Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th March 1973.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East 12:00 am, 12th March 1973

The hon. Gentleman knows that 90 per cent. is a marginal rate. It is not an average rate. He may also know, if he follows these matters, that a man has got to get £8,000 a year before he has to pay a 50 per cent. tax rate, whereas with the "poverty surtax" as it is called some people can lose 50 per cent. of their increase when they are still below the supplementary benefit level. Therefore, if the hon. Member believes that he can sell the Government's policy to the public on the basis that the gap between rich and poor is too narrow, he simply does not understand what is going on. The Budget debate, and the points that have emerged from it, may therefore have some relevance.

Let me give the hon. Member figures, if he challenges me. A woman ward orderly working in a hospital on a 40-hour week is paid a gross sum of £16·08. Her take-home pay is something over £13. Does the hon. Member believe that to be fair? Does he believe that to be a reasonable reward for someone working in the public service who has never been engaged in an industrial dispute before and who does not benefit from the tax concessions made in the Budget? Of course it is not. Let me cite another case. A person underwent four years training for City and Guilds qualifications to be a hospital cook. The basic pay is £19·80. A kitchen porter works a 40-hour week for £18.

The truth is—and this is the change between this year and every other year—that whereas previously the Government have been able to conceal the tax cuts under one heading, and deal with their attitudes towards incomes under another, the public are now putting the two points together. That is the change that has taken place. There is another point that I would mention to the Treasury Ministers. The new militancy of the lower paid is the product of an understanding of these two relationships and the bearing of one upon another.

Let me put another point to the Chief Secretary. He may have noticed, that unlike previous industrial disputes the Press and the television are not now able to find the wives of strikers to come for- ward and say that they wished their husbands were not on strike. By a combination of their budgetary policy and phase 2 of their counter-inflation policy, the Government have brought the families together to recognise that they have to defend their own interests.