Budget Proposals and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th April 1957.

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Photo of Mr Richard Winterbottom Mr Richard Winterbottom , Sheffield, Brightside 12:00 am, 10th April 1957

I want to deal for a moment with the problem of steel, and to say that I agree with the hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) that the probability is that some kind of examination in the use of steel must be made. As one coming from a steel-making constituency, I agree with the hon. Gentleman, though I do not think that all his facts about steel were quite right. I do not blame him for that, because it is very difficult to get them from the quiet seclusion of a boarding house in Harrogate. Anyway, we will leave it at that, and I only add that I agree with the hon. Gentleman on the question of an inquiry into the use of steel.

I want, first of all, to deal with a headline which appeared in an evening newspaper yesterday, which read: "A Bit for Everybody." I think those concerned must have written the headline before the Budget speech was delivered. I think they had that headline ready and were then somewhat misled in using it by the honeyed words of the Chancellor yesterday. I do not think this Budget in any way, shape or form, can be described as a Budget that contains a bit for everybody, and I hope that the writer of the headline, in the cold light of this morning, will have had other thoughts.

He will probably realise, as most of us have now realised, that 300,000 people at most will benefit from the Budget that was introduced yesterday—300,000 who will benefit by the—I must say it—partisan nature of the Budget. On the other hand, there are at least two million people, the old-age pensioners, who have supplementation of their income, and those who are chronically sick, some of the unemployed and some of the destitute in Britain today, who will certainly not agree that they are participants in a Budget which offers a bit for everybody.

I wonder whether it has struck the attention of the Committee that, when this country is going through an economic crisis and a Tory Government are in power, we hear cries about equality of sacrifice. I could give examples from my own experience in 1931, in the days of the "Geddes Axe" and before that, and before the present Tory Administration came into power in 1951. We have heard talk from Tory speakers about the necessity to the economy of this country of equality of sacrifice. If there is anything going in the Budget, I wish some of the Tory speakers would start talking about equality of benefit for everybody and start to apply it while the going was good. That is the reason why I am bringing this point before the Committee.

Roughly speaking, a man with an earned income of £10,000 a year will receive approximately an addition of £600 to his income as a result of the Budget.