§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I should like, first, to express my thanks to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a clear and lucid exposition yesterday. It was one which we found interesting the whole way through. He certainly avoided the scramble that usually takes place at the end of a Budget debate, when we have heard the distribution of the largesse or the penalties, whichever it is to be.
It was not, of course, the first time that the Chancellor has batted on a Budget wicket, although it was the first time that he has opened the batting. He usually goes in first wicket down, when the shine has been taken off the ball, but he managed to play the ball very well indeed right in the centre of the bat. He even ignored the rather menacing figure at deep third man—or perhaps he is in the pavilion. At least, we hope that we will hear the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr, Selwyn Lloyd) during the course of the debate—
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral) indicated assent.
§ Mr. Callaghan
—subject, of course, to you, Sir William—because I trust very much that we shall hear what he has 636 to say about the complete reversal of his policies by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The change in presentation of the Budget has many advantages, most of which we readily acknowledge. This rearrangement had one other advantage which has not been commented upon, that in the course of over a 100-minute speech the Chancellor was able to dismiss the miserable record of the last twelve months in half a column of HANSARD. Instead of starting, as we usually do, with a review of the events of the last year, we had no more than 300 words or so on what must have been one of the most catastrophic post-war years in the development of the country's economy.
The Chancellor shares the well-known Tory capacity for drawing a veil over their own crises. As the late Aneurin Bevan once said, the Tories have an infinite capacity for putting flamboyant labels on empty baggage. If he were here now, he would say that they could not even change the labels. It is the same old stuff again, and the Chancellor knows it. He has said it himself before on many occasions, when he has appeared at the Dispatch Box to put forward the case for the Government on various Budgets.
In any event, the Government supporters, I understand, are well satisfied with the Budget.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Perhaps hon. Members opposite are not very well satisfied with the Budget. I do not know which it is. We shall wait with interest to find out. Although they cheered the Chancellor when he sat down yesterday, they cheered the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral a year ago for doing the very reverse of what the Chancellor did yesterday, either ignorant or careless of the fact that it was entirely different.
Let us take some of the differences. The policy of the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral was based upon the premise that home demand must be held down so that we should get exports first. The Chancellor said yesterday that we must have growth at home to stimulate 637 exports as soon as possible. Hon. Members opposite cheered both statements. The right hon. and learned Member for Wirral based his Budget on the need to safeguard the £ abroad, which, he said, meant restricting demand at home. That was the whole case for the pay pause. Yesterday, however, the Chancellor told us that a healthy expansion of home demand and a strong £ go hand in hand. Hon. Members opposite managed to support both these statements at different times.
In his resignation letter to the Prime Minister, the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral said:you are well aware of my concernaboutthe growth of public expenditure.The Chancellor's reply is to spend another £500 million this year.
The right hon. and learned Member for Wirral, in his strong desire to limit public expenditure, kept down borrowing in his last Budget to £74 million. Under the heading, "Borrowing Requirements", the present Chancellor proposes to raise £700 million, which is ten times that sum. In every major respect, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that his former colleague in the Cabinet was wrong. Not merely the whole of budgetary policy, but the philosophy which underlies that policy, has been reversed. The Prime Minister, who, unfortunately, has left us, said in his letter to the former Chancellor:Your courageous policies … have always commanded the support of your colleagues. You can rest assured that we intend to continue on the path that you have prepared.We might have known that, when the Prime Minister said that, the very reverse would happen very soon.
Whether the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral was right or wrong in his philosophy about exports and home demand, about the need for keeping the £ strong and, therefore, keeping down home demand and the rest of it, perhaps he will settle with his right hon. Friend the Chancellor. One grave difference which I have with him, however, and which everybody outside of Government supporters has with him, is the grave error of forecasting that he made a year ago about the state of the economy.
638 The right hon. and learned Gentleman convinced himself that the economy would grow and that consumer demand last year would increase by 4 per cent. without any help from him. He went to the Sheffield Cutlers' feast and rebuked all his critics. He said "Do not believe these prophets of woe. There will be no recession this year." Nothing like this had been heard since Mr. Chamberlain said that he thought there would be no war—or was that the Prime Minister? No, Hitler missed the bus—the same thing.
The right hon. and learned Member for Wirral said that there would be no recession this year and that there was no need to pump in Treasury help. Everybody unitedly told him that he was wrong—the trade unions, industrialists and the Opposition. Hardly a voice was raised in favour of Government policy—except, of course, that the sheep went into the Lobby in support of him.
At the conclusion of the Budget debates, the right hon. and learned Gentleman's last words were:I am convinced that the general balance of my Budget is right."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1962; Vol. 657, c. 1630.]The whole of the Government supported him, including, of course, the President of the Board of Trade, who is to follow me in this debate today. A year ago, in the corresponding debate to today's, the President of the Board of Trade said:we can look forward to a period of steady and healthy expansion, in which the growth of exports will take the lead."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th April, 1962; Vol. 657, c. 1189.]The Minister of Education, who has the misfortune to be extremely lucid and articulate, so that there is never any misunderstanding of what he says, said:Our whole object is, rather, to create conditions in which exports lead the growth of the economy…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th April, 1962; Vol. 657, c. 1336.]He said that it would be wrong, and that it was not borne out by experience, that a deliberate stimulation of home demand would be an effective means of encouraging exports.
Did the Chancellor of the Exchequer listen to all that? How does he reconcile his differences with the Minister of Education? The Economic Secretary to the 639 Treasury had not then been promoted, but he was, nevertheless, a strong supporter of the Budget. They were all strong supporters of the Budget, and they were all wrong. This is why there is considerable indignation amongst those who took a different view a year ago that the unemployment that we have suffered, the unused men, materials and machines, and the unfilled order books, are due to a mistake in which all members of the Government shared an error of forecasting which has cost the country hundreds of millions of pounds. Now, we are asked to trust them again. This time, the Chancellor tells us, the Government have the National Economic Development Council to help them; they have accepted the 4 per cent. per annum growth target fixed by the Council.
As the Chancellor did not give a review of last year, let me give a short review of the year's activities and put it alongside what the National Economic Development Council says, because the Chancellor is its chairman and has accepted the 4 per cent. target. N.E.D.C. said that it was quite possible for our economy to expand at the rate of 4 per cent. per annum. So does the Chancellor, but in the last year our production was stationary. There was no growth at all. N.E.D.C. said that our exports should grow at the rate of 5 per cent. per annum. Last year, they rose by 1.5 per cent. N.E.D.C. called for an increase in the total of investment, in new plant, new machinery, etc. of 8 per cent. per annum. In fact, total investment fell by 2 per cent. per annum, and in the case of private investment in manufacturing fell by as much as 7 per cent.
N.E.D.C. told us that all this could be achieved with a low level of unemployment. In fact, as we all know, unemployment rose to record levels for any consecutive period of twelve months since the end of the war. N.E.D.C. says that the balance of payments should be £300 million in surplus. In fact, it was £67 million in surplus. Just to add to the record, last year, in which in every case we fell far, far short of targets which the Government accepted, prices continued to rise at home, and we had to borrow £80 million from the central banks abroad in order to keep sterling steady. Altogether, 1962 was a miserable year, a mixture of incompetence and weakness. I am not 640 surprised that the Chancellor forgot to review it in his Budget speech.
Now for the new watchword, the new label, "Expansion without inflation. Expansion which can be sustained". This is to be the slogan. Of course, the case is overwhelming. Everyone knows this. We have pressed it upon the Government for much longer than it has been accepted as official Government policy. Of course, it is not the first time that we have climbed on the expansion bus. We have been there before—and it stopped long before we reached our destination. We did it in 1959 and we did it in 1955.
Now, in 1959 the then Paymaster-General made a speech in the course of the Budget and he told us there was a case for substantial expansion and it started from the record surplus of our balance of payments, a very great strengthening of the £, a great improvement in the reserves, a record level of fixed investment, and unemployment lower than in most European countries and so, said the Paymaster-General of the day, the Chancellor had gone as far as he could without threatening the balance of payments. I wonder what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) has to say to the Paymaster-General, or to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that he started off with his expansion with a record surplus of balance of payments, with a great strengthening of the £, improved reserves and levels of fixed investment, or low unemployment? He is starting off with the very reverse of these. Let us take what happened when he started to expand—I forbear to say what year that was—when the Government gave away £360 million and by the end of the next year the record surplus of 1958 in our balance of payments which had stood at £312 million had turned into a deficit of over £300 million. Of course, that was followed by the pay pause and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wirral had to clean up the mess which was left by his predecessor.
But the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not escape responsibility here. He has been in and around the Treasury for most of the last twelve years during which the Government have been in office, 641 either as Economic Secretary, or as Paymaster-General, or as President of the Board of Trade, or as Chancellor of the Exchequer. This is no new broom coming to sweep the Augean stables clean—merely an old hack put out to grass once more. In 1955, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was the right hon. Gentleman the First Secretary of State, who was the deputy Prime Minister, and he had a word for it, too. Then it was called expansion and stability. That was our watchword then.
It could almost have been yesterday that we heard the speech of 19th April, 1955:… the Budget proposals must constitute, before all else, a fresh incentive to the forces of"—what?—growth and expansion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th April, 1955; Vol. 540, c. 58.]And:During this last year we have learned much about the problems which we must face if we are to succeed in combining expansion and stability …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th April, 1955, Vol. 540, c. 35,]The Government had learned so much that they gave away £155 million—I for bear to mention what year that was—and, of course, it was followed by a crisis in the autumn.
The present Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke in that debate, too, on 21st April:My right hon. Friend"—he said—will concentrate on a policy of expansion, freedom and incentives, which has throughout been his policy and has throughout been a successful policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st April, 1955, Vol, 540, c. 365.]Well, it was certainly successful in winning the General Election, but I do not wonder that my right hon. Friend was a little cynical yesterday.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Well, I withdraw that. Shall I say that he found it a little difficult to understand why it is that there happens to be this fortunate coincidence that in a year when it is necessary to give away so much in tax reliefs there happens in that year to be an appeal to the electorate?
I understand that it amounts to this: that certainly 70 per cent. of all the reliefs 642 given away in taxation and otherwise by the Government during the period they have been in office have been concentrated in the two General Election years, plus this year, when we are running up to an election. We do not know when it will be. I am sure that the Prime Minister does not, either. It depends on how long he can keep a tottering Government and party together. At any rate, the Chancellor has helped him. He has done his best.
Now we have him starting again. We are going through a period of expansion and stability. The reformed drunkard is coming to the penitent's stool once more. He is going to sign the pledge for the third time. Unfortunately, he has still got the taint of whisky on his breath. He really must forgive us if we are a little disbelieving about the motives and the consequences of the Government's sudden conversion to a policy of expansion.
As I said earlier, the case is overwhelming. In my view, the Chancellor has been too cautious. I believe that there is a need for greater incentives if we are to get industry running full out. I do not believe that we can maintain it, but I think that there would be a case for arguing economically that we should have a relatively sudden spurt for a period of twelve months before we settle down to a steady rate of growth of about 12 per cent.—[HON. MEMBERS:"What?"] I means settle down to a steady rate of 4 per cent. I realise that 12 per cent. is outside the comprehension of anybody in this Committee. But it would not be outside the comprehension of the Japanese. It would not be outside the comprehension of other countries which have managed to get periods of growth of that order for a short time.
I say this to the Chancellor, in all seriousness. I believe that there is a case this year for doing more if he is to lower unemployment, if he is to get the economy growing. He could not keep up that pace in the economy in which we are living, but I think that he has been too cautious in what he has done. Subject to what happens in the rest of the world, which will always be a preoccupation of any Chancellor, I think that he ought to get his 4 per cent. this year, but that will not relieve unemployment, which will last in many 643 parts of the country. Unemployment will go down; it is bound to do in some parts of the country; but I believe we shall still have high levels where there is structural unemployment at the present time.
Corning back to this question of growth, I think that it is humiliating, when the O.E.C.D. reports are produced year after year on the policy of economic growth, to see where we stand. Let us take the most recent report which came out last month, and the table on page 16, showing what the major countries, the 20 major countries in O.E.C.D. in this group, and the rate of growth from 1950 to 1960, and in the whole list we see we are last but one. Only Ireland has grown at a slower rate than Great Britain, and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have been responsible for our destinies during the whole of that period.
Everybody has grown faster than Britain and I believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has now set his targets too low. Even the United States, after the Kennedy Administration were returned, grew at a rate of well over 8 per cent. from the first quarter of 1961 to the first quarter of 1962. Their economy is in many ways similar to our own. They have the same degree of sluggishness, the same difficulties with balance of payments, the same difficulties with exports, and the difficulties of too great a rise in wages as against productivity, yet they managed to grow at a rate of 8 per cent. The Chancellor has fixed his target for only 4 per cent.
I wish that the right hon. Gentleman had said more about exports. Why did we not do better last year? Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will tell us. His speech last year was a confident forecast of the success that lay to our exporters. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was keeping the way open for his success. He was keeping home demand down so that the right hon. Gentleman and the exporters could step in, and there was every reason why they should, because whilst our home demand was so low, Europe was still running full out. Our competitors were still supplying at as high a rate as they could their own domestic markets and yet they did better in exports than we did.
644 Why did not we take advantage of all this? Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will tell us. Perhaps he will review 1962 and tell us why he thinks that we failed last year. Perhaps he will tell us why the Government's policy was such a failure and we grew at a rate of only 1.5 per cent. in exports when he confidently expected something very much higher.
The Chancellor says that British goods must be competitive in price, quality, and date of delivery. He is right. We have said it before, and it is none the worse for hearing it from him again, but I do not think that this is all the trouble. I do not know whether the Committee has read the remarkable article which appeared in The Times yesterday, by Professor T. Barra, headed, "Export growth retarded by technical backwardness". I ask my colleagues to take five minutes to read this article, because it is one of the most penetrating analyses that has been made of our export policy.
Perhaps I might quote some extracts from it. Professor Barna analyses the export position of Britain, the United States and Western Germany, but he does it according to categories of exports rather than to total volume, or total value. He divides his categories into fast-growing exports and others. The fast-growing exports include office machinery, scientific instruments, metal-making machinery, electrical measuring instruments, plastics, and synthetic fibres. Comparing our performance with that of the United States and Western Germany, he says that the surplus of the United States is four times, and that of Western Germany three times that of Britain's export surplus in this category.
Professor Barna goes on to say:In fact, Britain's position is inferior in each product group in this category",and his conclusion is that the shortfall in Britain's net export manufactures compared with either the United States or Western Germany can be accounted for only by the shortfall in the fast-growing machinery and chemical products. He says, in fact, that the faster world demand expands in any product group the more inferior becomes Britain's share of that market, and that we hold our position best in the export products which are in the slow growing class.
645 This is a severe indictment of Britain, of British industry, and of Government leadership, because these are the exports and this is the field where, clearly, we should be getting into a position where we ought to have world leadership as we had at the turn of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is this field on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade must concentrate, and I should like to hear from the President of the Board of Trade his proposals for ensuring that there is a more rapid rate of growth in these industries where the fast-growing manufactures find a ready market overseas.
I therefore say to the Chancellor that it is not just a question of price. It is not just a question of quality. It is not just a question of after-sales service. All these things are important, but they are only as important as the capacity to sell the right type of goods which other countries are seeking and for which the markets exist. This is the lesson to be drawn from this article, on which I hope the President of the Board of Trade will comment.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he was against an added value tax. Mr. Gordon Richardson has been given the task of changing the Chancellor of the Exchequer's mind, if that is the right thing to do. It is an odd way to run the Government, but, knowing Mr. Richardson, I am satisfied that there could be nobody better qualified to change the Chancellor's mind if it needs changing. I am sure that he will bring expert knowledge and judgment to this task, but I ask that we should have an early report and decision on this matter.
We on this side of the Committee have been going into these questions of taxation. We have made our own studies about them and at the moment I am inclined to agree—I am rather changing my mind from what I thought a year ago—that there is not so much in these fiscal incentives as I had originally assumed. I think that if we go into these incentives we would need such a drastic overhaul of the taxation system that the administrative inconvenience could outweigh the benefit to be achieved. That should not prevent us, if we believe it to be right, from reforming the taxation system, for 646 which I have many proposals, most of which are taken out of context and not put against their full background; but I should be out of order if I were to go into that now.
On the question of expansion, I have one or two points to put to the Chancellor. I believe that in respect of growth he is in a very much inferior position compared with 1959, because although he said that the stock ratio to output was really not too bad, nevertheless, if he is to get the level of growth that he wants there will have to be a substantial increase in stocks of imports. From that will follow what he proposes to do. Obviously he must be concerned about the position of sterling.
If we have unlimited imports—perhaps he will not want to look ahead—and they endanger the balance of payments position the Chancellor will have to make up his mind what to do, and I hope that he will tell the Committee which he believes comes first. Does he really place expansion above everything else? If he does, if, at last, after two false starts in the earlier years, we are placing expansion first, he may have to take some uncomfortable decisions which will be opposed to the ideology of his own supporters.
Let us consider these decisions. Import control is such a one. Last year, the President of the Board of Trade tried to get me on a Morton's fork. "Ha, ha," he said. "Is the hon. Gentleman proposing import controls?" I declined to rise to the bait. I am not the Chancellor, and it is the Chancellor who has to answer that question if the level of stocks builds up to the point where it endangers continued expansion. Until we have a clear answer to the question whether, in the event of trouble of this sort, he proposes to go ahead with expansion, businessmen will continue to remain sceptical.
I am surprised at the number of letters which I have had. The right hon. Gentle. man did not convince some people in industry that he really means to go for a policy of expansion and to subordinate other considerations to it, and I think that the Committee would like further guidance from the President of the Board of Trade about the Government's intentions this time. Are they ready to put 647 aside ideological prejudices which they may have to ensure that expansion continues?
I turn now to the problem of sterling. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has, in my view quite rightly, ruled out any question of devaluation, but it cannot be a comfort to him to know that there were tremors in the £, even though they were speculative and did not represent the real position, even before expansion gets going. I believe now—as I did when proposed it last July in the censure debate—that the Chancellor was right to put up his plan for increasing world liquidity and in trying to get some alterations in the key currencies at the Washington meeting. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the rapid change, it was a half-baked plan and did not get the response it warranted. Perhaps it was because there was not enough time to prepare it. There might have been better preparation.
It is my information now, however, that there would be a much better response for proposals of this sort now than there was a year ago. I think that it is an encouraging factor for Britain that many of the difficulties we have experienced over the years are now being shared increasingly by the United States. I was very interested in the letter written by the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Maurice Macmillan) about this, a short while ago. For a long time we have carried a heavy overseas burden which has never been recognised by others. Now, the Americans are doing the same thing.
I doubt that they will get their balance of payments really under control. I believe that they will go through the same phase as we have been through. That gives us identity of interest. The dollar is not the currency that it was ten years ago. That is one considerable identity of interest. Both countries are financing, between us, 60 to 70 per cent. of world trade. That is another identity of interest.
The Chancellor should follow up as quickly as he can the ideas he scouted yesterday about the position of sterling in order to try to remove the strain from it. It is absurd that, when sterling and the dollar are facing heavy balance of payments difficulties, France and Germany—and, indeed, Italy—should be 648 piling up surpluses. These surpluses should be, and could be, called into use. I hope that there will be a development along these lines, but it is too technical a matter to go into now in detail.
I want to ask the Chancellor about one matter in particular. It concerns a speech by Lord Hailsham, who always manages to combine very high morality with very good politics. He said recently:Can you wonder that foreigners speculate against the pound? How can a General Election remove uncertainty when it is want of confidence in the declared policy of the Opposition which is causing the alarm?This really is a very serious matter. Are we to start playing party politics with the £? [An HON. MEMBER: "That is not."] Well, this article is. Three weeks ago there were tremors in the position of the £—in my view, quite unjustifiable. I gave a long interview then to two German and Swiss newspapers in which I came out strongly on the side of the Chancellor—no, on the side of Britain—against devaluation. I am glad to say that these two interviews were widely reported in the German and Swiss Press, and I have had official intimation—not from the Government, but from other quarters—that the fact that we were taking this strong line had an impact in steadying speculation.
If Government spokesmen are to abuse their position by saying that it is the possibility of the election of the Opposition that is causing the run on the £, then I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he will be in serious trouble not because of us but because of speeches by his own colleagues in the Cabinet.
I want to repeat as emphatically as I can what I have said constantly, as the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues know. There is no case for devaluation. It was also made clear by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in Washington this week that a unilateral devaluation of the £ would be an antisocial step of the first magnitude. It could have only a damaging effect on world trade.
I believe very strongly that we must not yield to this temptation. I ask the Chancellor, in all seriousness, to speak to Lord Hailsham about this matter, because we do not want this sort of thing.
649 I must say that the Chancellor will make things extremely difficult if he starts approving such speeches.
§ Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that the position of sterling ought not to be a party political matter. He puts expansion as priority No. 1, however, Where would he restrict expansion if it started an inflationary process and a risk to sterling?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I shall not say any more on that question at the moment. Let the hon. Gentleman ask the Chancellor. I have my own answers, and have written about them. I am ready to go into them again later.
I believe that the Chancellor has to consider some of the matters which he touched on yesterday, such as getting large backing from the International Monetary Fund. I prefer that to short-term loans across the exchanges from the bankers of Europe. I am sure that is one way to start. He must also be ready to consider the question of import controls.
There are a number of matters into which I could go. Above all—and this is probably the difference between the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) and me—I think that Britain must have a long-term plan to relate our resources to our capacity and that we must put the efficiency and expansion of our industry side by side and above all else. These should be the major objectives of any Government. They would certainly be the major objectives of a Government from this side of the House. If we did that, we could transform the country in ten years. That is why I am so anxious to hear the right hon. Gentleman tell us the Government's plan to deal with the difficulties when they emerge in consequence of the expansion programme.
Now I want to turn briefly—because I have already taken up so much time—to the problems of taxation. I think that the reductions the Chancellor has made are in the right places. How could I say anything else? We proposed them. In my corresponding speech to this a year ago, I spent a great deal of time showing, I think for the first time, what effects there have been on the small taxpayer. Our case was widely disbelieved and we had to go through the whole Finance Bill, proving it time and 650 again, before it was recognised as being true.
I believe that the increases in the old-age exemption limits and the personal allowances are the result of the fact that the Government have at last recognised the truth of the case that the small man has not had a fair deal over the last few years, certainly since 1955. Last night. the Chancellor said en television that his concession was equivalent to a 2 per cent. rise in wages for a man on £800 a year. That was a dangerous figure to use and a dangerous way to proceed.
After all, a married man with two children on £2 a week or under will get no rise because he gets no relief from taxation. For a man with £13 a week it means a 1 per cent. rise in the Chancellor's terms. What is the Chancellor advising employers to do in wage negotiations? Does he want them to adjust the extent of wage increases to the amount of relief given in tax? I assure him that if ha hopes to have an incomes policy he will run into as much trouble as his predecossor did if he pursues that course. He cannot find the right answer in that direction.
If the right hon. Gentleman says that it was an illustration which he thought was interesting at that level, then that is all right. But if he 'wants the employers and the unions to take this into account, then he is making a great deal of trouble for himself over the next few months. In agriculture, textiles, clothing, furniture and local government there are many people with well under the average increase of 2 per cent. that is supposed to have come to those people mentioned by the Chancellor.
Last year, I took a number of figures into account in discussing National Insurance. They were disputed by the Government, but I still stick to the point, which is that it is right, when considering what burdens of taxation are placed upon people, to take account of increases in National Insurance contributions. As a simple illustration, I quote the case of a man on £700 per annum with two children. In 1956–57, he paid £17 6s. in tax and he pays no tax now. But in the same period his National Insurance contributions have gone up by £18 6s. Thus, he is actually paying more. One has to take the whole burden of taxation into account. It is the regressive effect 651 of much of these National Insurance contributions which is setting off any benefits in direct taxation which the Chancellor may be giving.
For example, a young single person, perhaps in his early twenties, earning £12 a week will pay 1s. 9d. a week less in tax from 4th July, but 1s. 1d. more in National Insurance contributions from 3rd June. He will be 8d. a week better off. That is not a relief which will appeal to him when he takes into account the increase in fares, the worst that Dr. Beeching can do, and so on.
Where do we get to? The Chancellor says that he has exempted 3¾ million people from paying tax. That is jolly good. We asked him to do it; it is one of the things we pressed. I warmly congratulate him—he has now got back to the number of exemptions which existed during the last days of the Labour Government. Over the last twelve years, the Government have allowed the exemption limit to remain too low, with the consequence that, despite rises in the cost of living, people have been brought into taxation, called upon to bear taxation, which was extremely unjust.
There are a number of industries which are hard hit by Purchase Tax—furniture, knitwear and others. The Chancellor doubled the taxation of household goods a year ago. Here, as in family allowances, is a case for the Chancellor to consider whether those who do not secure the Income Tax benefits should not have some advantage.
I am very glad that the Chancellor has picked up and adopted our suggestion for local employment area allowances. His proposals are eminently sensible and none of them is novel. What he has done, very sensibly and wisely, is to dredge the net. He has caught a lot of shrimps. They are useful, and nice eating they will be, I am sure, but to look for anything novel in the Budget would be a futile occupation. However, this is a useful proposal which he has picked up and incorporated in his Budget and which has been put forward on many previous occasions.
