those who talk about a lowering in the standards of life have to remember that our high standards of life in the past were largely due to the exploitation of people who could not help themselves, by taking from those countries and living ourselves on riches which rightfully belonged to them. Do not let America do the same by us and by Europe. We do not want to become an American colony. I should be very surprised to find any Member of the Opposition who would dare to go down to his constituency and make any such suggestion.

So I think we have to look at the situation in America. We have to look not only at the people who are generous, hospitable, and kindly; who are so anxious for the success of a Socialist Government in this country, and generally glad when they know how far we have gone in building a Socialist Britain, difficult as it is for them to get at the facts. It is not those people who will make the decisions and lend the money. It will be the kind of Congressmen who make speeches on their return about the necessity for investing in the Ruhr and in Europe generally, the money which they and their friends in Wall Street and in the banks have accumulated.

The only thing I think we have any right to take if we are to set Europe on the road to recovery, is a free gift from America itself administered by Europe, in Europe for Europe; and not the kind of investment which can lead to operations such as have just been disclosed in trials in Germany. These have shown what happened between American industry and their opposite numbers, I.G. Farben, which starved our airmen of the magnesium so necessary for them because of the restrictions of output in America, whilst in Germany their opposite numbers could build up as much magnesium as they wanted and put it in boxes labelled "textiles." We have to be careful that that kind of situation does not arise in the Ruhr again, as might happen if we allow private capital investments to come from America into the Ruhr instead of controlling for the good of Europe, such moneys as we had expected from the Marshall plan.

I want to ask the Government what picture of our assets have they drawn to the Government of America? What bargaining power does America think we possess? Are they allowing America to think that we are a down-at-heel nation, on the way out? Nothing could be further from the truth. We are not a nation that stands alone. We are part of a great Commonwealth. [Interruption.] I am surprised to see the amusement which arises among the Opposition when anyone from these Benches dares to lay claim to the usual Tory idea.

Mr. Gammans

All that I meant was that the hon. Lady might spare us the story of her conversion.


I do not know that the hon. Gentleman has known me long enough to decide whether it is a conversion or not. In these days it is the delight of the Opposition, and especially of the Leader of the Opposition, to represent us in America as a down-at-heel country on our way out; to denigrate this Government, to speak as if we were a people who do not know exactly where we stand or what exactly we intend to do. I would ask the Government if they have made it perfectly clear to America that in the 16 nations that went to Paris there is a greater pool of manpower and skill than exists in the whole of the Americas; that in our Commonwealth, especially as a result of the great Colonial Development Schemes which this Government have announced, and which, in all the years of their power, the Opposition never dreamed to put into operation in our Colonies and Empire, is all the raw material we need. To them the Empire was either an occasion for flag wagging or an opportunity for exploitation. When did they ever try to raise the standard of life of the native peoples? It was all right to pour in investment money and carry away the wealth of the Colonies. But what more? Have our Government ever explained to the American Government that we have in our Commonwealth the raw materials we need, and that with the 16 nations that came together in Paris, given enough time, we can carry through schemes which will lead towards the recovery and rehabilitation of Europe.

I am not particularly in favour of a customs union among the nations of Western Europe. I do not want anything which makes it impossible for us to stretch out beyond a Western economic bloc for further trade agreements with Eastern Europe. I am not in favour of anything which divides Europe into two blocs, but I see no reason why we should not have arrangements, preference schemes perhaps, with our nearest neighbours. I should not like to see political strings attached to any loan given to us, making it impossible to carry on the preferences we have with our Colonies. This is the most likely way to maintain our independence and help to build up Europe.

I know that these are long-term policies which cannot be put into operation in the next few months. On the other hand, to tide us over until these schemes develop I am sure that many Americans who are very frightened at the loss of their markets, may think it would be a good thing, not only for us but for America, to make an outright gift to enable us to buy from them and prevent the unemployment and depression which must surely come to America if something of that kind is not arranged.

In the same connection, I wish to say something in regard to the Ruhr. Some time ago the Foreign Secretary told us very definitely that he intended to socialise the basic industries in the Ruhr. He told us that the people of Germany were anxious to have that socialisation. I remember him saying that we would supervise the factories of the Ruhr in such a way that unfinished machinery could be produced there and then sent to Eastern Europe for finishing. In that way there would be no danger of Germany building up a war potential. I should have thought, in our own difficult situation, that instead of pulling down the great factories of the Ruhr some of this unfinished machinery could come to this country. We could do with the machinery just as much as Eastern Europe. I want to know what has happened to that plan—has it got lost on the way?—and whether the Foreign Secretary has forgotten the statement he made in the House of Commons only a few months ago, or whether some pressure has been put on the Foreign Secretary by America to make him drop the scheme?

It would be far safer to see the basic industries of the Ruhr socialised, to help Germany on the way to recovery and also help the recovery of this country, than to allow American industrial capital to be poured into the Ruhr and again as in 1932, to build up Germany's war potential. I ask the Government whether they are putting forward a picture of this kind, and whether they are using our great material wealth, in manpower, in raw materials and in the skill of our people, as a counter to the Marshall Plan, or whether at some time we are going to allow ourselves to become a new American colony. I hope that in the course of this Debate we shall get somewhere from the Government Front Bench an English declaration of independence.

8.16 p.m.

Mr. Harold Roberts (Birmingham, Handsworth)

It may be necessary for me to delay the House at little greater length than usual, because I feel there are certain things to be said and matters to be dealt with which have not hitherto been mentioned. I hope before I sit down to say a word or two in reference to the interesting speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning). I will begin with the Gracious Speech on the Prorogation, for in it I find this remarkable passage: My Ministers are acutely aware of the distress caused by the housing shortage. They have continued to regard the provision of houses as a matter of the utmost urgency and have made substantial progress with their -programme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th October, 1947; Vol. 441, c. 164.] In the Gracious Speech for this Session there is no mention made of this subject, nor is there any mention made of the prolongation of the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act which is due to expire on 31st December, 1947. It is not surprising that these things should be omitted. Some of us have not forgotten the boastful observations made by the Minister of Health on 13th November, 1945, when introducing that Measure. He said: The House will note that, at the end of 1947, the Measure will die. This is my own estimate—perhaps vague—of the period when the worst housing stringency will have ceased to exist."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1945; Vol. 415, c. 1945.] We know that that Measure must be prolonged. On the other hand, I know why it has not been mentioned in the Gracious Speech. It is because it would be reminding Members of the devastating failure of the Minister of Health, when it would be so much pleasanter that he should leave that painful subject and devote himself to attacks on another place. I feel it my duty to bring to the notice of the House the sort of things which occur in my own city, which I think are typical. Not only is there a large waiting list, and not only is the housing situation progressing, if anything, backwards, but we have been informed of late that private building is forbidden, at any rate for the time being, and that sanctions for further council house schemes will not be permitted. That must inevitably mean, if long continued, the complete cessation of building in the city and the breakdown of the building industry. To his credit, the Socialist chairman of the housing committee preferred the city to party. He said that in plain language, and for his pains he was rebuked by a junior Whip, the hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Simmons), chiefly because he Lad the temerity to say it at an inopportune time before the civic elections——

Mr. Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

Is it not a fact that both my hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Simmons) and I received a letter from the Minister of Health stating that the chairman of the Birmingham public works committee had misrepresented the facts?

