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Orders of the Day — Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 6th July 1983.

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Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford 4:30 pm, 6th July 1983

The hon. Gentleman has been studying these matters for a fairly long time, but perhaps not for as long as his right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) who is experienced enough to understand the pace of cause and effect. The poisonous seeds of inflation, anti-business legislation and restrictive practices planted in the 1970s took time to grow into a harvest. We have seen that harvest, and it has been bitter and nasty. In the last Government, we sought—and I hope that we shall continue to seek—to plant a new harvest that will bear better fruit than the efforts of the Labour Government in the 1970s which did terrible damage to our economy.

An expansion of the Government's deficit and higher public spending would be a contractionary course and would destroy, not create, jobs. I know that some hon. Members on both sides of the House think otherwise and say that there is a balance to be struck between inflation and unemployment, as though, if we had a little more of one, we might get a little less of the other. But I believe that such hon. Members are using the wrong pair of scales. The reality is that the path to high and stable employment —the goals of the 1944 White Paper which all hon. Members must share—lie via lower inflation. That is the necessary means to the end of higher employment, and the two are inseparable. That is an essential understanding that has not penetrated the mind of every Labour Member, but it is the path that we should follow.

There are expansionary steps on both tax and investment that can be taken now without straying from that path of sound money, which is the vital one to follow. The Chancellor recently said that the defeat of inflation was a necessary but not sufficient condition for economic recovery. I agree with that, but I also believe that tax cuts are a necessary precondition for, not a consequence of, economic recovery.

I welcome the Bill, but with a lively sense of anticipation that it is the precursor of better things to come and a lower level of taxation in this country.