We are bound to agree that more positive action will be needed in Scotland and Wales and the North-East. One of the things which will arise from the new allowance is that people will 652 look much more carefully at the areas which are covered. The definition of the boundaries will mattter a great deal. Some areas which are not in will want to came in. For example, what is to be the position of Cornwall? My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) is constantly making the case that 70 per cent. of the workers in Cornwall take home less than £10 a week. If we are concerned about the Distribution of Industry Act, this is an area which would justify its inclusion, and its permanent inclusion, in these areas.
What about the word "permanent"? What will happen to an area if its unemployment falls below a certain level? Will firms which have already started to put in new pieces of machinery find themselves blocked from getting the allowance, or will a new firm which is going, and which is exactly the same as another firm, find that it will not get the allowance although the other firm will? There are many complications about this, and my suggestion to the Chancellor—I will not make it a proposal at this stage—is that local employment areas should be much more widely defined on a regional basis than they now are. If we are to carry out the Distribution of Industry Act properly and get rid of what is happening in London and the South-East, or, at any rate, lessen its effect, we can afford to make regional differences in taxation provisions of this sort.
We are all glad to hear that the Government are so far overcoming their inhibitions that they are willing to make a loan to Wiggins Teape for a pulp and paper mill near Fort William. Private enterprise cannot do the job and it is left to public enterprise. It is all public enterprise up there, the railways, the hydro-electric schemes, the forests, and so on. But why a loan and on what conditions? I realise that the Government have come only half-way and that we may carry them the whole way yet. I am delighted to see so many of these Socialist notions gradually overtaking the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When can we hope that he will get his courage high enough to insist on having a share in the equity so that the public can share in the profits of this concern instead of getting just a fixed return on the loan?
653 Would the President of the Board of Trade care to give us the answer to that this afternoon? This is a gambling age and although he may say that he does not like gambling, everybody else does. Let him take a shot and take up some equities in Wiggins Teape pulp mill and see whether we cannot get a good return for the public advantage. If not, will he explain his ideological objection to doing some good for the public?
We shall return to the subject of retraining in the course of the debate. Some of my hon. Friends will want to say a great deal about it.
I have tried at various times during the last few months to stimulate some intelligent discussion of questions such as taxation reform. We have now reached the "silly season" and it may well be impossible to have much intelligent discussion of these things, because anything that is said will be just picked up and made into party points, and so I suppose that we shall have to wait until after the election.
This is a great pity, because there is a great deal to be done in taxation, not by taking out one item and saying what needs to be done, but by reforming the whole taxation system. I have a fixed view—which I think is right for Britain in the 1960s—that taxation should be an energiser and not a penaliser, that we should bear less hardly on earnings than we do on capital, that the creation of capital has gone into such particular forms that it is not energising the economy and, in certain ways, may be holding it back.
I am afraid that discussion of that sort will probably have to await the result of the General Election, because hon. Members opposite are so short of ammunition that they will pick up anything that is said and twist it out of context as much as they can. Indeed, we have passed long since into the arena where we shall have a Government of only two things—bribes and bogies. We had the bribes yesterday afternoon. The bogies will be trotted out as the election period develops.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. F. J. Erroll)
We have listened to a very agreeable speech from the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). In his more light-hearted 654 moments I thought that he was on his way to becoming a kind of one-man "That Was The Week That Was". Certainly, his style owes a good deal to David Frost in his better moments. Many of the things that he said in his more serious moments had been answered by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget statement yesterday, and I hope that during the course of my own speech I will be able to deal with some, if not all, of the matters which the hon. Member raised.
As the Committee knows, it is customary for the President of the Board of Trade to open for the Government on the second day of the Budget debate, because it is a debate not only on the Budget but on the economic situation. The Committee usually likes to hear about economic matters from the point of view of the Board of Trade.
There is one fact of which I remind the Committee and which we are apt to take for granted in this country. It is that in many countries there are two separate departments for industry and commerce, one dealing with domestic matters and the other with foreign or external trade. In Britain, the two interests are combined in one department, the Board of Trade, for the very good reason that our national prosperity is so dependent on world trade and on our success in the world and, conversely, that we can succeed in world trade only if our domestic industries are modern, efficient and competitive. I intend, therefore, to tell the Committee what the Government are doing to help these objectives at home and I shall then have something to say about our commercial prospects overseas. I shall deal, in particular, with exports, as the hon. Member invited me to do.
At home our objective is sound growth, based on the full and efficient use of resources, and a strong balance of payments, derived from commercial success throughout the world, in the broadest sense of the term. Expansion, and its possible consequences, to which the hon. Member referred, were very fully dealt with by my right bon, Friend in his Budget statement yesterday, so I will not go over that ground again. The Budget will contribute to sound growth twice over—directly, through the changes in taxation, and indirectly, by creating greater business confidence. Businessmen 655 can plan ahead, knowing that the Government will do their part to achieve the steady expansion of the economy and the fulfilment of the broad objectives of the N.E.D.C. programme.
The changes in taxation and the other measures which my right hon. Friend announced yesterday, will provide a firm base for a sustained increase in national output. They follow and supplement the wide range of measures which the Government have taken in recent months both to strengthen the competitive position of British industry and improve the efficiency of the economy generally.
These measures include the improved allowances for investment and research which the Chancellor announced last November. They cover all that we are doing to modernise the roads and railways, the ports, and other basic services on which the economy relies. They also deal with the human problems, and in particular the new arrangements for handling the problems of industrial training and redundancy which are so often brought about by the very growth and change we know to be necessary, and which will be discussed fully in the Committee on Monday.
One of the most important things to do is to get a more even spread of economic growth throughout the various regions of the country. In this way we shall grow faster and more surely. The Chancellor yesterday announced measures to help the regions with special economic problems, and these are a central feature of our plans. I will now explain them in rather more detail.
As the Committee knows, Parliament has given the Board of Trade the responsibility for what is described in the Act asthe proper distribution of industryover the country as a whole, and the further responsibility for promoting employment within the development districts and providing special financial inducements to that end.
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
Inasmuch as development districts have a percentage unemployment figure of about 5 per cent., although my own area has a figure of approximately 6 per cent., do I understand that, nevertheless, it will have to come within the 656 ambit of a development district before it is entitled to have the allowance which has been proposed for the purpose of creating further employment?
§ Mr. Erroll
I know that the situation in Barrow is a difficult one. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and are watching it very carefully.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Erroll
I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I must continue with the theme of my speech and not get into a discussion of a series of constituency points. If hon. Members are raising the same point there is no need for me to listen to it a second time.
Briefly, my task is to ensure that prosperous industries, whether in development districts or in the Midlands and the South, continue to prosper. I must, at the same time, insist that growing industries in the more fortunate areas contribute a substantial part of their growth to the development districts.
Although many of the development districts are places where industry first became established, they are far from being the blighted areas which were so exaggeratedly depicted in the Press and on the radio during the winter, when there was so much loose talk about the so-called "Two nations" concept. In these areas the existing industries are already being modernised, and new dynamic growth industries are being introduced. At the same time, new factories, houses and schools are being 'provided, and communications are being improved.
I would like the Committee to have this concept of a development district. It is a place where firms—those already established and newcomers alike—receive special benefits to assist their development and growth. At times, we in Parliament have been apt to think that the provision of new jobs in development districts depends mainly upon the entry of firms from outside. This contribution by new entrants, although essential, is far from being the whole story. I want to correct this impression, because the expansion of industry already in these districts contributes, in practice, a great deal towards the provision of extra jobs. A study recently made by my Department showed that in the five years from 1958 to 1962, inclusive, half 657 the jobs arising from approved industrial developments in the development districts came from expansions of companies already in those districts. This gives the lie to those—some of them industrialists—who say that by setting up in a development district an enterprise will not prosper and grow.
The point is well illustrated by this year's experience on Merseyside. Since Merseyside again became eligible, on 21st January, for financial assistance under the Local Employment Act, we have received 27 applications for assistance. Of these, no less than 20 were for local expansions. Movement is important, and the time to bring it about is when a firm in a prosperous or congested area is ready to expand its premises, or to modernise in such a way that some rebuilding is necessary. This is where my power to refuse an I.D.C. is so important and also so effective.
I am often told, both here and outside the House, that I ought to follow a tough I.D.C. policy. I can assure the Committee that I do this very thing. No I.D.C. is granted for any project which, in the opinion of the Board of Trade, could be moved to a development district. If hon. Members are in any doubt about this they should consult industrialists in the Midlands and the South. They will soon learn from them how tough the policy is.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Since the right hon. Gentleman has made that protestation, has he noticed that the Ford Motor Company is proposing a large expansion in Basildon? Will he direct his attention to that?
§ Mr. Erroll
I am aware of the Ford case. I do not want to detain the Committee on this point, but I must point out that it does not represent an expansion; it is largely a bringing together of existing facilities, and it will be within the jobs ceiling agreed with the Ford Motor Company at the time of its big move to Halewood.
§ Mr. Erroll
I accept that, but it is within the jobs ceiling already agreed with the company for that part of the country.
§ Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)
is it within my right hon. Friend's knowledge that these will be technicians and not ordinary working people? It is technical building and not a factory that is referred to.
§ Mr. Erroll
Yes. I appreciate that it is a building of that nature, but a large part will still require an industrial development certificate.
In some cases a firm refuses to reorganise in such a way as to place part or all of its expansion in a development district and prefers to carry on in its existing cramped and perhaps old-fashioned premises. But this occurs in a minority of cases, because of the work of my officials who meet the representatives of these firms. Thanks to the patient, careful and understanding work of those officials, many firms do move part of their production to development districts, and in the end they are usually very glad that they did so.
I intend to continue this tough policy, and I shall not grant a certificate for any project which could reasonably be expected to go to a development district.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
The right hon. Gentleman is announcing a very important point of principle. He seems to be working upon the assumption that the country can be entirely divided into two halves—areas of high unemployment and areas of low unemployment. But this is not the case. There are very important intermediate areas where there is—
§ The Chairman
Order. If the right hon. Gentleman sits down it is in order for an hon. Member to ask a question, but it is not in order for him to make what amounts to a speech.
§ Mr. Warbey rose—
§ Mr. Erroll
I think that the Committee knows that I am very willing to give way when points are raised by hon. Members. But I have a long speech to give and some news to announce, and I feel that I must continue, as I have already given way to a number of hon. Members. I think that I am aware of the point which the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) wishes to make.
§ Mr. Warbey rose—659
§ Mr. Erroll
I think that the hon. Member for Ashfield is being very unreasonable, in view of the number of times that I have given way already. I should like to try to deal with his point, of which I think I am aware. It is that there are areas which are neither one nor the other. There are a good number of developments which cannot be moved to a development district. For these, industrial development certificates are granted, and many of those developments are in areas of the type which the hon. Gentleman has just suggested.
I wish now to refer to what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor told the Committee yesterday about the standard benefits we are proposing to introduce for new plant and new factories or extensions. I should like to say straight away that the Local Employment Act has proved to be an effective means of encouraging the introduction and expansion of industry in the development districts, thus providing much-needed employment there. In the first three years' operation of the Act, the Board of Trade has undertaken to provide total assistance of £81 million—£29 million by way of providing Board of Trade factories and £52 million in the form of financial assistance. The projects that we have so assisted are estimated to provide about 90,000 new jobs.
Our assistance has gone to large projects and small in development districts throughout the country. In short, we have achieved encouraging successes under the Local Employment Act. We now want to improve the Act still further. Hitherto, the benefits have been entirely tailor-made, to suit the circumstances of the individual project. Some firms would prefer fixed rates, known in advance, which would simplify their planning. This should prove particularly attractive also to overseas firms who may be thinking of setting up in Britain.
What we now propose is to make the building grant a flat 25 per cent. of the actual cost. Under the present system it is necessary to make a separate computation for each new building or extension and the size of the grant has varied with local values. On average, it has worked out at 17 per cent. of the actual cost. Under the new flat-rate scheme we shall reckon in the cost of the building the 660 provision of any essential services, and such things as special foundations for heavy plant.
The grant will be subject only to the exclusion of items which are so lavish that they ought not to be contributed to out of taxpayers' money. Broadly, the cost will include the building itself and any permanent fixtures that are reasonably required for the purposes for which the building is intended. I hope that this new grant will encourage industrialists to build their own factories and not just rent factories from us.
§ Mr. Erroll
Now a word about plant and machinery. Hitherto, Board of Trade Advisory Committee loans have been the only means by which we could help with the cost of plant and machinery. We want to go further than this. I am proposing that a grant should be made of 10 per cent. of the cost of plant and machinery installed in industrial undertakings, provided that employment is likely to arise for the benefit of the development district as a result. I intend by administrative action to exclude certain things which, by being readily movable outside development districts, could frustrate the intention of this grant. As an illustration, I have in mind lorries and certain types of office machinery, such as typewriters.
The statutory obligation to consult B.O.T.A.C. about the viability of the project before making a building grant will continue. But I do not propose that there should be a similar obligation for the grant on plant and machinery. I propose, however, in administering this new grant to consult B.O.T.A.C. on the larger cases, and on those where we are in any doubt about the position of the company seeking a grant. These grants will not replace the other benefits of the Local Employment Act, which will continue. For instance, B.O.T.A.C. loans and grants under Section 4 of the Act will still be available when the Committee recommends them. But when assessing need the Committee will of course take into account that fixed grants will be payable.
In view of the criticism of B.O.T.A.C., I should like to take the opportunity to pay a tribute to the work of B.O.T.A.C. which, over three years, has considered 661 no fewer than 600 applications and recommended assistance for about half of them. The fact that we have bad some bad debts shows that the Committee has taken some risks within the spirit of the Act. In general, it has secured an admirable balance between the needs of the development districts and proper safeguards for public expenditure. In any case we do not want "dud shows" going to development districts. We want them to be good ones, with a fair prospect of success.
To give effect to these proposals, a Bill will be introduced as soon as possible. In the Bill I am making provision for these new benefits to be available with effect from 3rd April—yesterday. The grant on plant and machinery will apply to expenditure incurred on or after that date. Regarding building grants, while offers made before 3rd April will not be affected, applications now under consideration or received from now on will be dealt with under the new provisions.
§ Mr. Erroll
Firms already in the development districts will qualify equally with new entrants. I should like to study the point about agriculture rather than give an "off-the-cuff" answer.
These new standard benefits, in common with the existing financial inducements of the Local Employment Act, will be linked with the general policy of the Act, that is, the projects concerned must create employment. In the case of plant and machinery, for example, the grant under the new Bill will not be available for simple replacement. We shall have to put a ceiling, as we do at present, on the total assistance available under the Act for individual projects where the cost to public funds is too high in relation to the number of jobs to be provided. But we shall ensure that, with the exception of projects which are obviously capital intensive, any ceiling that we put on an individual case will be high enough to accommodate these new standard benefits. In the majority 662 of cases there will also be room for B.O.T.A.C. loans and grants available under Section 4 of the present Act.
As the Committee will remember, yesterday my right hon. Friend announced that industrial firms in development districts will be able to write off for tax purposes the cost of new fixed plant and machinery at the rate of their own choosing—free depreciation, he called it. This facility will be available for replacement and modernisation and, unlike the new standard grants under the Local Employment Act, will not be related to the provision of employment.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
Will buildings come under the free depreciation provisions?
§ Mr. Erroll
No. The free depreciation provisions relate solely to plant and machinery and not to buildings which will come under the new increased depreciation rate also announced yesterday by my right hon. Friend.
The combination of these new types of benefits should be a powerful aid to further growth in development districts.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered to what extent these depreciation provisions will reduce employment in development districts?
§ Mr. Erroll
Well, it can, of course, be argued that when a firm modernises it may reduce employment. But the fact is that where the modern industries are we usually find there is the greatest prosperity and usually the highest level of employment.
§ Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)
I wish to make certain about one thing. Where a firm goes to a development district, and it is a question of building a factory and providing machinery, is the land also included?
§ Mr. Erroll
The grant relates to the building and the free depreciation relates to the machinery and, of course, the machinery grant also relates to the machinery. The land must be considered separately. The combination of these two new types of benefit should be a powerful aid to further growth in development districts. The development district thus becomes a locality in which special fiscal reliefs and predictable cash grants are available to existing and new industry.
§ Mr. H. Rhodes(Ashton-under-Lyne) rose—
§ Mr. Erroll
I am sorry. I cannot give way again as I have given way so much.
The Committee may well ask: how does all this look to the industrialist in, say, Birmingham? I think that the industrialist in a prosperous or any other area first looks at the cash outlay in relation to the expected return. What will be the difference between his expanding in Birmingham, provided that he could get an I.D.C. to do so, as compared with a development district?
I have worked out a straightforward hypothetical case which the Committee might look at, taking a project costing £1 million of which £250,000 is for buildings, £450,000 for plant and £300,000 for working capital. That is a typical proportion in present circumstances. Assume that the business is already earning profits sufficient to enable it to use in one year all the tax allowances available under free depreciation and that the management decides to do so. In a development district the grants available as standard benefits would amount to about £100,000 and the first year tax saving to about £300,000.
If the project were not in a development district there would be no standard benefits and the tax saving would be about £160,000. So, in a development district the Government will be contributing by these combined benefits nearly 60 per cent. of the cost of the building and plant as compared with less than 25 per cent. elsewhere. Moreover, if the project were in a development district, the company might be able to finance some of the rest of the cost, including working capital, from funds borrowed from the Board of Trade.
Of course, the advantage in the development district would be reduced in subsequent years, but the company would have the benefit of the use of the capital released by the earlier granting of tax allowances as a result of free depreciation and by the standard benefits. So that hon. Members may be able to see the full computation, which I have no time to set out here—it runs into three foolscap pages—I am having a copy placed in the Library and I can send copies individually to hon. Members who ask me to do so.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock(Orpington) rose—
§ Mr. Erroll
No, I cannot give way again.
If our measures succeed, as I am confident they will, then a development district will not remain a development district for ever. We shall deschedule in the future just as we have in the past. On descheduling, the standard benefits and other benefits under the 1960 Act will no longer be available. Perhaps even more important, free depreciation will no longer be available either for expenditure undertaken thereafter. Prudent industrialists, I suggest, will have this in mind when making their plans.
We must look to industrialists to make full use of these improved facilities and so bring more work to the development districts, but I am not going to sit back and wait for them to read HANSARD, still less for them to apply for an I.D.C. and be refused. Starting on Monday next, I shall be inviting the chairmen of leading companies with growth prospects to discuss with us at the Board of Trade the possibility of their establishing new projects in the development districts of Britain and in Northern Ireland.
I am proposing to start this series of meetings before the end of this month and during the next two months we hope to meet the chairmen of over 100 major companies. In this way we shall seek to impress upon an important section of industry the many advantages to be gained from taking work to these areas.
At this point, I wish to refer to the advance factories which the Board of Trade are building in a number of development districts. We have encouraged firms to go to development districts by providing Government factories and by giving financial assistance. Many industrialists want factories built to suit their particular requirements. We are always willing to consider building in the development districts for such firms. Other firms prefer to set up in standard factories all ready for occupation. At the moment, we have a programme of 19 of these so-called advance factories in England, Scotland and Wales. They are of various sizes up to 50,0000 sq. ft. and all are to be completed this year. We have no tenants yet, but there have been many inquiries so far.
665 We have also in hand a substantial programme of clearance and development work on our industrial estates which will make them more attractive and provide more sites ready for building. In addition to all this, we are planning a further programme of advance factories to follow on after the present one. This will comprise another 11 factories, all fairly small but of a size which should attract expanding firms. These factories will be planned for completion in the second half of next year. I hope to give the Committee or the House further details shortly.
I shall now say a word or two about Wiggins, Teape and Company. As my right hon. Friend announced yesterday, there is one project which will require special legislation—the proposed new pulp and paper mill at Fort William. A Bill is being introduced today to empower the Board of Trade to make loans to the company for this purpose up to a total not exceeding £10 million, representing about half the total cost. The great contribution of this project will be to provide a new point of lively and developing industrial activity in the West Highlands. It will take advantage of local supplies of timber. It will create in the forests and in transport even more jobs than those created directly in the mill itself. The site for the mill has been chosen as being the most advantageous possible from the point of view of timber and water supplies and of transport.
The United Kingdom paper industry has been at some economic disadvantage compared with its competitors in the forest countries which have been able to operate fully integrated mills based on indigenous supplies of timber. For the Fort William project the timber is there in the Scottish forests, both those owned by the Forestry Commission and by private interests, and the supplies will be expanding steadily over the next few years. This project aims to use these forest resources in a way not previously possible in this country. To help the flow of material to the mill, the Forestry Commission will accelerate its programme for the construction and improvement of its forest roads within the area of supply.
It is, however, in some ways a pilot undertaking for our paper industry. Nothing on these lines and of this scale has been done in Scotland before. It is also 666 a very large undertaking. To be efficient and competitive a mill of this kind must be very large and, inevitably, it takes a very considerable time to erect and bring into production. We have satisfied ourselves that the company could not find the finance for such a novel, large-scale and long-term project entirely from normal resources. In the special circumstances we are satisfied that there is a very strong case for a Government loan to get the project off the ground.
Hon. Members interested in the method of financing—by equity as distinct from loan capital—would perhaps prefer to wait to debate the matter on the Second Reading of the Bill which, I understand, will be on Wednesday next, so I shall not deal more fully with the subject at the moment—
§ Mr. Erroll
There are a number of reasons for that. One is that the mill itself would not provide sufficient employment to qualify for facilities under the Local Employment Act to see the project through. On the other hand, if we get the project going it will provide a great deal of employment in the forests and ancillary transport industries. This point can be fully developed on the Second Reading of the Bill. If we could have done this under the Local Employment Act, we would have done so. I am sure that the Committee will endorse the Government's action in assisting a project which is calculated to have an invigorating and permanent effect on the economy of the Highlands.
I turn to world trade. As I said when began, Britain's economic growth depends on the success of our export trade. We cannot achieve the high rate of growth which we need unless we step up very considerably the rate of growth of exports. We need to ensure that British industry is fully competitive and we need a steadily rising volume of international trade on which to base the growth of our own exports.
The hon. Gentleman asked me to refer to exports in 1962. I am very glad to tell him how our exports fared last year. In the first half of 1962 our exports rose sharply. By the autumn they were 5 per cent. higher than at the end of the previous year. In October they stood at 667 a higher figure than they had ever been before, £336 million on a seasonally adjusted basis. It is quite true that since then this increase has not been sustained, as I and other observers had expected that it might be. This was due to a marked slow down in the growth of world trade and production, especially in Europe, and not to any weakening of British industry's competitive position.
I believe that just now British exports are, in general, particularly competitive. It is important, that they should be, particularly since world trade is not expanding at the moment as fast as we should like. But we shall lose all too easily any advantage that we may have gained through the more rapid rise of some of our competitors' costs unless we are successful in preventing the rise in domestic incomes from outstripping the growth of productivity. Our export performance will, of course, depend to a large extent on the course of world trade, and there are uncertainties about the pace of its expansion this year. I have in mind particularly the great industrial centres of Western Europe and the United States, whose economic well-being is so important for much of the world.
In the United States the authorities are concerned about the sluggishness of the economy and the level of unemployment. The encouraging thing is the vigour with which President Kennedy is tackling these problems, and I hope very much that the measures which the Administration propose meet with success. There are also some problems on the Continent. I am glad to see that the forecasts of the European Economic Commission indicate a reasonably satisfactory pace of expansion this year. These forecasts are themselves based on the assumption that there will be no adverse influences from outside the Community, and this, I think, serves to underline the great degree of economic and financial interdependence throughout the free world which exists today and the paramount importance for Britain that world production and world trade should continue to expand.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Will the right hon. Gentleman give the figures for the E.E.C. and the United States, so that we can compare them with our own targets?
§ Mr. Erroll
I have some figures relating to our own exports to various parts of the world, which I should be glad to give, but if the hon. Gentleman wishes to have figures of those countries' exports I suggest that he should put down a Question, which I will do my best to answer.
I now have something to say about several of our most important markets, of particular interest at the present time. First, Europe. We were, of course, greatly disappointed at the breakdown at Brussels, but this breakdown is really a challenge to us to pursue, even more energetically than hitherto, a trade policy aimed at the general expansion of world trade. It is fortunate that the Kennedy round of tariff negotiations now provides a great opportunity for progress in this direction, which we for our part are determined to do all we can to exploit.
We have repeatedly made it plain that we have no intention of turning our backs on Europe. We hope to keep closely in touch with the European Economic Community. We want to avoid developments of policy which would damage each other's interests, or increase those differences between us which might make future membership more difficult; and we have good reason to know that most of the members of the Community share these objectives with us. We shall improve our relations by more frequent bilateral discussions with member countries, by strengthening our Permanent Delegation in Brussels and, where possible, through our common membership of the O.E.C.D.
Our exports to the member countries of the Community have grown dramatically during the last three years, from over £520 million, or 15 per cent. of our total world exports in 1960, to £720 million, or 19 per cent., in 1962. This shows that determined salesmanship can surmount the obstacle of tariff disadvantages. If, as we expect, economic expansion within the Community continues, there will be ample scope for developing this great market still further. I see no reasons, therefore, why our trade with Europe should not continue to expand.
