Clause 14. — (Charge of Income Tax for 1949–50.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd June 1949.

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Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern 12:00 am, 23rd June 1949

No I am not going to give way, because I intend to sit down very soon. I am going to say this in conclusion. The national income of this country today does not justify either the present level of Government expenditure or the present level of taxation. We cannot go on indefinitely under these conditions. No economy whether capitalist, Socialist or Communist can survive indefinitely the present level of taxation. We are taking over 40 per cent. of the total national income in taxation. It is too much for any economy to sustain; and I challenge anybody to deny that it is an enormous disincentive throughout the whole range of industry. Our productivity is not large enough, in every sense of the term, and it cannot sustain for very much longer our present standard of living. This country has got to learn in either the easy or the hard way, that our productivity is not sufficient to sustain our standard of living at the present moment; and that the only thing that enables us to do it is Marshall Aid, which is derided by the hon. Member for East Coventry.

Many of us have ideas about how we may be able to build up a new economy in Western Europe. Not very much is being done at the present moment. The Chancellor of the Excehquer is now in Brussels fighting to defend our gold. I do not object to that, but why is he in that position? It is because there is no confidence in the stability of the British economy, because the foreigner has not now got adequate confidence in sterling. I am sure we will all support the right hon. and learned Gentleman in his efforts to prevent any further losses of gold or dollars, because we cannot afford them. Nevertheless, a major factor in our difficulties is the present crushing burden of taxation, which makes itself felt on every section of industry, and which impinges on the life, livelihood and standard of living of every family in this country, from the poorest to the richest.

It is no good hon. Gentlemen opposite saying that we are out to champion only the very well-to-do. Another of the reckless observations of the hon. Member for East Coventry was that we did not even care about the middle class. We know jolly well that the middle class count a lot in this country, and that they are, to a large extent, the backbone of the country. We also know that they are now largely merged with the working class. The hon. Gentleman drew a sharp distinction; but I am not clear which is working class and which is middle class. Perhaps one has to be a Wykehamist in order to distinguish between these two classes.

The Government of this country have explicitly laid the responsibility for production and for the maintenance of our export trade, as to 80 per cent., upon private enterprise and private industry. They cannot do that, and at the same time tax it indefinitely at the rate of 9s. in the £. That is our simple proposition, on which we shall stand and which I believe will be accepted in the country. It is a proposition on which I hope that we shall vote in a few minutes.