Amendment of the Law

Part of Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 10th March 1992.

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Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire 5:45 pm, 10th March 1992

My hon. Friend puts the case in a nutshell. I know of instances in which people have said that the game was not worth the candle because it would take too long, and the intransigence of some tax inspectors has wrongfully won the day. Again, I know of a case in my constituency which is proceeding on exactly those lines, but now my constituent will be able to take action. I have considered his case and it is genuine. He will now know that he has the opportunity to recover some of his costs.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor also listened to the problems of people handing on their companies to ensure that they are not broken up. We all know of the vast costs involved in getting a company started and of the impact of inheritance tax on those who have built a business and want to ensure that it stays in one piece and that it retains its essential individual character. They have the opportunity to do so—now, such companies will not necessarily be swallowed up and become part of yet another branch of a large conglomerate.

It would be wrong of me to speak about the help for the car industry without declaring an interest. What is being done in this context will be a fillip to get motor manufacturers going and will, of course, have a ripple effect across the country. I believe that many people deferred their buying decisions until today, and perhaps what has been said today will encourage them.

My last point might be slightly contentious. Although I welcome what is being done for the British film industry—the one third write-off on a straight line over three years—I have to say that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I wish that we could in some way extend that provision to manufacturing industry. If one removes from our manufacturing industry the inward investment and the investment by a few large companies such as British Gas, British Aerospace, Rolls-Royce and ICI, one finds that very little manufacturing investment is being made in this country. In fact, until 1988–89 the growth rate since 1979 works out at only 1 per cent. In a world of increasing mechanisation, of more robotics and more automation, it is absolutely right that we should have increased growth in investment.

However, we have a culture in this country whereby we do not invest, and the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) mentioned the lack of commitment to training and to research and development. I am afraid that that strand runs through this country and it must be broken. Our foreign competitors have a different culture. We suffer from short-termism, which is unhealthy for long-term survival. Let us consider, for example, Germany. It gives a 20 per cent. allowance against tax for dividends, but no more. If one pays a dividend of more than 20 per cent., one begins to eat into the residual profit of a company. Perhaps we could have some guidance to help to gain investment in our companies.

That issue has what could be described as more insidious consequences because German Members of Parliament are given a specific allowance of more than £650 a month which is ring fenced for equipment such as computers, word processors and faxes. That is the way that they think—they think of investment in automation and of using equipment to ensure a more efficient operation.

The Government have set the seal on the Conservative party proceeding to the general election. Over the years, cutting the rate of tax has left us with more taxes to put into hospitals and schools but, at the same time, we have managed to leave more money in real terms in people's pockets for them to spend as they think fit. That is the opposite of the double whammy. I have absolutely no doubt that the success of the Budget was evident in the faces of members of the Opposition, and it will be reflected in the results of the election.