Adjournment (Spring)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th May 1976.

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Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne 12:00 am, 25th May 1976

The second aspect of the joint statement issued yesterday which I invite the Treasury Bench to repudiate is: When fully operational the National Enterprise Board should have at its disposal funds of at least £1,000 million a year so that it can play a major role in creating jobs and investment". Just imagine the effect which that commitment of £1,000 million a year of Government money for selective investment in British industry will have on public confidence and overseas confidence in sterling. Before the House rises for the Whitsun Recess it is imperative that the Government Front Bench should repudiate that commitment.

The third part of the joint statement which should be repudiated by the Government is this: The Liaison Committee re-asserts its belief in the value of subsidies in helping to keep down the price of essential goods. Special help should be given without means test to assist in the payment of sharply increased fuel bills. The continuation of food subsidies is the major priority in the coming three years. That statement is hostile to the true interests of Britain and to the strength of sterling and is in direct opposition to the declared policy of the Government, for in the Government's White Paper on Public Expenditure—not, it is true, greeted with universal acclaim below the Gangway—the Government said that they were proposing to reduce food subsidies over the coming three years. Yet in the statement issued yesterday by the TUC and the Labour Party Liaison Committee precisely the opposite commitment is entered into. It is the Government's declared policy to phase out subsidies to the gas and electricity industries. Yet in the statement issued yesterday there is a commitment between the Labour Party and the TUC to repudiate the policies being followed by the Government. That, again, will lead to a further crisis of confidence in sterling.

The fourth commitment in the statement which should be repudiated by the Government is this: The Liaison Committee do not accept the argument that price controls inhibit investment. I wonder whom the TUC and the Liaison Committee consulted before reaching that dramatic conclusion, for no person engaged in business or industry would accept the proposition that price control does not inhibit investment. It has done so in the most dramatic way, and price control is one reason why British industry is so seriously short of capital.

The fifth and last part of the statement to which I wish to draw the attention of the House is this: We believe that there should be a clear commitment to early legislation to introduce a wealth tax during the 1976–1977 Session. That, again, is in direct opposition to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's policy. What effect will that commitment have on foreign holders of sterling and people who might be inclined to lend money to Government?