Orders of the Day — Excess Profits Duty.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 28th April 1920.

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Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

I am very pleased to hear that I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. That was the impression that was conveyed not only to me but to gentlemen representing the party sitting beside me. In opening out his remarks the hon. Member talked about this tax having been accepted by the business men of this country as a war sacrifice. Some of us want to know what the sacrifice is or has been. We have been told by the Inland Revenue that no less than £4,000,000,000 have gone into the pockets of certain sections of society as war wealth. Of that £4,000,000,000, 70 per cent. has gone into the pockets of one per cent of the population. It seems to me that there has not been very much sacrifice on the part of the interests who accepted this particular principle during the War. We all know that business interests as a whole have not only extended their interests, but have increased their bank balance. For the first three months of this year the new capital subscribed was equal to the amount subscribed in the whole of 1913. The amount subscribed in 1919 was five times what it was in 1913. Therefore, it does seem as if business interests have not suffered very much from the Excess Profits Duty.

I do not believe that the people who have moved this Amendment are even helping the business interests of this country as a whole. As a business proposition, business men facing the nation's financial affairs, as they are at present, must accept some financial responsibility towards meeting the national need. But I place it higher. It may be an illusion, but I do believe there are people among the wealthy classes of this country who believe that the mass of the people have a right to a greater share of the good things of this country than they get at present. That may be an illusion, but I ask hon. Gentlemen at any rate to leave me the one illusion left to me since I came into the House of Commons. I came here as a fairly moderate trade union representative, but since I have come in contact with some of the interests that sit on those Benches I am rapidly becoming something that is not exactly a Conservative. Of course, we understand what hon. Gentlemen do not seem to understand, that there is something like a subdued insurrectionary feeling in this country among the workers.