Orders of the Day — Budget Proposals and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th April 1960.

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Photo of Major Sir Henry D'Avigdor-Goldsmid Major Sir Henry D'Avigdor-Goldsmid , Walsall South 12:00 am, 7th April 1960

That is a cynical attitude, and it is disgusting, too, when one thinks of the number of people, whose position has been raised in the House of Commons time and again, who have invested, by mistake no doubt, in 3½ per cent. War Loan and other undated Government securities and now find themselves really hard up. They bought these securities in ignorance or without full cognisance of what they were buying. It would be absolutely fantastic, of course, to put a date on War Loan as a whole, but special consideration should be given to small holdings of £500 or less which have diminished 50 per cent. The owners had an opportunity to sell at a profit but have not taken it. They bought the stocks and they are now suffering. The Government should not be cynical about this. They should not leave these people entirely to their own financial devices, because they are really a prejudice to the Government's financial standing.

I do not consider that the extra 2d. on cigarettes is a contribution either to the tightening up of the economy or to the balance of payments. It has not been suggested that we shall import less tobacco and the extra tax is not a hardship. It is a pure irrelevancy and something done in a most irritating way.

I am not going to make a Finance Bill speech. I want to try to talk about the Budget and the financial situation. My right hon. Friend's Budget speech was well described by The Times as a "Somerset House Speech". I would refer only to the heads of the speech: Hackney Carriages, Playing Cards. Tobacco Retailers' Licences, Mechanical Lighters. Hydrocarbon Oil."— a negligible concession— Post-Cessation Receipts. Compensation for Loss of Office, Hobby Farming, Other Claims for Loss Relief, Deduction of Tax by the Crown,"— retrospective in this case— Dividend Stripping, Other Tax Avoidance, Income Tax Penalties, N.A.T.O.…"— [OFFICIAL REPORT. 4th April. 1960; Vol. 621, c. 52–9.] I could go on, but it is really not surprising that so many of my hon. Friends were really amazed to hear this long list of Somerset House suggestions. They really felt that we were entitled to expect a lead in these days, but we did not get a lead in this Budget.

My hon. Friend the Member for Keigh-ley (Mr. Worsley), who made a particularly attractive maiden speech, had something to say about the qualities of the people whom he represents. He talked about their independence, their thrift and their down-to-earthness. I think that in a sense that was the image we put before the country at the 1959 Election, an image of the prudent and enterprising husbandman with a firm belief in the virtues of common sense rather than in an intellectual approach, and also an enjoyment of the pleasures of this world. We put that concept before the country, and I think the country was delighted to support it.

I must tell my right hon. Friend that, in my opinion, this Budget has cracked that image. In a maiden speech yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Cleaver) discussed whether a man in his constituency who has a grocery shop and a fish and chip shop might be allowed to set the loss on one against the profit on the other, and the Chancellor intervened and said that that would be in order. Frankly, I do not think it worthy of the dignity of a Budget speech that there should be this grave doubt in the minds of the Chancellor's supporters whether little situations like that are caught by the Budget. If we really are heading for a balance of payments crisis, action should be taken. The 2½ per cent. increase in Profits Tax is, to my mind, quite inadequate; if the crisis is coming the increase should be 10 per cent. We should also simultaneously be taking action against hire purchase. If the crisis is not coming then we have the wrong Budget.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will forgive me if I quote from the First Epistle to the Corinthians: If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? My right hon. Friend reads history. I wonder whether he is aware of the historical parallel of Sir Robert Peel, who sat in the House as the leader of an unassailable majority. Sitting in the House after an election which he had won on the issue of protection, he suffered an intellectual conversion to free trade. It was not rotten potatoes, as the Duke of Wellington suggested, that gave Peel this conversion. He suffered an intellectual conversion, and he got his free trade, but there sprang into being against him one of the most unlikely combinations that the House in its long history has ever seen, that of Disraeli and Lord George Bentinck. Sir Robert Peel despised them. Intellectually, he did not consider them his equals, and he regarded their arguments as unconvincing. He got his Bill, but he split his party irremedially. I beg the Chancellor, surrounded as he is by so many eminent knights and even baronets—I particularly noticed the Freudian lapse of the Financial Secretary, who spoke of an hon. Gentleman on the other side of the Committee as his hon. Friend—to resist an intellectual conversion to Socialism.

I personally believe that it is right to order one's actions on the basis that they should be capable of, as far as possible, universal application. Therefore, I would not consider voting against a Measure unless I wanted to see it defeated, with all that that could imply for the future existence of the Government. I certainly shall not vote against this Measure, but if my right hon. Friend persists in promoting measures of Socialism and water I shall be driven to the conclusion that my constituents who voted so unhesitatingly in 1959 for Conservatism would not want to continue supporting a Government who were willing to practise Socialism in disguise. This is not the case now: we must never let it so become.