Budget Proposals and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th April 1957.

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Photo of Sir Robert Cary Sir Robert Cary , Manchester, Withington 12:00 am, 11th April 1957

—for beyond the point of the next General Election. Certainly, a Chief Whip's Budget is a far superior operation to the "cabin'd, cribb'd, confin'd" operations which the nation had to suffer between 1945 and 1951, when hon. Members opposite converted national existence into an experimental workshop for Socialism. They failed utterly. and their failure led to the return of the Conservative Government in 1951.

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick is in his place, because I want to say a few words about the extra Is. petrol tax and to praise my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the step he has taken in consequence of the undertaking given in discussion of the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties (Temporary Increase) Act, in December, that the extra Is. tax would be lifted with the ending of rationing. That rationing has almost come to an end and the Government have chosen the occasion of the Budget to relieve the taxpayer of that tax.

However, it appears to me that there will be an unhappy sequel. The Budget has had an excellent effect upon public mood but that effect will he utterly destroyed if the public feels that it has been cheated by the oil companies or by the transport industry. I put it rather tersely, because it ought to be so put at this stage. The taxi-cab men say that they cannot take off their 6d. because it was not imposed until a month after the additional 1s. was imposed. The great transport fleets say that at the moment they cannot think in terms of reducing fares because the oil companies are charging an additional 6½ d.

When the Prime Minister introduced this tax, he was quite fair to the nation about it. He put it forward not as part of the tax structure, but invited the nation to consider it merely as an inconvenient surcharge to be disposed of the moment it became convenient so to do. I think that a great mistake is being made by the oil companies in remaining, silent and voiceless in these last three days.