Clause 1. — ;(Charge of Income Tax for 1955–56 and Surtax Rates for 1954–55.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th April 1955.

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Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden 12:00 am, 27th April 1955

We ought, I think, now to make some progress with Clause 1, because I understand that most of the detailed discussions are to take place on Clause 2. As this is a Committee stage, I hope that the Committee will excuse me if I do not make a very long speech, but simply answer the debate quite briefly.

The Committee would wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Mr. H. Steward) upon an excellent maiden speech. He made a speech on productivity, and there is nothing more important than that. My hon. Friend brought a whiff of realism from Mersey-side and a considerable degree of experience in these important matters, and I think the Committee will wish, not only to hear him again in this and future Parliaments, but also that he should continue his work in his own area in increasing productivity there, and bringing to bear upon it the knowledge at his command.

We have also had a very interesting speech on the industrial aspect from my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne), upon which I will say a word or two in a moment. Whether I am able to answer the points put by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) I am not so sure, but I hope to do so before the week is out. I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman because he represents a town which depends essentially on cotton, unlike some others in Lancashire, in which the industries are more mixed. I understand his anxiety, and if I do not allude to Lancashire today the hon. Gentleman will under- stand that there is another day, and that I shall be referring to these matters then. That will be tomorrow actually, in reply to the debate on the Prayer about the Purchase Tax Order.

I would sum up the position about Clause 1 as follows. I had a very responsible task in trying to decide, in this Budget, how to distribute the proportion of the surplus which I thought it was legitimate to release back to the taxpayers, whose money it is, and I used the expression that I wanted something "classically pure and simple." I adopted the method which my predecessors in office—at any rate, some of the greatest of them—would have regarded as the most orthodox method, namely, a reduction of the standard rate.

I have in my room at No. 11 a picture of Mr. Gladstone, whose eyes are particularly penetrating, even more than those of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I think the right hon. Gentleman probably knows the picture. As I gazed into those eyes, which I believe have alarmed more than one of my predecessors—