Mr. Roberts

Yes, that is a fact. The hon. Member and his hon. Friend received the usual half-hearted official denial, but great care was taken by the Minister of Health not to say what the facts were. I said—and I mean it—that it is the intention of this Government to get away from their social failures on to what is more interesting ground for some of their followers—pure political controversy. I want to say a word or two on the related topics of the Parliament Act and franchise and boundary reforms. History is edifying. I cannot get extraordinarily excited about the proposals to amend the Parliament Act. I have seen a little too much of the world to be excited now. I am not trembling at the possible feudal tyranny of the noble Lords in another place; I am much more alarmed at the present tyranny of Limehouse, which with an electorate of 16,000 returned the Prime Minister to this House. It takes an electorate of 57,000 people to return me. Such a state of affairs as this was felt to be a grievance and the Government set the Boundary Commission to work.

Half way through the Boundary Commission's researches the distressing discovery was made that if the Commission proceeded along the lines they were on, the Socialists would lose a great many seats. Promptly, the Commission's terms of reference were altered. By a strange coincidence, the Government made the discovery that the time was not opportune to estimate the populations in various areas because the country had not recovered from the war. I believe that that view was a sound one, but I have my doubts as to the motives which prompted the Government to take that view. All the evidence I have goes to show that little difference has been made by the selection of the later date. It was generally understood last summer that the Boundary Commission would be reporting by September. I have inquired at the Vote Office, and find that no such report is available. When it is I shall be extremely interested to find how long it has been in the hands of the Government.

The Government were placed in the position that if they did not legislate after altering the terms of reference of the Commission, they would be marked as the "rotten borough" Government. Naturally, they cast around to see what else could be done to soothe their supporters and mitigate any serious electoral losses. They said, "Let us tinker with the franchise. Let us pick a quarrel with another place. That will have several advantages. First, it will mollify our Leftwing supporters. They can be fobbed off by a declaration that we shall nationalise iron and steel during this Parliament only if we can keep them quiet by promising them a first-class row and attack on the other place. Even better. Suppose there were a chance of picking a first-class quarrel, and getting a Dissolution before the Boundary Commission's proposals take effect, how lovely that would be"——

Mr. Shurmer

Do not put things into our heads.

Mr. Roberts

I should be sorry to corrupt the innocence of my old friend. With my experience of the world I am not surprised at what naughty ideas do get into the heads of Governments, and I can hardly be blamed if I am a little suspicious now. I do not think that the greatest enemy of the Leader of the House would accuse him of lack of knowledge of electoral matters and tactics. I am told that a Measure is coming along to implement the report of the Boundary Commission. I shall believe it when I see it, when it is forced through Parliament. At the moment, I regard it as a piece of window dressing, an astute piece of political campaigning.

I feel I must say a few words on what may be called the crisis, and the references which have been made to it. This crisis is the direct result of the gross ineptitude of Labour Ministers in 1945. We were hit by it on 24th August, 1945, when President Truman suddenly cut off Lend-Lease. That matter was not debated until an announcement was made on the evening of 7th December, 1945, as to what was to be done. What was to be done? It was that on the strength of a two days' Debate, in which the Prime Minister refused to take off the Government Whips, we were to be tied to the Bretton Woods Agreement, to the terms of the Loan Agreement, and to a commercial treaty which provided for the nullification of preferences and the reduction of tariffs. The incompetence of the Government to deal with the situation is shown by the admission made on 6th December, 1945, by the Leader of the House when, referring to the Bretton Woods Agreement, he said: I have read the Agreement, but not with that fullness that I ought to have, I admit, but I have heard of the Bretton Woods Agreement for some time, and, therefore, the subject has been known."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1945; Vol. 416, c. 2681.] That was an argument for closing discussion and forcing this matter through on a two days' Debate. Did anyone hear of such gross incompetence on the part of the Deputy Prime Minister as to say that he had not made himself master of an Agreement on which the future and life of this country and Empire depended? That, I think, was a scandalous admission.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer took no advice from anybody on the terms of the Agreement. Not he. He knew it all. So, with a certain number of us, and, I am proud to say, a certain number on the other side of the House, as dissentients, these transactions were forced through. In particular, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was himself solemnly warned of the effect of the convertibility clause. Now what has happened? The worst predictions have been fulfilled. A greater part of that loan has simply gone into the sand. It would not be so bad if we had had goods or services from it, but it is estimated that a good half or more of it vanished in a few days when the convertibility clause came in. I am asked to have confidence in the restoration of the country with such men at the head of the Government.

I dare say that a good many of us have read an article by Professor Robbins in the "Lloyds Bank Review." He is a Professor at the London School of Economics, and disregarding the verbosity which seems inseparable from that seat of learning, and cutting out half of the article and its trimmings and getting down to the common sense of it, it amounts to this: either the Government proposed convertibility proposals that would not work, or they grossly failed in administration to work them. My own belief is that the limitation of convertibility to current transactions was hopelessly impossible from the beginning from the administrative point of view, and there we are. There we are, I say, but that is not where the Left Wing people are. They have awakened to the reality of life about two years too late, and they are now avenging themselves for their own follies by insulting the Americans. The "New Statesman" on the 23rd August, 1947, stated: The dollar area is not the only market in the world, and if such a desperate choice has to be made, the British people would prefer to go hungry and work out their own salvation, rather than live on American charity with such strings attached to it. That is exactly what the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) told this House in December, 1945, but his advice was not taken. The Government, with their large, newly-acquired majority, took to the Lobbies, and we were defeated.

Now I refer to something which happened in August of this year. Convertibility was stopped and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a speech, which many of us welcomed, in which he indicated that he was, in fact, turning his back on the bad past and endeavouring to help the Empire and Commonwealth. May I say a word on the party sid3 of it? I belong to a party which fought and lost three Elections on Imperial Preference, in each of which we had the unrelenting opposition of the Literal Party and of the growing Labour Party, and in each of which the cry "dearer food" was worked for all it was worth-When, therefore, it is charged upon me and my party that we have not cared for the Empire, I say that we have cared for it enough to risk our electoral fortunes three times.

Mr. Cecil Poole (Lichfield)

And robbed it quite a bit.

Mr. Roberts

We have not been assisted, by a united nation but thwarted repeatedly by brilliant Left Wing intellects, who, at long last, are realising that there may be something in our viewpoint. That does, not debar me from expressing sympathy with and admiration of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Lady the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning). I believe that if it were possible to break away from this miserable circle in which we are involved, much might be done along those lines.

