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The Whitewashing Paper THE B EDITOR S URELY the Economic Survey for 1947,

7th March 1947, Page 34
7th March 1947
Page 34
Page 34, 7th March 1947 — The Whitewashing Paper THE B EDITOR S URELY the Economic Survey for 1947,
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

which is virtually an extension of the first White Paper issued recently on this subject, is one of the most tragic documents that has ever been placed before a nation by its Government. It indicates that the Labour Government bitterly regrets its consumption of the austerity fruits of many years of Socialist policy, which was, in brief, to give as little return as possible for the maximum wage. When a Socialist Government was elected to office. millions of workers must have thought that they were entering a land of milk and honey and that money and supplies would appear in some magical way, despite the colossal wastage during the war years.

The Government and its spokesmen did little, if anything, for a long time to remove this delusion, but diverted serious thoughts upon these matters and tickled the palates of its supporters by announcing grandiloquent schemes of nationalization, and holding out vague hopes of better things to come. These were accompanied by exhortations to industry to increase production to the maximum, mainly for export, apparently without due consideration of the possible sources of power, of which the greatest was coal.

Sustained by an Overdraft Only a few weeks before the fuel crisis came, the whole of this policy was being maintained and fuel stocks were being depleted at a rapid rate. It is, in fact. pointed out in the Survey that the, by no means unfavourable, industrial results for 1946 were achieved only by a draft of five million tons on coal stocks. In a sense, the Nation has been living on a coal overdraft.

The results of this gamble we all know in part. They and the after-effects may well be of far greater consequence than all the good achieved by the over-forced production of the previous months. Admittedly, the long spell of severe weather brought chaos somewhat earlier, but to discount such a possibility was, to say the least, unstatesmanlike. Too much was risked for immediate returns and for accomplishments during the first 18 months of peace, which the Prime Minister says are achievements of which we can justly feel proud.

He points out that it is the duty of any democratic Government to take the people frankly into its confidence, however difficult the position of the country may be. Yet, the fuel crisis was sprung upon trade and industry with virtually no warning. Many industries and concerns, if they had been brought to realize the extremely grave position, could have made at least some provision against the possibility of such drastic cuts in power.

Mr. Attlee says 'that the Government alone cannot achieve success. Everything will depend upon the willing co-operation and determined efforts of all sections of the population. Yet he and his Cabinet are proceeding with ideological schemes against the strongly expressed protests of almost 100 per cent. of trade and industry and the vast majority of thinking people.

Throughout the Survey there is repetition of two basic facts. The first is that coal production must be raised to an indispensable minimum of 200 million tons for 1947. The second is considerably increased output per man-year. The two are, of course, largely related, but the second applies also to every other essential product. This increased output from the worker is italicized as the only way in which to expand production and improve the standard of living. It is added that the procedure to effect this is the organized combined effort of men, management and machines. It is necessary to build up the factories into productive units

of the highest efficiency, and this is a matter in which the Government is giving industry what assistance it can, but the job must be mainly one for industry itself.

It is strange to find a Labour Government making such a statement and confessing that it must rely upon private enterprise. Then, again, the Government attaches great importance to the introduction of systems of payment and other arrangements which provide the maximum incentive to increase output. How will some of the unions explain to their members this reversal of former tactics by which any incentive tO increase production was taboo?

Referring to transport, distribution and services generally, the Survey states that the idea of output per man-year is less precise than in industry, where it can be measured in terms of the number of things produced, but the need for the greatest possible efficiency and economy in the use of man-power is no less.

It also says that the Government has fixed national objectives which cannot be achieved without an increase in output per man-year, and any action which serves to reduce this in any industry is directly endangering the attainment of these objectives. The Nation cannot afford shorter hours of work unless these can be shown to increase its output. Greater leisure is desirable, but is not, at the moment, a prime essential.

It seems, however, that the workers in some occupations do not yet realize that, even if they be not directly concerned with the production of material objects, such an injunction applies just as much to them, for shorter hours and higher pay must eventually be met by increasing the prices of some commodities.

In the conclusion of the Survey it is stated that unless we concentrate upon these really important things we may never restore the foundations of our national life. The Government invites the attention of industry and the public to its plans. and will arrange discussion with both sides of each industry on the problems which arise from them: it will welcome constructive criticism and is ready to modify its plans if a case-be made out.

What a pity it does not apply such modesty and consideration in other directions. Nothing would encourage the industry of transport more than a frank statement that the nationalization legislation for it would be either scrapped or, at least, delayed until the country is in a condition to bear the shock of this major operation.

Democracy—with Tongue in Cheek Almost at the beginning of the Survey it gives the essential difference between totalitarian and democratic planning. The former subordinates all individual desires and preferences to the demands of the State, and in normal times the people of a democratic country will not give up their freedom of choice to their Government. A democratic Government must therefore conduct its economic planning in a manner which preserves the maximum freedom of choice to the citizen.

Thousands of hauliers may say, concerning this,-that

• whoever wrote these words on behalf of the Government must have had his tongue in his cheek, particularly as, a few sentences later, comes the remark that the Government must not destroy the eSsential flexibility of our economic life.

Specific reference is made in the Survey to the importance of motor-vehicle production, especially in respect of the export trade, whilst there is a hint that, unless this trade be built up to the required figure within the next two or three years, there will be widespread unemployment, continued food .rationing, much less smoking and less private motoring.


People: Attlee

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