Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1966.

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Photo of Mr Hugh Gray Mr Hugh Gray , Yarmouth 12:00 am, 3rd May 1966

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom) attacks professional men. Just before the last General Election, the chairman of the local Conservative Party said that intellectuals were not wanted in Great Yarmouth. Fortunately, from my point of view, he was proved wrong. My opponent recently said that he thought this country was being ruined by Fabians and intellectuals. Workers by hand and brain are equally important for the well-being of this country, not least for earning it invisible exports.

A few years ago, just after Mr. Peter Thorneycroft resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he came to the London School of Economics to speak to the students' union. After he had spoken, he was congratulated by a student speaker for having had the courage of Professor Paish's convictions. Those days are long past. Today, Oxford has succeeded London in its influence on the Exchequer, and a Socialist Chancellor of the Exchequer has succeeded a Conservative one. Both changes are important for the future, particularly the latter. Underlying the themes of a stable £, growth and expansion, there is a deep Socialist concern for redistribution of wealth. We on this side of the House stand for this because we wish, in accordance with our values, to see greater social and economic equality achieved. The Budget was an exciting one. It suggested new means of raising money and new means of dealing with the question of redistributing wealth. Because some of the proposals are new, they cause some apprehension, as indeed all new proposals must.

As a new Member making my second speech, I should like to say what a great privilege it was to be here and to listen to such speeches as those we heard today from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman made a point about the tourist industry. I believe that he was thinking of foreign tourists coming to this country. I immediately thought of the town of Yarmouth, which is a seaside town flooded mainly by internal tourists during the season. It is true that we also have foreign tourists from Holland, and their number will increase when, as I believe will happen soon, we go into the Common Market. The new pay-roll tax, which will hit the service industries, will cause great apprehension to all hotel owners and boarding house keepers.

I support a remark made by an hon. Member opposite. He said that he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would reconsider the vesting date. It is most important for hotel keepers and boarding house keepers to get through this season. If my right hon. Friend could put the vesting date back a month, it would be a great help. The interests of the town of Great Yarmouth may be hit. I hope to receive reassurance from the Government spokesman on this point because in the winter unemployment in Yarmouth is high. Many people hope to earn enough money in the summer to get them by during the winter.

Unfortunately, the structural changes which are foreseen by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the whole country have not yet taken place in East Anglia, particularly in Yarmouth. I foresee that the claim of East Anglia to be considered as a special development area will be even stronger after this change has been introduced. But I may be wrong. I deeply hope so. Apart from the town of Yarmouth, my constituency is one-third rural. Like my hon. Friends and many hon. Members opposite, I immediately thought of the effect of the tax on agricultural workers and small farmers. I hoped sincerely that they would be cushioned in some way.

A change of this kind is rather like dropping a stone into a puddle. Some of its repercussions are extremely difficult to visualise. One will concern transport. Garages provide service. Possibly the cost of repairs will go up. In my constituency we live under the threat of rail closures and the curtailment of services to many villages which have no bus service. Today I received a letter from a lady, a Roman Catholic, who said that in future when services are curtailed on Sundays she would no longer be able to go to church. If rail closures take place, one expects that bus services will be provided. The Labour Party stands for an integrated transport system for the whole country and for East Anglia. We look to that. But some people may have to buy motor cars, in which case they will have to pay for repairs. I hope that when the Government spokesman replies, he will deal with these repercussions, with the problem of towns which rely upon the holiday trade and with the situation of agricultural workers.

This Budget is a forward-looking Budget, a thrusting Budget, a Socialist Budget. I heard it with great pleasure but with some apprehensions. I am sure that it is a Budget that looks to the changing structure of the country. Our Government are a modernising Government, a Government who will take the country into Europe. They are a Government of a long future, and I suggest that the Budget is one step in the long right direction.