I have one thing more to say. Negotiations are proceeding, as to which we are told very little, with a view not to implementing the policy adumbrated by the Foreign Secretary but of whittling down preferences and doing our best to stultify any unification. If the Government could be induced to do the right thing and take a wider vision, I for one would support them. The country is greater than party, but it will be difficult indeed to rally the country under inept leadership such as we have had. I say that, whether or not I care for those who govern us, whatever may be my opinion of their capacity, if they can rise superior to party and act for the country and the Commonwealth, then I shall be proud to support them and proud to do it at this late day when I recall that the cause of this country and this Empire is one for which the greatest of my fellow citizens, Joseph Chamberlain, gave his life.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. Norman Smith (Nottingham, South)

I rise in this House, stung by the speech which we have just heard by the hon. Member for Handsworth (Mr. Roberts). He recalled the events of 1945 when the American loan became an issue in this House. What he did not tell the House was that the official Opposition on that occasion had not the courage to take a definite point of view, and most of the Party opposite, including the leaders of that Party, sat on the fence and refused to go into the Division Lobby. If ever there was an exhibition of political cowardice, it was on the part of the Opposition then. Now the hon. Member for Handsworth has had the audacity to use the phrase "inept leadership" as applied to His Majesty's Government. It was he who reminded the House that in 1945 President Truman discontinued Lease-Lend—a calamity for this country, a body blow if ever there was one, and I suppose the most grievous blow ever dealt by one ally against another. At whose door are we to lay the blame for that blow? That blow was the direct consequence of the appalling leadership of the wartime Prime Minister.

After America came into the war we agreed, and rightly so, with the United States that the joint war effort entailed the abandonment by this country of the production of export goods which might be sunk in the Western Approaches by Hitler's submarines. It was agreed that we should change over from the manufacture of export goods to the manufacture of munitions of war; and quite rightly so, because the submarines were not infesting the approaches to the American coast. The wartime Prime Minister, in making that very sensible arrangement with the President of the United States, omitted to get from the President what the Presi- dent in the circumstances of that time could not have refused, namely, a guarantee that once the war was over Lease-Lend should be continued for a sufficiently long period to enable us to regain the export trade that we then forfeited as our part of the general war effort. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has as much of the blame to bear as any living man for the plight in which this country finds itself today. How history will assess his war leadership I do not know; but of this I am certain; the present generation has greatly over-rated that leadership, and the most egregious failure of the right hon. Member for Woodford during the war was his complete omission to get from the President the guarantee to which we were entitled.

The hon. Member for Handsworth dared to say that the plight in which this country finds itself today was the result of the alleged incompetence of His Majesty's Government. Nobody better than the hon. Gentleman knows that the causes of the present gap in the overseas payments have been building themselves up for as long as I have lived, and that is 57 years. He dares to do here what Conservatives are doing everywhere throughout the country, denigrate and defame His Majesty's Government; and then they come to the House and complain because we will not take them into a Coalition. I spent my recent holiday in a farming area in Wiltshire, which returns Conservative Members of Parliament, and I was appalled at the denigration and defamation of the Government going on there. Conservative speakers and their newspapers have dared to take the line which the hon. Member for Handsworth has taken here tonight—that this crisis has arisen because of things which this Government either has or has not done.

If they want the facts, they should go back to 1936, 1937 and 1938. Over those three years there was, in fact, a deficit in the balance of payments of £40 million per annum, the inevitable consequence not of a Labour Government, because there was no Labour Government, but of the Capitalist system, which denies to the home market the purchasing power enabling the workers to buy back the things which the workers produce. The so-called favourable balance of trade before then, in fact, consisted in giving away to foreigners the products of British industry in exchange for nothing more substantial than I.O.U.s, the title deeds of our overseas investments.

Ever since I was born in 1890, capitalism in this country has been investing overseas, which has enabled our former customers to become competitors. The Tory Party say they want this country to export more coal. Every time we export coal we enable an overseas customer to set factories working and to generate electricity wherewith to make the goods which we should like to supply. This is not a crisis of the Labour Government. It is a crisis of the capitalist system. No one knows that better than the hon. Gentleman the Member for Handsworth. All that the war did was to bring to a head a crisis which has been developing for more than half a century. World War 11 did three things. It deprived us of shipping which was sunk, shipping which used to earn us foreign currency It deprived us of overseas investments which we sold, before America came into the war, to pay for munitions. It deprived us of export markets, due to the arrangement to which I have referred and for which the Leader of the Opposition was responsible. It was a good arrangement in the circumstances of that time, but he clean forgot to take the necessary post-war precaution

That was the same sort of statesmanship as was displayed by the right hon. Member for Woodford in 1925, when he accepted, as he afterwards admitted himself, the advice of alleged experts on something which he did not understand, and put this country back on to the 1914 gold parity with disastrous consequences, described eloquently in the report of the MacMillan Commission on Trade and Industry, published in 1931, consequences which in the homes of the people I represent meant continued misery and long drawn-out poverty. These things were the direct consequence of downright ineptitude on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford, the present Leader of the Opposition. It disgusted me to hear him interrupt my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last night and impute to my right hon. Friend the very ineptitude of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford is the unparalleled practitioner. I am sick of the hypocrisy of the Conservative Party. They know very well what are the causes of our present plight; but they will not admit one thing, and that is that it is their capitalist system which is to blame.

The hon. Member for Handsworth challenged hon. Members on this side of the House to defend the Government's policy. No one criticised the Government at the time of the American Loan more than I did, but I am going to say this, that the policy of His Majesty's Government ever since the Election of 1945 has mostly been a revolutionary policy and a correct policy, it can be summed up in one word—output, just that. What a difference from the condition of things that prevailed under the party opposite in the 1920's and 1930's. when idle men existed side by side with idle factories while there were unused land and unused coal mines for no better reason than this, that the owners could no' get the money wherewith to finance production. In the 1920's and 1930's, productive resources were not being used in this country.

I quote a speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) which he made in London in 1943 to the Institute of Chemical Engineers and which was reported in only one newspaper, "The Financial News." In that speech he said that the condemnation of the prewar system was that it allowed resources to be unemployed. His Majesty's Government have not allowed resources to be unemployed. We have got as near to full employment since 1945 as it is possible to get. Having nationalised the Bank of England and removed the financial obstacle, we have gone ahead.

I recall the ignorant parrot-cry which used to be raised at my meetings when I was the unsuccessful Labour candidate for a Kent constituency. My opponents used to come to my meetings and ask: "Where is the money to come from?" Poor, stupid creatures! They did not know that the banks create money out of nothing. It is perfectly easy to find money. The essential thing to do is to set people to work to produce. That is what His Majesty's Government do, in striking contrast with what the Opposition did. Between the wars, the other side allowed their financial prejudices to prevent idle men being set to work upon idle resources.

