Orders of the Day — Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1976.

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Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East 12:00 am, 3rd May 1976

It may have escaped the hon. Gentleman's attention, but these employees are neither directors, nor are they living on incomes of over £5,000 a year, so they are not included.

I now turn to the Opposition amendment. I will give it all the attention it deserves—about two minutes. There can be no more final and conclusive answer to the claim that the Finance Bill is profoundly discouraging to skill and enterprise than the views of those in British industry whose professional concern is, above all, with skill and enterprise.

The Confederation of British Industry, representing the employers' side of industry, has expressed itself in words which allow no argument—Sir Ralph Bateman, its president, in Tokyo last week, and the noble Lord, Lord Watkinson, a distinguished former Conservative Minister, in London. The Retail Consortium, in its Economic Newsletter this morning, has been even more explicit. Its leader is another distinguished ex-Conservative Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Redmayne. This morning's survey by the Financial Times of business opinion reports a further rise in industrial confidence, based on growing evidence of a revival in industrial activity and a promising outlook for exports. No doubt there will be a further expression of confidence in the CBI survey which is due to appear tomorrow.

I think all of us on this side of the House well understand and deeply sympathise with the difficulties of right hon. Members opposite. Even their own party's supporters in the newspapers regard them as the most incompetent group of leaders the Conservative Party has had in living memory. But I must tell them that they should not expect to revive their fortunes by fouling their own nest. I hope they will resist the temptation to sell Britain short as they have done in recent weeks, notably the Shadow Chancellor in a speech he made—very aptly—to the Toy Manufacturers' Association.

Right hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite and their acolytes on the Back Benches, should heed what Lord Watkinson pointed out last week—that those who do sell Britain short face a united Government, TUC, CBI and people. That is a formidable combination to confront the sort of Tory Trotskyism which is spawning so rapidly in the damp cellars of the Carlton Club and Annabel's.

The Conservative Party has proved once again in its amendment today that it is unfit to present itself to the country even as the official Opposition, and still less as a potential Government. I ask the House to reject their amendment and to give the Bill a Second Reading.