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There was what I think was an important ambiguity in a phrase used by the Chief Secretary which goes to the heart of this debate and which leads me to conclude that whatever may be its deficiencies, the new clause before the House is correct in principle. The phrase used by the Chief Secretary was "as long as inflation persists". The right hon. Gentleman said that as long as inflation persists some such relief in this form or some other form must go on.
There is embodied in that expression, if he will forgive me saying so, a common misconception about inflation, namely, the notion of inflation as some thing which is static and not dynamic. If the Chief Secretary means as long as each year there is a continuing depreciation in the value of money, it goes without saying that some such relief as this must be carried forward.
However, if there is a cut-off and no further inflation from a given point of time, something still has to be done about the régime which was introduced by the concession last year and in the current year, because that régime was based upon the acceptance that the stock appreciation was not a real appreciation but a fictitious one. It remains a fictitious appreciation as a matter of fact, whether or not dynamic inflation continues in 1976–77 and in subsequent years.
I take it that the new clause fixes in the statute—we can come back to this, and we must come back to this, next year—the fact that this House recognises as fictitious and not as real the stock appreciation which has taken place in this and in the previous financial year. I believe that that ought to be recognised.