We have got [...] of the financial bottleneck, only to get up against a more formidable bottleneck, when we were facing a shortage of fuel. We live in a technological age, when the measure of production is no longer the labour output of working men, but is the unit of energy, such as the kilowatt. We find ourselves short of fuel. The basic industries had been let down between the wars, precisely because of the capitalist system. The railways and the mines were let down because the business of the railway owners and of the mineowners was not to deliver transport or fuel to the nation, but to produce a financial result. If they were to be able to pay their shareholders, they could not at the same time keep their properties in repair, still less mechanise, modernise and bring them up-to-date, as they should have been.

In my constituency there is one coal mine, the Clifton Pit, which was going to shut down in 1941 because it was working at a loss. What a mess it was in. It happened to owe money to the banks. The mortgagees had not to suffer, the banks had to have their money. The colliery was nationalised. The new management proceeded to instal up-to-date haulage machinery in the pit, which to-day is a flourishing concern. I do not blame the former mineowners. Their job was to produce a financial result. They could not at one and the same time reward their shareholders and spend money on development.

When we nationalised the mines in 1946, the other side had the audacity to accuse us of being animated by no better motive than ideological prejudice. That was a whole lot of humbug. We had to nationalise the pits for the same reason that we had to nationalise the railways. If we had not nationalised the pits, they would have become decrepit; and if we had not nationalised the railways, they would have become dilapidated. We do not nationalise because we are crazy Socialists with a bee in our bonnets, but because only by so doing can we get our basic industries geared up to abundant production.

His Majesty's Government have deserved well of the people. They have done the only possible thing to meet this crisis, namely, to increase physical output and to concentrate upon modernisation of the basic industries and the key services, without which abundance is forever unobtainable. The party opposite neglected that job between the wars. It would have been so easy in the 1930's, when men were unemployed and materials were abundant, and we had only to tell Montagu Norman at the Bank of England to create money; it would have been so easy in those days to spend money and labour in developing the railways and modernising the pits. It was not done. When Labour came in, Labour changed the gear from the scarcity of the inter-war period to the abundant production that we have now. It is not sufficiently abundant, but it is far more abundant now than it was then. The proof of that is that more coal is being used in our power stations, our gas works and on the railways than was used then.

When the result of the poll was declared in 1945, I walked out of the polling station with my wife knowing that I had a big majority. I said to her: "We don't know what has happened elsewhere," but we very soon learned. When I heard that there was going to be a majority Labour Government, I said: "We are in for a thick time this next few years." My wife asked me "Why? and I replied: "Because we have inherited a production equipment, which, so far as basic industry and key services are concerned, has been let down by capitalism." Somehow or other we have to change up the gear from the scarcity production which satisfied the party opposite to the abundant production which alone can, in the first place, enable us to meet our overseas deficit of payments, and in the second place get the output, which alone can yield a high standard of living.

I heartily defend His Majesty's Government in what they have so far done. If I have any suggestion to offer as to where we go from here, it is that we have to learn that this is a little island whose assets are not sufficient in the modern world. Those assets consist only in a fertile soil, coal mines which have been let down, and a very fine people with skill, courage, intelligence, and initiative. This little Island is not a sufficiently big economic unit to function satisfactorily in a world where power production demands, under modern technological conditions, an immense scale of output. America, with 139 million people, is a satisfactory technological economic unit. Russia, with, I believe, 180 million, is a satisfactory technological unit.

Somehow or other we have to integrate this little island with those great Dominions, mention of which has been made tonight, and many of which, I am happy to say, have Labour Governments. Somehow or other, Statute of Westminster or no Statute of Westminster, it has to be done. There is no other way I hope that His Majesty's Ministers, however much they may be counting on the Marshall Plan, will in all their long-term dispositions keep close together with the Dominions and Colonies to ensure that we shall in future be working on a very much larger scale as an economic unit of organisation. I believe that to be necessary, and not only for economic reasons.

Mention has been made in this House tonight of the U.S.S.R. It grieved me very much yesterday in this House to hear the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who rightly enjoys the esteem of all parties for his admirable personal qualities, referring to the United States- and taking it for granted by implication that we must of necessity line up with the United States against the U.S.S.R. From that point of view I dissent entirely. Nobody dislikes more than I the totalitarian set-up in Eastern Europe. To me, the one-party State sustained by a political police is a damnable and abominable thing. I should hate to live under it, and 99 out of every 100 of my constituents would also hate to live in a totalitarian set-up.

I am under no illusions. If there are fanatical extremists cherishing out-of-date Marxist notions—Marx died seven years before I was born—who are under the impression that sooner or later Russia has to fight America; and if there are hard-headed business men in America, devoted to the ideal of business for its own sake, who think that America has to fight Russia, I say let them go on holding their views. I am an Englishman. I believe in the decency of my fellow countrymen. I believe in trying to combine in this country the ideal of social justice with individual freedom. I believe that the future peace of the world depends upon the creation and the maintenance of a political entity in the world which shall not be Communist or capitalist, but shall be Social Democratic. It shall combine all that is best in our British political traditions with all that we can achieve with our great technological skill and our scientific resources.

9.0 p.m.

Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)

The hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Norman Smith) is right in stressing technological considerations but I think he is making too much of them. I have heard on good authority that there are mines in this country where, in spite of the fact that a very large and uneconomic sum of money has been spent on mechanisation, the same or a comparable output is resulting. I know at first-hand of certain industries of which I have some inside knowledge where, owing to the scarcity of labour in the war, a considerable degree of mechanisation has been effected and technology has played its part to the utmost, and there is a slightly greater production but not very much so. There is the point. The skilled artisan, the machine minder, the labourer has a history behind him of having been hard-worked, even over-worked, and he has a propaganda over 40 or 50 years telling him that if only a political change took place to the Left, if only the Labour Party came into power, then all would be well and he could do less and get more. That may or may not be true in the long run, but it is certainly not true now after the exhausting period of war we have been through. I am convinced that while we wait for technological advance to help us get greater production with less work, we must, somehow or other, induce the great mass of our working wage earners to give us more work.

I approach this matter without heat, without prejudice I hope, and utterly calmly, to see if we cannot get down to the bottom of it. It seems to me that we have taken away all the incentives which used to induce a man to work exceptionally hard or even moderately hard. We have taken away any incentive to stay in his job because he can so readily get another job. That has changed for the better in the last few weeks since the standstill order came into force. Everybody will know—older men on the railways and in other industries have told me—that the young men who came back from the war were extremely restless No body blames them for this—I, particularly, do not, for they are my friends. They were extremely restless, and if a foreman suggested that there was a certain authority in his office as foreman and that a fellow who was not doing the work quite right or not as accurately as he ought, should do it differently, the young fellow rebelled against the authority and said, "Very well, I will walk out and get another job." As long as the incentive to stay in the job is missing, we must replace it by something else. What can replace it?

