22 FEBRUARY 1952, Page 2

The Economic Shadow

The public has managed to forget the deepening crisis since the end of January, when Mr. Butler announced his second, and not unduly painful, set of measures to meet it. But what is positively frightening is the growing possibility that the danger of a collapse of the value of sterling may not be gener- ally realised until it is too late to stop it. It is, of course, still within the Chancellor's power to stop the career Of inflation with such a jolt on Budget Day that nobody will, have an excuse for ignoring any longer the danger that lies ahead. But it is pretty plain that ,the Parliamentary Opposition is not going to give him any encouragement in drastic measures. The argument for the avoidance of controversy at a time of national mourning is simple and sensible, but it is not an argument which should dissuade the Government, at this crucial moment, from directing the national resources into the export and armament industries, if necessary at the expense of home con- sumption, both private and public. If these steps to maintain the life of the country are made the subject of. violent contro- versy the responsibility must lie with those who are foolish enough to question the obvious. And there are plenty of them. The Lords debate on Tuesday revealed that the leaders of the Labour Party are by no means disposed to drop the argument that it is possible at this moment to devote more resources to exports without cutting home consumption, including con- sumption through welfare schemes—the argument, in fact, that it is possible to get a quart out of a pint pot. This argument, advanced by politicians who know something about elementary economics, and therefore ought to know better, has already had the effect of encouraging some trade unions to threaten industrial action if the social services suffer any cuts in the Budget. Pressed any further it could split the country.