A Sane Outlook Upon Post-war Conditions
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.
SIGNIFICANT comments upon the control of industry, export trade and taxation were made on November 18 by Mr. Ralph Assheton, M.P., Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in response to the presidential address to the National Union of Manufacturers by Sir Patrick Hannon,' M.P.
Mr. Assheton said that the Government had -.particular cause to be grateful to manufacturers for the great contribution which they, have made to the war effort, and which had so far received less recognition than was its due. For the first 2l years of the war he had been at the Ministry of Labour, and he knew how extremely helpful the employers had been. Both they and the workers had been Called upon to make great sacrifices, to give up much 'which they cherished, and to subject themselves to a large number of checks and controls which, although inevitable in time a war, could not but be against the grain.
He had also spent a year of the war in the Ministry of Supply, and was able to observe, at first hand, the enormous eriergy and drive which manufacturers were putting into their work and the startling results in the field of production.
Those who have not had the responsibility themselves ofrunning a business can have little knowledge of the burdens and anxieties that weigh upon a proprietor. People who have themselves always been employed by others, or who have the privilege of serving the State or some great organization, do not know the anxieties which beset the man who has devoted his life to the building up and running of a business. He goes through bad times as well as good, and it is only the man who has known the anxiety, for example, of finding the wages on Friday night at a difficult time, who has appreciated to the full the responsi bility which falls upon the shoulders of private 'enterprise. He was one of those who had a profound belief in the part that private enterprise can play, and he had never been ashamed to say that he believed the profit motive is one of the main springs of material progress. Some unthinking people con-. fuse profits with profiteering, which all honest men condemn. The essence of true profit, whether it be in the form of wages, salaries or other remuneration, is that wealth is being created for the cornmunity, and by far the greater part of profits and wages represents a reward or premium on efficiency, economy and good service. It is no use doing business at a loss, and the health and happiness of the community are to be measured not merely by employment but by useful and profitable employment at fair. wages.
As regards the importance of the export trade, after the war our position in respect of the balance of trade will be serims. Even before the war there was a deficit of some 450,090,000, and it will be vital to our standard of life to make good these losses by expanding our exports.
In this connection few things are more important to industry than the encouragement of research and development work, and we must devote a great deal more effort and money to this object.
He referred also to the Prime Minister's broadcast in March, when the latter said that the direct taxation on all classes stood at unprecedented and sterilizing levels, and although in war-time people were willing and even proud to pay these taxes, such conditions could not continue in peace. Although we must expect taxation after the war to be heavier than it was before it, the Government does not intend to shape its plans or make levies in a way which, by removing personal incentive. would destroy initiative and enterprise. Remarks like these coming from such an important Department of the Government as the Treasury must •be accorded due weight. They compare most favourably with the politically inspired threats and exhortations made by so many other speakers, who, because of conditions obtaining during the war, have been thrown intc positions of prominence for which they would appear to be unsuited during the period of postwar reconstruction. It is, indeed, refreshing to discover such frankness in a speech by a representative of the Government.