Orders of the Day — FINANCE (No. 2) BILL

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th July 1965.

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Photo of Mr Edmund Dell Mr Edmund Dell , Birkenhead 12:00 am, 15th July 1965

Thank you for your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I want to refer in particular to the Amendments which were accepted, and it brings me to an aspect of the discussion of the Finance Bill which troubles me a little as a result of my experience here. To a remarkably great extent, the real discussions on the Bill have taken place not inside this House but outside it between the Government and the various interests concerned. In those discussions hon. Members have had no part, although they have resulted in Amendments to the Bill.

Whether the kind of way in which the Bill has been discussed is the best way in which a major change of this sort should take place and whether full opportunity has been given for the fullest discussion of that change is something worthy of further consideration by the Government or by a body like the Select Committee on Procedure. The Government have accepted Amendments that have very often been put down by themselves—very often on behalf of outside interests—but the House itself has never had a real opportunity to take part in the discussions which led to those Amendments.

I would like to see the House having the opportunity to observe and to question the sort of discussions that have obviously been going on between the Government and the outside interests affected. If we change our system or our procedure, then we should also take the opportunity to improve major reforming legislation in a way which would make sure that, in its final form, it is better than it turns out to be under the present system.

I want now to turn to the uncertainty argument used by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield. He has again argued that the result of the Bill is to put the Government at loggerheads with industry. He says that confidence has been lost, and so forth. That is an argument which right hon. and hon. Members opposite have deployed time and again throughout these discussions. I regard it as of the highest importance that the Government should have good relations with industry and the City, and I am very glad to see everything that is done to achieve that objective. I am sure that no Government can achieve the sort of economic success we desire unless such co-operation is established.

Certainly the Government must work with industry, but—and this must be understood, for it is equally important—our desire to co-operate with industry does not mean a licence to industry to continue to work in the same old way. The country is facing an economic crisis. Over a very long time it has been on the verge of an economic crisis. We have had continual balance of payments difficulties.

There is a responsibility for this situation somewhere. I believe that, to a considerable extent, it is the responsibility of the Government who fell on 15th October, 1964, but theirs is not the only responsibility. Responsibility also rests on all sections of economic activity and industry. If industry is to say that there are not to be changes in the way in which it conducts its affairs, then I am afraid that we shall fail to achieve the sort of economic progress and increase in the rate of development that is vital if we are to put an end once and for all to the balance of payments difficulties.

Industry must accept responsibility for the problem and accept the importance of change. One thing that has troubled me throughout these discussions has been the way in which right hon. and hon. Members opposite have seemed to fail to realise this in that they have taken every brief that has come to them from any vested interest affected and, instead of examining it critically and selecting what was right, have, irrespective of its merit, deployed its arguments as though they were the Law of the Medes and Persians.