Turning now to E.F.T.A., £517 million, or over 14 per cent., of our total exports go to the E.F.T.A. countries. These 669 countries constitute rapidly expanding markets for our goods. Between 1960 and 1962 our exports to them showed an increase of just over 20 per cent. and all member countries, including ourselves, of course, should achieve further substantial benefits as the tariff barriers continue to come down. We and our partners are urgently studying the possibility of speeding up that process.
At the February meeting in Geneva of E.F.T.A.'s Ministerial Council it was agreed that a programme should be worked out by the permanent representatives for eliminating all the tariffs in the course of 1966. Ministers will consider this programme when we meet again, at Lisbon in May, and in the meantime there will be further discussions on other aspects of the E.F.T.A. arrangements.
Now a word about trade with the Commonwealth, which remains of the greatest importance, although its makeup is changing all the time. There will be a meeting of Commonwealth Trade Ministers in London, to begin on Monday, 13th May. Commonwealth Governments welcome this initiative. The meeting will take place shortly before the G.A.T.T. conference in Geneva, due to start on 16th May. The G.A.T.T. conference could be of the greatest value to all Commonwealth countries in promoting the expansion which we hope to see in international trade over the next few years.
In our talks with the Commonwealth Trade Ministers we shall also take the opportunity to discuss ways and means of expanding our trade with other Commonwealth countries to our mutual advantage. We must recognise, of course, that there are limits to what Governments can do in this way. Other Commonwealth countries already enjoy unrestricted duty-free access for nearly all their exports to the British market and we already receive, in many Commonwealth markets, valuable tariff preferences.
Mr. McEwen, the Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, will be in London a few days earlier for preliminary discussions about the future of the Anglo-Australian Trade Agreement. Whatever happens elsewhere, the Commonwealth will continue to be a major customer of ours, and a major supplier.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider putting on the agenda of the Commonwealth Trade Ministers' conference a discussion on G.A.T.T. and its effectiveness today, and how far, as an instrument, it meets the needs of the Commonwealth at the present time?
§ Mr. Erroll
I should be very glad to consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion and to see what can be done about it. But I am sure that he will not expect me to say more than that just now.
Many opportunities for increasing our trade in Commonwealth countries exist, but they are mainly in the field of what I may call ordinary commercial endeavour. The Government will continue to give every support to British exporters in this field, and we are doing a great deal, particularly in Australia. I think that it might interest the Committee to know what we are doing to help there. We have, for example, recently launched a major exports promotion campaign in Australia in collaboration with the Federation of British Industries and the Australian Association of British Manufacturers. The campaign opened last month with a highly successful British Pavilion at the Melbourne Trade Fair, which was by far the largest national exhibit in the show.
British Trade Weeks will be held in various Australian cities this year and next. The climax of the campaign will be the British Exhibition in Sydney in the autumn of 1964. This will probably be the most important of its kind which Britain has ever organised overseas.
I have a particular point to make to the Committee about India and Pakistan. Up to now, E.C.G.D. has not been authorised to guarantee a longer period than five years' commercial credit for exports to India and Pakistan, because of the long-term aid that we have been giving to these countries. This has impeded the traditional trade, in a valued market, of some of our exporters, including those in industries with surplus capacity which could well be used. I am glad to say that we are prepared, in present circumstances, and in the special case of India and Pakistan, for E.C.G.D. now to give longer-term cover for selected cases, on lines similar to the existing matching and financial guarantee schemes.
671 I want to say a brief word about Japan, because I am sure that the Committee will be glad to know that the Commercial Treaty which we concluded last November has today been ratified in Tokyo during the Foreign Secretary's visit there. It will come into force on 4th May. The Treaty will put commercial relations between the two countries on a settled basis. I hope that our exporters will take full advantage of this, because Japan has a rapidly expanding industrial economy starting from a much lower level than ours—a point the Opposition very rarely make—and still has a long way to go before it catches up with our high standards. Most of the market is now open to imports. I hope to see the expansion of orderly trade in both directions.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
By the right hon. Gentleman's remark about Japan and its much lower standard, is he not running into the danger of giving a false impression, in the sense that Japan's wage levels, including all benefits, are now beginning to equate to those of the lowest element in Western Europe? Therefore, the danger is decreasing from the point of view of competition.
§ Mr. Erroll
I agree that the danger is decreasing, but it serves in part to explain—one cannot go into the whole of the Japanese economy in a debate like this—why the percentage increase seems to be so dramatic compared with our own.
I cannot do justice to the great United States market in the course of a speech of this sort, but I must point out to the Committee that at present this immense market takes only 8 per cent. of our exports, although it is still our largest single market. I am convinced, particularly from my recent visit to Washington and New York, that there is great scope for a big expansion of our sales there, and I hope that British industrialists will pay special attention to it so that we may have a really concentrated effort there to improve our export performance.
Before leaving what I may call the geographical part of what I have been saying, I should like to say a few words about East-West trade, because this is so very much a subject of discussion at the 672 present time. I believe that the Committee would be making a mistake to suppose that our export problem can be solved simply by selling more to Russia, Eastern Europe and China. These countries certainly offer an important market for our exports of capital goods, a particularly valuable export because of their high content of skill and "know-how". Strategic goods apart, we shall do our utmost to promote sales to the bloc countries. In this connection, I was very glad to welcome Mr. Lu, the Chinese Vice-Minister for Foreign Trade, when he arrived in Britain a few days ago.
The practical limitation on this trade is the capacity of the bloc countries to pay for their purchases. Clearly, there is no point in giving our goods away or extending excessively long credits, which after all have to be paid off sooner or later. Even so, our sales to the Soviet bloc have been increasing steadily, from £45 million in 1958 to £110 million last year. I have no doubt that it will continue to devlop. However, at present the Soviet bloc takes no more than 3 per cent. of our total exports. Even a doubling of this figure would not solve our export problem. Further, the other countries would have greatly to increase their earnings of sterling, which would be a formidable task for them.
In his speech yesterday my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the question of export incentives. I think that I ought to say a few words about this, because there is now, as there has been in the past, a choice between only two possible policies. Either we can go all out to increase exports by subsidies and by special tax reliefs, realising that others will do the same, or we can seek to have such export incentives outlawed internationally.
The Government have been guided in this not by theory, but by our own national interest. We rely more heavily on overseas trade than do most countries and, if we were to enter an export incentives race, we would stand to lose as against other countries with a lesser stake in exports, because they could afford bigger incentives. We believe that Britain would be a certain loser in an incentives race, so we do not intend to start one up. Our policy is, indeed, just the opposite. It is to secure 673 international agreement prohibiting such incentives and it is now bearing fruit.
The G.A.T.T. Declaration on this subject came into force last November, by when 16 countries, including most of the major industrial countries, had agreed to give up subsidy and direct tax relief as export incentives. Japan has also now agreed to come into line. Our international agreements, therefore, are not standing in our way. They are helping us to secure a world free of such artificial aids to exports.
§ Mr. Erroll
Eire has one or two small export incentives, but she is not a member of the G.A.T.T.
Our agreements do not, of course, affect reliefs from internal indirect taxes, like Purchase Tax.
Since tax incentives and subsidies for exporters are ruled out, the Committee may ask me: what incentive is there to export? The most important incentive is that our prices should continue to be competitive in world markets. This the Government are determined to ensure, as my right hon. Friend explained to the Committee yesterday.
The other incentive is self-interest. The biggest firms in this country must secure a large volume of export sales in addition to home orders if they are to maintain an economic through-put in their factories. Medium and small-sized firms, which are so frequently said to be content with the sheltered home market, are increasingly finding that they cannot expand their share of it because of domestic competition. Their only hope of expansion, therefore, lies in going into export markets.
Further, as tariffs come down so will the home market become less protected and therefore less "safe", as it is called, and should not be solely relied upon. Then there are the vast multitude of small firms. Many of them are making components and assemblies, and they already see their products exported in the finished goods of direct exporters.
All this is well understood by British industry, and I believe that the majority of British firms, capable of exporting, neither seek nor require further incentives of the type so frequently canvassed. I have studied with care all the argu- 674 ments in recent months over the advantages and disadvantages of a value added tax. Its effectiveness as an export incentive is, in my view, very much subject to doubt, and it cannot be judged solely with this in mind. I was very interested in what the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said on this subject today. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has decided to ask Mr. Gordon Richardson to preside over a group which will make a special study of this complicated matter, of which the question of an export incentive is only one aspect.
Nevertheless, although the Government are not prepared to make a move in the direction of subsidies or export incentives of that sort, there is a great deal of help which we can and do provide in other directions. The Government pride themselves on their services for exporters, and rightly so. Certainly, they are the envy of those businessmen in other countries with whom I have talked from time to time on my own travels abroad. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tam-worth (Mr. Snow) nodding in agreement. But that is not to say that we are complacent about them. I am always delighted to hear constructive suggestions about how we can improve them even more. From time to time hon. Members write very helpful and useful letters to me on this subject.
I particularly want to mention what we are doing in the matter of trade fairs, because the past year has seen a big expansion in the Board of Trade's participation in trade fairs, both on our own account and in co-operation with British industry. The score in 1962 was 46, from Amsterdam to Osaka, and the goods shown ranged from garden plants to prefabricated buildings. In 1963, 37 have been arranged so far, with eight months of the year still to go.
Both the Western Hemisphere Export Council and the Export Council for Europe are playing a leading part in "British Weeks" and British store promotions. I would like to pay a tribute to their invaluable work on export promotion generally. Along with the newly-formed Council for Middle East Trade, which is just getting into its stride, they play a very special and important role in our export effort. I must also say 675 a special word about the personal contribution of the Lord Mayor of London, who has made "exports" the theme of his year of office. It is a very apt theme for the holder of this great traditional office at the heart of the commercial and financial life of this country.
I turn to another support of the exporter—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I was asked to deal with exports, so I am dealing with them—the Export Credits Guarantee Department. Two years ago we introduced some significant developments. We introduced E.C.G.D's new financial guarantees, putting our industries in a position to undertake large projects overseas on long credit with the necessary long-term finance assured. Projects worth £45 million have so far been covered, and a further £82 million worth are under active negotiation now. We also made this new facility available for large ships and it has proved helpful to our shipbuilders, covering £6½ million, with a further £60 million under negotiation.
At the other end of the scale we introduced the Small Exporter Guarantee, a way of encouraging and assisting export "beginners" and also of demonstrating E.C.G.D. facilities to them in a simple way. At the same time, in April, 1961, we made a substantial reduction in premium rates by 20 per cent. overall.
Since those changes of two years ago—and we have made a number of others—last year the full percentage facility was introduced whereby trouble-free contracts which have run two years from completion can enjoy, without extra charge, a full 100 per cent. insurance cover. At the beginning of this year we announced, in respect of short-term business, the grouping—this is an extremely technical and specialised matter and I must get it right—under a single premium rate of the various lengths of short-term credit—credit up to six months—that is, 30 days. 60 days, and up to six months. This change not only gives a useful simplification of procedure, but provides also a cash benefit equivalent to an average reduction of premium of 8 per cent. on no less than four-fifths of our turnover.
The several premium reductions I have already mentioned have, of course, 676 had their impact on receipts and have lessened the scope for further concessions. Nevertheless, the volume of business has increased, revenues remain buoyant and the accumulated reserve from past transactions has continued to grow, further reinforced as it has been by the interest credited on it in its Commercial Account. The E.C.G.D. Advisory Council has considered the position and has taken all these factors into its calculations.
I can now announce—and I have kept this item of news until the end—that the Department will be making a further reduction of 10 per cent. in its charges for insuring export risks. This reduction will be effective immediately for all business transacted from the beginning of this month and the Department will be sending new premium schedules this month to all holders of comprehensive guarantees so that they can apply the new rates to their April business. This reduction will lower still further the costs of exporting and will, I hope, induce still more exporters to make use of the E.C.G.D. facilities.
Apart from credit insurance, industry needs to secure finance for exports on the best terms. The facilities available in the City and through the banks are, perhaps, not as well known as they might be, and the Minister of State is studying ways of making this information more widely known. As regards the cost of such finance, I look to the financial institutions to respond to the lead we have given in reducing E.C.G.D. rates.
I have been able to touch on only some of the aspects of Government policy.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of exports, may I say that we shall want to study what he has said, but, in the meantime, can he tell us what increased target of exports he is hoping for as a result of his announcement?
§ Mr. Erroll
I am not in a position to commit myself to a target at present, because I know that I would only be giving the hon. Gentleman a hostage to fortune; and I do not intend to do that.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The National Economic Development Council has announced a target of growth of 4 per cent., which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said he accepts. N.E.D.C. also says 677 that to secure that target we will need an increase of 5 per cent. in our exports. In view of this, it seems fair to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether the Government expect to get a 5 per cent. increase in exports this year?
§ Mr. Erroll
I would like to put it the other way and say that if we fail to reach a target of 5 per cent. then we will not have the other growth figure of 4 per cent.
As I say, I have been able to touch upon only some of the aspects of Government policy affecting our domestic economic activities and our overseas trading position which are so relevant to the Chancellor's Budget proposals. In summing up, I submit that we are in no sense complacent about our achievements or about the prospects in the year ahead. It will be a testing year and the aims we have set ourselves will not be achieved without resolute action, not only by the Government but by all sections of society.
The Budget proposals and the further measures which I have outlined present a twofold challenge to industry to bring prosperity to the development districts, particularly in Northern England and Scotland, and to win the increase in the country's export earnings that we must have for our economy to grow, as it can and should. The Government are doing their part and I believe that we can go forward confident that industry will respond to the opportunities of the year ahead.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)
I am always somewhat shocked when I am called upon to speak, and even after all these years I still get the jitters.
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade spoke about the development districts. Were it not for the fact that I have spent several months on the Estimates Committee—where this matter has been considered—I would have taken what the right hon. Gentleman said on its face value. Knowing what I do, I cannot do that because right up till the last bit of evidence we received, and that was only about a month ago, the Board of Trade estimated that it would have spent about £81 million from 1st April, 1960, to 31st January, 1963, and would thereby have provided about 90,000 jobs.
678 I say this because up to a month ago neither the Board of Trade nor the Treasury knew whether or not a single job had been provided. The reason for this is the weakness of the Local Employment Act and the fact that accountability is not called for regarding the number of jobs provided for the amount of money spent. I challenge the President of the Board of Trade to get to his feet and say, now that the Act has been in operation for nearly three years, how many jobs have been created for the amount of money spent up to date.
§ Mr. Rhodes
That is absolute nonsense, because that figure is nothing more than an assessment, an assumption, and I still challenge the right hon. Gentleman, or even a Treasury spokesman, to give me the figure. They cannot do it; or at least they could not give me one a month ago. As I say, £81 million is involved and I want to know how many jobs have been provided.
§ Mr. Erroll
I find the hon. Gentleman's point rather difficult to follow. If he will go to Bathgate he will see that whereas there were green fields less than three years ago 3,000 people are now working there. That represents 3,000 jobs having been created. Here are 3,000 people drawing pay packets; people who did not have jobs before.
§ Mr. Rhodes
I have never heard such nonsense. The Board of Trade could not in cross-examination say how many jobs have been created. It is no use the President of the Board of Trade drawing a red herring across this. If he will consult the officials of the Board of Trade he will find that I am right.
Concerning the question of Wiggins, Teape & Co., it was stated that we should require a new Act for this. As a matter of fact, we do not. Under the Local Employment Act, the motor car industry, with the support of the then President of the Board of Trade who is now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, received in the case of Scotland £10.73 million for one project and £10.33 million for another. Those are the Board of Trade's own figures. I am quoting figures that have been given to me. Why could that not have been done sooner? Why rely on 679 putting through an Act of Parliament which will take some considerable time? Why could it not be got on with?
Now to the Budget implication. A few weeks ago I was speaking in the Come Valley by-election, and one of the questions addressed to me at a factory was, "Why is it that this firm's quotation on the Stock Exchange is now 20 per cent. higher than it was last September? We are not any busier than we were last September; in fact, we are less busy." I said, "It is because the investors are expecting that the Government will step in and do something to boost trade." My questioner said, "Does that mean that the investor is getting his cut before Government action, because, if it does why cannot we put in our wage claim before as well?"
§ Sir C. Osborne
Did the hon. Gentleman not tell him that South Durham steel shareholders in the last two years have seen their shares come down from 63s. to 11s. 3d. and they are getting no dividends; that one has to be put one against the other?
§ Mr. Rhodes
I have no doubt that the hon. Member when he comes to speak will have some criticism of his Front Bench because the Government have not given him an opportunity to line his pocket with increasing values of shares. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] All right, I will withdraw it. Let me say to the hon. Gentleman that he has had experience of this subject for a long time, and he probably is of the opinion that unless growth is of such a nature that it will give a fillip to the Stock Exchange the Budget proposal will not succeed. That is precisely what my questioner at Slaithwaite was getting at. If Government action will increase the value of the shares on the Stock Exchange, he wanted to know why he could not have his cut beforehand as well.
Yesterday, the Chancellor went a tremendously long way towards making the climate of opinion for the introduction of an incomes policy. If ever a Chancellor gave a hint to institutions such as the Stock Exchange that it could not expect another 1958, 1959, 1960, it was yesterday. I think that he went some way towards creating a climate of opinion where he could start again with his in- 680 comes policy, because I am certain that unless we have an ordered incomes policy in an expansionist economy we cannot succeed in our aims.
There are two or three principles involved in this. There is the principle of automatic compensation for rises in the cost of living. No one could disagree with that. Another is that differentials should be maintained. Where the difference arises is what labour receives as the fruits of productivity. My personal view is that if we could get down to an understanding and arrangements for an agreement on this, irrespective of a looming General Election, it would go a long way towards saving this country in the struggle that lies ahead. Anybody who does not assist in this endeavour is not doing what he should to help the country through its difficulties.
I admire the way in which the Chancellor put over his speech yesterday. He stated certain desirable objectives on which both sides are agreed. We may differ on how the proceeds of prosperity should be divided, but we are agreed on such fundamentals as the stability of the £, the avoidance of substantial inflation, full employment, a high standard of living now and a rapid rate of growth. We agree that a fluctuating exchange rate would be bad and that periodical devaluations are disastrous, but the status of the £ and the avoidance of substantial inflation go together. If we assume that we have no control over the flow of goods, and over prices and incomes, we are left with fiscal and monetary action as the two main instruments of policy.
For many years we have not been able to keep the £ stable or inflation within bounds without sacrificing growth and full employment. There is an inconsistency here. It seems as though, when we go for one objective we lose out on another. We have sought compromise in moderate inflation, fairly full employment and a moderate rate of growth, but the status of the £ has always been a stumbling block. The £ has remained vulnerable. As a result, one or more of the objectives that both sides of the House agree are desirable has had to be discarded according to the economic or political state of the country, and the Government have had to act.
We remember the incentives given to the economy in 1958–59. As I have 681 repeatedly said, those incentives were a fraud. They were not dependable, and they made many people in industry, particularly in the north of England, suspect that we are approaching the time for a "phoney" boom. That is what they call it. We have to do a lot before we can restore confidence, because businessmen are looking cynically at what the Government are doing. I will not detail all that the Government did in 1958, 1959 and 1960—that has been done before by myself and by others more competent. Suffice it to say that the result of the stimulation given in 1959 and 1960 was one of the most catastrophic drifts into wage increases that the country has ever known.
Many people again expect a release of purchasing power and a boom, but I do not think that the Government will get it this time. Many of today's factors are quite different from those of 1959. For instance, we will not have the banks going into the hire-purchase business as they did then for the first time in a big way.
Will the Chancellor's measures be successful or not? He has made it clear that he accepts a rise of 3½ per cent. per annum in terms of income increase. He has accepted the growth rate of 4 per cent. Whether he will postdate the 4 per cent. target to 1961 as the N.E.D.C. did he did not say, but it is certain that if he wants to achieve what he seeks by 1970 the growth rate must be more than 4 per cent. from now on.
If we doubt whether the Chancellor's measures will be sucessful, it is only fair that he should state why. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is vulnerable on two points. He is vulnerable, first, in regard to manufacturing industry. As a result of the spending boom in 1959–60, investment by manufacturing industry on capital equipment amounted to £1,195,000. There has been a large decline in 1962. Unless the Chancellor can get a correspondingly high investment in the private sector of manufacturing industry he cannot possibly get his growth figure, because the two are tied together.
Some experts say that the money spent in 1960–61 has been largely wasted. Have we had a return for it on the basis of profits? No. Have we had a return on 682 the basis of growth? No, because growth has been comparatively stagnant, with much plant idle. As profits have gone down so this has directly affected the decisions that managements are likely to take to reinvest and to take the inducements offered by the Chancellor in the shape of investment allowances last autumn. The figures show that a colossal release of purchasing power—more than, has been injected by this Budget—has been needed in the past to get substantial investment under way. The lesson of a balance of payments crisis preventing manufacturers from using all the resources has been learned.
The machinery makers are left frustrated, their development is discouraged, and they very often just tick over until the next boom will enable them to sell their old models. We cannot afford this, and the only way to avoid it is a steady flow of capital investment so that machinery makers can carry the cost of development all the time. Whether we like it or not, this is where central planning will have to come in.
Thought is being given to this problem. For instance, the machine-tool industry is waking up to the fact that it needs something like this in order to make progress, and it has suggested that, in fat times, there should be a syphoning of its profits into a reserve, as in Sweden, so that in lean times it can take advantage of what has been saved.
N.E.D.C. has assesed the growth prospects of 17 industries. That is first-class as far as it goes, but why cannot the Council now proceed to an investigation in depth of the industries that supply the manufacturing industries with their machinery, in order to make certain that the productivity of the machines supplied over the next decade is well in advance of growth targets? An investigation like that will give us some shocks, but unless we make it we shall not be sure that our resources are used to the best advantage. We want, too, to know whether the development of the machines in which manufacturing industry invests and on which it depends will be channelled to the growth industries on which the country will depend as a spearhead in the export trade.
Let me give an illustration. The wool trade is a first-class export industry. It exports £160 million worth of goods a year, and will continue to do so. It has 683 10,000 looms which run at a rate of 96 picks a minute, but the best looms in the world run at speeds ranging from 138 picks to 250 picks a minute.
Is it not the Government's concern that this should be remedied? Is not the N.E.D.C. the instrument to find out why this is not done, and is it not up to that body to provide the answer and say how it should be done? This illustration can be multiplied many times over the face of British industry. In terms of manufacturing industry, investment should now be on the basis of quality and productivity rather than in terms of capacity, as it was in the boom years of 1959, 1960 and 1961.
I have lately been to Japan and have had the opportunity of studying what the Japanese do about their export trade. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) drew our attention to an article published in The Times this week. I should like to say to him and the Committee that what the professor was advocating in The Times this week the Japanese have been doing for ten years. If any advanced country has a new industry or a new technique, the Japanese want it. The Government, workers and everybody in Japan are enthusiastic about going forward.
When the Japanese hear of a new product or patent in any part of the world applications for licences to manufacture are applied for. The Japanese know precisely what the shape of their export drives will be for the future. In 1953 they began their planned exports. The British Government will have to do the same if they are to succeed in the efforts announced this week. The Japanese are switching over from light industry to heavy industry all the time. The authorities there show very little interest in industries which, although they are exporting successfully now, are likely to decline in the future.
The cotton industry in Japan is not regarded as in the forefront of their exporting industries. The Japanese have already stated publicly that they expect the under-developed countries to take on the job of making cotton and other textiles. The way in which the Japanese get down to the assessment of trade figures is ingenious. They take the percentage 684 of world trade in a commodity and then assess their own share of that world trade and give themselves a rating. If world trade in the commodity is rising, then Japan's index must rise, too. If their specialisation index is high and world demand is not rising they just do not care about the industry concerned.
Now a word about aids. The Japanese give exemption from corporation tax on profits on a new product. They give freedom to import "know-how" in growth industries. They provide tight protection for infant industries. They give low rates of interest in connection with goods for export. They provide low discount rates for bills of exchange. They give 80 per cent. relief of Income Tax on export profits. If any firm exports 50 per cent. of its products it qualifies for 80 per cent. relief of taxation as well.
Just as the Japanese know the precise shape that their export trade is likely to take, there is no reason why we should not know the same here. What is to prevent us from getting down to this task and finding out which industries will be the exporting industries of the future and stimulating them? We have had too much "stop and go" and action afterwards because palliatives are needed.
It is up to the Board of Trade to show that it has some ideas which are out of the rack of platitudinous repetition given to us this afternoon. It must show this by generating energy in planning our export policy. If it does not, then all we have to say today of yesterday's. Budget speech is that it was just another waste of time. It is up to the Board of Trade to prove that it can perform this task.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I am always pleased to follow in debate the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) because he has great personal experience in trade and he usually knows what he is talking about from the practical point of view. It is true that at times he says one or two extravagant things and I am glad that he withdrew one of those comments today on second thoughts.
The problem for the country and the Committee is simply how we as a Government can help a nation of 52 million to earn a living in an increasingly competitive 685 world and give the people a high standard of living and full employment. This problem will not be solved by throwing party points from one side of the Committee to the other. On the Chancellor's speech I should like to make three short points. First, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on what I consider to have been the hest Budget speech I have heard since I became a Member of Parliament in 1945. Secondly, we should remember that the nation, the House of Commons, and my party in particular, owe a special debt of gratitude to my right hon. Friend's predecessor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) because reflation in this Budget would not have been possible but for the stern and unpopular measures taken by him.
§ Sir C. Osborne
I am not the boss.
