Income Tax (Personal Allowances)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th November 1977.

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Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton 12:00 am, 10th November 1977

I sincerely congratulate the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) on his promotion to the Opposition Front Bench. We may not always recognise the difference between the years of silence and what we are getting now. Perhaps I should commiserate with the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) on his having been sacked from the Shadow Treasury team. I have noticed it. I suppose that the hon. Gentleman should treat it as something of a compliment to be replaced by three of his hon. Friends. I am not sure whether that is a compliment to me or to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and other Treasury Ministers. It is interesting.

There is something that I should make clear to the hon. Member for Blaby. In the unlikely event of the Opposition winning a General Election, it does not follow that because the hon. Member is in his present position he will be on the Government Front Bench. We have been told—I am sure that this will be of interest to Conservative Members who have had to listen frequently to the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe)—that in the unlikely event of the Conservatives winning a General Election it is not likely that they will have to put up with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. We have that on the authority of Conservative writer George Hutchinson. He writes: Sir Geoffrey Howe is Shadow Chancellor, but this is not to say that Sir Geoffrey must become the real Chancellor in the fullness of time. Mr. Hutchinson can say that again. There is not much likelihood of that happening. That is certain.

As some hon. Members have said, this has at times been an excellent debate. There have been excellent contributions, especially from Back Benchers and from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. I only just got in the latter reference. The speeches of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. Member for Blaby took a somewhat different approach from that which we find in the little blue book entitled "The Right Approach to the Economy ". We are told in the blue book what we shall get. I quote from page 3, in which it is stated: We prefer to set out the sober truth ". Then we get the hon. Member for Blaby —nothing personal, I assure him.

The kindest thing that one can say of the two Opposition Front Bench speeches is that they can be summarised as a series of petty quibbles, recognising, as the Opposition do and as the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said, that the Chancellor has got it right. They know that. They know that we have created the right financial situation from the financial chaos that the Conservatives left behind. All they can do is string together a series of petty quibbles, and that is what we have heard today.

I shall take up some of the points that the Opposition have made. First, I am obliged to the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet for his kind words about my right hon. Friend. One thing that I like about the right hon. Gentleman is the name of his constituency. To me, it has a particular ring that I always find reasonably attractive. In most of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman was saying that we have the situation about right. I do not think it is unfair to summarise what he said in that way.