Clause 3. — (Charge of Temporary Customs Duty.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st December 1964.

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Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale 12:00 am, 1st December 1964

That was a very different proposition. The right hon. Gentleman is trying to compare the proposals in respect of the terms on which we were to enter the Common Market with those for the imposition of a temporary surcharge. During the period when the right hon. Gentleman was negotiating to get into the Common Market there was not a balance of payments crisis all the time. This Government had to deal immediately with a balance of payments crisis, and they had to take emergency measures to do so. What we are now discussing is one of the emergency measures which the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer said we were entitled to do—as I have tried to drill into the heads of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, although it seems to require an old-fashioned surgical operation to do so.

7.0 p.m.

In his first speech from the benches opposite, the right hon. Gentleman said that the gap in the balance of payments was wider than he had ever been told by his advisers. So the right hon. Gentleman's idea of how this surcharge could have been operated is not, in my opinion, valid, and I do not think that anybody who has listened to his account of how this crisis could have been dealt with can really think that it was a serious proposition. Ever since the election the right hon. Member for Barnet and his hon. and right hon. Friends have played politics—ever since the first day. I do not complain very much on that score. That is what I expect. I think they want to scramble back to office by any possible means, and included among their means they are quite prepared to back the view of every country in Europe or every country in E.F.T.A. or every country in the Commonwealth against this country.

The right hon. Gentleman talks about the good faith of this Government. He says that it will be years before we can repair the alienation in those countries. He says that and thinks that he is, at the same time, trying to assist this country. One of the most interesting things to notice when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite cross from this side of the Committee to that is how quickly and easily they shed their patriotic cloaks. They become not only the friends but the passionate lovers of almost every country but their own. They embrace Dr. Verwoerd, they blow kisses to General Franco, and they even, at the last moment, start making ogling glances at President de Gaulle. The right hon. Member for Bexley, of all people, is paraded before us as the man whose delicate and tender advances could have dealt with this situation in such expert fashion, this Don Juan before whom every political maiden surrenders without a tussle, this irresistible suitor, this Casanova from Kent. But he is not the real person to lecture my honourable and puritan Friends at the Treasury about conducting their affairs in Europe.

The right hon. Gentleman in his tenure of office was in charge of the negotiations with these countries. He consulted them, but he should know over many years how strong and passionate was the opposition to the measures which he proposed among Commonwealth countries, among some of the E.F.T.A. countries and among European countries. Or is he trying to tell us that in the face of all his skill even the sweet and chaste Marianne swooned before his feet? No, this was not the case. Right hon. Gentlemen must learn that they have lost the election. They are very poor losers. We thought that that was the one thing they learned at their public schools. They ought to learn to take their defeat with a better grace and, in the meantime, not to retire to the City but, better still, to retire to Trappist monasteries. That is where they might really carry out reforms which might equip them, not to run the affairs of this country but to make a little intelligent opposition.