Thirdly, I should like to warn my colleagues, who I wish were here in greater numbers, against over-optimism as a result of the Chancellor's proposals. My right hon. Friend has not played a kind of pantomime fairy godmother part, waving a wand and taking all our troubles away. The economic problems which faced the nation on Monday are still here on Thursday.
Steel production today is only 70 per cent. of the industry's capacity. Shipbuilding is only half employed. I had lunch today with one of the big shippers. He told me that the shipbuilding capacity of the world is twice what the world needs. This is one of our problems. We have to fit our economy in with that of the rest of the world. The Lancashire cotton trade still faces the problem of Hong Kong imports and, regrettably, we still have nearly ¾ million unemployed. These difficulties and concrete problems still face us despite yesterday's Budget. For hon. Members, particularly on this side of the Committee, to go away cheering blindly over one speech is, in my opinion, the height of folly.
I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that unless an incomes policy is accepted by both sides of industry nothing that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does can succeed. This is the key to everything. The leaders of 686 industry and the leaders of the great unions must themselves play their difficult parts, for without their co-operation whatever the Chancellor proposes will not succeed.
I put the Budget proposals to three practical tests. First, will they help exports? Secondly, will they help to check inflation? Thirdly, will they help the unemployed'? I admit that if they did all three it would be a miracle, but I have been in the House too long to expect miracles.
I take exports first. In my view, this is priority No. 1 for, unless exports go well, the whole fabric of our economy will fall to pieces. Everything depends upon it. We have to import 50 per cent. of our food and practically 100 per cent. of our raw materials, and these have to be paid for by exporting roughly one-third of all we manufacture. No Government of any party can compel the foreigner to buy British. He will buy British only if our goods are cheaper, better or more attractive, or are sold better, not just because they are made here or because we have a Conservative Government, a Socialist Government or even, perhaps, a Liberal Government. We have not the power to compel other people to buy our goods. Our goods must be sold abroad if we are to pay our way.
Either we export or we go hungry. Let hon. and right hon. Members opposite remember that if exports fail, and if they are so sure that they will win the next election and be the next Government, it may well fall to their lot to have to impose bread rationing as a previous Labour Government had to do in 1946. These are the prospects I want burned into the hearts and minds of our people.
Furthermore, as the under-developed countries industrialise themselves in order to raise their own standard of life, so the United Kingdom's problem of selling in world markets will grow. Let us face it. Any fool can give exports away. Exports must be sold, and sold at such a price as will cover all our costs of production and leave a profit in order to maintain the Welfare State. Otherwise we go bankrupt.
London's financial pre-eminence and England's prosperity were built upon our being the centre of one world economy. The old Jewish prophet said that we are all bound up in a bundle of life together.
687 This is true economically as well as spiritually. No country suffers so much as ours from the division of the world through the cold war. We stand to gain more than any other nation from an ending of the cold war and the increase of East-West trade, of world trade. London was the centre of finance, insurance, banking and the entrepôt trade of the whole world. By cutting the world in half we suffer far more than anyone else.
I make this plea to my hon. Friends on the Front Bench. We ought to make a double effort, certainly double the American effort, to come closer to Mr. Khrushschev, who, I believe, has made a special effort, even at his own risk, to get understanding between East and West. I should like to see it done especially in trade.
From my own experience I know that exports are not fun. I find, as most of my friends do, that they are damned hard work. It is human and understandable for manufacturers to sell in the easy, more profitable home market rather than take all the trouble necessary to go into the more difficult and less profitable export markets.
Hon. Members opposite sometimes toy with the idea of comprehensive planning for export, industry by industry, as far as possible within the framework of our free competitive society. I confess that, from time to time, I am tempted to go half-way with them because, if industry will not export, sooner or later the Government must say, "Either you do it or else". However, I remind hon. Members opposite of this, which is what worries me when I am tempted to agree with them. In the iron and steel industry the Board has the power to control production, but, in spite of that, the iron and steel industry today is running at only 70 per cent. of capacity. The cure to our problem of production for the home market and the export market lies not merely in some form of planning. Other things are needed. There is a world surplus of steel producing capacity, and the other parts of the steel producing world also are running at less than capacity.
Industries which have to import a lot of raw materials in order to do their business should, in my view, be com- 688 pelled to earn their own foreign currency by exports. They have no right to expect other industries to earn the foreign currency which will enable them to buy raw materials to keep themselves going.
My summary of the export situation is this. I think that it will be increasingly more difficult for us to sell, and, if the Chancellor will allow me to say so, I do not think that this Budget will do an enormous amount to help exports.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
I am following my hon. Friend's argument with great interest, and I agree with much of what he says, but what is the position of the building industry, for instance, which uses a lot of imported raw materials, timber and so forth? How can that industry export to buy its own raw materials?
§ Sir C. Osborne
I am obliged for that interruption, but I do not think that there is much in it since I do not agree that the building of houses uses a lot of imported raw materials.
§ Sir C. Osborne
I do not wish to keep the Committee long, and I have two other points to develop.
I come now to my second test. Do the Budget proposals help to check inflation? I am very pleased to see my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence here because I recently read again the speech which he made from this bench after he resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer. With almost all that he said I agree, and I shall use one of his arguments, if he will forgive me for stealing it from his speech. I do not think that the Budget proposals will help to check inflation at all. I think that they will make inflation worse.
From July last year, the Chancellor released £681 million extra spending power. The present Budget proposals will release another £250 million. About £1,000 million extra spending power will have been released in the last nine months. Unless not only home production but exports rise in some relationship with that £1,000 million extra spending power at home, there must be inflation. I hate inflation. It is our duty to do our best to check it. I warn 689 the Committee that there is a terrible danger of hon. Members on both sides thinking that somehow we can spend ourselves into prosperity. We cannot. An artificially buoyant home market without a sound export basis is the worst of all dangers, and it is folly to put more purchasing power into the home market without having the corresponding exports to support it.
To my mind, there are two chief causes of inflation. The first is that wage and salary increases are not linked with extra production. The greatest modern economic fallacy in our country which has arisen since the war is that the workers have a divine right every year to an increase in wages. It is a dreadfully stupid concept, and unless production increases it must produce inflation.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
The hon. Gentleman has not said a word about the right hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson), who never puts in an appearance here but who is now on £24,000 a year plus another £3,000 or £4,000 in allowances. Is not that inflationary?
§ Sir C. Osborne
That is not quite fair.
I believe that the British people—including myself—have no idea, unless they go abroad regularly, how lucky they are in their standard of living. I asked the Treasury only last week what was the annual income per capita in this country and in Pakistan and India. I was told that the figure for this country was roughly £400 and for India £25 and Pakistan £20. I was told that an average of those figures is £56—£56 for everyone, Front Bench Members as well as back bench Members, and old-age pensioners as well as Members of Parliament, less than 25s. a week. The British worker would say he could not live on that. The Indian worker lives on much less, and has to do so. Yet here we are demanding more and more money for less and less work.
This is what is wrong. Because of the fear of losing votes, neither side of of the Committee will tell the people the truth. We say, "Do not frighten the people or they will vote against us." This is what I protest about. People may say, "But you are talking about the Asiatics." It was reported in the 690 Economist last Saturday that the minimum wage in Spain had just been raised from 4s. 6d. to 7s. a day—less than £2 a week. Yet we are telling our people that they can have more and more money, whether or not they do more work or produce more wealth. This is the greatest cause of inflation.
I well remember sitting on the Opposition benches with the late Sir Stafford Cripps sitting on the Government benches when we sat in the Chamber in another place. He pleaded often and earnestly that there should be no increases in salaries, wages or dividends unless we increased production. What a strong position our nation would be in today if only we had followed his advice.
§ Sir C. Osborne
Forget party politics for a moment and consider the matter in the national interest.
What an immensely strong position we would be in today if our wage rates were anything like what they were twelve years ago. The German miracle would be nothing compared with ours. We should have no unemployment and no export problems. Though we did not have the wisdom to accept Sir Stafford Cripps' wise advice, for goodness' sake let us act wisely and accept it today. Instead of talking about a 2½ per cent. increase in wages each year, why does not my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer put in the public mind the idea of stability of paper incomes and a 2½ per cent. reduction every year in the cost of living? That is a much better idea, and all the country would be better off if it were achieved.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said in 1958 that the Government were trying to do far too much. He said that we cannot have terribly expensive nuclear rearmament and, in addition, conventional forces, and that we cannot have on top of that a Welfare State and make great loans abroad and have a shorter working week at the same time. We are trying to do too much with our limited resources, and I repeat the plea which my right hon. Friend made in 1958 that we should get our priorities right and cut out some of the things which are beyond our resources.
691 May I remind my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence—and I am glad that he is here—that in 1951, when our party came to power, Government expenditure was £3,800 million a year. In 1956 it went up to £4,800 million, and the present Prime Minister promised that he would reduce it by £100 million a year. Today, Government expenditure is nearly £7,000 million. Is there no hope of reducing Government expenditure and of restoring honest money? Because of what I have said, I do not think these Budget proposals will help to check inflation at all. I think the danger is that they will make it worse.
The third question which I wish to ask is whether the Budget proposals will help the unemployed. I do not put this question last because I think that it is the least important. It is important, along with the other questions. I do not think that these proposals will help the unemployed to any great extent, and I think it is a cruel fraud for hon. Members opposite to suggest that they can, by political means, guarantee full employment for all time and a high standard of living. That is just a nasty, cheap political fraud. Every week we have Questions in the House from hon. Members on both sides demanding that the Government shall create full employment in their areas. No Government can guarantee full employment for all time for everyone, not in a free society. It is a nasty, cheap swindle for us as politicians to tell our people that we can do it, or to pretend that we can do it.
I wish to quote something which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said last month. I wrote him a note telling him that I would refer to him, so I cannot be accused of discourtesy if he is not in his place. A report in The Times of 22nd March said:Mr. George Brown, deputy leader of the Labour Party … said he had had a popular make of car for the past fifteen months and during that time, 'every single wire fell off and every screw and bolt that could fall off fell off'.It goes on to quote him as saying:in that time"—that is, in the fifteen months that he had had this popular car—we came to hate every sound of it, and had I been an overseas buyer it would have been the last I should have bought of that make.692 What I want to ask the Opposition is this: if their Deputy Leader says this, how can they guarantee the jobs of the men who make those cars?
§ Sir C. Osborne
Since the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says that if he were a foreigner he would not buy British goods, and since 5 million jobs depend on those exports, how can hon. Members opposite honestly say that they will guarantee full employment? What would the right hon. Gentleman do to people who make these cars, management as well as labour? What sort of discipline would he impose? These questions must be faced. The right hon. Gentleman said that if he were a foreigner he would not buy another British car. Then he goes out to the country saying that Labour will guarantee full employment when he, as an individual, is doing his best to see that there is unemployment in the motor trade. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Here is his statement—
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent my right hon. Friend. The hon. Member read out the extract from my right hon. Friend's speech, that if he were a foreigner it would be the last car of that make that he would buy. A moment ago, however, the hon. Member represented that to be a declaration that if my right hon. Friend were a foreigner, he would not buy another British car. The two are very different statements.
§ Sir C. Osborne
To the extent that I exaggerated, I withdraw, but in so far as this concerns, I understand, one of our greatest motor manufacturing organisations, employing hundreds of thousands of men, it would jeopardise their jobs. This is not encouraging foreigners to buy the cars upon whose purchase depends the whole of our Welfare State as well as the jobs of the men who make the cars.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The hon. Member is doing a great injustice to my right hon. Friend the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition. My right hon. Friend's point was that the firm in question would sell more cars if it took steps to put right the 693 faults of which he was complaining. I do not know why anybody should consider that amusing. I thought we were all interested in seeing that British products were the best in the world in order to have their share of the foreign market. If there are faults, surely they should be pointed out.
§ Sir C. Osborne
That intervention did not help the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition, to whom I gave notice that I would refer to him. He has not troubled to defend his view, because it cannot be defended. This was what the right hon. Gentleman said:… had I been an overseas buyer it would have been the last I should have bought of that make".Is that helping British exports? Is that helping the workers who make the cars? Can they be promised full employment on evidence like this? I, too, do not regard it as anything to laugh about, and neither would the men whom the right hon. Gentleman would wish to put out of employment.
Both sides of the Committee must look at the question of unemployment from an entirely new point of view. I am convinced that if we had full co-operation between management and labour and both were efficient, and if all the available labour-saving equipment were fully used, we could produce 25 per cent. more goods with the same labour. The problem is, what are we to do with the labour that it no longer required to produce a given quantity of goods? It is not, however, a problem which faces only this country. It faces the whole Western industrialised world.
Let me give just three examples. In 1946, Britain's agriculture employed 976,000 men and women. Last year, the number was down to 633,000 and yet this smaller number of people produced 50 per cent. more food. In 1948, British Railways employed 648,000. Last year, the number was only 474,000. In 1947, the nationalised coal industry employed 711,000 people and last year, only 551,000, and yet this much smaller labour force produced exactly the same amount of coal as the much bigger labour force of more than ten years earlier.
§ Sir C. Osborne
Of course. This is the problem that faces the whole of Western industry. Fewer men can produce more and more wealth. How are we to find jobs for the men who are displaced by automation? On the other hand, we cannot afford a Luddite attitude to the newly-developed countries.
What are we to do for the men now employed if the scheme introduced by my right hon. Friend for the North-East, introducing much labour-saving machinery, puts them out of work? This is a problem which both sides of the Committee must face.
I am convinced that in British industry there is a lack of confidence and an unsettling uncertainty that hampers possible development. It is my right hon. Friend's job to try to dispel those fears. There is ahead of us real danger of a great slump, equal to the inter-war slumps, unless we are careful. I beg my right hon. Friend not to take this too lightly or too cheaply. It is not often I agree with the absent Leader of the Opposition, who earlier this week, in New York, warned the Americans that in his opinion there could be a 1931 slump back here again in a year or two's time.
To support the Leader of the Opposition, I make two final references. On 3rd March, the New York correspondent of the Daily Telegraph wrote:The spectre of 'disaster' for the American economy was conjured up in Washington today by President Kennedy .. .. Mr. Kennedy, who spoke some weeks ago of the need to spur the economy, is now talking darkly of the dangers of another recession. His own economic advisers do not see one in prospect this year, though they concede one is conceivable next year.As the late Aneurin Bevan said to us so many years ago, if the Americans catch a cold, we catch pneumonia.
Finally, in the Sunday Times of 24th March, Mr. William Rees-Mogg said:Yesterday in Chicago, President Kennedy warned that the U.S. might face 'ten years of recession' and chronic economic troubles unless Congress passed his proposed tax cuts.I beg Ministers to face these possibilities and to do something to reassure the business world and to encourage the trade union leaders, who have a difficult task. And in his difficult task, I wish him luck.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Crosland (Grimsby)
During the course of his half-hour speech 695 the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) gave three criteria of what he considered to be a reasonable Budget, and by each one of them he condemned the Budget and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is not clear why the hon. Member would not go into the Lobby against the Budget and will not do so whenever opportunity arises. His speech was the most sweeping condemnation of the Budget that we have heard today.
I am not surprised at the hon. Member, who represents the constituency next to mine, being worried about the state of the motor industry, because if Dr. Beeching has his way neither of us will be able to get near our constituencies by train. Therefore, I share some of the hon. Member's worries about the state of efficiency of British cars.
The hon. Member was certainly unfair to my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who had merely tried to do precisely what the hon. Member was doing in the whole of his speech. My right hon. Friend was trying to improve the competitive efficiency of British manufacturing industry by making constructive criticisms. The whole of the hon. Member's speech consisted precisely of that.
Following the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, we have today heard the President of the Board of Trade. The debate has become slightly soporific at this stage, partly because the Budget was less exciting than some people expected and partly because the President of the Board of Trade tends to breathe a mood of drowsy euphoria among his listeners. He rattles through an enormous number of detailed points, exuding good humour and amiability all the way round. This tends to have the effect of emptying the Chamber and of diminishing interest, particularly as after one has thought about what the right hon. Gentleman has said, one realises that he has said extraordinarily little.
The right hon. Gentleman reminds me of a well-known story told by Harold Nicolson that when at school he was reproved by his tutor for a minor misdemeanour and was compared, to his chagrin, with an odious school prefect named Marston, who, his tutor told him, had never had a mean or nasty thought. "It was six years," said Harold Nicolson, 696 "before I realised that he never had a thought at all." That is what one sometimes thinks after hearing speeches by the President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman was complacent in what he said about British exports. Some of the minor matters which he raised would, no doubt, be helpful, but his whole tone was complacent.
Before coming to the main question of competitive exports, I want to register a protest against what I think is the very dangerous habit of saying that countries like Japan are only growing faster than we are because they started from a point further behind. I think that this is both a very fallacious and a very dangerous argument. I think it impossible to reconcile with the fact that one or two European countries with practically the same standards of living as we have are still going ahead a great deal faster than we are, and I find it impossible to reconcile with the fact that we never catch up with the United States. After all, we are well behind the United States in standards of living, Why do we not catch them up, since we started from a point further behind? I think that this is an argument which proves a great deal of complacency which is very dangerous.
As far as the Budget is concerned, I should like to start by echoing one thing that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said, that there was a striking omission in the Chancellor's speech, namely, that there was no serious inquest on last year. Surely the one thing which 1962–63 proved once for all, beyond any shadow of doubt, was that the traditional Conservative and. indeed, Treasury policy that cutting imports and domestic expenditure is a cure for balance of payments without inflation is disastrously wrong; and from the Chancellor's speech I hope that this lesson has been finally learned.
I say that I hope it has been finally learned, because the doctrine that if we hold back home demand we solve the balance of payments and the export problems, and we prevent wages from rising faster, has been the doctrine and the policy for the last twelve years, and last year's economic record shows it to be erroneous. Certainly, last year was an excellent test of this doctrine and we see that the doctrine was without any foundation of any kind.
697 As far as imports are concerned, they did not fall because we did not get deflation. We had deflation all right and 2½ per cent. unemployment, even excluding the seasonal. This conceals the fact that the labour force could have been very much greater, and there was unutilised capacity—30 per cent. less steel, and a good deal less also in most of the metal-using trades.
We had deflation all right, but what went wrong was that deflation did not do the job it was supposed to do to help the balance of payments. It did not reduce imports, which went up by 4 per cent. during the year; and imports of manufactured goods went up by 12 per cent. in the year, although our industries producing those goods in this country had a great deal of spare capacity. Demand certainly did not solve our exports problem.
Exports, as the President of the Board of Trade told us this afternoon, rose during the first half of the year, but fell during the second half while world trade manufacturing as a whole was increasing, while wages were going up more rapidly in most European countries, particularly in Germany.
I think that this all amply proves that periodic cuts in home demand are not the way to cure the balance of payments. It is true that the balance of payments did improve somewhat, but the reasons for that had nothing to do with cuts in domestic demand. All that this policy does is to slow down the rate of growth, and it means waste of capital and waste of labour in this country. All that it does in addition is to reduce the rate of investment, thus making our whole industry less competitive and very much more insecure. I hope, from the Chancellor's speech and firm statement about expansion and a strong £, that this policy has now been buried once and for all.
As to what the Chancellor has done this year, it is very hard to take up any dogmatic view whether he is giving away too much or too little or not quite enough. Anybody who dogmatises in this field is, clearly, an imbecile. This in the end is a matter of judgment and one cannot state statistical proof. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for what my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South-East said, that the Chancellor has acted on the cautious side. 698 He has certainly given away less than most outside commentators thought necessary.
I should like comment on this matter later, but it appears likely that what he has given away will not be sufficient to bring us properly back to full employment and full utilisation of capacity, and it also seems unlikely that the amount he has given away in this year will give us the rate of growth which will bring us back to the N.E.D.C. target. I am not clear what the Chancellor's view about this is, and perhaps it could be explained.
I understood him to say that this concession of £250 million would give us a 4 per cent. rate of growth this year, but if that is the case, since we are already nearly two years behind the N.E.D.C. target of 4 per cent. in 1961–62, this implies that we must achieve a faster than 4 per cent. rate this year to achieve the N.E.D.C. target by 1966. However, it is a matter of judgment whether he has been somewhat too cautious or not.
What I want to discuss mainly in my rather brief speech is the question of the balance of payments, the question to which the hon. Member for Louth addressed himself, the question of making our exports competitive, because, whatever the right figure, whatever is the precisely correct figure for the Budget this year, the major limiting factor of our economic policy under any Government is our balance of payments.
As far as the short run is concerned, the Chancellor, clearly, is intending to take a risk, and I am certain he is right, with exports this year. He reckons, presumably, on a moderate surplus in the balance of payments even if imports go up rather faster than they otherwise would have done. He reckons that he can cope with a certain amount of borrowing, and I am sure that he is right to take a risk and right, if necessary, to borrow to do this.
But this policy does not solve our long-run problem and certainly there is no possible prospect of solving it in 1963. This surplus of £400 million is not within miles of the N.E.D.C. target. The surplus is necessary not only for reasons connected with economic aid, exports and imports, defence expenditure abroad, and everything like that; it is also absolutely essential if we are to reduce the 699 vulnerability of sterling. The speculation against sterling which would occur if we had a surplus of anything like that size is, of course, less than the amount of speculation which occurs with a comparatively small surplus such as we have at the moment. Therefore, to achieve that surplus must be the first priority of any Government's economic policy.
Why is it that it is apparently so hard for the country to achieve this surplus? After all, it must be ten years since the Chancellor first set a target something like this, and yet we are as far away from achieving it as we were then. According to N.E.D.C. we have to achieve a 5 per cent. increase in exports every year. Why do we not achieve this? Basically, we do not—and here I come much nearer to the view of the hon. Member for Louth—because our goods are not competitive. When it can be shown year after year what a huge increase in manufactures there has been, and that industrial production has increased abroad, it is surely hard to suggest otherwise.
If we look at exports we find year after year that our share of the trade in manufactures has declined. This seems to me to suggest beyond any shadow of doubt—and it was confirmed in the N.E.D.C. Report—that our goods are not competitive.
What is to be done about this? Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that we rule out devaluation. But let me say something about devaluation—though not to advocate it—and the exchange rates. One of the curiosities of the change in thinking over the last few years is that the wartime hopes of how we would organise international trade have completely disappeared and no one apparently holds them any longer.
I recall the plans drawn up during the war, in which Lord Keynes and many others played promient parts, Then, it was practically taken as axiomatic that if a nation was faced with difficulties in its balance of payments after the war, instead of being forced to deflate, as was the case before the war, or forced to restrict imports—both of which measures have great disadvantages—it would change the exchange rate. This theory underlay the 700 Bretton Woods Agreement and all that Lord Keynes ever wrote about the postwar world.
But, through various subterranean moves of opinion over the last few years, we find ourselves now almost wholly attached to rigid exchange rates. That is one of the ways in which our postwar hopes have disappeared. Let us assume, therefore, that adjustment of the exchange rate is ruled out for us. What are we to do about the basic problems of making British goods competitive?
I agree with the hon. Member for Louth that this is the No. 1 criterion which should be applied to the Budget. But by that very criterion the Budget is an extreme disappointment. There is practically nothing in it which helps towards solving the long-term problem of the competitiveness of our goods. I believe that only two things in the Budget have relevance to our general industrial efficiency.
The first one consists of the measure to help solve regional unemployment. Naturally, if we can increase employment in these regions we shall help national production. But I am certain that we shall never solve the problem as long as we treat this as a matter of local unemployment and not as one of regional employment. The problem is insoluble on the basis of small development districts, but only when seen in larger regional terms.
The other relevant factor is the halving of Stamp Duty. I am utterly opposed to this. The only justification for not having a proper capital gains tax over the last few years was the 2 per cent. Stamp Duty. It was an argument consistently used by Tory Chancellors of the Exchequer that we did not, therefore, need a capital gains tax.
The reduction in Stamp Duty for Stock Exchange securities is a pure gift to the property-owning class and nothing else. I gather from the Sunday Times colour supplement last week that the Chancellor is given to dancing barefoot on the Riviera. This may be a pleasant past-time and good for his figure, but it is not the slightest excuse for doling out large sums to his Riviera companions.
Another argument is that we need to reduce Stamp Duty to encourage foreign portfolio investment here. But I have 701 grave doubts about this. Such investment is invariably volatile. What flows in easily can flow out just as easily. I do not think that we want our balance of payments to depend on a great measure of portfolio investment from the United States or anywhere else.
To claim that we have to depend on a continuous flow of this portfolio investment implies that we are some backward, primitive, country, being kept by rich foreign investors. We must rely on our own exertions and not try to attract volatile capital from other countries. The halving of the duty is not really justified, but it is the only measure which bears on the whole question of competitive efficiency.
Otherwise, the Budget is distinguished only for a series of omissions. It is to be condemned mainly because of the omissions. I want to list five things which most hon. Members will agree are necessary to increasing our efficiency and not one of which is in any way sustained by the Budget.
The first concerns incomes policy. On the whole, I believe in an incomes policy. I do not think that it is the sort of panacea that the hon. Member for Louth seems to think, nor that it is mainly necessary because wages here have gone up faster than wages in other countries. They have gone up at roughly the same pace. The trouble is that our productivity goes up slower. Nevertheless, an incomes policy has some rôle to play, although I doubt whether it is a major rôle, in increasing competitiveness. From the point of view of encouraging that, the Chancellor should have done two things.
