Clause 35. — (Rates of Annual Allow Ances for Machinery and Plant.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st May 1963.

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Photo of Mr Geoffrey Hirst Mr Geoffrey Hirst , Shipley 12:00 am, 21st May 1963

I support the suggestion which my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. W. Clark) has made. My fairly long and, on the whole, friendly but not entirely painless experience of the Treasury leads me to believe that it may have some difficulty in accepting the Amendment. However, it is the spirit behind it which is important. I do not mind my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer refusing to jump all the hurdles as long as he indicates that he is at least prepared to go into training and to recognise that there is a need to do something in this matter.

I speak as one who has not been easily wedded to any form of export incentive. I was never very much in favour of it in any form. However, after careful study, I am now much more in favour of it, and I am glad that a Committee is going into this matter. I do not blame my right hon. Friend. If there is any complaint about the matter, it is that they have been too long about it. The Government ought to have been even ahead of us on the back benches in realising that we are dealing with a different situation.

My basic reason for supporting the Amendment—I am not in the least wedded to the words—is to get a principle accepted by the Committee and some recognition of its need implanted in our policy. I do, however, see that in the near future, if the priorities are to be right—and the priority of all priorities is growth in the economy—certain things inevitably follow. One of them is that our export trade must be increased.

It is a question of priority. If we say that to avoid a balance of payments crisis we shall do what we have often had to do before, lower the base of our productivity and our growth, we are going back to a policy which we have already found to be unsatisfactory. Therefore, the priorities must be right. If we are to accept the growth policy as the prime priority, everything has to be done to fit in with that.

The first thing is to avoid, if possible, any consequences of a growth policy through a balance of payments crisis by increasing our export trade. If that is the order of priorities, we have to do some new thinking. Many of the policies that we have had before, excellent and basically successful as they were, will not match up to the present situation and difficulties.

If other people are using certain methods to encourage trade in circumstances not always dissimilar to our own, we cannot afford to be third or even second in that race. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will give this sort of consideration to this Amendment. As I say, I am not the supreme optimist. I have been here far too long to imagine that this Amendment will be accepted—that would be asking rather too much. What we would like in this Committee is to feel, once again—I think that there is an element of support running in this vein and we have already had it in other directions, as my hon. Friend has indicated—that the Government will be somewhat ahead of this sort of committee in this matter.

It is good, I think, to have this committee, long-delayed, as I think it is, in order to refresh our memories, because, although most of the knowledge is fairly well known, what is more important is that the country should see that the priorities will be put right in the context of world trade and competition today.

In putting them right we have to safeguard that policy by ensuring that we have the machinery to achieve it. On those grounds, I give my utmost support to my hon. Friend.