Orders of the Day — Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th April 1978.

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Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley 12:00 am, 13th April 1978

There may be a cut-off point at some stage, but we have a long way to go on whisky. I have no hesitation in suggesting that money could have been raised on these two particularly dangerous drugs and spent to promote useful industrial investment.

The question of petrol is rather more difficult. It is a bit absurd that in real terms the price of petrol at the moment is lower than it was before the oil crisis. That is a fantastic situation. I accept that my right hon. Friend is probably up against the idiotic and childish antics of the Liberal Party on this issue and that if we tried to push the price up again we would have the same idiocy from the Liberal Bench as we had last year. There may be a political constraint in that respect. However, I believe there would have been a case for some modest increase in pertol duty.

Finally, I want to mention overseas aid. It is now becoming common thinking in international gatherings—we have heard it said by our own Prime Minister, the President of the United States and other Heads of Government—that part of the solution to the economic difficulties of the Western world lies in an increased flow of resources to the Third world. There are various ways in which this can be achieved—for example, the promotion of trade and commodity agreements. It would be quite wrong to go into all the details in this kind of debate.

But I think that the Chancellor might have made a modest bow in the direction of this problem by making at least a small increase in our overseas aid commitment and some evidence that we were moving towards the international target of 0·7 per cent. aid. I should also have liked to see some evidence that he was restoring the rather damaging cut of £100 million which he made some time ago. I would have regarded that as justified and welcome.

I share the view of many of my hon. Friends that in many ways this is an extremely useful social Budget. I should have liked something more ambitious in an economic and expansionary sense. I believe that we need to go much further in tackling the fundamental problem of the modernisation of our industry and industrial investment. But, on the whole, I believe that my right hon. Friend has done a reasonable job, and I commend what he has attempted to achieve.