1970s >> 1973 >> no-828-august-1973

So They Say: For Ever England

For Ever England
The petrol companies have agreed to stop competing with “free gifts” to customers: no more soup-bowls, Famous Paintings, one-size tights, or the sets of imitation medallions which looked like becoming the successors to cigarette cards.

Texaco’s series of reproduction Army badges is therefore the last of its kind, and it is almost worth the 25p for the album to find a cat let out of the bag in an unexpected place. “Great British Regiments” has an introduction by Lieut.-General Sir Brian Horrocks, and he says:

  In my opinion, however, their greatest contribution to the British Empire which is rarely mentioned has been the protection they have given to our indomitable British merchants who, in search of fresh markets, spread our influence all over the world. For some this has involved spending many years in distant garrisons where their casualties from disease were often far greater than those suffered in active service.

Young collectors may find that enlightening. They should remember it when they are being told the Army is there to defend freedom and combat oppression, and dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

If Things Don’t Alter . . .
Sir Geoffrey Howe, Minister for Consumer Affairs, has been trying to impress with a muscular posture. On the front of the Observer on 24th June, under the headline “Minister’s Warning on Profits”, it was reported that he had:

  yesterday warned businessmen that they would be wise to remember that if they were making good profits the Price Commission could compel them to reduce their prices.

The same issue of the Observer shows, elsewhere, plenty of scope for Sir Geoffrey. On page II Weston Pharmaceuticals, who have 197 retail branches, reported that their profits rose from £459,070 in 1972 to £1,872,586 this year. The dividend was 27.3 per cent., and the “earnings” per share went up from 5.6p to to 8.1p. On page 13 Lead Industries Group Ltd. state an increase in profit before tax from £6,585,000 in 1971 to £7,040,000 in 1972, and in gross dividends from 11.5 per cent, to 12.075 per cent.

Both these companies appear to be making “good profits”. Are they alarmed by Sir Geoffrey’s warning? The annual report of Lead Industries Group says:

   There must inevitably be uncertainties as to the effects on profitability of the Governments’ anti-inflation policy and fluctuating currencies, nevertheless the present picture is a cheerful one overall and prospects for the current year look good.

In other words, they are “being wise” — and expect to go on doing well.

. . . they’ll Stay as They are.
The strongest uncertainties, in fact, appear to be Sir Geoffrey Howe’s — as to what is going to happen anyway. The report of his speech ends:

  He quoted the view of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research that commodity prices would fall back from their recent high levels . . .  if the national institute was right, he said, ‘we can certainly expect a significant reduction, in the months ahead, in the pace of inflation that has beset us all’.

This recalls the classic headline-question: Did She Fall Or Was She Pushed? What the Minister says, summarized, is that he could try to make prices come down, but if they do it will be of their own accord.

The inability of governments to control the economic working of capitalism could hardly be demonstrated more clearly. While Sir Geoffrey waits for the answer, anyone with £25,000 can try phoning Bevington Lowndes Ltd. (20 lines, 24-hour service) — who, in the Sunday Times the same day, were advertising “the lifelong investment that beats inflation”. That sum will bring you £2,500 a year tax-free, and to heck with the Price Commission.

Into Europe
We recently reproduced an item from The London Property Letter, which tells its subscribers how to play the regulations and exploit the housing situation. Its publishers, Stonehart Publications Ltd., are now launching The European Property Letter, again with Robert Troop of the Sunday Times as editor. The annual subscription is £25.

The introductory leaflet is headed 1975: The Year of the Property Gold-Rush, and begins:

  Over these past months British property companies have taken a quickening interest in Europe. Samuel Properties spent £8,000,000 on an office block in Frankfurt. Abbey Life £7,500,000 on one in Brussels. This is clearly the right moment for UK investors, large and small, to begin exploring the EEC — not simply because Britain has now joined, but because there is bound to be a huge rush of funds into European property and a consequent rise in prices when exchange controls are lifted, somewhere about 1975.

They promise to present:

  Street-by-street profiles of cities and towns where property is still underpriced.
How to exploit the many investment anomalies that still exist in European backwaters.
Advice on land: where to buy, what to pay, whether you’re permitted to hold.
Planning: where it’s easiest to get it and why.

And other good things — for capitalists. Thrilling to be in Europe, is it not?

Meanwhile, back at Mon Repos —
Still in property, The Guardian had something cryptic in its house-market page on 6th July. Stating that mortgage repayments have gone up on average from £19.75 a month at the end of 1970 to £32.74 at the end of 1972, Nicholas Heman wondered how people were finding the money “when wages and salaries have not risen by anything like the same amount”. His view was that:

   the greater number of first-time purchasers may be explained by the fact that they are now regarded much more favourably by building societies who previously would have been more demanding in their requirements.

 

Which sounds like saying that building societies lend money to people who cannot afford to repay it with interest. And on 11th July The Guardian reported “the whole chilling picture” given by Shelter Housing Aid Centre, headlined “Shelter Finds Better-Off Have Housing Problems”. It said:

 

   In this situation, people are more willing to commit themselves to higher mortgage payments than they can really afford. SHAC encountered one example of a 37½ per cent rate of interest. One man was paying a £140 a month mortgage on a £200 a month salary . . . “In 1973, a family needs an income of at least £2,500 and savings of £1,000 minimum before house purchase in London becomes a possibility.”

 

There is something wrong with The Guardian’s headline. These people are not “better-off”: they are living in crippling poverty.

 

Give the Fellow a Break

“What you’ve got to remember about Prince Philip is that he is in a dead-end job.” — A Pressman in “The World at One”, 11th July.

 

Robert Barltrop