The hon. Member can ask that question. I will ask mine. I want to know why it was ever begun because, immediately this proposal was made, the inequality, the unfairness and the impracticability of it emerged more and more strongly. In all the chorus of criticism of the Clause, I only heard one still, small voice raised in its defence, and that was the voice of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury who, on the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, made a gallant effort. The right hon. Gentleman has very high political courage. He has the particularly British type of courage, the type of courage which has brought to our armies some of their most glorious disasters. His not to reason why—he just had to read out the Treasury brief, if not with conviction, at least with concentration. However, I must confess that when the right hon. Gentleman brought out his culminating argument, which was that this Clause might mean less wood for hoardings, and that might contribute to solving the problem of shortage of timber, I felt that defeat was very imminent.
Now we are glad that this Chancellor has turned to the voluntary method to try to correct some evil which he sees, but we regret that that method was not adopted by the previous Chancellor. If as a result of some over-expenditure on advertising there was wasteful expenditure of men or material, and if thereby our inflationary position was more difficult, there seems to be no reason why such an appeal as is now being made by this Chancellor could not have been made months ago by his predecessor. The only result has been that, for the last three or four weeks, great sections of industry have been disturbed and distressed, and much time has been spent on deputations and correspondence, all of which might have been avoided by taking some weeks ago, the step which the Chancellor has announced tonight. I am sure he is right to trust industry to provide him in this instance with the savings he thinks essential. All of us will wish success to the committee which is being set up, and we trust that, as a result of their efforts, anything which can be done in this line to assist us in our economic crisis will be done.
One final word to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. This is a first step in reversing the proposals of his predecessor. I hope it will not be the last, and that what is on this occasion a courageous precedent will end by becoming a comfortable habit.