Look at the other incentives which have been taken away. It used to be the ambition of some to save enough money to send their children to a better school. Many worked extremely hard for that in the old days. The State now pays out many more scholarships and makes it so much easier. That incentive has gone. I do not regret that in itself. I want to see the bright and able children better educated and I think it is to the nation's advantage that the nation as a whole should pay for it. I am only pointing out that that incentive has gone. It used to be possible for a man to buy his house. He cannot do that now. That was one of the greatest incentives. A substantial percentage of workmen stayed in their jobs for a long period of time, served faithfully, took their orders with grace, worked hard and saved their money because they were buying a house. Now that incentive has gone. I do deplore that one because I think the ownership of your own house is very near to the human heart and is in itself a good thing, apart from the incentive and the effect which it has on production and on staying on the job.

There are not goods to buy. That may not be wholly the fault of the Government, I do not say that it is, but consumption goods are not available in abundance. Travel is not available, petrol is cut, films are made less attractive, everything that makes it worth while working has been taken away. Even Income Tax in its incidence now demonstrates itself to fall upon the last pound of the £5 or £6 or £7; it does not appear to fall on the whole income but only on the last pound, and it makes that last pound so much less worth earning. When you have been accustomed to fighting battles and going on strike, at great sacrifice to yourself and the penury of your family; when you have been taught to do that for 50 years in order to insist that overtime shall reward you one and a half times, it is only natural that, when you find it is only rewarding you three quarters or a half, you will say that it is not worth doing. And so the incentive of anxiety to keep your job has gone, the incentive of reward which will enable you to gain something for your children or a house for yourself or some little luxury that you desire, has gone because they are not to be had. The only thing that is put in its place is the oft-repeated theme that you must now work for the State and for the people.

Now if that was a new idea to be planted in barren minds, intelligent but untutored, it might bear fruit because it is a noble idea to which I pay tribute. Any man who devotes his life and his time to working for the State with not a hope of great reward but a modest one; any of our civil servants who chooses that career instead of the adventurous, more interesting and the more profitable career of commerce, any such man is to be admired, and if large numbers of our working people could have something of the missionary spirit and zeal which, for example, carries forward our colonial servants in their task, it would be a noble thing. However, you cannot change mankind in a year or two, and particularly if your propaganda over the previous 50 years has been utterly misleading. My charge is not that the Labour Party is not aiming at good things but that, having regard to the misleading propaganda in which it has indulged, and the unacceptable and impossible promises it has made, it deserves all the difficulties which it is now facing. They arise out of the facts of this case, not out of the bungling of particular Ministers, though that is deplorable enough, but out of the facts which I have tried to recite.

It seems to me that there is no way out of this dilemma except to give people incentives. Now we see Ministers timidly coming forward one after the other, edging an idea into their followers' ears, hoping that one or two will pass it on, that somehow or other it will gain acceptance, the idea that there must be incentive payments. We see them introduced in the building industry after two years have been wasted. It might well have been done two years ago. If it is bad now, it was bad then; if it is good now, it would have been good then and it would have helped us very materially. We see them trying to carry out two contradictory policies: to give these incentives for more earnings and, simultaneously, to take away the things which the people could buy with the earnings. Let them change this policy by recognising quite honestly that it is incompatible with the teaching which they have put forth over the last 50 years. Let them encourage people to buy their houses. What better way to induce a man to save his money? The Chancellor wants money saved but he does not give anyone any inducement. There is no inducement to buy a piece of paper, the value of which is unpredictable, but a house is a house and a roof over your head is something. Let them think seriously about this, not as a political point, but as a real human point. Let them bring more goods that are of use to, and are needed by, housewives and families into the home market, not to deprive the export market, but to encourage production which can fill the export market.

I wish to deal with the question of petrol, particularly as it affects the rural areas. At the same time that the Government want more production, they take away for the sake of a few dollars one of the great incentives to endeavour and production. The little man who has saved up to buy his car and is relying on having one or two gallons of petrol so that he can use it, will work all the harder if he can buy that car. It is the fact that he wants the car that makes him work harder, and if he can save up money and coupons in order to use the car for a holiday, he will work the harder. I prophesy that in the month before Christmas the miners will work harder. They always do, not because of any Saturdays or half hour extra, but because they want a little extra money for Christmas. I think that if the figures are looked up it will be found that over the last 20 years that has always been so. By taking away the little man's incentive to buy a car or to use it, we are hampering his incentive to get something which he wants. There are a great many even now who own a little car—their number is legion. The petrol cut has another most serious effect in that it immobilises a very large part of the countryside. The farmer is handicapped, yet we must rely on him as per- haps the greatest contributor towards saving dollars. It is all very well to say that he gets essential petrol; a large part of the rural population does not, but it contributes to farming. If the petrol cut is essential, I ask that rural districts should have special consideration, because the burden falls on them much more than on the towns. Consideration should also be given to disabled ex-Service men ox ex-Service men who have recently set up in business.

I wish to take up the theme of the hon. Member for South Nottingham about my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) and Mr. Roosevelt. The hon. Member for South Nottingham said that if only my right hon. Friend, when bargaining with Mr. Roosevelt for Lend-Lease had made a condition that after the war Lend-Lease would go on for a certain time, how different it would have been, and that because my right hon. Friend did not do that, he was gravely at fault, and on his shoulders must be placed the burden of responsibility for our present troubles. I think I have fairly summarised the charges made by the hon. Member.

Mr. Norman Smith

I am sure the hon. Member would not wish to misrepresent me. The specific case I was careful to make was that this was a question, quite rightly in the circumstances of that time, of diverting British industry and labour from the production of export goods to the production of munitions, leaving to the Americans the job of producing for export. My case was that in those precise circumstances we were surely throwing away export connections. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), then Prime Minister, could have got, what the President should not have refused, a guarantee that after the war Lend-Lease should be continued long enough to enable us to restore our export position.

Sir I. Fraser

I knew all that. I think I was not misrepresenting it, but I am glad to have had it made so clear. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Leader of the Opposition was to blame then for not having made such a bargain with Mr. Roosevelt. I do not remember whether the hon. Member was in this House to hear the Secret Session speeches which my right hon. Friend made from the Front Bench opposite before America came into the war.

Mr. Smith


Sir I. Fraser

I wonder if ha really knows what he is talking about, or whether he is not making a party point which is untrue in fact and unfair in its irrelevance. Hon. Members on both sides of this House will know the anxiety as to what American action would be, the anxiety about Lend-Lease and the perilous situation in which we were. All these factors would have made it utterly impossible for my right hon. Friend to have said to his friend and our friend, President Roosevelt, who had held out this hand of friendship—before they were attacked, remember—what the hon. Member suggested. Would it have been possible for my right hon. Friend to have made a bargain? One cannot make a bargain with a man who is saving one from drowning. One has to accept with grace the help which comes from him.

