Clause 11. — (Surtax: Reliefs for Earned Income.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th June 1961.

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Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth 12:00 am, 7th June 1961

No, and the point is not really relevant to the particular matter on which I wish to speak.

The Clause is the foundation and the purpose not only of the Budget but of the Conservative Party. Last November, the Chancellor, who was facing his first Budget, began to sound warnings of the economic disaster which lay ahead of the country. He told us that we were running into an economic crisis. Not long afterwards the Minister of Health decided to increase the Health Service charges. In direct contrast to the empty benches now, in order to pilot that Measure through the House hon. Members opposite crowded on to the Government benches and into the Lobbies.

Some of us felt at that time that they were merely carrying out their philosophy of attacking the weakest sections of the community—and that is what they were doing. But they were doing more than that; they were preparing the ground for the type of Budget which was introduced in April and for this type of Clause. They were flying economic distress signals, warning people that they must not ask for wage increases and paving the pay for the £65 million which they extracted from the poor, the sick and the needy in order that £80 million could be handed to those who are to receive these Surtax concessions.

In relation to the philosophy of Toryism, that should not have occasioned us a great deal of surprise, but what did occasion a great deal of surprise were the reasons given for the imposition of the charges and the introduction of this Clause. We were told that the people working in the export trades were not working hard enough and that some incentive must be given to them. This was in sharp contrast to the treatment which had been received by people in various trades and professions who, because of the Government's policy, had been forced to seek wage increases.

We reach a situation in which those who are supposed to be engaged in the export trade are told to be good little boys; we are told that they have not been working hard but that we can expect them to work harder if they are giver the concessions in this Clause. The economic fallacy of this is easily exposed. The export trade of this country does not depend on the Surtax payer. If every Surtax payer disappeared tonight it would make no difference to our export trade, because the people who have given this country its place as an exporting nation are those who produce the goods which are exported.

If there were any logic in the Chancellor's argument the concessions in the Budget would not only have been spread over the entire range of the people employed in the export industries but would have been diverted into the section of the export trade more likely to lead to an increase in exports. But that was not the principal reason for or purpose of the Clause.

3.15 a.m.

As my hon. Friends have remarked, we have had ten years of Tory rule. Hon. Members opposite, when defending Measures of their own, have chided us on these benches by saying that this or that was done by a Labour Chancellor, or that this or that Measure was introduced during the lifetime of a Labour Government between 1945 and 1951. But what they conveniently ignore is the tremendous difference in the circumstances of the two periods. The people of Britain are beginning to see the effects of the differences on themselves, their families and their standard of living.

The real test is made by looking at some of the industrial constituencies. It is from these constituencies that the nation's real wealth emerges. It is not the Clores, the Frasers and the others, the people who are benefiting from this Clause, who have made this contribution. Unfortunately, in the older industrial areas the older industries are declining—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Some hon. Members say "Hear, hear," but they do not know what they are talking about because they have never made an attempt to analyse this problem. They are not concerned with the question of wealth production. They are concerned merely with extracting the maximum profit that they can from that wealth production without any regard to its effect on the nation or the nation's workers. We in the older industrial areas are watching the decline in our basic industries. If hon. Members opposite were really concerned about the export drive, they would start diverting some of the newer industries into the areas that I have mentioned.

The President of the Board of Trade made a glowing defence of the Chancellor's Budget on the basis that justice was being done to the nation. But the President of the Board of Trade is the chief victim of the Chancellor's policy, and particularly of this Clause because if the President of the Board of Trade is going to tackle the economic problems of Britain and the export problems that flow from them, he will have to get much more assistance from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government than he has had so far. It is no use talking of new policies and new ideas because the present Government have had ten years in which to set their wheels and their sights in the right direction and all that they have done in that period has been to change direction at different times to suit the pressure groups which have been applying pressure in order to extract these types of concessions.

I remember saying during the by-election in my constituency that the nation would find in the course of time that the present Chancellor would have a more disastrous effect on the nation than he had as Foreign Secretary. That was a bold prophecy at the time, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman has at least done us the service of proving it correct.

The economic crisis which the Chancellor predicted in November last year is upon us now. The Tory Party is shackled by its own slogans from previous elections. If hon. Members turn back to their election addresses of 1959, they will find nothing there bearing any relation to the type of Budget we have now in 1961. They will find no reference to the difficulties confronting the export trade, to increases in National Insurance contributions or National Health Service prescription charges, or to the possibility that their constituents would in times of ill health have to do as some of my constituents now have to do. Some people now, after visiting the doctor on a Monday or a Tuesday, find that the charges in respect of their prescriptions, sometimes two or three of them for different members of the family, cannot be met. The result is that the prescriptions are either left with the chemist until the Friday or are not even taken to the chemist until that day, when the wherewithal is to hand.

When I raised this matter with the Minister of Health, he said he had not heard of that difficulty arising. That did not prove that it did not exist, of course. It proved only that neither he nor any other Member of the Cabinet, like the rest of hon. and right hon. Members opposite, were in touch with what is happening to ordinary folk.

It has been said that £14 or £15 a week is the average earnings of industrial workers. [Interruption.] I can well understand the submerged frustration of hon. Members opposite after being whipped into silence for several hours. They have to have some outlet for their energies. But I am not the one who has compelled them to stay here. I can carry on just as well without their presence. When one examines the record of some hon. Members opposite, one finds—