This is a poor little Budget. I should like to congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer on one thing. He succeeded in talking about it for 10 minutes, which was really rather creditable. He has described, perhaps with a bit of repetition, what it is all about.
What does it all come to? The Tory Party is faced with a General Election and it has produced this baby. It might have been a baby intended to make a serious contribution to the solution of some very real difficulties that the country is in. One of those difficulties—I say no more than this—is the threat of an exchange crisis this autumn. The other is to preserve the right balance between road and rail in order to get a proper transport system. I hope we can all agree—except, perhaps, the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden)—that that must be a matter very largely of the tax that road, on the one hand, and rail, on the other, have to bear.
The Chancellor could have made another contribution. I should have thought that we could all be prepared to accept that if the economy at present is relatively affluent, even without going into exactly how affluent it is, there is one large class of people who need more help—those in receipt of pensions, small fixed incomes and so on, the people who are at the bottom of the scale. One contribution—a very small one—was made at the last moment by the Chancellor. By and large, the form of indirect taxation that he has selected is the kind of thing that hits those people with undue hardness because they have got so little or no margin to live on.
I will not go into it in detail—I would not be in order if I were to do so—but a Finance Bill which at this moment makes no contribution to the solution of any of those problems, which makes no contribution to the solution of the further problem of what we are going to do about the maintenance of trade in the world, and shows no sign at all of recognising the need for the measures about the Commonwealth which my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) adumbrated, seems to me to be making singularly little contribution to the real point.
This is a baby of a Budget. The Government could have produced something which just tided them over for the moment, regardless of what they were going to pass on to their successors, not at all relucant to leave them to carry what may be a somewhat uncomfortable baby. They could have done that, and that is exactly what the Chancellor has done. He has provided just enough to carry his party and the Government forward to the time of the General Election without very much regard to what the country will require in succeeding years. This is, of course, an election Budget. It is exactly what one would expect from—I repeat—a senile Government.
I cannot emulate the Chancellor in this. I hope I have not taken 10 minutes. If I have, it has been a pretty good but rather excessive effort. I should, however, like to say one thing more. We usually keep a friendly atmosphere on personal matters, especially on this occasion, and I must say, speaking for myself, that one could not have had a more courteous Chancellor, whatever his electoral or political merits may be, or one who has been more patient and tactful in dealing with us. That goes for the Treasury Ministers and the Solicitor-General, too.
We have not had to fight very hard. One cannot hit little babies on the head; it is not done nowadays—not even little financial babies. Our trouble is that we think this is a silly little Budget, inadequate for the needs of the nation and only just adequate for the electoral considerations, which has obviously been the Chancellor's principal motive in bringing it forward.