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The Home Front

Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 6 April 1954

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What is more encouraging is that we have been able to combine this external progress with a considerable expansion in production and improvement of living standards at home. Over 1953 as a whole industrial production was 6 per cent, higher than in 1952. This increase has continued into 1954. This welcome surge forward is partly due to a natural reaction from the period in 1952 when consumers' expenditure was abnormally low and investment in stocks had been cut back. The resumption of investment in stocks accounts for some of the increase in production.

But the recovery has also been due to some more fundamental influences. Nearly half the increase in industrial production was brought about by higher investment and higher defence expendi- ture. Personal consumption, assisted by the tax concessions which we made last year, also rose in volume, by about 4 per cent, over the previous year. It has sometimes been said that this increase of personal consumption is a sign that we did, after all, overdo things last year; even that we brought back inflation.

For my part, I take pride in the increased freedom of choice which the citizen now feels that he can enjoy in his or her daily life. The truth is that we must not be frightened of a little more ease and happiness or feel that what is pleasant must necessarily be evil. We must realise that we shall be able to increase our standard of living through an expansion of production only if that expansion is a balanced expansion, benefiting each sector of the economy, including personal consumption, in its proper degree.

In the earlier part of the year exports contributed little to the growth of production; but in the later months they increased more rapidly than production, and outstripped the increase of home demand, so that by the end of 1953 the volume of exports was 10 per cent, higher than it had been a year earlier.