The right hon. Gentleman should have made some concessions not in the form of concessions on Income Tax, but in the form of concessions on indirect taxation in order to reduce prices and diminish pressure for wage increases. It is very unfortunate that he has not done this. Nor has he been bold enough with tax reform. His extreme caution about it is one of the depressing features of the Budget. He has turned down practically every major suggestion. Had he adopted the single corporation tax, he would have made it easier to control the level of profits, which would have had a sensible part in the exercising of an incomes policy. The right hon. Gentleman has missed a big opportunity there. He has 702 shown extreme timidity and, indeed, slackness over the last few months.
Secondly, the President of the Board of Trade talked about export incentives in terms which bore no relation to what anyone is proposing. He said that we must not enter a race for export incentives. No one has suggested that we should. The whole discussion has hinged on an added value tax, and that would be a matter of adopting a tax which, within a short time, has been adopted in most countries of the European Economic Community.
My own view of the added value tax is that it is a matter of acute disagreement as to whether it is an export incentive. Whether it is or not depends entirely on the highly controversial question whether the tax is offset by the fact that manufacturers, at previous stages, have passed the tax on in their prices. I accept that there is extreme disagreement on this.
It is appropriate, therefore, to have an inquiry into it. What is extraordinary is that the inquiry should be announced only now, when the tax has been the subject of acute argument for months, and, indeed, years. We have had the long Report on it from the E.E.C. Commission. It was grossly neglectful of the Government to leave the inquiry until now. It should have been put in hand a year ago. Certainly, it should not be left to a single merchant banker, however eminent and devoted he is. On such a controversial matter, the Chancellor should have appointed a small committee, including not only the merchant banker but also tax experts, accountants, economists, and the rest. That would have been a far better way of going about it. He has missed yet another opportunity.
The third major omission relates not so much to the Budget itself, but to the whole of the Government's economic policy over the past year. The Government have allowed private manufacturing investment to fall to a level nearly one-fifth lower than that of a year ago. We can disagree as to how important this investment is to growth, but no one, and certainly not the Government, says that we must not have higher investment in order to attain a higher rate of growth. To have allowed private manufacturing investment to fall to a level 18 per cent.
703 below that of a year ago is an extraordinary condemnation of the Government's entire economic policy.
Fourthly, the right hon. Gentleman should have been more forthcoming for education, which is a particular form of investment. The people who write about economic growth cannot avoid reaching the conclusion that it depends very much on the amount spent on higher technical education. There was an O.E.C.D. Report on this very matter. This showed that any given level of investment is very much more productive in some countries than in others. This appears to be very much due to what is spent on education, especially, as I say, on forms of higher and technical education.
The Chancellor is right in saying that our education spending is on a quite rapidly rising curve. But he should have bullied the Minister of Education a little more to spend less time on breaking down the settled bargaining procedures in the teaching profession and more time, if only to escape future strictures by the Robbins Committee, on producing a more rapid spending on all forms of higher education. That was another big omission in the Budget.
The next missed opportunity was that the Chancellor made practically no reference to the rôle of N.E.D.C. He referred to N.E.D.C.'s targets more than once, but he made practically no reference to its rôle, and that was quite astounding in a speech which took an hour and forty minutes and of which a large part was devoted to general economic expansion.
I would have liked to have heard a great many things from the Chancellor about how he sees N.E.D.C.'s rôle. For example, there is now an argument about whether it should or should not have a whole series of industry commissions. This is an argument of great importance and one would have liked to have had the Chancellor's views. There are many things which come within the purview of N.E.D.C. and which are still very controversial and on which the Chancellor, as chairman of the Council, should have given his views. That was a very serious deficiency in his speech.
My general view is that although the Budget is acceptable as a short-term method of getting expansion this year, and although we may get there and I 704 hope that we get through this year and have temporary expansion without a balance of payments crisis, the Budget contributes practically nothing to the solution of the critical long-run problem, which is that of getting a 5 per cent. annual increase in our exports. It comes out with complete clarity from the N.E.D.C. Report that one possible serious obstacle to the 4 per cent. growth rate to which we are all committed—I hope that we all are—is the danger of not getting the annual 5 per cent. increase in exports. Looked at from the point of view of that overriding economic priority, I find the Budget extremely disappointing.
I very much doubt whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the right man to get this large increase in exports. He seems to be becoming more and more a Baldwin-esque figure, so far as I can judge from the publicity which he is getting. He made one alarming remark which was quoted in the colour supplement of the Sunday Times last week, when he said that he used to keep chickens, but that every time he looked at them they became extremely sick. I fear that every time he looks at the British economy it becomes extremely sick. He is building up the figure of a comfortable, portly, family man very much on the Baldwin model. The only trouble is that this is a time when we need not a Baldwin as a leader, but a much more dynamic and audacious man.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. William Clark (Nottingham, South)
I welcome the opportunity of joining in the debate. It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), although I did not altogether agree with what he was saying. There was an element of prejudice which I will probably pursue later.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend—my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) is rather worried about what I have to say, but I am speaking on the Budget for the moment—on the presentation of the Budget. I think that both sides of the Committee accept that it was a very good change from the precedent of a rather long and dreary rigmarole of what happened last year, with the Budget proposals then brought in at the last moment.
705 While congratulating my right hon. Friend, I welcome the Budget in the sense that at last we have a piece of Tory policy put into effect with the abolition of Schedule A. The property-owning democrats of the Conservative Party have advocated the abolition of Schedule A for many years, and I have to admit that so have some hon. Members opposite. The second thing I am pleased about is that my right hon. Friend has given help to the lower income brackets and to married men with responsibility. We should not overlook that and the Chancellor should be given the widest possible credit for having grasped the opportunity to direct part of his Budget to the benefit of the married man.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Grimsby when he says that the Budget is a little too cautious. I know, as he and other hon. Members know, that the National Institute suggested a figure of £400 million, although the National Institute never made it perfectly clear whether the figure of £400 million was for this year or for a full year and never made it absolutely clear whether it was intended to include the measures on Purchase Tax which my right hon. Friend took in November last year.
To the £260 million which has been relieved from taxation in this first year, which is only a partial year, must be added the £80 million which was relieved of Purchase Tax on motor cars and television and radio sets in November. That gives a figure of £340 million. While I agree that one cannot be dogmatic about whether the figure of £340 million or £400 million is right, that is only for a partial year and the present Budget proposals will cost the Exchequer £579 million in a full year, to which must be added the figure of £80 million for last November's changes, giving a figure of more than £600 million. Again, while one cannot be too dogmatic, I would not have thought that this was a cautious Budget in the sense which the hon. Member was trying to imply. I believe that it is a Budget in which the Chancellor will he successful in his policy of expansion without inflation.
When we speak of expansion without inflation—and the hon. Member for Grimsby brought this out in his speech—we must consider our rate of investment in this country. The figures published on 1lth December were that fixed 706 investment as a percentage of the gross national product in 1961, the latest year for which figures are available, was 19 per cent. In West Germany the corresponding figure was 29.1 per cent. The 1961 figure for Japan is not available, but that in 1960 was 34 per cent.
Between 1957 and 1961, our investment rose from 17.4 per cent. to 19 per cent., which is a good increase, but I accept that we are working on the wrong base for the simple reason that while we are investing only 19 per cent. of our gross national product, our overseas competitors, who are often held up to be the top of the league of which we are the bottom, are investing far more of their gross national products. I should have liked more emphasis to have been placed on investment in this country.
However, the Chancellor has emphasised investment by the differential rates of Income Tax which have now been introduced into our tax system. I do not wish to recapitulate the arguments about whether the differentials should be widely defined or narrowly defined, or defined on an industry or regional basis, but the crux of the matter is that the Chancellor has given tax relief of £240 million in a full year for increased capital allowances in development areas, and this cannot but do good. This is one way in which we can instil confidence into businessmen, and I cannot emphasise sufficiently the importance of getting business men in this country to have confidence in the future. I think that both sides of the Committee will accept that.
Over the past two years, businessmen have suffered from some hesitancy through no fault of the Government, but simply because of the prolongation of the Common Market negotiations. We were waiting for the Common Market, but it so happened that the Common Market did not come to fruition. With the collapse of the Common Market negotiations, during which businessmen did not know whether to expand here or go to the Continent, businessmen were then looking to the Budget and wondering whether it would give incentives. This uncertainty has played a tremendous part in the difficulties.
Confidence will now be given to businessmen by the capital allowances—I 707 agree only in development districts, but we must remember that capital allowances outside the development districts have also been increased—coupled with the facilities already given by the Government—cheap factories and establishment grants and putting Government contracts as far as possible into development districts and the restriction of industrial development certificates.
I have the greatest respect for the economic views of my hon. Friend the Member for Louth, but I did not altogether agree with him. If I may put his argument back on him: if what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said was a disservice to the British motor car industry—and I do not want to recanvass that argument—it is equally true that if people get up in the House of Commons, or outside, and they say that there is a danger of a recession, that will kill that confidence which we are trying to instil into the public.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Louth will not misunderstand what I am about to say. We can talk ourselves into a recession. I know some people can make a speech about the dangers of a recession and nobody takes the slightest notice. I have no doubt that no matter what I say, people will take not the slightest notice. But when my hon. Friend the Member for Louth makes such a speech, from his wide experience in these matters, people are inclined to listen to him. I know this personally. This matter must be handled very carefully.
§ Sir C. Osborne
My hon. Friend will remember that I quoted the Leader of the Opposition, who had said this in New York at the beginning of this week. I also quoted President Kennedy.
§ Mr. Clark
I agree, but we ought not to bring in President Kennedy. He made his speech in order to get his tax proposals through Congress. I should not think for a moment that he believes that there will be a world recession. To my mind, the difference between the post-war years and the inter-war years, is that America has ceased to be isolationist. She has taken her part in Western democracy. This means that she cannot possibly allow a world recession. She will pump money into the underdeveloped countries as we have done since the end of the war. It is 708 not fair to bring in what President Kennedy said, when he was making a political point for consumption by his own Congress
The Government must do more to increase investment over the whole range of industry. The Finance Bill will provide opportunities for us to put down Amendments to help small savers. Much more incentive should be given to savers. According to N.E.D.C., we should have a personal savings rate of about 12 per cent. Last year, it was only 10½ per cent. There is a great margin for increased personal savings, which help investment.
I welcome the reduction in Stamp Duty on shares and transfers of property. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Grimsby that all that this does is to put money into the pockets of the property-owning classes. During the last six years the number of people investing on the Stock Exchange has increased from 1¼ million to 3½ million. These are not all men who run Rolls-Royce cars, or yachts, or who go dancing on the Riviera, with or without shoes. These people include the small savers of this country. We must remember London's position as a money market as compared with money markets abroad. Foreign countries do not have Stamp Duty.
This fact must operate as a disincentive to foreigners to invest here through the money market. We must not assume that such people come here only to use the London money market to buy shares. They take part in the market, and from that market we obtain much of our invisible earnings, including our invisible exports. The 2 per cent. Stamp Duty ought not to have been introduced, and the reduction to 1 per cent. is very welcome, although I should like to see it abolished entirely.
§ Mr. Clark
During my short experience in this House one thing that has always stood out in the Budget debates to which I have listened has been the attitude of the Opposition to the achievements of the Government. I know that it is the duty of an Opposition to oppose, but I wish that when they did so they were constructive. Everything that the Conservatives do cannot be 709 wrong. Some of the things may be wrong, but not everything.
Investment in this country is vital to our survival. I am sure that there is no difference between the parties on that point. Why, then, does the Socialist Party intend to bring in a wealth tax? If we agree that we must instil some confidence in our businessmen to persuade them to increase investment and, as a consequence, to make our country more competitive, I cannot see why the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) should advocate a wealth tax. What does he mean by a wealth tax? A wealth tax on what?
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I am interested in whatever may be coming. We did not object to everything in the Budget. On the contrary, there were many things we did not object to, because we suggested them first and the Tory Party has taken them up.
§ Mr. Clark
It is always difficult to discover to whom second-hand clothes belonged in the first place. So many people say that an idea was theirs first. But the intervention of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)—for whom I have great respect—shows that he is considering my remarks out of context. It is true that the Opposition must oppose, but they should be constructive. If they are as anxious as the Government to instil confidence in businessmen, those businessmen and the investing public should be told what they mean when they talk about a wealth tax.
Hugh Dalton did not impose such a tax. Sir Stafford Cripps did, but he said that it could not be done annually; he did it once for all. Mr. Gaitskell had the opportunity to impose it, but he did not do so. How does it come about that after all these years this idea has returned, apparently as part of Fabian thinking? Is it that the Fabian Society has some new members, who think the same as their predecessors thought fifty years ago?
We cannot link these two matters; we cannot tell the investing public that they must have confidence and increase investment and, at the same time, hold the sword of a wealth tax over their heads. The Opposition ought to let the public 710 know what they mean by this tax. They ought not to shield behind the claim that they will do it when they become the Government, because they may not have the chance. They may always be pushing forward this idea of a wealth tax without ever getting it on the Statute Book, they may never form the Government.
The public also ought to be told more about the social benefits that they will get if there is a change of Government. Let them know more about social security, at which the Opposition have had four attempts. In 1957, they brought out a graduated pensions scheme—half pay, and this, that and the other. Somebody re-read it and found many arithmetical errors, so they brought out a revised edition in 1958. That was dropped after the 1959 General Election. In 1961, they produced Signposts for the Sixties. They should have made it clear to which century they were referring, because people are rather confused, not knowing whether it is 1860 or 1960. Then they said that they would bring out a graduated form of tax, and a few weeks ago they came forward with their new proposals. But however much we question the Opposition about this we never get detailed figures.
We have been talking about the importance of exports, and of keeping down our costs, but here is another sword hanging over the heads of the electorate, and especially the industrialists. Who will pay the contributions of this new scheme of the Opposition? How much will those contributions be? As compared with 1951, double the amount of money is now going into the National Insurance Fund. It was then £109 million; today, it is £221 million.
How much do the Opposition say that the Exchequer will have to find for this new social benefit? This is germane to the whole argument about our economic survival, costing, exports, and the rest of it. The whole emphasis must be on exports. We lost a golden opportunity from 1945 to 1951. The world markets were open to us, yet all we did was to indulge in domestic politics. We lost that golden opportunity, and in 1951, when the Conservative Party came to office, the sellers' market had ended. Japan was rising, West Germany and 711 Europe were rising. Let us never forgot—
§ Mr. Crosland
The hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting him, but I have refrained until now under the extreme provocation of his highly inaccurate remarks about a wealth tax and many other things. He should have been in the House to see the performance of the Conservatives in opposition from 1945 to 1951. If the hon. Gentleman imagines that the Conservative Party gave figures about what they would do, he must be out of his mind. In view of what he has said about exports, is he aware that by the time the Labour Government left office in 1951, exports—contrary to the most most gloomy expectation—were double what they were before the war, and they have scarcely risen since?
§ Mr. Clark
We cannot have it both ways. We cannot say that in 1951 we were in a strong economic position and, at the same time, there had been devaluation, with the gold and dollar reserves running away like sand. What happened was that the Labour Party went to the country and gave the succeeding Tory Government the job of clearing up the mess.
I do not think that we need to worry about what has happened in the past. But I am serious when I refer to these promises which are being made by the party opposite about what is to happen to our economic life. The industrial public deserves more consideration than it is being given by hon. Members opposite. If they have some things to put forward as part of their next General Election programmes, they should indicate what will be the cost, because that will determine whether we shall continue exporting or whether our exports will decline and we go back to the position in which we were some years ago.
I am partially grateful to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor for the reference 712 in the Budget statement to exports. Mr. Gordon Richardson is to look into this question whether it would be possible to provide a tax incentive. That is not in violation of G.A.T.T., or anything like that. All we want to establish is a tax reform and this is an important part of it. We want a tax reform and the turning of part of the system over to T.V.A. which is far more popular than a turnover tax. If T.V.A. is a built-in export incentive, we should know about it and our exporters ought not to be put at a disadvantage.
The French and the Germans are operating T.V.A. They get the export advantage, if there is an advantage. I agree with the hon. Member for Grimsby that it may be a controversial question. It may be debatable whether there is an advantage. My information is that it is an advantage to the exporter. The French and the Germans think that it is and have changed over from a turnover tax. They are going for T.V.A. and our exporters should get the same relief.
I regret that the proposed inquiry was not started a year ago when, during a debate on the Finance Bill, we debated exports incentives. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), who was then Chancellor, said that he would look into the whole question of export incentives. I am sure that the hon. Member for Grimsby did not mean it, but I think it was unfair to say that this is being done by only one man. Mr. Gordon Richardson will be the leader. But he will get all the help he can.
I wish to refer to the question of fuel tax. This tax has borne heavily on some industries. I accept the argument regarding the National Coal Board, but if the fuel tax is a burden on industry and is acting against exports, what would happen were it halved or abolished? It would merely mean that those industrialists who, at the moment, are "oil-fired" would be able to reduce their costs. No one would swop over from oil to coal simply because the fuel tax remains. It would be only on new machinery that the Coal Board could possibly lose any business. Although I accept the importance of getting the coal industry into a more viable economic position in order to show a profit, and so on, I regret that the fuel tax was not reduced or abolished.
713 While I am on the subject of exports, I recall that in November last year the Chancellor gave a boost to the car industry by a reduction in Purchase Tax which, I am sure, has been of immense benefit. Since then, car exports have gone up. But there is no incentive for heavy industry. People are not buying our heavy industrial goods. It also needs an incentive.
I welcome the reference to world liquidity. I sincerely hope that the Americans will be convinced of the necessity for improving facilities for world liquidity. I accept the Kennedy Round as being extremely useful. But I wish that as much energy could be put into improving world liquidity as has gone into the Kennedy Round. It is obvious that people want to buy our goods, but they have not the money because of the inadequate reserves and we must do something about increasing liquidity. I regret as much as other hon. Members that the Maudling plan did not get the reception which it deserved.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East inferred that this was an election Budget. From time to time the Conservatives are accused of introducing election Budgets. I cannot really accept this and I should like the Committee to bear with me for a moment while we consider it. Our costs and prices are, in fact, competitive over a large section of our industry. This is so for two reasons. One is that the reserve of labour available on the Continent has dried up. Europe has had a hidden unemployment figure for many years, while we have had full employment. Obviously, it could be more efficient. Its cost and prices have been kept down.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East—the Leader of the Opposition did so yesterday—made rather a cheap gibe about the difference between what was done by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral and the present Chancellor. I do not think that either of those policies are compatible, for the simple reason—[Laughter.] It is very easy to laugh at an argument before one has heard the argument. It is much more difficult to laugh after one has heard it, knowing that one has no come-back to it.
714 If possible, we should have had the pay pause earlier. It is well known that as a nation we have been paying ourselves far too much for too little work. In 1961, we paid ourselves 32s. 5d. a week more for 12s. 7d. a week more work value. Obviously, that cannot go on. I think that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral did a great service to the economy in halting this and narrowing the margin between incomes and productivity.
When speaking about election Budgets let us not forget that all Budgets must either take more in taxation or give more relief from taxation, unless there is to be a Budget which does nothing. Invariably, a Budget does something, even if it gives only £1 million or takes £1 million away. It should be emphasised to hon. Members not only on this side of the Committee, but opposite, that since 1951, whatever is said about Conservative Budgets, we have reduced taxation from 32 per cent.—[An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsensical."] An argument cannot be declared as nonsensical until it has been propounded—to 27 per cent. of the gross national product.
Hon. Members opposite may not agree, but I could guarantee to prove these figures. Obviously, I should not give a figure like that unless I was absolutely certain of it. That reduction from 32 per cent. to 27 per cent. was before this year's Budget. That is the measure of what Conservative Budgets have done. We are taking less of the gross national product and giving far more benefits. I am not making a party point in saying that it is nonsensical for anyone on either side of the Committee to say the opposite. Everyone knows from evidence in his constituency that this is the truth.
I reiterate what the Chancellor said yesterday. The whole of our economic survival depends on our export position, our balance of payments, competitiveness, and so on. No one side of the nation is responsible for that. It has to be a general effort. I hope that very careful note will be taken of the words used by the Chancellor. We are all in the same boat and if we do not all pull together the boat will sink. Management, trade unions and Government must pull together. If that message gets over to the country there should be no fear that we shall not pull ourselves out of the 715 slack in industry and go forward to prosperity.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
Unlike the hon: Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. William Clark), I am much more interested in 1966 than in in 1946. I do not propose to follow him into the realms of ancient history with which he took up so much of the time of the Committee. I have very seldom heard a speech of such great 'length with so little content. I listened carefully but I heard him enunciating only one principle, that it was the function of the Opposition to instil confidence into British industry.
I do not want to go into numerous questions relating to history which the hon. Member introduced and I shall touch on only one point of his speech. That is what he said about investment. I entirely agree with him in thinking that increased investment in British industry is an essential concomitant of growth, but I point out that it is living an another world to imagine that investment opportunities for British industry depend on going into the Common Market or not.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
If one has surplus money to spend and there is the possibility of going into the Common Market, there is every incentive to take plant over into Europe, or in the long term one may decide to spend at home. One has to make these decisions.
§ Mr. Lubbock
The hon. Member is talking about the huge mammoths of British industry like I.C.I. He ought to know that 80 per cent. of British industry is composed of firms with less than 100 employees, who could not from their own resources invest in setting up factories on the Continent even if they wished to do so. The investment decisions of people in British industry are based on a much more complex set of factors than the hon. Member seems to appreciate.
716 I do not wish to waste more time on the content of the speech of the hon. Member for Nottingham, South because there was very little in it. I wish to make a few remarks about what the President of the Board of Trade said this afternoon and what the Chancellor said yesterday. In the speech of the President of the Board of Trade there seemed to be no greater realisation than in that of the Chancellor that the past year has been a disastrous one from the point of view of the British economy. He told the Committee that Britain's economic growth depends on our export trade. I should have thought we all knew that by now. He blamed poor export performance at the end of 1962 on to a slowing up of world trade as a whole rather than on shortcomings in Government policy in this direction.
I think we can leave the electorate to be the best judges of that, but before they make up their minds they should compare our performance in this country with the performance of other major industrial nations. I think everyone in the Committee agrees that exports are vital to achieve the 4 per cent. growth target which has been accepted by the Government and was proposed by the N.E.D.C. It is particularly important for that reason that the President of the Board of Trade should in turn accept the implications of that target which have been enunciated by the N.E.D.C. The Council, in paragraph 272 of its Report, says:It is estimated that a rate of increase of about 5 per cent. per annum from 1961 to 1966 is required. …That is, to achieve the 4 per cent. growth rate overall.
When the President of the Board of Trade was questioned about this and asked if he adhered to this figure, he was not prepared to commit himself. He said that he would not give a hostage to fortune by going nap on that 5 per cent. figure. Yet it is absolutely vital, as hon. Members opposite—including the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne)—have made quite clear, that unless we can achieve that 5 per cent. rate of growth in exports we shall not be able to see the 4 per cent. growth in our gross national product which the Government have accepted.
717 It is worth emphasising that the Chancellor said in his Budget statement yesterday that it should be made clear—I think "crystal clear" were the words he used—that the theme of the Budget was expansion without inflation He asserted his belief in the proposition that the N.E.D.C. target of 4 per cent. could be achieved without danger to the £. Considering that in the past our rate of growth has been slower than in every major industrial country, that is a pretty modest target. It can be seen as exciting only by contrast with the stagnation of the last decade. If one looks at the two graphs in the Economic Survey, taking 1958 as 100, one sees that our industrial production has grown to just under 115. In the next graph the growth in the E.E.C. countries has been to nearly 140, and in the world to over 130. So our performance is very poor in comparison with those other countries.
It should be pointed out that in order to catch up with the N.E.D.C. target we need year a growth rate of at least 8 per cent. to make up for the stagnation of last year. The Chancellor ought to make clear when talking about the achievement of this target whether he means that we are to have a rate of growth of 8 per cent. this year or that we have lost forever the 4 per cent. which we ought to have had in 1962. The year 1962 was the year in which the gross domestic product not only showed no increase at all but actually fell back slightly. In 1961 the figure was £22,225 million. In 1962 it was £22,179 million. These are the figures at 1958 prices taken from the Economic Report for 1962, page 17.
It still remains to be see whether the very fine words about expansion used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday mean a change in the Government's attitude. We have heard this speech many times before. I had hoped that the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) would intervene in the debate this afternoon, because it would have been interesting to hear what he had to say about the contrast between this Budget and the previous one. In his speech last year the right hon. and learned Gentleman said this:The theme of the Budget is the maintenance of a firm base for sound expansion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th April, 1962; Vol 657, c. 994.]718 That only paraphrases what we were told many times by the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday.
Where all Chancellors since the war have failed is that their cautious obsession with the health of the £ has always halted the take-off of the economy just at the critical point when it was beginning to get into its stride. Yet I think that the history of these years should have shown that restrictions on demand and profits at home are not the right way to encourage the exports which are essential to an expanding economy.
What I think is needed above all is for British industry and for foreign holders of sterling to have full and absolute confidence in the Government's determination to make growth the prime and overriding object, not only of their Budget, but of their whole economic policy. We certainly welcome the indications that the Chancellor has grasped this elementary fact, which we have been trying to put across for so many years, and the assurance that he will make full use of our external borrowing powers to combat any short-term depletion in the reserves which might be caused by the stocking up process which will inevitably accompany reflation is particularly valuable.
