Amendment of the Law

Part of Ways and Means – in the House of Commons at 6:13 pm on 15th March 1988.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst , Saffron Walden 6:13 pm, 15th March 1988

I am grateful for the opportunity to make an early contribution to the Budget debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do so with some diffidence, however, because of the penalty faced by those fortunate enough to catch your eye so soon after the Chancellor has sat down. They deny themselves the opportunity to read a more careful analysis of the Budget in the press the following day, when those who are expert at analysing such a major and complex financial statement are able to present it in perspective. We, who may have missed subtle details, can then understand the full implications of the statement for various aspects of national life. Inevitably, my own contribution will not be aided by that expert opinion. It will be based merely on immediate reaction.

It may not surprise some of my hon. Friends to hear that I find much with which to agree in what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Mr. Knox). I shall not repeat his observations line by line, but I shall start, as he did, by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. His speech was most impressive. This is a positive Budget, and, like my hon. Friend, I believe that my right hon. Friend's judgment is about right. I welcome the Budget's reforming aspects.

If my right hon. Friend can be said to have risen to the occasion, the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour party certainly have not. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to insist, both today and before the event, that this was meant to be a Budget for the National Health Service. Apart from misreading what the Budget is about, as opposed to the Autumn Statement on public expenditure—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong) wishes to gain a reputation in the House for making sedentary comments, so be it, but I am not prepared to give way.

The Budget is not about making decisions on extra public expenditure. The public have been considerably misled by the Opposition campaign in that respect. I am wholly committed to the success of the National Health Service, and I believe that the Government's record is much better than Opposition Members allow. They conveniently forget their own record on the NHS. Of course it is wrong that people should be kept waiting for such an important state service, but it has always been true that the list of things that we want to do—in health, in education or in any other regard—remains long, and lengthens as our expectations increase. That is bound to continue. The test of the Budget is whether it will control the economy in such a way as to ensure that more resources are generated for the Government to sustain such services.

I believe that the record of the present Government, and the present Chancellor, is very good. Certainly it is superior to anything done by previous Labour Chancellors.