By Lord Robbins
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Extra info for Against Inflation: Speeches in the Second Chamber 1965–1977
Suppose, my Lords, that prices are rising at the rate of8 per cent per annum. A man who lends money to the government at that rate is in fact, poor fool! getting a zero return on his investment; and the government, or the borrower, is getting off very lightly indeed. g Collapse of Balance-of-Payments Surplus Predicted Motion: Wilberforce Report and the March 1971 Econo~nic Situation; 3 My Lords, it seems to me that there can be considerable debate among serious-minded people about the quantitative implications of the recommendations of the Committee of 'the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce.
The rises of the last few months will take time-probably six months-to seep through; and although there is some inflation elsewhere, it is not nearly at the same rate in relation to productivity. The balance of payments, thank heaven, is favourable enough now, but it will not continue so for long if the inflation continues. Given this objective, let me make it perfectly clear that I have no doctrinaire objection to the use of the fiscal weapon. Now, my Lords, I am going to say something that will shock my friends on the Government benches very much: that I personally should have been much happier if the Government had not promised to give away their savings until the crisis had passed.
There can be no laissez-Jaire as regards aggregate demand. Yet it sometimes almost seems as if Ministers believe that there can be; that if they reform the law relating to trade unions, diminish the disincentives to initiative and reform an admittedly ridiculous tax system, they will have done all that it is reasonable to expect of them, that there will be a glorious increase of production and that inflation will die away, if not of its own accord because of a new spirit. My Lords, this is a tragic delusion.