Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

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

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Photo of Mr William Hughes Mr William Hughes , City of Durham 12:00 am, 12th March 1973

I shall confine myself to three points, the first of relatively minor importance. In his statement, the Chancellor mentioned the problem of historical documents. I do not know whether the Government have carefully considered the very difficult problem of distinguishing between the commercial value of an historical manuscript and its value to international scholars. Many documents will have slender commercial value, but for international scholars who work on literature and history they would have irreplaceable value. It may be that in the estate duty legislation the relations of these fine distinctions can be most properly dealt with.

So much for the narrow, but for the academic community important, element which I wish to raise. I turn now to what is to the community at large the far more important matter of the Government's creation of national debt. This House 100 years ago had a figure that stalked about it. He was known as the "public creditor". Chancellors from Vansittart through Peel to Gladstone and even Harcourt, whenever placed in a difficulty would, rather like a deus ex machina, draw out the public creditor. He seems to be, not only dead, but buried, cremated and removed entirely with no trace of his existence left on the face of the earth.