It is important to emphasise at this stage that one Budget speech, however good it may have been, will not be enough to undo the mistakes of twelve years which are now admitted, at least by implication in the Chancellor's speech. Is this miraculous conversion which we have witnessed a permanent one? Has the whole of the Tory Party, including the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral, repented? We might have had more confidence that this has happened if the Chancellor in his Budget speech had admitted frankly that the last Budget was a grave error of judgment.
I come to the proposals in the Budget. I think that we are all agreed that at this stage the stimulation of demand by some reductions in taxation was essential. The only question in my mind is whether the figure of £270 million fixed by the Chancellor is large enough. The Economist and various other informed sources have put the figure at £400 million tax relief. They have said that this was required in the light of the estimates of industrial production which came out 719 quite recently. This is open to argument. I would not be at all dogmatic about it. I think that in considering this figure, whether it should be £270 million or £400 million, one must take into account what are the medium-term possibilities rather than look at this particular year in isolation. One must see then that the scope for reductions in taxation is inevitably limited by projected increases in Government spending to which we are already committed. Some components of these increases are welcome, such as those on education, and they can be looked at, as one hon. Member has said, as part of our investment programme.
I think that if the Government are really serious in their endeavour to meet this 4 per cent. N.E.D.C. target, they have to pay just as much attention to their own housekeeping as they do to that of the private sector. They must ensure particularly that all Government expenditure is designed to encourage growth. Nearly 27 per cent. of all Government expenditure goes on defence alone. It is particularly vital to ensure that lack of control there will not vitiate any gains which may be secured in the rest of the economy.
The N.E.D.C. Report postulates an annual growth in defence expenditure of 4 per cent. in money terms. The rise between the 1962–63 outturn of £1,766 million and the 1963–64 estimate of £1,838 million amounts to more than 4 per cent. It in fact comes to 4.2 per cent. If one then assumes that the outturn for the current year exceeds the estimate by the same amount as it did last year, it will be another £45 million on top of that, making a total increase in defence expenditure between the two years of no less than £111 million. That is far above the N.E.D.C. limit.
I am nervous that this is going to happen when I look at some of the words which have been spoken recently by the Minister of Defence. I think that he is already busy working out his alibi in case defence expenditure does exceed the target by such a large amount. In the Defence debate on 4th March the Minister of Defence said this:While we shall and must attempt to keep spending at around 7 per cent. of the gross national product, it must be remembered that the costs of research and development in all 720 countries are rising faster than the increases in the gross national product. It is that single factor more than any other throughout the world that is tending to force defence cots upwards …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1963;Vol. 672, c, 31–2.]Thus, I believe that a danger exists, to which we ought to be alive, that inflationary processes will arise from this grandiose defence policy which has been adopted by the Government and that this could wreck any short-term good done by this Budget and those which follow it over the next few years. It is as well that one should bear that in mind when discussing the Chancellor's detailed proposals.
I welcome, as everybody does, the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has at last gone some way towards meeting our proposals for additional assistance to the development areas. It is about time that we had some admission from the other side of the Committee that the Local Employment Act has been a complete failure. Are we certain even yet that the inducements now being offered to industry to go to these areas are large enough? Are they, for example, big enough to solve the persistent unemployment in Northern Ireland? I do not believe that the Chancellor can give us that assurance. I do not believe that he could honestly say that these inducements are going to wipe out the unemployment in Northern Ireland which has persisted ever since the war.
I should have liked to have seen the Chancellor take additional powers beyond those which he has taken in the Budget. For example, if he could have taken powers to waive or reduce the National Insurance contributions in these development districts, it would have been an extra measure which he could have used if these measures were not successful in their application. I would also agree with those hon. Members who have said that it is not enough to consider only development districts. We have to think in terms of regions from now on. We have to think in terms of regional planning to get population to go into certain areas. That means that we may have to give the same concessions as we have in the Local Employment Act to areas and districts where the unemployment may not reach the figures which are calculated as the minimum for this aid under the Act, 721 That is essential if we are to have a long-term policy for the distribution of industry in this country.
The President of the Board of Trade spoke about the marvellous inducements which are given to industrialists to go to these areas. I want to make one comment about the example that he quoted. He said that if a factory was set up for a total expenditure of £1 million, divided as to buildings £250,000, plant £450,000 and working capital £300,000, that would attract grants totalling £100,000 and a tax saving of £300,000 in the first year. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would tell me what type of business it is that can set up and start operations and make a profit which would be large enough to have such a large sum to set against taxation in the first year of its operations. I would certainly like to get in on it.
While on this subject of National Insurance contributions, there is a contradiction in the right hon. Gentleman's Budget proposals. We are about to be asked to pay increases in our National Insurance contributions, yet the avowed intention of the Chancellor in reducing taxation is to spread purchasing power as widely as possible over the economy as a whole. To illustrate what I have in mind we might take a little example. A London bus driver, with two children aged between 11 and 16, earning nearly £14 a week including overtime has hitherto been paying about £3 a year in Income Tax. He is now relieved of that entirely but, correspondingly, he will lose £2 8s. by having to pay an extra 11d. a week in National Insurance contributions. I do not suppose that that bus driver is exactly leaping for joy, having realised the full implications of the Budget proposals.
I had hoped—because we heard so much about this Chancellor being a radical thinker who was contemplating large reforms in the taxation system—that he would have looked at the whole contributory principle once again. It would certainly be much fairer and more simple to finance the whole social services out of direct taxation and abolish altogether the employees' contributions in this context. It is time that we swept away all this ridiculous paraphernalia of stamps and cards which must be a terrible time waster to people in industry. However, I suppose that that was 722 too much to hope for. And since it has not happened, I urge hon. Members opposite not to try to pretend, as some of them are doing, that everyone will be better off under the Budget proposals.
Even for those who will benefit from the tax changes more than they lose under the increased National Insurance contributions—and they have to be earning more than £700 a year to do that—in many cases they will find that whatever benefits they get those benefits are swallowed up by rates increases.
§ Mr. Lubbock
If the hon. Member wants me to explain why there has been this increase in rates in Orpington I will be delighted to do so. I have explained it to my constituents and they understand that the increase is due entirely to the Tory Government. In this connection, many of my constituents—and this goes for the people who the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) represents—will find that any benefits they get out of the tax changes in the Budget are nullified by increased rates.
I would like to know why the Minister of Housing and Local Government was so resistant to the suggestion that some benefit should be given to people suffering this increased rate burden because we now know that the Chancellor had about £270 million at his disposal to hand back to the taxpayers. Perhaps it is not too much to hope that if people continue to vote Liberal at by-elections in sufficient numbers we may get some satisfaction in this direction as well. It is obvious that a good part of the Budget consists, from the individual's point of view, of handing back some of the money already taken away from them by other Ministers.
I notice that another technique has crept in; and I intend to expose it as well. I refer to the practice of making promises in Budget speeches which will be fulfilled at a future date and which, of course, cost nothing immediately. This technique has been used extensively by this Chancellor following, I suppose, the example of the previous one in regard to Schedule A. If the present Chancellor really means what he says about Schedule A I wonder what has justified the Government keeping it on as part of their policy 723 for so many years. Why has it taken them so long to get rid of it?
It is interesting to note some of the many things which this Chancellor has said will be done at some indeterminate date or this year; things about which we have been given promises but nothing more concrete. There will, he says, be some unspecified improvements in the arrangements for dealing with redundancy. That is a requirement which we in the Liberal Party have already spelled out in detail. There are to be further investigations into the feasibility of a corporation tax—"further investigations" I emphasise—although last year we were told in the Budget speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wirral:We have got beyond the stage of general talk about the desirability or otherwise of a single tax and can now look at a possible scheme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th April, 1962; Vol. 657, c. 972.]It seems that we have left that position and are now not looking at a possible scheme but are indulging in general talk. I suppose that the idea was peddled round the City of London, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal Party strongly advised against. My right hon. Friend knew that once it got lost in that jungle nothing would come of it.
We are told that there will be consideration of an added value tax of the type which my party has advocated. Mr. Gordon Richardson is to conduct an investigation on behalf of the Government, so they are once again sloughing off the responsibility on to someone else for making a decision. The Chancellor has said that there are some doubts as to whether such a tax would be feasible and of assistance to our exports. On the Continent they are in no doubt about it and if the Chancellor had listened to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) yesterday he would have seen a thorough explanation of how this T.V.A. tax operates on the Continent, for he said:Further, when we find that the Common Market countries have decided to harmonise turnover taxes on France's T.V.A. system, I should have thought that the evidence was overwhelming."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd April, 1963; Vol. 675, c. 561.]724 It is certainly overwhelming on the Continent although, once again we have not yet caught up with them.
To give further examples of my earlier remarks, there is the promise of relief on the duty on light hydrocarbon oils. This is something that could have been easily incorporated in the Budget and a subject which the Chancellor should know has been a critical disincentive to some industries with outstanding export performances—industries to which relief should have been given long ago, particularly the paint and plastics industries. There is a vague undertaking that he will consider the removal of the duty on fuel oils, provided Lord Robens gives him permission to do so some time next year. The Chancellor admitted that the removal of the duty would help, among others, the steel industry—and we all know that that industry is grossly underemployed at the moment. It is operating at 70 per cent, of its capacity and I would have thought that this would have been one way to have quickly increased its capacity.
We have all these promises of reforms to come as a substitute for any real policy. Even in respect of gambling, which the Chancellor agrees should make a contribution towards the rising cost of social expenditure, the only suggestion he has made is that the Customs and Excise should compile a list of one-arm bandits and other gambling machines.
In a Report published yesterday by the Churches' Council on Gambling, it is stated that gambling turnover last year reached a record £853 million—not £700 million as the Chancellor said—and the Churches' figure does not include the notorious gaming clubs which are springing up everywhere and the turnover of which it is impossible to estimate. While we are waiting for a reform of gambling taxation, nothing is being done to relieve certain parts of the betting industry from the discrimination which has operated against them for many years. While we would all agree that gambling should make its contribution towards our social expenditure, it is wholly unfair that the Government should single out certain parts of the industry for heavy discrimination, as has been done on the dog racing industry, as a result of which dog racing is contracting all the time and the money is going to other spheres.
725 Stamp Duty on stock transfers and house conveyances is reduced from 2 per cent. to 1 per cent., so we have to maintain the same expense for collection while halving the revenue, and we believe that it should have been abolished altogether. I must make it clear that we should have accompanied that by a full-blooded capital gains tax, because everyone knows that for people with large private investments capital gains are treated as if they were income, and we see no reason why they should be excluded from the tax network. Therefore, I couple those two proposals together. An hon. Member said that one should not consider abolishing the Stamp Duty without introducing a capital gains tax, and I agree with him that these two measures should go together. If we had a full-blooded capital gains tax, we think that it would have enabled the Chancellor to give more reliefs to earned income where they are really required if we are to reward opportunity and not speculation.
Finally, in my list of examples of what we would have done had we had the opportunity, we would have replaced Estate Duty by a legacy duty to encourage the splitting up of large estates, and this would bring about a much wider distribution of property. This would have had to be accompanied by a similar tax on large gifts to prevent the avoidance of tax by people who give away their property more than five years before the date of their death.
To sum up, I think that the presence of some good things in the Budget—we admit that there are some good things in the Budget—is tempered by disappointment that the Chancellor has dodged all the major issues of tax reform that we have been demanding, and that bolder measures to secure the expansion of the economy, which he himself said is so necessary, have not been forthcoming. The Guardian editorial hit the nail on the head this morning when giving reasons for this. It saidPerhaps it was a vain hope that a Government so weak politically would embark on an adventurous course at this stage.When we come to look at this Budget in retrospect, I think it will be seen to have failed in its main object, that of securing the expansion of the economy. To do that, a much more dynamic approach was necessary to this question of stimulation, and it should 726 have been accompanied by a reform of the taxation system as a whole. More than the expression of will was needed. We should have put the emphasis on the creation of a real partnership between the Government, on the one side, and industry and the trade unions on the other. Pious exhortations to co-operate will not be enough. The Government have so far lost the confidence of the people of this country and made so little effort to win it back that no single Budget, even if it were far better than the present Budget, could remedy the damage that has already been done.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Anthony Barber)
I have listened with great interest to an obviously thoughtful speech, but I should like to put one question to the hon. Gentleman. He has given the views of the Liberal Party on certain traditional cuts in taxation which it would like to see adopted, and certain traditional taxation proposals, but he has not expressed his opposition to a single one of my right hon. Friend's taxation proposals. I wonder whether he would tell us whether the Liberal Party is opposed to any of the taxation proposals, and if so which.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I thought I had made it clear that the proposals do not go far enough. We should have liked to have seen a much more radical reform of the taxation system as a whole. It may be that if we had the corporation tax which we have been asking for, and the T.V.A. tax, this would have meant certain consequential changes in other parts of the taxation system. But we all know what has happened. If we had a T.V.A. tax, it would enable us to reduce either Profits Tax or some of the indirect tax on purchases. Although I am not quarrelling with individual proposals in the Budget, I feel that if there had been an overall look at the taxation system we should have come to some different conclusions about how the reductions in taxes could have been distributed.
§ Mr. Barber
This is very important. The hon. Gentleman is speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party, and may I take it that he is not opposed to any of the taxation proposals put forward by my right hon. Friend?
§ Mr. Lubbock
I think that I said that. I said that we would have gone further 727 in certain respects than the Chancellor has done in his Budget.
§ Mr. Lubbock
The hon. Member says "which one", but it is impossible to pin this down to one detail. As I have explained, if we were to recast the whole of the taxation system we might want to give more away in some respects and less in others. For example, I thought that I had made it clear that we would have given the 1 per cent. Stamp Duty away in exchange for a full-blooded capital gains tax.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Stevens (Portsmouth, Langstone)
At the beginning of his speech, the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) said that be did not wish to go into ancient history. I think that is a very good maxim for this debate, so I shall make no reference to the Liberal Party, not even to the ghost of the future of the Liberal Party.
I will start by referring to an observation made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) in his very interesting opening speech this afternoon. He said that the Budget contained nothing novel. It seems an awful pity that the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer should make a main Budget speech for the Opposition without having read the Budget proposals. If there is one thing about the Budget which is absolutely certain, it is that it contains more novel proposals than any that I have listened to, and I have listened to sixteen. No doubt in earlier Budgets there have been more original touches.
Let us take an example. The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) knows very well that one of the reasons why previous Conservative Chancellors, and previous Labour Chancellors, did not increase the personal allowances for Income Tax was because to increase the single allowance by £10 and the married allowance by £20 would be so vastly expensive. That was one of the main reasons. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was making an interrogatory gesture, but he knows that perfectly well.
The novel thing that my right hon. Friend has done is to increase those two 728 personal allowances very substantially but to reduce the effective cost by changing the reduced rate bands. I think that is distinctly novel, and it also has the novel effect of giving the largest amount of tax reduction to the lowest income groups—a thing that does not always happen in those circumstances.
With regard to the higher quality motor cars, I share my right hon. Friend's view about the good that the Rolls Royce motor car and the Rolls Royce engine do to British trade as a whole, and the way in which he has provided a capital allowance for expensive motor cars in this Budget is highly original. If the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East can show me its equivalent in any other capital allowance in the whole range, I will stand him a very large whisky and water.
I have been quite fascinated by a good many of the speeches from the benches opposite today on the subject of how disastrous Tory policies are. The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), with whom I cross swords with bated breath, waxed furious about that: "1962 was a disastrous year—ah! these terrible Tories!" Why not stick to the facts, and remember that when the Brussels negotiations broke down the pound remained strong? Admittedly, there was some selling, but, because of sound Conservative financial policies and the underlying strength of our economy, sterling remained firm.
It was only people like the hon. Member for Grimsby and Mr. Nicholas Kaldor who spoke about devaluation—
§ Mr. Stevens
I certainly heard the hon. Member talk this afternoon of the possibility of devaluing the pound. I do not say that he advocated it, but he spoke of talk of it and rumours of it.
§ Mr. Stevens
No, he said that Mr. Nicholas Kaldor wrote to The Times suggesting devaluation. That did not help to strengthen the pound at all. But it is only from that side of the Committee, not from this—and from Mr. Kaldor, who is certainly not a supporter of this side—that talk of devaluation comes. The pound has been hard in recent months, because we were confident in the results of Conservative policy.
I want to pass to some of the good things in the Budget. I certainly welcome the "free depreciation," as my right hon. Friend called it—the 130 per cent, capital allowance for plant and machinery in the development districts. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) will be pleased to see that, because that is a principle—and, incidentally, it is a brand new principle—for which he has been fighting for some time.
I also welcome the depletion allowance for United Kingdom minerals. Here is another novel aspect. My right hon. Friend flies in the face of the Royal Commission, which recommended that depletion allowances should be limited to land being worked at the appointed day. My right hon. Friend has taken the courageous course of making the allowance cover reserve land as well. It is not every Chancellor who flies in the face of a Royal Commission recommendation.
The hon. Member for Orpington regretted that in the Budget there were so many promises of what was to happen later, but we know that as long as the promises are made by a Tory Chancellor they will be redeemed. I welcome the undertaking, as I think it is, to remove the 2s. 9d. a gallon duty on light hydrocarbon oils. The Economic Secretary seemed to nail that pretty firmly last night. This will be of help to exporters of paint, surgical gloves, and things like that.
Many hon. Members on all sides of the Chamber have had many letters and visits from constituents who will suffer an increased rate charge. That is not primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend, but I want to refer to the report of a speech made by a former Member 730 of this House, Mr. Angus Maude, in which I first saw the suggestion that rates on private dwellinghouses should be allowed as a charge for Income Tax purposes. There are certainly precedents for such a procedure. Businesses are allowed to charge their rates against income both for Income Tax and Profits Tax purposes. The reason for that may be that their rates are held to be expenses wholly and necessarily laid out for the purpose of the business, but one could not say that the rates on a private dwellinghouse were wholly and necessarily laid out for the purpose of earning a notional income.
In parenthesis, it may not be novel but it was certainly a good thing for my right hon. Friend to abolish Schedule A, which takes me to the second precedent for giving consideration to the idea I have just mentioned.
Ever since there has been Schedule A there has been a statutory allowance for repairs. Where the actual cost of the repairs exceeds the statutory allowance one can charge that cost against the slice of income assessed under Schedule A, but one cannot say that those repairs are incurred wholly and necessarily for the purpose of earning that portion of income. Surely, in that sense, rates can just as legitimately be charged against the whole range of income as against the notional income for the purposes of Schedule A.
I can see two drawbacks to the proposal, and one of them is financial. If the proposal were to be adopted, I should imagine that the loss to the Revenue would be very considerable. I have not done much research into this, and the figure I mention is not an estimate but a pure guess. I think that the cost would be well over £100 million a year, and that would have to be recouped by some other form of tax.
The second drawback is that such a procedure would bring no relief to the very people whom we want to help most—the old people on small incomes and the young people who, thanks to successive Conservative Governments, are probably below the Income Tax level already. On the other hand, I saw in the same Press report to which I have referred that Mr. Angus Maude said he had experience of the system in 731 Australia and that it worked well there. Perhaps it would work well here, and I wonder whether the Government have looked at that possibility.
There is one omission that I have mentioned before. Nothing has been done to raise the starting point of Surtax in respect of what is commonly called unearned income. That is a term I do not like—I prefer to call it investment income, savings income, or whatever it may be. I entirely agreed with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) when he effectively raised the starting point of Surtax on earnings, but I do not think that it is sufficiently realised that a very large number of people with investment incomes are people who have worked all their lives in jobs to which no pension was attached. Therefore, during their working lives they had to save from the income, the profits or the salaries that they had. When such a person retires, he may have exactly the same income—£2,500 or £3,000—as the man next door, but because the chap next door worked with a company that had a "top hat" and other pension schemes his £3,000 a year is treated as earnings, while the other man still pays Surtax on the excess over £2,000. It is time that something was done for these people.
I want to refer to the continued absence of a tax on betting and gambling. I find it extremely difficult to follow my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's figures and logic. Yesterday, he said:No one can say with any certainty what is the total turnover on commercially organised betting still less on gaming, but figures in the region of £700 million a year or more have been suggested.He then went on to say:Most of this money, however, is returned as winnings which may in turn be restaked over and over again."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd April, 1963; Vol. 675, c. 465.]He gave a net expenditure on betting of only £100 million, but, as the hon. Member for Orpington has said, the Churches' Council on Gambling has put the figure for 1962 at £850 million, as compared with £760 million in 1961.
I do not follow this logic of such a large proportion of winnings which are restaked. It is an awfully nice principle 732 which I think we should apply to the short-term capital gains tax. If one reinvests gains made within six months, then, by the same argument, one does not pay the short-term gains tax. Surely it makes no difference whether or not the amount invested derives from previous winnings. It is all betting money and should be taxed, if taxation is possible. I accept the difficulties and the social issues involved, but, on the other hand, the advantages of such a tax seem to me from the national point of view considerable. There is no extra charge on the cost of production and no hardship on people living on small fixed incomes. Such a tax is justifiable on most grounds.
The principal feature of the Budget is that no new tax is introduced and that there is no increase in existing taxes. On the contrary, there is a net reduction of about £270 million. I think that it is the duty of all of us on this side of the Committee to hammer home that message not only in our constituencies but throughout the country, because there is not the slightest doubt that if the Labour Party gets back into power as a result of the next General Election higher taxation will follow.
I want to say something about the wealth tax which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) talked about a week or so ago. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not now."] I have not seen any report recently of eulogies poured on that idea by his right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson). I wonder why. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman does not know about it yet. If the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East is the Shadow Chancellor, then presumably, or, if that is too strong a word, then possibly, he will be the real Chancellor if the Labour Party wins the next General Election. The hon. Member claims that that wealth tax levied at the 1 per cent. rate which he has in mind would yield £200 million each year. Does the party opposite believe in the need for saving? I think that it does, but is this a good way of encouraging saving?
Let hon. Members consider for a moment the sort of people whom the tax would hit. They would be the rich, because the starting point is £20,000.
733 These people, from the upper slices of their incomes, pay 17s. 9d. in the £ even under a Tory Chancellor, leaving only 2s. 3d. in the £ for spending and saving. If we make it very difficult for these people to save within their income and then, in addition, take £200 million a year out of existing savings, not to create a Budget surplus, which is a form of compulsory saving, but to give additional tax reductions to the lower-income groups, the £200 million must be made up in some other way. In other words, there would have to be an additional tax somewhere to produce the £200 million, because the people to whom the £200 million was transferred would be most unlikely to save 100 per cent, of the tax remission. There is no doubt that very heavy additional taxation would be required.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. W. Clark) mentioned the Labour Party's graduated social benefits schemes. I make no criticism of that scheme at the moment. I think that The Times called it "A plan for a plan". We have not enough of the details yet to criticise. One difficulty would be the cost. It would be very expensive, but no doubt it is coming in due course. It could be financed only either out of the weekly stamp or out of national taxation, and that again would mean an additional burden of taxation. There is not the slightest doubt that if the Labour Party succeeds at the General Election and we have a Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer severe increases in taxation will be inevitable.
It should be our duty on this side of the Committee. to make that position perfectly plain to the people. The Tories at the moment are in the trough. There is no doubt about that, whatever one may or many not think of public opinion polls, but, speaking of the contrast between Socialist and Tory taxation policies, I say without fear of contradiction that if his Cabinet colleagues can match up to the Chancellor's performance yesterday the Tories will have their fourth successive electoral victory.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Thornton (Farnworth)
I hope that the hon. Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Stevens) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his 734 detailed argument, although I would point out to him that in the second half of the twentieth century, when the community is becoming more highly literate and educated, it is not likely that that community will long stand for a position in which 2 per cent. of the population own 50 per cent. of the country's privately owned wealth. This is a position which must change with the times, and it is only a question of time before the change comes about.
§ Mr. Stevens
I do not dissent in any way from what the hon. Member has said, but I did not argue the case from that point of view or on those merits. I argued it merely on the basis that surely a wealth tax would mean a reduction of savings of £200 million a year and that that reduction would have to be made good by increased taxation. Does the hon. Member dispute that?
§ Mr. Thornton
I quite appreciate that, and I thought that my observation would merely put the matter in proper perspective. I repeat that this is a problem which will have to be faced and that as we become a more highly educated community these differences of wealth will not be tolerated.
I want to pay a compliment to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think that his Income Tax reliefs are as fair as they possibly could have been, but 1 noticed that on the other side of the Committee any enthusiasm shown for the Budget has been at a rather tepid temperature. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The leading article in The Times today says:On gambling, he is not yet certain of his ground. On the question of introducing a turnover tax he is far from convinced and wants more information. On redundancy he awaits talks with industry. This adds up to too much procrastination.It is on some aspects of that procrastination that I want to base my comments. In the present state of the country there is a great danger that the right hon. Gentleman is attempting too little too late.
If there is time, I want to deal with three issues which I hope are highly relevant to the Chancellor's speech and to the economic problems now confronting the country. The first relates to redundancy, the second to exports, and the 735 third to managerial efficiency. In varying degrees the Chancellor attached importance to these in the comments he made on them in his speech.