Mr. Smith

Who saved whom?

Sir I. Fraser

I believe that this country will get aid from the United States. I have just returned from a trip there, and I have taken all the pains I could to observe the sentiments of that people. It is very hard to analyse the feelings of a great people or even of an individual, but I would summarise them in a few sentences. First of all, there is the view: "We will not lend any dollars to Britain because she has a Socialist Government, and we Republicans unanimously dislike Socialism and we Democrats dislike it as to 90 per cent. of us. We will, therefore, not lend any dollars to Britain." That view prevails among some people all the time and amongst all the people some of the time. There is another view: "We will lend dollars to Britain, because if we do not, Communism will spread over Europe and even into Britain. We dislike Communism and fear it, and will, therefore, lend dollars to Britain." That is a motive in the minds of some Americans all the time and of all Americans some of the time.

Mr. Gallacher

Will not the hon. Member and his associates assist me, in view of the statement he has made, in getting a few more Communists into this House? That will mean a few more dollars from America.

Sir I. Fraser

That argument shows that even dollars can be had at too high a price. Then some Americans say, "The British are attacking Jews." One finds this in New York particularly, and as the House knows, the New York vote is largely controlled by Jewish people, and greatly influences the Presidential election. This argument is "The British are attacking the Jews, and we will not lend them dollars." A more unfair statement could not be made about the country, which has done more for the Jewish people than has any other country, but it is a factor which I am reporting. There is still one more secondary theme, namely, "We will lend dollars to Britain, because if we do not we will lose our best market." That is a factor in many minds." If we are Democrats we will lend dollars to Britain, because, if we do not, we will lose the next general election." All these thoughts run through American minds. I hope that behind them all there is another one—"Whether we like Britain or not, they are a people who stood up to the dictators, and, though we may not say this because we are Americans, we feel it. They stood up to them while we were making up our minds. They stood alone. They stand for freedom and for personal liberty, things which we cherish."

It is incumbent upon us that we should show the Americans one or two things. One is that we really stand for personal liberty and that we are not going to whittle it away. There are signs that Government policy is moving in that direction. Another point is that we are determined to reconstruct our own country and build up our wealth once again by hard work. I know that trade unions are not responsible in the short run for the unofficial strikes which the Americans call "wild cat" strikes. They are not responsible and I grant that trade union leaders as well as Ministers do their best to avoid them. But some Ministers have lost the faith of the people and some of the younger trade union leaders try to push themselves forward and stir up trouble. Unless we can show our people that their very life depends upon avoiding the cutting off of coal and meat supplies, unless we can show them that that is a mistake, and unless we can do it with good will and without hostility, we are not going to survive here and we are not going to convince the Americans that we mean to survive. The Americans like success and they are not quite sure that Britain is going to be successful.

We must adopt one or two very simple rules of life which this Government is departing from at their peril. One rule is that we must not buy what we cannot afford. That is another way of saying that we must not spend more than we have got. Second, we must not borrow unless we can see our way to pay back. These simple rules of life should guide us. I earnestly hope that the Chancellor's decision to have a Budget before Christmas is based upon the fact that he has re-learned those rules. I will not suggest that he has learned them for the first time because I cannot believe that even he did not learn them with his mother's milk. We must come back to some of these simple rules of life and make it worth while for a man to make money. Let him who works hard have more and him who works less have less. These are good rules. If His Majesty's Government alter the basis of their policy which is wholly contrary to these instincts of man they will draw out of our people the enormous reserve of power which they have always shown themselves to have in times of crisis. I believe that the people of our country which, in spite of the Labour Government has made a remarkable recovery from war fatigue can make a great contribution to the wisdom and to the wealth of the world.

9.24 p.m.

Mr. Follick (Loughborough)

I am going to raise a question which may give rise to a certain amount of controversy. The Gracious Speech says: The first aim of My Ministers will be to redress the adverse balance of payments, particularly by expanding exports. I have been in every country on the West-European seaboard within the last six months and I have found that every one of those countries has the idea that their existence depends upon expanding exports. Wherever one goes one finds the countries are depriving themselves of their own production for the sake of expanding exports. This theory of expanding exports sooner or later must lead to disaster. If we are to survive the impending disaster we must find a different way of saving our nation.

Now, I firmly believe, and an earlier speaker has touched upon this subject, that the only way we are going to save ourselves is by full-scale Imperial integration. When I say full-scale Imperial integration, I do not want the House to misunderstand me. I am not merely toying with Empire free trade, nor with a customs union. That may be a good kicking-off point, but what I want is 100 per cent. Imperial integration, because only by that are we going to save ourselves as a nation. The official census for Great Britain in June, 1938, showed a population of 46,200,000, and the extension of our territory as 228 square kilometres. As against this, France has two and a quarter times our extension of territory, with only about 40 million inhabitants. So, today, we have a rising population towards 50 million, France has a descending population towards 40 million, with two and a quarter times our territory.

It is going to be impossible in the long run for these islands to maintain this tremendous population. France can barely do it, with a very fertile territory and everything else one could desire. These islands could feed safely 35 million inhabitants, and what I think would be necessary towards full Imperial intention is for us to take up the scale of emigration where it left off in 1914. From 1900 to 1914, emigration from these Islands was at the rate of a quarter of a million yearly. These people went out to our Dominions, to a very large extent, and if the Board of Trade would study their figures, they would find that the only certain markets that we possess in the world today are those markets formerly built up by this earlier emigration. Therefore, if we can emigrate again to our great Dominions on a similar scale, so that our large population will come down to about 35 million, and build up our Imperial population, we shall not only be able to feed our own inhabitants in these Islands, but we shall have very great and assured markets in our Empire.

I make a very clear distinction between the Commonwealth and Empire. For me, the Commonwealth is composed of the self-governing Dominions in their relations with Britain, whereas the Empire is Britain in relation to the Colonies, as governed from Whitehall. If we are going to have full Imperial integration, then the self-governing Dominions must be as responsible for the colonies as we are in this country. Not only that, but every part of the Empire should be fully integrated, whether it be a colony or a partly self-governing or fully self-governing Dominion.

We should not be afraid of this word "Empire." There is nothing to be ashamed of in the Empire. It is a great concern. I have travelled the Empire, and I know the feeling in the Empire towards the mother country. There is nothing of shame in that. Do the Soviets—I beg the pardon of my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher)—feel any shame for building up a great Empire? Do they feel any shame about integrating within that Empire the other Slav States? Does America feel ashamed about taking over other States? It may not be generally known to this House, but in the years from 1889 to 1912 the United States integrated 10 complete States, some of them half as big as Great Britain. Two states, Arizona and New Mexico, were integrated in 1912. If neither the Soviet Union nor the United States should be ashamed of its Imperial destiny, why should this country be ashamed of its Imperial future? It ought to be entirely indifferent to us whether the inhabitants of the British Empire are situated in Britain, in Australia, or in New Zealand, or whatever the case may be, so long as they remain British within the Empire, and work for it.

