LETTER : Britain's post-war economic record

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From Mr Correlli Barnett

Sir: I am sorry to have wounded Jim Tomlinson of Brunel University (Letters, 2 May) in his assumptions about the economic record of the post-war Labour government, but I fear that the criticisms he makes of my article do not accord with the documentary evidence.

To take one topic, that of the Marshall Aid and British capital investment; the British tender for Marshall Aid itself put capital investment third in priority ("clearly of great importance") behind keeping up imports, mostly of food and raw materials rather than capital goods ("a primary purpose"), and maintaining the gold and dollar reserves ("an overriding need"). The European Recovery Administration representatives in London themselves urged that Britain should be devoting more resources to modernising her industry and infrastructure. Instead, British capital investment was savagely cut in 1949 after the sterling devaluation crisis.

As for "counter-part funds" under Marshall Aid, the French devoted all of theirs to investment in industry and infrastructure, the Germans devoted $629.4m, and the British not a penny. I recommend that Mr Tomlinson reads my book, The Lost Victory, when it comes out in July.

Your correspondent Reg Parker (Letters, 2 May) will find in my previous book, The Audit of War (1986), a whole chapter on the shipbuilding industry in wartime which accords completely with his own impressions of the postwar industry.

Lastly, Jan Morris's letter of the same day: Jan is a romantic, which I am not, and prefers to contemplate the past, and especially Britain's imperial past, in a sunset glow of nostalgic emotion, which I do not, preferring the bleak grey light of reality.

Yours faithfully


Churchill College