I am glad to see from column 478 of the OFFICIAL REPORT that the Chancellor said yesterday that he intends to tackle the problem of redundancy and of making proper provision for those made redundant. To use his own word, he intends to tackle this problem "vigorously". Why have the Government left the problem for so long? Have not they been aware that there was a problem? Have they just been converted to realisation of it within the past few months? This cannot be so. They had to make provision for compensation to redundant operatives in the Cotton Industry Act, 1959, nearly four years ago, but only now are they suggesting that the matter is one of urgency.
Fours years ago, when the Cotton Industry Act was passing through the House, the Government and the House as a whole accepted the justice of the principle of operatives' compensation when industries contracted, as the cotton industry has done. I have a lifetime's experience of a contracting industry, and I know what some of the problems mean in human terms.
I am sorry that the President of the Board of Trade is not in his place. I wanted to ask him whether he was aware of what is alleged to be happening—which I have good grounds to believe is, in fact, happening—in Lancashire now, that is, very important secret negotiations for a widespread merger in one section of the industry. If this merger is effective, it will mean that three-quarters of the productive capacity in that section will pass under one financial ownership and control. It is being done with the co-operation of the merchant banks.
I do not say that such a merger would necessarily be damaging for the industry or for our national economy. Indeed, in certain circumstances, it could be good. But I must warn right hon. and hon. Members opposite that, if one reaches a point where 75 per cent. of what is, in effect, an industry within an industry—is under one financial ownership, the case against public ownership is very seriously weakened.
736 The fact must be faced that a merger of such a size controlling three-quarters of one section of the industry is fraught with dangerous possibilities and repercussions, not least that many more mills will be closed, and closed without proper provision for compensating operatives who suddenly lose their jobs.
I should have liked to have asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he was aware that, as recently as 22nd March last, the Cotton Employers' Association, of which all the firms involved in the merger are members, emphatically rejected the trade unions' claim for a redundancy compensation scheme on the ground that a national scheme would be forthcoming. But, of course, arranging any legislation for a national scheme takes time. There is bound to be considerable delay. What will be done about those who fall by the wayside in the meantime? I suggest to the Government that to deal with this matter in its immediate urgency they might well consider affording facilities for the quick passage of the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond), the Redundant Workers (Severance Pay) Bill, which would help to mitigate some of the problems which are with us now and which will be with us in the very near future.
I should like to know from the President of the Board of Trade whether he will consider the effect on the industry of such a merger as I have described. The Government's contention in their reorganisation proposals was that they wanted to make it more vertically organised, but this merger, which I have reason to believe is being negotiated, would tend to make even more rigid its horizontal stratification.
So much for my comments on the cotton industry. I appreciate that the House has from time to time been very tolerant towards me in the troubles I have had cause to raise. I turn, now, to exports.
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland). The Chancellor did not lay sufficient emphasis on this vital matter. Our poor showing in exports has probably been the basic cause of Britain's poor economic performance in recent years. Our poor export performance really reflects the uncompetitiveness of British 737 industry as a whole. The Government attempt to put the blame, or nearly all the blame, on inflation, that is, the growth of incomes faster than productivity; but I believe that this is only part of the story. I suggest in all seriousness that, when right hon. and hon. Members opposite talk about an incomes policy, they are not really thinking about all incomes. They are thinking about wages and the lower and middle salary grades. I think that they really believe that their system would work if we could have income restraint from 90 per cent, of the population and freedom for the top 10 per cent. But, of course, they are not likely to get that.
It is not sufficient to put the blame for Britain's failure in exports mainly upon inflation. Let us remember that inflation, during post-war years, has not been peculiar to Britain. France, Italy, Japan and Sweden have all had their inflation problems, yet they have all had a much better export performance in recent years than Britain has had.
How uncompetitive is British industry today? I have done a little research into trade between the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. Hong Kong, of course, is a free market, quite undistorted by quotas and tariff arrangements. We have performed very badly in recent years in this free market. I ask the Committee to bear with me while I give a few figures.
On 14th March last, in a Written Answer, the President of the Board of Trade told me that, in the four-year period 1955–58, our exports to Hong Kong represented 59 per cent, of the total visible trade between Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. In the following four-year period, 1959–62, our exports to Hong Kong represented only 48 per cent, of the total visible trade between the United Kingdom and Hong Kong—obviously, a relative deterioration in our position. Let me hasten to add that the nearly 60 per cent, represented by exports in the 1955–58 period may appear to be exceptional, but it is not, because for the last ten or twelve years Hong Kong's visible external trade has been fairly evenly in the proportion of 60 per cent, imports and 40 per cent, exports. Therefore, in the first four-year period, 1955–58, we were taking about our share of the trade which was going. In the 738 last four years, our share has deteriorated very much.
I now come to the competitiveness of our industry. On 26th July last year, the Colonial Secretary gave these figures in a Written Answer. In 1955, of the imports of non-electrical machinery into Hong Kong, 42 per cent, came from the United Kingdom. In 1961, the percentage had dropped to 33. The non-electrical machinery industry should be one of our expanding industries. In 1955, 64 per cent, of the imports of electrical machinery into Hong Kong came from the United Kingdom, but by 1961 the figure had declined to 45 per cent.
These are supposed to be among our most efficient industries. These are industries for which other industries—for example, cotton—should be allowed to contract. There appear to be some shortcomings in the performance of these and other supposedly efficient and expanding industries. It is lack of productive efficiency? It is a question of marketing, delivery or after-sales service? I do not know the answer, but we must find it and rectify the situation if we are to demonstrate that United Kingdom industry is really competitive in its so-called expanding sectors.
My third and last point is on managerial efficiency. Yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred toThe amount that could be achieved, and achieved rapidly, by better management and better deployment of our resources … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd April, 1963; Vol. 675. c. 487.]I wonder whether he attaches sufficient importance to the rôle of management. The right hon. Gentleman's priorities, as I interpret them from a close study of his speech, would appear to be, first, an incomes policy, secondly, a higher level of investment, thirdly, better labour deployment, and, fourthly, better management. I would put the priorities in a rather different order. First, and equally important I think, are a higher level of investment and better management. There is bound to be wastage if a high standard of capital equipment is not matched by really first-class and competent management.
There is a growing belief that one of the main handicaps of our country today is that somehow there is very faulty selection in our community as a whole, and 739 I think that this is particularly true of management. I wonder whether sufficient importance is being attached to ensuring that correct selection is made. To what extent nepotism still enters into it and to what extent it is a matter of faulty judgment I am not prepared to assess, but I believe that this is one of the really important issues which Britain has to face if she is to resolve her problems and to improve her competitiveness and industrial efficiency in order to increase exports which are vital to her advancement and survival.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)
Members of the Committee always listen with interest and respect to the remarks of the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Thornton). We know that he is a great authority on subjects connected with the textile industry. The case which he has put in connection with exports was, possibly, a little overstated and there are several advantages which our economy enjoys but which are not shared by our competitors. These are often forgotten in discussions concerning export incentives.
For example, the heavy subsidisation of our transport system is of general assistance to the exporter. The fact that by means of a system of agricultural subsidies we pursue a cheap food policy enables us to have a control upon the price of food which has effects in preventing inflation and preventing increases in our export prices. I have frequently been abroad and have heard foreign businessmen discussing what are called the wicked subsidies which this country employs in assisting the exporter in that way.
The particularly interesting aspect of the hon. Member's speech, and one which I find of interest about the whole of today's debate, is the change of emphasis in the attitude of hon. Members opposite today as opposed to yesterday. Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition made one of his witty, interesting and amusing contributions to our debates, the whole context of which was that there was a wicked Tory manoeuvre to produce an electioneering Budget. I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman did that. I do not know whether it was because,
740 as he told us, he had lost his sleep the previous night. I can imagine the right hon. Gentleman, returning in his aircraft from the United States, pencilling a few notes about what he would say next day and thinking of all the witticisms that he could produce if the Budget was a good and popular one. Then, having listened to it, he decided that it was a rather good and popular Budget and that as he had prepared all his splendid remarks he must deliver them.
Then, however, came the afterthought. One visualises the meeting this morning when the shadow Cabinet gathered together to discuss future tactics in the debate. Hon. Members opposite must have said that if they were taking the line that it was a popular, electioneering Budget, they could not in the next breath say that the Government had not done enough, because that would imply that the Government were over-cautious and irresponsible and the Budget could not, therefore, be an electioneering manoeuvre. Thus, we had the delicate and witty speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who did not follow the line taken yesterday by his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. Obviously, on further reflection, the Opposition decided that their tactics of yesterday were bad. Consequently, in contrast to yesterday, we have had today the theme that the implication of what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done in his Budget is not to attempt to gain popularity but that he has not done enough.
We have had the usual auction by the Opposition parties, with the Labour Party making its suggestions a little cautiously, that perhaps the Budget was not enough, and the Liberal Party, more flamboyantly, saying that it would improve upon most of the tax benefits and concessions which are being given.
The fact that there is some degree of caution goes towards exposing the generally popular attitude today that we are all in favour of expansion and must not be too concerned about mere things such as the value of the £, but must forge ahead with expansion irrespective of the cost. This is a rather irresponsible attitude to develop within the country. It is why I unapologetically cheered vigorously the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for 741 Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) last year and why I cheered the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer this year. I do not regard the two as contradictory. Last year ray right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral provided policies which were right at that time. Likewise, I consider that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has this year produced the right policies for this moment in our history.
If one examines the facts as they were when we met for the Budget debates last year, we had the position that there was likely to be an improvement in our economy. There was every indication that exports throughout the world would improve. Nobody on the benches opposite suggested that the conjectures of my right hon. and learned Friend that the American economy would show considerable expansion in 1962 were wrong. Nobody on the benches opposite suggested that there would be a considerable depression in our Canadian trade. No hon. Member of the Committee was able to predict these things at that time. My right hon. and learned Friend produced policies that were right in assuring that we remained competitive in the export markets. If these policies had not been produced we should not have had the good export record we enjoyed last year, and the fact that last year exports went up at all was associated with the fact that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral was successful in preventing the inflationary trend which developed in the economy of that time.
§ Mr. Walker
I did not sack him. I think my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has made perfectly clear in his speech, and in the policies he has been developing since he became Chancellor, that they are the natural sequel of the steps taken by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral.
§ Mr. Lubbock
If it was correct to restrict demand at home and profits last year to encourage exports, why is it not equally correct to do so today?
§ Mr. Walker
For the very simple reason that at the time those measures were introduced last year there were indications of wage inflation setting in in 742 the economy. There were many areas of over-demand, in the Midlands and the South, and a strain on the available labour resources, and this was creating a type of wage inflation which was disastrous to our competing in overseas markets. Certainly I believe that what the Chancellor has done is the natural sequence of those earlier policies.
The other feature of the debate today has been the complete failure of hon. Gentlemen opposite to develop a coherent policy of their own towards the economic needs of this country. I question why this is. I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition French Bench, whoever opens on their behalf on Monday or winds up this debate on Tuesday, to develop a little upon the policies which the Labour Party would apply to our present position. As far as one can see, looking back at the traditional policies of hon. and right hon. Members opposite in the years from 1945 to 1951, in all fairness I think they can be said to have been, in the main, advocates of a cheap money policy, advocates of import control and advocates of the policy of extension of public ownership. I do not think that that is an unfair interpretation of some of the fundamental principles which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite employed when they were in power.
I wonder, are these still the basic principles of their policy? Are they still to be applied today? Or are there somewhat different principles? If there are somewhat different principles, may we hear about them? There is an incredible coyness and shyness about their latest proposals.
The shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer made a few remarks about the wealth tax by which he would take £200 million out of the economy, but yesterday when hon. Gentlemen opposite started making speeches about it they said they would not go into the details of the tax at all till after the General Election. That is an incredible thesis for the Labour Party to propound. If hon. Members opposite believe in their wealth tax, let us hear all the details and let us have all the information about it and about their other policies of cheap money and extension of public ownership which they operated when they were in office.
743 Unless they can provide the details of those policies they will not deserve the support of the people of this country.
Let us recall that when they were in office, in 1947, there was an unemployment situation due to the weather, but we have had a similar winter this year, and yet we have not reached the levels of unemployment which were reached when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in office at that earlier period. In 1949 they devalued the £. In 1951 they scuttled out of office because the whole economy was going bankrupt. Do not let them be the people to talk about stop and go. With them it was stop, stop, stop and very little go—and a major devalution in between.
I should like now to make one or two comments on the proposals made by my right hon. Friend, and first in connection with the proposals he has made to extend the theme of ownership. I certainly support the manner in which he has abolished Schedule A. This is an extension of several operations which we have carried out to encourage home ownership. I welcome the manner in which we have destroyed Stamp Duty upon the purchase of houses. Now, a young married couple purchasing a £3,000 house will no longer have to pay the £60 duty. Having purchased it, they will no longer have to pay Schedule A tax. This is a major step forward.
The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) opposed the halving of the Stamp Duty on shares because he considers that it benefits those who go dancing on the Riviera. But I suggest that this proposal could have an important effect upon the expansion of ownership. I say "could have". I do not think that it necessarily will have. It depends on the attitude and the reactions of the Stock Exchange to my right hon. Friend's proposal.
For many years the Stock Exchange and the City have said that this duty is one of the barriers against widening share ownership. Now they have had a substantial reduction in it. I hope that, as a result, the Stock Exchange itself will adopt a far more vigorous method of providing and offering its services to the public at large than in the past.
744 In recent years, it has extended the knowledge that people have about its activities. But there is still much to be done. It could, for example, agree to open branch offices throughout the country and to the expansion of advertising. If it really is enthusiastic to widen the scale of share ownership, it has been given a lead now by the Government and I hope that it will proceed with it.
I am glad of this proposal for its effect on investment from abroad. I was shocked by remarks made by the hon. Member for Grimsby. He said that it was deplorable that we should try to attract money from abroad because it made us look rather like an underdeveloped country. That is contrary to my own view, which is that we should endeavour to encourage foreign investment.
Throughout the Common Market negotiations, many people in favour of our entry said that one of the advantages would be the attaction of foreign investment to this country. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman about this. There are many attractions for capital to come here. For instance, there are Imperial Preferences and the preferences within E.F.T.A., quite apart from our great consumer market. I hope that the measures proposed by my right hon. Friend will encourage foreign capital to come here.
Now I want to deal with overseas earnings, particularly invisible earnings. This is a feature which I am afraid that the Board of Trade and the Treasury tend to neglect. It is one of the mystiques of modern finance. People comment on the fact that our balance in terms of invisible earnings has improved or has declined, but they give little detailed reason as to why it should improve or decline.
We enjoy substantial earnings in terms of shipping, insurance, banking and finance. Something much more positive could be done to extend these earnings. Let us remember that at this moment our invisible earnings are equal to more than half our total visible exports. This is an important feature in our economy.
Last year I visited Australia and New Zealand and was shocked by the pressures that were building up there—pressures of prejudice against the substantial sums of 745 money that the United Kingdom earns in the form of earnings from insurance companies, banks and shipping companies. There is much more to be done in seeing that these companies earning from Australia and New Zealand, and other countries, bring to their attention the benefits that this brings them. For example, substantial investment in Australia has been provided by British insurance companies and British banks, and the manner in which they have offered their services has benefited the economies of those countries.
At the moment, little is being done for public relations in terms of our invisible earnings. Recently I suggested to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that he should inquire into the possibility of setting up an organisation—for instance, an invisible earnings council or some similar body—to look into the problem of good public relations and of promoting more invisible earnings.
I also suggest to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that he should find ways of encouraging the great retail organisations of this country to open up abroad. I think of companies such as Marks and Spencers who have methods of "know-how" in retailing far better than methods employed on the Continent. There is no reason why these organisations should not be encouraged by positive Government means to extend their activities abroad and, through their organisations abroad, to sell great volumes of British merchandise and thus make a valuable contribution to our export trade.
This Budget at this time probably hits the right level, and I agree that it should result in a period of expansion. I hope that throughout the coming financial year my right hon. Friend will not hesitate to give further encouragement to expansion if he thinks that that is the correct thing to do, considering the strength of the £. Likewise, if he finds that these measures, together with those he has already taken, lead to inflation, I hope that he will not lack the courage immediately to take measures to see that the strength of the £ is protected.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I had not intended to make any 746 contribution to today's debate. A great many years ago, I confess, I was described by my university tutor in economics as a first-rate economist. I have never believed in the science of economics since. The assessment made by that gentleman so many years ago has been repeated by others and every pronouncement I have heard by any economist has been contradicted by some other economist at the same time, or shortly afterwards. Therefore, I no longer take part in these esoteric mysteries.
What prompted me to intervene in the debate—I am sorry that he is not here to hear me say so—was what I thought was the gross discourtesy of the President of the Board of Trade in refusing to give way during his speech when there had been only one interruption before, and that for less than half a minute, and when, thereafter, he proceeded to give way to every Member on his own side who wished to make any intervention of any kind.
§ The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Edward du Cann)rose—
§ Mr. Silverman
I shall not give way. I shall show the same standard of courtesy as the President of the Board of Trade showed in not giving way.
I wanted to deal with that matter, but I am not sure now that I shall, because he is not even courteous enough to be here, nor is there any representative of the Board of Trade on the Government Front Bench. That is a shocking thing on the first day of the Budget debate which, as the right hon. Gentleman himself said, is the traditional day for discussing Board of Trade affairs.
I should like for a short time to deal with some of the more obviously fallacial party political points to which we have been treated in the course of the last hour or hour and a half by hon. Members opposite. I have every sympathy with them. They are in a difficult position. It is their duty to back up their Government as best they can however inauspicious the circumstances. Perhaps the more inauspicious the circumstances, the more it is their duty to try, but they ought not to be allowed to get away with it, and I should like to expose one or two of the fallacies.
747 The first is the oft-repeated legend, in which not even those who utter it believe, that domestically and economically the Labour Government between 1945 and 1950 was a failure, or that its methods or policies did not succeed. In 1945, the war was just over. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), in a sentence which was recorded in his diary by Mr. Morgenthau. of the United States of America, said that he was afraid of what the returning soldiers would have to come back to in this country.
Lord Woolton—Minister of Reconstruction in the interim Cabinet between the breakdown of the Coalition Government and the General Election—said that this country was virtually bankrupt. That was not a reproach to anybody. We took pride then—and we should take pride now—in our having driven ourselves so near to bankruptcy in order to rid the world of the Nazi and Fascist set that we had fought so hard for six years to overcome. All I say is that that was the situation which the Labour Government took over.
We are now, were then, and always will be, a country which lives, if it lives at all, by its export trade. In 1945 we had no export trade. We had sacrificed the whole of our export markets all over the world in order to convert the factories which used to supply those markets for war purposes, allowing our competitors, who were also our allies, to make headway in the overseas markets which we had abandoned in order to fit ourselves to play a proper part in the war. Everybody in this Committee at this moment knows that that is true, and we are all, presumably, proud of it.
That is where the Labour Government started—with Britain a long way behind her competitors, bankrupt, with no export trade and no factories to make goods for the export trade. We had very little skilled labour available. But within less than four years—in fact, scarcely more than three years—we had increased our production to a figure that was no less than 180 per cent, above the best pre-war figure. This is what the right hon. Member for Woodford described as paralysis.
I am not dealing with what followed. All sorts of things followed, and the 748 fruits of their success in those years were not available to us by the time we had to go to the country. Hon. Members opposite may think that that is a good reason or a bad reason for what followed. I do not care what they think. But I do ask them, in spite of their anxiety to defend the Government in a difficult situation, to remember that when they attack what the Labour Government did between 1945 and 1950—and I suppose that I attacked them as much as anybody in those years—they ought not to attack them on the ground of their economic policy, because their economic policy was a triumphant success—and everybody knows that it was. That is the first point. I hope that nobody disagrees with it.
I see that the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) is present again. I sat through his speech, and I enjoyed it, as I almost always enjoy his speeches. I do not always agree with him. I do not think that I have ever agreed with all that he has said in any one speech. But I recognise him as a man of great intellectual integrity and of great courage. He looks at things for himself and forms his own opinions, and he gives them to the House frankly, whether they are popular with his hon. Friends, popular with hon. Members on this side of the House, or unpopular with everybody.
I like Members like that, and I like listening to their speeches. But he said one thing that was surely unfair. He described Sir Stafford Cripps's austere policies. I think that I am right in saying that he described them sympathetically. He wanted us to believe—as I do believe—that he himself agreed with them, and thought that they were right at the time. Indeed, if I understood his speech correctly, he thinks that we ought to be following similar policies now.
It seems to me important to recall how his friends, or the hon. Member himself, treated Sir Stafford Cripps' policies at that time. Sir Stafford was sneered at on the basis that Socialism would always spread misery—as though there were any better thing that could be done with inevitable misery than to share it with everybody, instead of piling it on to the weakest shoulders and leaving them to bear it alone. But that was what was said.
If the Labour Party lost the General Election which followed, it was at least 749 as much due to the unpopularity of those austerity measures, however necessary, as to any other single cause. The hon. Gentleman—I do not remember what he said about it—will agree with me, I know, that all the Members of his party squeezed the last ounce of political capital out of them in order to win the General Election against the Labour Party who had supported those measures—for reasons which the hon. Gentleman says were virtuous reasons, and not reasons that ought to have been condemned.
§ Sir C. Osborne
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the kind things that he has said. If he looks at the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will see that in this Chamber, on more than one occasion, I defended Sir Stafford Cripps against the attacks of his own back benchers.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not know about the attacks of his own back benchers. I think that all hon. Members on this side of the Committee were behind Sir Stafford Cripps at that time. I do not think that there were any exceptions at all.
Naturally, I accept what the hon. Gentleman says about the attitude he took. But he will realise that he was then in an even smaller minority in his own party than sometimes I am in mine, so we have a fellow feeling about that. But when next the hon. Gentleman talks about Sir Stafford Cripps and his austerity policies, which he has supported so much, would he please have the grace to admit—and not wait for it to be pointed out from the other side of the Committee—that he was alone on that side of the Committee in that opinion?
The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) thought that he was making a wonderful and unanswerable point when he thought he had caught out my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). He said that my hon. Friend was talking nonsense and contradicting himself when in one breath he said that this was an election Budget, and in the next that the Chancellor was not doing enough. He asked how could both things be true at the same time? If the hon. Gentleman will make the effort, he will see that not merely can both things be true at the same time, but that they are true. What my hon. Friend did today, and what the Leader of the Opposition did yesterday, was to recognise that, how- 750 ever inadequately and inefficiently the Chancellor on this occasion had put forward his Budget, it was intended to be an expansionist Budget.
My hon. Friend was saying that the Government had put forward an expansionist Budget only two or three times before and that, by some quirk of history, it just so happened that whenever a Tory Government put forward an expansionist Budget a General Election was either immediately ahead or just round the corner; and that in all the periods in between they did not pursue expansionist Budgets but restrictionist Budgets. That was the point that was being made.
I am not asking the hon. Member to agree with it. I know that he dare not. All I am asking him to do is to understand it, and to understand, too, that it is quite intelligent to say that and to say, at the same time, that even now it is not expansionist enough. That is all that has been said.
§ Mr. Walker
Surely the point of the argument is that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that in the past the Tories have introduced over-expansionist Budgets and then have had to recoup the money. This was the point which the right hon. Gentleman made yesterday. It is now argued that the Government have not done enough and could have given more away and still have got away with it.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member is mistaken. He should read my hon. Friend's speech in HANSARD today.
§ Mr. Silverman
Then the hon. Gentleman should read it again. I do not think that he will find any passage in my right hon. Friend's speech in which he accused any Conservative Government of having been over-expansionist. I concede at once to the hon. Gentleman that if my right hon. Friend said that, then he has a point. On the other hand, if, when he rereads HANSARD, he finds that there is no such accusation of over-expansionism in the past, I shall expect him to accept that he has no point at all on that score, and he will no doubt take a suitable opportunity to put the matter right.
Next, the hon. Member said that there was no discrepancy at all between the 751 Budget placed before the House yesterday afternoon and the last Budget put forward by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). That is an astonishing proposition. I admit that in today's debate the hon. Member perhaps did not have enough time to elucidate that as clearly and persuasively as he is no doubt capable of doing. But I assure him that at the moment he is in a minority of one. Not even the Chancellor of the Exchequer would agree with him, not even the former Chancellor of the Exchequer would agree with him. Those two right hon. Gentlemen know quite well that whereas one of them said that the only way to save the situation was to have a restrictionist Budget, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer says that the only way to save the situation—although he does not clearly define what is the situation which he wants to save—is to have an expansionist Budget. An expansionist Budget is one thing and a restrictionist Budget is the exact opposite.
The hon. Member for Louth appreciates that clearly, and he devoted his whole speech to a restrictionist policy. But it requires a mind much more subtle than mine even to contemplate the possibility of reconciling the Budget for which the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral was sacked with the Budget of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he wishes to win a General Election, if not before the next Budget then after the next Budget, when perhaps he will pump into the purchasing power of the nation the £100 million or whatever it is that he kept back on this occasion.
I turn to the Budget itself. The most astonishing thing of all is that the Chancellor said that the theme of his Budget—and an admirable theme indeed—was to get expansion without inflation. I wonder when he thought of that. Over the 12 years during which the Tories have been responsible for the economy of this country, so far as any Government in our system can be responsible for the economy, they have been doing the exact opposite. It has not been expansion without inflation they have been securing. They have been securing inflation without expansion. That has been the whole history of the matter since they took 752 office a dozen years ago. Is there anyone who denies it?
