‘Festival of Britain’ Criticised
Labour Should Have Built Houses
St. Paulinus' Hall, Crayford, was packed when Miss Roberts opened her campaign in earnest on Monday evening, and she was accorded a good hearing.
She devoted a large part of her address to unemployment, and asserted but for Marshall Aid the raising of the school age, conscription, and the colossal increase in Ministry staffs, this country would have been faced with an unemployment figure of about 3,000,000.
Mr. L. Gordon Waterman presided.
Dealing with a few of the points in the Tory policy, Miss Roberts said there was nothing insincere in it. They had not given in it any promises or pledges which they felt unable to carry out, and any promises given in it would most certainly be carried out.
Referring to Socialist propaganda about the health of the nation, she said that longer life enjoyed to-day was not due to the last Government getting into power. That, and the reduced infant mortality rate, for instance, was not related to the political colour of the Government in power, but to the research work which was being continually carried on. If the last Government was going to take the credit for medical advances, then they should also take the discredit of more people dying from cancer.
“We have been very grossly misrepresented on the question of unemployment,” continued Miss Roberts. “You will undoubtedly hear the accusation that the Tories wish to create a pool of unemployed. It is quite illogical when you compare that propaganda with their other propoganda that the Tories are vote-catching. We have never wanted to create unemployment. Our policy is to maintain full employment. In the world-wide depression between the wars this country had to recover from it without American aid. Do you think any Tory boss is going to cry, ‘Hurrah for a depression; look at the money I'm going to lose’?”
Miss Roberts said that unemployment under a Tory Government had always been lower when it left office than when it entered office, In 1944 the Coalition Government, of which the Tories were the largest party, produced a White Paper in which they said there would be no problem of general unemployment in the years immediately after the end of the war, but where we were tripping up now was that we were finding that other countries were producing more things cheaper than we were. What were we going to do when American aid ended in 1952? Where were we to get the money to buy our raw materials?
‘A Gentleman Called Dr. Dalton’
We had an American loan which was supposed to last until 1950, but unfortunately, due to a gentleman called Dr. Dalton, it ran out in 18 months. Nevertheless, America granted us further aid, but she was quite certain it would not happen again. We were still not managing to make ends meet, not only on our own money, but on the money America gave us.
Socialist Ministers Sir Stafford Cripps, Mr. Herbert Morrison and Mr. Aneurin Bevan had admitted that without American aid there would have been from 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 unemployed. One would have thought that the first thing that would have sprung to their minds would have been—what are we going to do to face the crisis in 1952, when Marshall Aid ends? The Tories mentioned it in their manifesto as one of their first items. They would not find a word in the Socialist manifesto.
Miss Roberts said they would not take all controls off food until the premier necessities were in reach of every family. After all, it was Lord Woolton who put controls on when it was necessary and gave them the finest rationing system in the world.
Control on house building should be relaxed. A builder who had heard her talk about this had told her yesterday that if this was done he could build 16 houses immediately, houses of brick and mortar costing £1,200—£1,400. A pre-fab to-day was costing about £1,200.
At question-time the candidate, asked if the suggested economies in the Festival of Britain, etc., would not create unemployment, replied, “So long as you have got a colossal shortage of houses, it would have been better to divert the labour force from the Festival of Britain and put it on houses.”
Questioned on the National Health Service, the candidate said that a slightly different scheme would have come into operation under the Conservatives. It would have been a bit more gradual instead of trying to do everything at once. There would have been a better system of priority for those needing urgent attention.
Asked about food subsidies, she said there would be no reduction which might influence the price of food without compensating increases to those most affected. These compensations would take the form on the one hand of larger family allowances, pensions and other social benefits, and on the other of reductions of taxation, direct and indirect, that would increase incentives among the masses of the people. The present system was indiscriminate. Was it fair that the poor man's tobacco and beer should be used to help to pay for the rich man's food?