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National Finance

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 13 March 1962

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether coordinated Government plans now exist for dealing with the economic consequences of general disarmament.

No, Sir. These consequences must depend on the conditions under which disarmament is put into effect. I do not think special plans are called for at this stage for a situation which might take many different forms. But one assumption which can safely be made is that any process of general and complete disarmament will be spread over a number of years and that there will be time to adjust the economy.

Since the United Nations has thought it fit and necessary to appoint an economic commission to investigate the economic and social consequences of disarmament, is it not equally necessary for Her Majesty's Government to apply their mind to the consequences which will flow in the event of a disarmament agreement being reached internationally?

Of course, this is an important subject, and the first part of the report of the panel of experts appointed by the Acting Secretary-General has been published and is under consideration. But I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we in the United Kingdom do not expect any difficulty in finding useful outlets for resources released by disarmament or that the latter event could possibly cause unmanageable dislocation.

Many of us feel that this is a problem more easily soluble in this country than perhaps in others where there is a very heavy armaments expenditure and greater difficulty in mobilising resources for social purposes. Nevertheless, will the Financial Secretary give an undertaking that when the Government have completed their study of the United Nations Report they will seek an appropriate opportunity to make a statement in the House?

I will, of course, bring what the right hon. Gentleman has just said to the notice of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I was glad to hear the first part of his supplementary question, with which I certainly very much agree.

If, fortunately, we were to have complete and general dis- armament, would not it bring mass unemployment to the engineering industry? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Are plans being made to prevent that happening to this industry?

I would ask my hon. Friend not to speak in those alarming terms. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I repeat what I have already said to the House. We in this country do not expect any difficulty in finding useful outlets for resources which may be released by disarmament. I should have thought that the country which led the world in the Industrial Revolution and which is still one of the great trading nations could use these resources in very many other ways.

In order to enlighten his hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne), will the Financial Secretary ensure that the United Nations Report is made available to hon. Members in the form of a White Paper?

I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend will consider that suggestion.

New Member Sworn

Dick Taverne, esquire, for Lincoln.