Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th December 1947.

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Photo of Mr James Hudson Mr James Hudson , Ealing West 12:00 am, 9th December 1947

I intervene for only a short time in an attempt to reply to the remarks of the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) about the implications of the Profits Tax and its influence, as he thinks, upon private enterprise; a point referred to also at some length by the hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). I am extremely glad that the Profits Tax has been increased. Hon. Members may remember that in a previous Debate on the Finance Bill, I strongly advocated that a year ago we should have taken the step which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) took when he introduced this Budget. I am glad it has been done because, contrary to the views of hon. Members opposite, I am quite sure that there is no likelihood of the call for greater labour, in the crisis which faces us, being met adequately if the mass of the workers feel that as a result of exerting their best efforts there would be, at the end of those increased efforts, only increased profits for the few.

As one who has listened for a long time to claims made on behalf of private enterprise, I have been struck by the claim made in the speeches today that it thinks of something other than making profits; that it thinks of the qualities of service involved in the industry it is conducting. In rotary clubs, in chambers of commerce—as well as from the benches opposite—we have listened to claims of that sort for a long time. If there was any substance in that claim for the merits of private enterprise, it should not matter if the private enterpriser loses his profit, or part of his profit —in the case of the present Finance Bill, to the extent of 25 per cent.; there should not be a disappearance of this desire to serve the community, which as we so often hear, private enterprise wishes to exercise. The line taken by hon. Members opposite has simply stripped all that humbug off the claim so frequently made for private enterprise. Private enterprise is, at bottom, only a process of wringing profits out of industry for its own purposes; and if the profits go, the whole impulse by which private enterprise can be carried on goes also. If hon. Members opposite believe what they have preached tonight, I hope they will preach it openly and frankly in their constituencies, so that the working men to whom the hon. Member for Bury referred will understand clearly that that is their view.

At a time when working men are being appealed to, with some success, to forgo increases of wages, at a time when they are working harder, and are being asked to give additional labour—as,for example, recently, when they have been helping at weekends to get a quicker turn-round of railway wagons—if, in this national crisis, working men can be persuaded to labour altruistically for the community, then there is no case for those who seek to make profits out of the general efforts, and who seek to maintain those profits at the level to which they have been accustomed. If the Government had not taken some such step as has been taken in this Finance Bill, but had maintained profits at the old level, it would have been a great discouragement to those who matter most in the present situation, namely, those who are being called upon to work harder to help the nation through its difficulties. Mainly because the Government have introduced this provision, I am very well satisfied with this Finance Bill.