If we do that, the future, not only of this country, but of the whole Empire is assured. We are assured of being able to feed our nation, which we are not assured of doing at present, and which, the way things are going, we shall never be assured of doing in the future. We shall have great markets for our nation built up by the population that will be emigrating from this country into the Dominions. Though Australia set her face against immigration from 1919 onwards, there is no fear that in the future she will set her face against our population going out there to take over settlements. The Australians know only too well how near they came to disaster in 1942 when they could not defend themselves; if it had not been for the Americans coming to their rescue in the battles of Guadalcanal, Okinawa and the Coral Seas, they know quite well that they would have been occupied by the Japanese. Australia has to build up a population of at least 20 million, and we ought to see that a large part of that number comes from these islands. If we do not, we are looking, not only for the ruin of our own country, but probably for the ruin of the Empire as well.

I think that, as far as our future is concerned, Imperial integration will not only solve our own difficulties, our Imperial future, but will build up a balance of the world for the advantage of other peoples. At present, we have the extreme Left idealism in Russia embracing, I must say, a certain amount of tyranny, which I have seen for myself in these very recent weeks, and in America we have a greatly over-developed capitalist system, which also provides a certain amount of tyranny, and, acting as a balance between these two extremes, we have a Commonwealth built up from the Mother Country with the ideas, the systems and the organisation of Great Britain.

It is our destiny to look after the world by looking after our own household. If we do that we may possibly see an era of peace in this world for a good many decades to come. If we do not do that, we shall be faced sooner or later with the fear of ruin; the Empire may be split up, and war between the two extremes will undoubtedly come to a head. Therefore, my last word is that if this country goes over to Imperial integration it will not only be for our own benefit and for our Imperial benefit, but it will be of benefit to the whole of humanity. It will be an example to the whole world how to balance a nation's welfare and how to look after its interests.

9.36 p.m.

Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)

I am sure the House has welcomed the very strong Imperialistic speech which has come from the opposite side of the House. We are very interested in many of the points which the hon. Member for Lough-borough (Mr. Follick) put forward. I quite agree with him on the question of the population of this country. I do not think we can maintain a population of 47 million people in this country on the standard of life which we used to have in the old days. Anyone here who may be alive 30 or 40 years from now, may see the population of this country reduced to 35 million, with a greater preponderance of British people in the Commonwealth.

In the meantime, we have to keep 47 million people going. I am very glad to notice on the Front Bench tonight the right hon. and learned Gentleman who, at the moment, is probably the main pivot in trying to keep us going. I refer to the Minister for Economic Affairs. I am sure we all congratulate him upon his very important, onerous and difficult appointment. Everyone in this country, whatever point of view he may hold, would wish the right hon. and learned Gentleman the utmost success, and certainly if it depended entirely on nothing but his ability, power, momentum and drive, he would deserve every success. But it will not depend entirely on that alone. The right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Government must have the support of the whole people of the country if they are to be successful.

One point in the Gracious Speech gave me considerable disappointment. The Prime Minister yesterday almost casually mentioned the question of the nationalisation of the iron and steel industry in this country, and said it in a tone almost as if he were giving an assurance to industry generally that this was going to be brought about, in the lifetime of the present Parliament. As a matter of fact, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman could have said anything which would have convinced the people of this country more that the Government as a whole are still prepared to put political expediency before the real welfare of industry. I do not take the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Hands worth (Mr. H. Roberts). I wish he were right, in a way. In his opinion, the reference of the Prime Minister to the nationalisation of the iron and steel industry was purely a red herring, as it were, in order to bring about the other intention of the Government to have a first-class row with another place, and go to the country and have an Election before there is any possibility of the question of the nationalisation of the iron and steel industry being considered. I should prefer that to the suggestion that the Government mean to go on with this most complicated, difficult and baffling problem.

To a layman like myself, so far as industry is concerned, it would appear to be the most intricate and baffling industry that any Government could ever hope successfully to nationalise. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman even new, in the interests of the country, will have the courage to go back on that decision and tell the country that the whole matter has been reconsidered and that the Government are not in a position to go on with it. No Single piece of information could give industry greater reassurance than that.

I would like to emphasise the appeal made to the Government by my hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) on the question of the abolition of the basic petrol ration. It seems to me that for the amount of saving in dollars that it represents, it is a very great hardship on the people of the country. It is a great mistake for anyone to think that it will affect only one class of the population. The abolition of the basic petrol ration is probably the greatest single hardship that has been inflicted even by this Government on the people in the last two years in which they have been in office. It is going to make people's lives in many areas extremely difficult. It will make greater difficulties in the agricultural industry than are really necessary. I trust the Government may even now reconsider the whole matter and decide that, at all events, some proportion of the basic ration may be allowed.

In His Majesty's Gracious Speech there was an allusion to the social services. Naturally, one did not expect a great deal in the Speech on that particular question. Reference was made to those branches of the social services which were dealt with by this House last year, but which have not yet come into fruition. On this point I should like to ask the Government a question. I understand that on 1st July next all the population of this country—everybody—will be insured, and will be paying contributions on health, on danger of unemployment, and so on. Are the Government in a position to say they will be able to bring that piece of legislation into fruition oh 1st July next? I do not believe for a moment that they are in the position to carry it out. In regard to the health services alone, it seems to me completely impossible, with the lack of accommodation in hospitals, with the lack of personnel, medical and nursing, with the lack of equipment, to bring about the scheme which is supposed to guarantee to every individual, man, woman and child, of this country expert medical attention, nursing, dental services, and so on. In the circumstances, if the Government are not in a position to bring that about, it would be very much better for the Government to be quite frank with the people, and say to them, "In the circumstances of the present time, we are not in a position to carry out this scheme, and it should be postponed until such time as we are able to deliver to the people the goods which we promised to deliver."

Finally, I should like to say that everybody in this House, on both sides of the House, naturally would wish the Government to succeed in their efforts to bring about a better state than that in which we are at the present time. The national situation is steadily deteriorating. From whatever angle of life we look at it, whether on the basis of food, or the basis of travel, or the basis of accommodation, the standard of living of the people generally is steadily deteriorating. In my judgment there is not a great deal of marginal room for very much more deterioration in the standard of living of the people of this country, or it will be completely impossible to carry out the programme which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested they should carry put. I suggest to the Government, that in order to succeed, they must get complete national co-operation, and that they will not get that while Ministers of this Government are constantly preaching class warfare. I suggest to them that if they mean business in this matter, they must learn that particular lesson, because they cannot have it both ways. It is impossible, on the one hand, to ask for co-operation, and, at the same time, to preach class warfare and class distinction.

9.47 p.m.

Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Time being very short, I shall try to condense what I have to say as much as possible. At least, I have the advantage of being able to talk about a subject of which I know a great deal, and that advantage is intensified by the fact that most people in this House know very little about it, namely, the state of Eastern Europe and, In particular, Bul- garia. In talking on this subject I do so not for the purpose of engendering heat, but for the purpose of making a fair valuation of the situation as it exists there today. With my colleagues on these Benches I have been a loyal supporter—and will continue to be a loyal supporter—of this Government. Indeed, the Government are to be congratulated upon the harmonious spirit established amongst their supporters. It is an amazing fact that nearly 400 of us, despite some misgivings about certain aspects of foreign policy, have been able to give the Government the support they require.

But I am gravely disturbed about some aspects of the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government. I have been to Bulgaria recently, as my hon. Friends know. Of course, I have been jeered and taunted, good humouredly in some cases, by hon. Members, but at least I have enjoyed experiences which were unparalleled in the history of the Balkans by receiving the greatest national demonstration of welcome by the people there to an obscure and humble Member of this House. I want to say a word about Petkov. Early in 1946 I saw Petkov, and spent a lot of time with him. I was convinced that the attitude he was taking was against the wellbeing of his country. I have no sympathy with Petkov. I believe in my heart, very sincerely, that Petkov was a guilty man, guilty of great crimes. His trial was an open trial. The Press of all countries, including Britain, were admitted. He was accused of organising a military, Fascist coup d'état against the State by encouraging sabotage and assisting foreign intervention, and, what is most important, inciting revolt in the Army against the Bulgarian Government.

Mr. Drayson (Skipton)

Is the hon. Member now suggesting that the action taken by the Foreign Minister in regard to the Petkov trial was completely unwarranted?

Mr. Mack

I am making no suggestions one way or the other. I am merely saying that there was an indictment against him before the People's Court of Bulgaria, and that by a free and open trial he was found guilty of those foul crimes. When this matter went before the Supreme Court of Cassation, which is the supervisory Court, it confirmed his guilt. My point is that no matter what individuals may honestly think about it, the fact remains that a country has a perfect right to judge one of its own nationals before one of its own courts. We, apart from protests as a result of an honest misunderstanding, have no right whatever to interfere or cast foul aspersions against a Government, such as we have done in the case of Bulgaria. Nevertheless, on my own volition I did try to intervene, and the House should be made aware of it.

I went to see the Provincial President of the Republic Kolarov, together with the acting Prime Minister Traicho kostov, and spent two hours in close discussion. I pleaded for the life of Petkov, and did so on the following grounds. One was that after all Russia had abolished the death penalty for political crimes. The second reason was that it coincided with the ratification of the peace treaty in Bulgaria, and that it would have been a strategical time and a psychological time to show clemency. The third was that Bulgaria had, on 9th September, their great national day of liberation, released thousands of their political prisoners, and in point of fact very few prisoners in Bulgaria are today in prison. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are dead."] They are not. May I say, in parenthesis, that I hope to show in the few minutes at my disposal, that the standard of morality of the Bulgarians is very high indeed, and could with advantage be copied by some hon. Members and many people in other parts of the world?

Again, I pointed out that the temperature which had been generated as a result of the Petkov trial was high, and that a gesture by the Bulgarian Government might do a lot to relieve it. I was shown great courtesy by Kolarov and Rostov, both honourable men, who themselves have spent years in prison, and suffered torture and agony when fighting against the Fascists. They said, with the greatest possible respect, that much as they appreciated the fact that I was their first friend since the war, and much as they respected the integrity of my intentions, nevertheless, they could not accede because of certain factors, one of which was, the strongest possible threat of pressure which had been brought to bear upon the Bulgarian Government. The Bulgarians are a proud people, and feel most rightly that they are not en- titled to be dictated to in this matter, particularly when they are sincerely——

Mr.Keeling (Twickenham)


Mr. Mack

I will not give way because I am fighting against time. [Interruption.] I am perfectly prepared to give way on the understanding that I can continue my speech tomorrow, but, with very great respect, Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to incur your displeasure, so I am trying to condense my remarks as much as possible.

Mr. Keeling

May I ask one question about Petkov?

Mr. Mack

I am not giving way.

Mr. Keeling

The hon. Member is afraid to give way.

Mr. Mack

Let me say this about the Bulgarian people. Everyone knows this, and I defy any hon. Member to deny what I am going to say, that no man has shown more respect for his country than I have, and no man—and I say this from the bottom of my heart, because I am at least sincere, even if hon. Members think I am wrong—has done more to raise the prestige of Britain in the Balkans than myself. That is admitted on all sides. Let me give a practical illustration. When I went to Bulgaria I asked that no criticism should be made against this country, directly or indirectly, in the Press or otherwise. Every speech that I made in Bulgaria praised and glorified the effort of this little island, not merely the Government, but also the fact that we had stood alone in the war, that we had given to the world the first trade unions and the first co-operatives, that we had given the world its greatest language in literature, a great Parliamentary system, and we were a friendly country of good and courageous people who did not want a war.

In every town to which I went the Union Jack was displayed—a remarkable sight in Bulgaria. The British National Anthem was played and at times the chorus was played six times over and on all sides one could hear voices—"Long Live the Democratic British Workers" and on 9th September, in Sofia half a million voices saying, "We want friendship with Great Britain." There is no man who dared deny that Reports, I think, had been sent to the Foreign Office confirming it through representatives there. [Interruption.] I am not giving way. I am making a pro-British speech. If that incites the antipathy of hon. Members opposite I am sorry but I cannot help it. I will still make it. What have the Bulgarians done that they should be hated and misrepresented? They have done some most remarkable deeds which are a great credit to their nation. They have fed their people in spite of three successive years of drought; their love and care for their children are second to none. I would only be too glad if hon. Members on either side of the House would come with me on a future occasion to see this beautiful country for themselves, so that they could go wherever they want, ask whatever questions they like.

The Bulgarian people have their faults like everyone else, and they are the first to admit it, but they are decent and honourable people with warm hearts who only want friendship with Britain. I say to our own Government, with great respect, that we have to understand them better and fight for friendship which means commerce and trade, food and exchange of commodities, which both our country and Bulgaria so strongly desire. At any rate, it was a great Englishman, Gladstone, who in 1875 stood in this House as the great champion of the Bulgarian cause. It was Bouchier, "The Times" correspondent, who achieved great fame in Bulgaria because he had the courage to stick up for that brave little country. I do not attempt in any way to be placed in that exalted category, but, nevertheless, in my own little way, having received from them the greatest kindness, I would say to Britain, "Extend the hand of friendship to Bulgaria, try to understand them, show a spirit of decency, as I am sure the Government intend and want to do, and you will receive from the Bulgarian people the true breath of friendship and the love and respect that the working people of that part of the world want to extend to the workers of this great country of ours." The spirit of Bulgaria glows like a brilliant flame. It will never be extinguished. I am proud to be the friend of that wonderful people.

Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Snow.]

Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.

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