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

My own feeling is that the statement that the hon. Member so gallantly repudiates is on a par with that made by his right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson), who suggested that our motives were governed by whether the mill owners in Lancashire contributed to the Conservative Party funds. These accusations are worth reading out only to show how worthless they are.

The position as we see it is that we are determined to make the British economy so strong that we can carry the social service and defence burdens into future generations. That is really the answer to the only last point which I want to answer, which was made by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and the hon. Member for Stechford, who asked for our view about the distribution of the national wealth. We naturally take the view that undue, unfair and disparate wealth is undesirable in a modern social State. Not one of us on this side of the Committee, I am sure, wants to see the population of this country divided by great differences of wealth. That could not lead to a happy or a socially decent condition. We certainly feel that.

I have been accused of giving money to companies. I have not given money to companies. I have restored a small portion of the tax that I take from them. The reason why I believe that a relief of tax for companies is a good thing is that I am certain that it gives managements and men an opportunity of thriving and of a keener edge on their competition in the world market.

I further feel, and have myself certainly found in the pubs and clubs and open-air greens and other places where we are likely to be for the next six weeks meeting our constituents, that the working population—and this is remarkably so—are not keen to see either big institutions which give employment destroyed or even, in some cases, estates destroyed. I think it is as well to acknowledge that. The reason is that they are sources of employment, and if their standards are good, they are good in the British tradition.

It is not so much the fact of having people with more money that is wrong. What is wrong is when the people with more money have the wrong standards. If the right standards are maintained in business and in private life, in small businesses or in great, if the main standard is the social welfare of the people, if the standard is to maintain full employment and to look after the working people, to give them the best we can, and, if possible, to let them share in the wealth of the companies in some way or another, we feel that we are carrying out a philosophy which is right and good. It is on that philosophy that this Budget is based.

I am as keen as any member of this Committee to help those socially depressed or in need. We have tried to do that. It would not be in order for me to discuss that now. I am willing always to go forward in our social and education policy and in other ways to make things better for our people, but we cannot do that if the economy is not strong, and our economy will not be strong unless it is able to compete, and it will not be able to compete unless the burden is lightened. That is my main objective in making this proposal.