Speech in Erith
|Document type:||public statement|
|Venue:||Electricity House, Erith, Kent|
|Source:||Erith Observer, 17 February 1950|
|Themes:||General Elections, Agriculture, Economy (general discussions), Defence (general), Foreign policy (general discussions), Conservatism, Health policy, Energy, Taxation, Housing, Local government|
MISS ROBERTS READS A LETTER
Effect of De-Rationing in Germany
Tory view on the Liberal Vote
Feature of the week's campaign by Miss Margaret Roberts, Conservative candidate in Dartford Division, has been the intense interest taken in her meetings.
At the close of one crowded meeting, which subjected her to some mild "heckling,". she thanked the "opposition" supporters for turning up in such large numbers and so helping her meetings to avoid getting the reputation of those of her opponents—that they were "as dead as mutton." (Laughter)
Well over 300 crowded into the hall of Electricity House, Erith, on Monday evening to hear the Conservative candidate.
Mr. J. F. L. Gates presided.
In her address, Miss Roberts touched on the question of food, and said there had been a considerable amount of distortion regarding the abolition of food rationing in Germany. She would therefore read the following letter received from an English-woman Mrs. Irene Hebershon) in Kiel:
"In view of the statements which Dr. Summerskill has been making on the question of German derationing, I feel that somebody ought to refute these without delay. First of all, the mark is worth roughly one shilling to the Germans, and the prices which Dr. Summerskill has quoted are these which the unfortunate British have to pay in terms of the devalued £.
"In one account which I read she is quoted as saying that meat here costs 4s. per lb." That is nonsense. The most expensive joints of pork are marks 2.30 a 1b., which is equivalent to 2s. 4d. to the Germans, and other meat is considerably cheaper.
"Then, as to the ability of Germans to buy enough food on their wages, I have talked to all types of workers, and they all say the same—that on their wages they are able to live very comfortably, and that the price of food has come down rapidly from the moment that the end of rationing was obviously in sight. The price of clothes and shoes is half what it was last year. ...
"A car driver earns with overtime 300 marks a month nett, after deduction of, roughly, 10 per cent. for taxes. When asked whether on this wage he could afford to buy meat for his family, he remarked that he and his wife and two children always had between them 21b. of meat on a Sunday, and that they had meat several times in the week as well.
"You can buy two large pork chops for 1.40 marks (roughly, 1s. 5d.)," continued the writer, "and pork has been unrationed since the end of November. Sugar which is the only article still rationed, is, even so, 3lb. Per head per month, compared with our 2lb.".
Miss Roberts, however, said she wanted to make it clear that the Conservatives were not advocating derationing in this country until there was adequate food within reach of all at a reasonable price. But she would say this—they had every confidence in Lord Woolton's ability to cope with the situation.
Miss Roberts devoted her speech largely to three crises which she declared existed—(1) the economic crises, (2) the worldwide crises brought about by the possibilities of the hydrogen bomb, (3) the crises of individual liberty.
Sometimes, she thought, we had heard so much about the economic crises that we did not realise its intensity. She would repeat—that if we could not stand on our own feet in 1952 (when Marshall Aid ends) then we were in for the greatest depression we had ever known.
The crises of the H-bomb could only be solved on a world basis. If there existed in the world nations which had the idea of aggression, then we as one of the freedom-loving nations could give no absolute assurance as to the future of the world. It was said that it took two to make a quarrel; it also took two to make friends. Until we could achieve the goal set out in the United Nations Organisation, we had to co-operate with people of like minds and like ideals.
The third crises—what she called the home front crises— was a crises of political philosophies, a crises of individual liberty. They would have measures being put through which looked so reasonable on the surface but underneath were the most pernicious, and nibbled into our national life and character far further than one would be aware of at first glance.
CAGED BIRD EXAMPLE
Recalling what her father had said about the bird in the cage, Miss Roberts concluded: "It has social security. It has food and it has warmth, and so on. But what is the good of all that if it has not the freedom to fly out and live its own life?"
At question-time a heckler asked if Miss Roberts could tell him any time during the Conservayive reign when the working-class of this country was better fed and in better condition than it was to-day.
In a lengthy reply, Miss Roberts said the protein content of food was far too low. They were making up with starchy and floury food. More people became run down.
When another heckler shouted, "What about petrol?" Miss Roberts retorted, "I am quite certain that your Government was going to make an announcement about petrol, and Mr. Churchill got in first. You...Ministers are speaking about it with two voices, and these two voices do not say the same thing."
To questions about post-war credits, Miss Roberts said she could not offer many optomistic hopes that they would get them immediately on the return of a Conservative Government. Such large sums were outstanding that it would be impossible to repay them all at once without risk of inflation. Meanwhile, they would consider schemes for the repayment of credits to the estates of deceased persons.
Asked about housing, Miss Roberts said the Conservative accusation was that not all the resources available had been used, and they had very good grounds for saying that. In 1947 a Socialist Government committee found that a private builder could build four houses in the time a local authority built three.
"For heaven's sake," she declared, "let the private builder get on with it. Only limit the limit the size and the price." On the contrary, the Government said that for every four houses the local authority completed the private builder could only build one. Now it had been reduced even further to one in ten.&cqq
A woman in the hall interrupted to tell the audience of her efforts over the last four years to get a Council house at Crayford as her boy and girl had to sleep in a small boxroom. I was told the only alternative was to have another baby."
Miss Roberts thanked the woman for giving "a perfect illustration" of the restriction of human liberty.