They admit that it is now necessary to do something to expand the economy. This involves, at least by implication, the admission that it has not been expansionist so far and that it is necessary to do something more. It has to be stirred up. Incentives have to be given. Purchasing power has to be poured in. There have to be all kinds of expansionist devices to rescue the country from its present stagnation. It is, therefore, clear that they have not been expanding the economy during these 12 years. I think that we can all agree on that.
§ Mr. Silverman
Does the hon. Gentleman think that we have been expanding during the last 12 years? We have been at the bottom of the league table every year.
§ Sir C. Osborne
I said in my speech that in 1947, when the Labour Party was in power, there were 977,000 people employed in agriculture as against 633,000 today. Agriculture has expanded its productivity in that period by 50 per cent. Is not that expansion?
§ Mr. Silverman
If the hon. Member will apply his arithmetic accurately, which we all know he is capable of doing, he will realise that 1947 is a lot longer than twelve years ago. I am not talking about 1947. I would not blame or praise the hon. Gentleman or his party for anything that happened in 1947. I am talking about what has happened since his party took over power. I invite the hon. Gentleman to agree with me, if he will be so kind—I have already paid a compliment to his intellectual intergrity, so it is with every confidence that I invite him to agree—that during that twelve years we have been a largely stagnating economy. There has been an occasional exception—I do not deny that—especially just before elections. Apart from that, the economy has been stagnating the whole time. It is admitted that it is stagnant now.
The next question I ask is whether anybody denies that there has been a very rapid, continuous and progressive inflation over the whole of that twelve years. Is that wrong? What the Tory Party has succeeded in doing is not getting what 753 the Chancellor of the Exchequer now says he wants, namely, expansion without inflation. What he has been getting is inflation without expansion.
I hope that this time the Chancellor will succeed better. For my part, I do not think that he will. I think that he will succed to a certain extent in expanding the economy. I know that he wants to. When an economy is expanded under our uncontrolled and unplanned system, inflation inevitably comes with it. What the right hon. Gentleman will do is what the present Government have always done. When the renewed inflation reaches a certain point, they will decide that the inflation has gone too far and, at that point, if they have to choose between expansion and inflation, they will choose to abandon the expansion rather than allow the inflation to continue, because they are incapable, under their system, of having expansion without inflation all the time. That is the cause of the trouble.
I see that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has returned to the Chamber. I do not intend to deal at length with a point I would not now need to make had the right hon. Gentleman been courteous enough to allow me a gracious intervention in his speech earlier in the day. I have known the right hon. Gentleman for many years. I know him to be as kindly, good-humoured, courteous and well-meaning a Minister as he was all those things when a back bencher.
When the right hon. Gentleman behaves with gross discourtesy—which is not often; just now and again—it is because he knows that he does not have an answer to the point which is to be put to him. He thinks that it is a lot safer for him not to allow the point to be put. Whether or not that is good strategy I would be inclined to doubt, because it only produces a longer speech. But, as tactics, it may achieve a certain momentary, though illusory, success.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman already knows the point I wish to put. The theme of this year's Budget, said the Chancellor, was expansion. To achieve it he would do certain things and put the emphasis on those parts of the country where unemployment was most serious. He announced a number of 754 proposals. I do not know how useful the powers under the Local Employment Act were to those who benefited by them—or, at any rate, had the chance of benefiting if there was any benefit to be derived; and there are two views about that—but there is no doubt that what the Chancellor will do now will enable the President of the Board of Trade to do useful things in areas of that kind.
I beg him not to leave north-east Lancashire in the lurch. I beg him not to neglect it, not to ignore it. I beg him not to refuse to listen to it and I beg him not to keep it halting between hope and despair. This district was for a short time a special area under the old Distribution of Industry Act. It was made one for the first time three or four months before the 1959 General Election. Hardly were the ballot papers locked away when the then President of the Board of Trade, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, repealed the Act altogether and brought in the new one which proceeded on the false principle of picking out isolated spots instead of treating areas as units.
In the list he put down, the whole of this north-east Lancashire area was omitted—and he is still refusing to put it back. He knows that there are special problems. He knows about the contracting cotton industry. He knows about the slum derelict mills which the Chancellor made a big point of. One of the things that the right hon. Gentleman has taken power to do is to provide more money to rescue them. Where are there more mills of this kind than in the cotton belt of Lancashire? Yet we will not get a farthing out of the proposals in the Budget.
The right hon. Gentleman knows about the contracting cotton trade and the heroic efforts made on their own initiative and at their expense by the local authorities there to help them to help themselves to help the industry to survive. He knows, from any true consideration of the matter, that the percentage of unemployment is almost as high as the worst of the areas he includes, yet he still keeps us waiting for answers which we have been asking for for years. Lancashire is in its present plight because it has been for too long the Cinderella of the Tory Government.
755 Social capital is being wasted. The population has been and still is drifting away.
Now we have a new gimmick for the railways, the result of which—if it is implemented; and I agree that there has been no decision about it yet—will mean that we will lose the only railway that connects us with Manchester—this, a cotton area. It really is too bad. I think that the right hon. Gentleman would have been better to have allowed me to make this point more shortly by intervention in his speech so that he could have answered it. I have made it now, and I do not propose to continue.
§ Mr. Erroll
As the hon. Gentleman has been courteous enough to give way, I should like to say that in the press of making a speech with a number of interventions, I felt that I could not accept every intervention, and I intended no discourtesy to the hon. Gentleman whose interventions I am always delighted to receive.
§ Mr. Silverman
The right hon. Gentleman had the eye of the Chair. He had the Floor. He was entitled to address the Committee as he thought fit. If he did not choose to give way, that was a matter for his discretion and not mine. All that I am saying is that I think it would have been better if he had done so. Since he has heard the point now, I hope that he can give me some assurance that the matter will be considered again, and that there will be some opportunity of our getting the advantages which are open to other areas of high and persistent unemployment.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Sir Henry d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (Walsall, South)
When the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) got up he told us that he was going to intervene for only a short time and I was preparing myself to congratulate him on being a happy exception in the prevailing note today. We have listened to a number of interesting but extremely lengthy speeches. The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) was the exception. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne may not have made the longest speech of the day, but I think that if we compare content with length it was certainly the 756 emptiest. I do not think that he got on to anything more recent than 1959, and most of his time was spent in the middleforties.
This is a day appropriate for back benchers to convey their congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. I think that very much the general view, although I am not quite certain whether my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) shares it to the full. Nevertheless, I think that the general view throughout the Committee has been that this has been a successful Budget. It has been criticised as being a rather dull one. I have heard that expression used, and it rather supports the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) that it was very far from fulfilling the conception of what would normally be an electioneering Budget. I think it can be said to be a play without a hero.
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
I have no doubt that they will in the course of the debate have played their part, but I should like to say that the one particular person cast as the villain of the piece is my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). We have been able to focus most of the darts of criticism and antagonism, which cannot be indefinitely taken away from our debates, on his body. What is his crime? His crime—I think that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) mentioned this particularly—was to go very wrong in his forecasts last year.
Even though hon. Members may not believe what the Economic Survey says, they will accept the Economic Report as a truthful and reliable guide. Paragraph 7 of the 1962 Economic Report stated:In the first part of 1962 there was a brisk rise in demand and output which corresponded closely to the general trend forecast in the Budget speech. Exports rose rapidly and all the other main kinds of demand, apart from fixed investment, rose too … consumers' expenditure rose because there was some recovery in net borrowing from the banks and on hire purchase and so in expenditure on durable goods, mainly cars. Industrial production more than regained the ground lost in the second half of 1961, and by the middle of the year was a little higher than the previous beak in the middle of 1961.757 The Budget is presented in April of each year, so that my right hon. and learned Friend, when making his Budget speech, had no more information available to him than that, and that information was completely accurate. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said today that October, 1962, was a record month for exports. I think that he said that, seasonally adjusted, exports were the highest ever for that period.
On 13th July, my right hon. and learned Friend lost his job. He was made the scapegoat for policies that were not at all popular in the country, but in thinking this over one must realise that he has suffered very severely because, had he remained in office, he could have done a number of things which his successor could not do, for the best reasons, for a month or so while he was settling in. The blame that attaches to my right hon. and learned Friend, which has been very freely laid on him, might easily go to some extent to his advisers.
I know that it is not customary for Ministers to mention their advisers, but no one can have failed to notice that several of my right hon. and learned Friend's leading advisers made their departure very soon after his. It must be implicit in that that he was the scapegoat for the bad advice he received on that occasion. I am firmly convinced, as I believe many of my hon. Friends are, that British industry would not today be so competitive both as to price and delivery had it not been for the very unpopular measures that my right hon. and learned Friend took in 1961 and 1962—measures of unpopularity for which he suffered.
The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) said yesterday:Of course, the £ a year ago was at least as strong as it is today …and added:… and some say stronger, than at present."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd April, 1963; Vol. 675, c. 509.]That was not an entirely considered remark from the right hon. Gentleman, whose judgment in these matters I fully respect. Had he taken the temperature of the patient, he would have found it a great deal more feverish this time last year than it is today. It is not a thing that can be proved, but it is the con- 758 sidered opinion of most people in the City of London, and elsewhere, that the £ was, in fact, not as strong in 1962 as it is today, and credit for that must to a great extent go to the measures of my right hon. and learned Friend.
I think I am right in saying that after the end of the 1914–18 war Field Marshal Earl Haig made a special pilgrimage to Lord Haldane—who had been Secretary of State for War at the beginning of the First World War, and who lost his job because he became unpopular—to thank him for all the preliminary groundwork that had eventually led to the victories of 1918—[Interruption.] I know that, in a sitting position, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is an eminent expert in the art of war. When the successful generals of this engagement are counting their laurels they might remember one who cleared the way for them, and who also paid the penalty for having stuck his neck out.
I thought that we had the keynote speech from the right hon. Member for Huyton. I think that I can summarise it quite fairly as saying, "I cannot criticise the Budget because we thought of it all first." This is not a verbatim quotation, but I do not think that it is an unfair paraphrase.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted in his speech discriminatory tax relief, industry going to development districts, depreciation allowances, abolition of Schedule A, for which he claimed credit, and various Income Tax concessions. I, for one, was not greatly surprised at this claim because, after all, the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have had a lot of practice in opposition. They have had eleven or twelve Budgets to which to put down Amendments, and it is not at all surprising that in the course of them they have thought of some quite good ideas. They are not at all lacking in diligence. The ideas do not always come at the right time, but still they try. They have also been rather clever in a way in that they have been able to hedge their bets.
In April, 1961, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral introduced a heavy oil duty. The right hon. Member for Huyton, as reported at column 987 of the OFFICIAL REPORT 759 for 18th April, 1961, said that the Opposition welcomed the tax on fuel oil. On 15th May last year, on page 2214 of the Order Paper, there was an Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, then the official spokesman, and many of his hon. Friends, to the effect that the rebate on heavy oil should be restored to what it was before the duty. That really is hedging the bets. It is true that the Amendment was not called, but whether that was on your judgment, Sir William, or whether it was second thoughts on the part of the right hon. Member for Huyton, I do not know. Whatever it was, it seems to me that if my right hon. Friend the present Chancellor, as many of my hon. Friends and I wished him to do, had repealed the heavy oil duty, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East would have said, "Look what we said last year." As it was, there was no change there and so it is a case of "We stand by the views of the right hon. Member for Huyton."
I understand that the hon. Member for Cardiff South-East is making a broadcast tonight and I hope, therefore, that it will not be taken amiss, since he opened the debate, though that seems a long time ago, if I comment on some of the things he said and perhaps on things which he did not say. I know that the hon. Member has been having lessons from some of the most highly skilled economists in the land. We are told that at the seminars he absorbs and digests the frequently conflicting views of these eminent gentlemen. I do not think that these tutors would have given him very high marks for this afternoon's performance. Perhaps they would have given rather higher marks for his article in the Financial Times of 12th April under the title "The Budget I should like to see". I am not clear whether it was the Budget which he would like to bring in or the Budget which he would like to see a Conservative Chancellor introduce. The hon. Member, however, advised my right hon. Friend to concentrate on "reversible measures". There has been talk of "stop and go" but that at least presupposes movement in one direction. "Reversible measures" suggest moving in two directions.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, in the course of his remarks today, 760 referred to taxation proposals which he and his hon. Friends have been considering but which he said would have been out of order for him to introduce in the debate. I wonder whether they would have been out of order under our rules, or whether perhaps this is a case where the rules of touch football, which the right hon. Member for Huyton has recently been practising in the United States, would specially apply.
My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade today mentioned that famous television programme without which no debate in this Chamber seems complete—"That Was The Week That Was". Naturally here we are all greatly in admiration of the star, Miss Millicent Martin, but this charming lady does not seem to study the papers quite so closely as some of her colleagues. An interview with her was published in the Daily Mail on 28th March. This charming lady has recently received a film contract under which she will be paid a very large sum, and she is reported in the Daily Mail as having said: "I want to invest my money in property. Security is essential. That is why I am rather thrifty". Very good. She will do much better, having earned this money, under the present Government than she would if the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East and his friends had had their way and the Surtax reliefs for earned income had not been allowed.
I wonder whether she realises what the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East has in store for her. The hon. Gentleman said that he would welcome an intelligent discussion on taxation but only after the election. I thought that that was a most peculiar thing to say. I do not see why we should have to "Wait for Godot". We can have a quite reasonable discussion on taxation in this Committee. It does not seem to me to inhibit intelligence. It is not inappropriate that we should discuss the great new discovery of the seminars, the wealth tax.
First, we should clear our minds of cant. Many hon. and right hon. Members would be subject to it, by no means all of them on one side of the House. We can discuss this rationally, like any change in Excise Duties or taxation which affects us all. Hon. Members opposite should not deceive themselves and imagine that this is a tax which will 761 affect only Conservative supporters. In fact, more than 1 million people, who are far from wealthy in the accepted sense of the word, would be caught. I can prove this figure. It could have a very important effect on the fortunes of this country, and it merits a moment's serious consideration.
It is difficult to ascertain the true doctrine on this tax because we can glean only rather numinous comments. On 11th February, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said:I should be willing to reduce taxes on earnings … if I could get permission to tax capital and wealth as well. This would be one way of … encouraging earnings and those who wish to move ahead."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1963; Vol. 671 c. 1131.]Then, in an address to, I think, the Young Fabians—unfortunately, I am not in touch and I have not a copy of his remarks there—the hon. Gentleman suggested, so I understand, that a wealth tax should be introduced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he advised him to consider a tax "on all wealth". This, in fact, was confirmed by his article of 1st April in the Financial Times. The three principles the hon. Gentleman is reported as having mentioned are these. It should apply to people whose ownership of capital was more than £20,000. It would catch only one person in every 100. It would bring in about £200 million annually.
His colleague, the hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright), has been doing a little research on his own. He also is doing some homework about a wealth tax. On 14th March, the hon. Member for Dearne Valley put a Question for Written Answer to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary asking what amounts a tax on a graduated scale would bring in. I shall not weary the Committee with the whole scale, but it starts at ½ per cent. on fortunes from £20,000 to £50,000, rising finally to 5 per cent. on fortunes of over £400,000. My right hon. Friend replied, that the tax would bring in £225 million in a full year.
We can see that this wealth tax which is to bring in £200 million will be at a fairly steep rate. I think that that must be accepted.
762 My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has estimated that 400,000 estates would be caught by it. He is on record to that effect. Presumably, the 400,000 taxpayers would have some dependants. They would not all be bachelors. Most of them would have a dependant or two. Therefore, a round total of 1 million people would be affected by this tax. I am sure that the hon. Member for Grimsby will accept that that figure is not unreasonable.
When we come to apply this tax, all sorts of extraordinary anomalies arise. Mr. Rees-Mogg, in the Sunday Times, produced all sorts of startling theories to show that almost any farmer caught by the tax would be ruined and forced to sell his implements and fields. There is also the case of the man with his fortune in a private business and owning a house. These people would seem to be caught by the tax. I do not wish to go into detail, because I know that hon. Members opposite prefer to play this by ear, rather like the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) in dealing with insurance problems. Figures are liable to be misleading, but the figures which I have given come from unimpeachable sources and therefore have to be taken into account.
As I say, many anomalies would arise Party, with a General Election before it, exceptions, because clearly the Labour Party, with a general election before it, would not impose a crippling tax on farmers. Owner-occupiers obviously would be let off. We know from the figures which my right hon. Friend gave in answer to the hon. Member for Dearne Valley that the net revenue would amount to less than £250 million.
How would this tax be treated? We had a very good example of this in the debates on the speculative gains tax last year on the Finance Bill. Hon. Members opposite—and I suspect that the fine Italian hand of the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) was involved in this—put down a succession of very complicated Amendments to the speculative gains tax which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East described asa useful peg on which to hang this debate, because it serves as an illustration of how a capital gains tax could be devised."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1962; Vol. 660, c. 242.]Obviously, the hon. Member would not have to stick to the figures which he 763 gave, but the net result of the Amendments tabled by hon. Members opposite—I do not ask them to stick to them, but I refer to them merely to give an indication of how their minds were working—was that this tax would be turned into a capital gains tax, so that, after ten years, profit on any land transaction would be caught as to 70 per cent. and profit on any other form of transaction as to 45 per cent. I am sure that hon. Members opposite will admit that these figures are correct, based on their Amendments last year.
The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) said:I do not believe that the tax will be temporary.Then he cited Income Tax and Purchase Tax as evidence of taxes which were introduced as temporary measures but which became permanent. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to it as a taxwhich will have to be converted in the future into something much more substantial and much more effective."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1962; Vol. 660, c. 311–2.]I suggest that if this wealth tax is introduced it will be treated in exactly the same way as the speculative gains tax was treated by hon. Members last year.
I see that the hon. Member for Sowerby is now present and therefore I shall not raise any questions about the difficulties of administration of such a tax. After all, he knows much more than I do about the Inland Revenue and probably more than anyone in the House of Commons. If he tells me that the Inland Revenue is capable of taking on this extra burden without reinforcement, then I naturally will accept what he says. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to wish to intervene. I have not noticed him advocating this particular measure himself. Perhaps it will come later.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
Since the hon. Gentleman is provoking me, I will say that the Inland Revenue can perform miracles.
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
I have no doubt that when the hon. Member was active in the Inland Revenue it did perform miracles.
764 A special miracle is required here, because if a wealth tax were brought in there is a notional idea that about 19 million estates will have to be assessed. About 400,000 estates and, perhaps, another marginal 100,000 estates, making a possible 500,000 estates, will have to be assessed annually. This would present quite a problem. Even the advisers of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East might find it difficult, without greatly increasing the bureaucratic farce of the Inland Revenue, to assess 500,000 estates annually. I shall not raise questions about household possessions, the assets of a business or pictures. These go by the way. It is the principle that we want.
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
As the hon. Member very well knows, I am having a discussion on taxation, which is entirely proper to this debate. All I can say in conclusion on this aspect is that despite what the hon. Member has told me about the Inland Revenue being able to work miracles, because of the difficulty for the staff without greatly increasing its numbers, I prefer to rely on slightly amending the old poem, written same 100 years ago,Let laws and learning, wealth and commerce die,But leave us still our old bureaucracy.One of the ridiculous things is that we already have four forms of taxation an investment—Estate Duty, Stamp Duty, which is now reduced, the speculative gains tax and the discriminatory taxation rates on investment income. Furthermore, if hon. Members opposite have their way, we have in the pipeline a tax on gifts inter vivos and a capital gains tax. Therefore, there will be six forms of capital taxation to cope with before even we come to this.
I need not deploy the argument further. All I would say about it is that in the 1930s there was much talk about the capital levy, but the electorate did not like it. It became a sort of smear word and it was dropped. In the 1940s, we had Sir Stafford Cripps' special contribution, which was a quite different matter. It was, in Sir Stafford's words, a once-for-all. It had the special purpose of reducing the debt and it was 765 relatively easy to collect, being based upon the Surtax payer and his return. Even so, it was not popular in the country. Then, we had four consecutive general elections, fought by hon. Members opposite with increasing unsuccess. Now, we are back to where we were. The capital levy was a smear word and was forgotten. Now, the wealth tax becomes the O.K. word of the 1960s.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East rather gracefully compared my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Ex-chequer to an old hack put out to grass. As the hon. Member is so keen on equestrian metaphors, I give him a new one. His wealth tax is no election winner. It would not win a donkey race. It has been foisted on the public without guarantee of soundness by a cheapjack auctioneer and the catalogue entry runs: Dark horse by Pink Seminar out of Capital Levy. In the words of the famous Lord Birkenhead: it is begotten by a rogue sire out of a dam that roared.
I thought that at that stage I could sit down, but I am standing up only because the hon. Member for Grimsby referred to devaluation. We had, I thought, reached the stage in our thinking where devaluation was as much a dead subject as bimetallism. I do not think that in dealing with a complex twentieth century State of the most complicated kind, devaluation is a policy or anything but a confession of complete and total failure. We are unique in the sense that any other country can devalue its currency and simply do damage to the poor, the old and those who live on fixed incomes. If we devalue, however, we do it also at the expense of those who trust us abroad.
§ Mr. Crosland
I did not urge devaluation on the part of the British Government. I was making a general proposition that one of the curiosities about the last fifty years was that we have moved from the idea when we thought that flexible exchange rates were a good thing to the stage when we thought that they should be ruled out of court. I did not say that devaluation was a good thing.
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
I am sorry that anything I said would suggest that I did think that the hon. Gentleman had urged devaluation. I was referring to 766 devaluation because he referred to it, and all I said was that he preferred bimetallism, an equally dead concept.
When people talk about a floating £ we know very well they must mean a sinking fund, and it means sinking it very far, because if we were in a position where the £ was floating it would have to be so reduced in value that those who had to balance it here would not think it worth transferring through the exchanges. Therefore, it is no good thinking of exchanging it at its present level but at 40 per cent. or 50 per cent. lower.
This has been an interesting stage in the debate. We have had some very long speeches and I am sorry to have added to them in a speech even longer than that of the hon. Member for Nelson and Collie though, I hope, with slightly more content. In the circumstances I should simply like to say to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor that I think that he and his colleagues have done a superb job. I think that the speech by the President of the Board of Trade today was really the most constructive thing this or any Government have ever done for the areas of heavy industry. I am confident that it will meet with the success it deserves.
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) invariably makes a speech, if I may say so with great sincerity, which interests us. This evening it was a notable speech, first, for his very eloquent tribute to his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), who sits behind him, and, secondly, I think, for the nature of the second part of the speech, because in this he did two things.
The hon. Gentleman frivolled very entertainingly and raised bogeys, and I think that both these things are an indication of the uneasiness which hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the Committee must feel at this time, because, of course, they have to bolster up their spirits in view of the things for which this Budget has really been designed.
I want to say something about the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am very glad that he is here to listen to it rather than that I should have to say it without his presence. 767 I want to say that his speech nauseated me—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That, as I think he will believe, is nothing whatever personal to himself, because invariably, whether a nauseating speech or a thrilling speech, or an inspiring speech, he delivers it with the greatest charm and erudition.
There is nothing, that is to say, personal to him in my remarks, other than that those remarks might be personal to every hon. Member on the benches opposite, because he knows perfectly well that the policies of his right hon. Friends and himself over the last ten years have really been taking up the putrefying corpse of party advantage and trying to clothe it in sweet-smelling garments of economic respectability. This strikes me as being a very unfortunate thing to do.
Unfortunately, the right hon. Gentleman claims that this particular moment is propitious for doing things which we on this side have argued for a very long time should be done and has given no reasons whatever for thinking that exactly the same considerations did not apply a year ago or even more. That, it seems to me, is a fraud upon the electors.
The fact that it is a fraud upon the electors worries the right hon. Gentleman not at all. That applies to almost every other right hon. and hon. Member opposite. In their own personal lives I feel absolutely certain that each one of them is entirely honest and honourable. But bring them to that Box as Ministers of Her Majesty and they are prepared to deceive the electorate to any extent they feel they can get away with. That is a very sad state of affairs.
They have raised taxation throughout their twelve years of office. They say that they have not, but when one takes into account the whole economy—for instance, the National Insurance Contributions—the fact remains that people who can ill afford it are paying more than ever before. The party opposite has claimed to be reducing taxation all this time while, on the contrary, it has been doing nothing of the sort.
Invariably, a move towards expansion has been trotted out just as Members opposite are "coming into the straight" and when they think that they can see the General Election post in the distance. 768 It is not surprising that in these circumstances the Prime Minister should have let slip the other day the remark that he made about diplomatic courtesies in order to explain a singularly sordid piece of deceit in which he had been caught.
Some of us spend time going abroad trying to convince people in Africa, India and elsewhere that the system of Government we have evolved here, the parliamentary democracy of which we think so much, is a really good thing both in its achievements and in its possibilities. I suppose that that is an excellent thing to do. It has been done by Members from both sides with great assiduity, and, I believe, with great effect.
I have no doubt that many of us will go on trying to do this thing, but, although the right hon. Gentleman may think me sanctimonious and lecturing and, if he likes, puritanical—I may be all these things—I say to him that those of us who do go abroad to try to extol the virtues of this most sophisticated of civilised systems of government will do so in future with a heavier heart because we believe that, in this country of ours, under this system, there are far too many people who should know better who wilfully set out to deceive the electorate for party gain.
§ Whereupon Motion made, and Question, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. McLaren]—put and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.