It is always a pleasure to follow a speech by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) because, in spite of the illogicalities and imperfections in his case, nobody could question his sincerity and his commitment to the nation's wellbeing. We may differ deeply on how we can best serve that well-being, but his sincerity is not in doubt. I shall develop my answers to the points he has made in the course of my speech, but I must make a couple of observations before his words disappear into the ether.
I begin by accusing the hon. Member of being guilty of that old game of the Opposition—humbug. I have listened carefully to the suggestions which he has made for cuts in public expenditure, and even if I were to accept that his suggestions were candidates for cuts—which I do not—the total of the sums he mentioned was only £930 million at the outside. The right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) has gone on record as saying that the nation's difficulties can be solved only if we make cuts in public expenditure at the level of £4,500 million. The Government would like to know, and have never been told by the Opposition, precisely how the gap between the £930 million and the £4,500 million would be bridged.
In substantiating my claim of humbug it is worth pointing out that the Conservatives were still in office in 1973 shortly before the General Election and faced economic difficulties which were not so severe as those confronting the country when the full pressure of the oil crisis was upon us. Even so, they initiated cuts of £291 million at 1974 prices. Is the right hon. Gentleman really asking us to believe that the Conservatives, if they had been returned to office, would not, confronted with the kind of crisis we had to face of maintaining essential oil supplies, have continued in defence terms along the road of cuts that they had already begun?