I am most grateful for the opportunity once again to follow the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) in a debate in the House. I listened to his speech with great interest. I found it very much like the curate's egg—good in parts. There were many parts of it with which I agree entirely, but in other respects I felt that it was harking back to a day that I had hoped had long gone by. The hon. Member regretted the absence of Gladstonian principles in the Budget. I remind him that times have changed and that we are living in a society in which the community recognises that it has obligations to the individual, and that the relatively poor and the not too well off do not have to rely any longer on charity as they did 70 or 80 years ago.
It is right to recognise the fact that because of the developments which have been made in the last 60 years the community now has this obligation to the less fortunate. But the Chancellor is faced with this precise problem—which is his job every year—of trying to obtain the necessary revenue in order to make sure that we have the cash available to implement the social reforms which have been so long delayed and, at the same time, to make certain that he can cream off, if necessary, a certain amount of purchasing power in order to prevent an inflationary situation developing, in which there is inevitably a spiral of wages chasing prices, with all the consequences.
I agree with hon. Members on both sides who have said that the key to the problem is increased productivity, but it ill becomes hon. Members opposite to lecture us about obtaining increased productivity when during the whole of their time in office we got nothing like the increase in production that we should have had.