HC Deb 21 April 1970 vol 800 cc231-2
24. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the fact that the decline in expenditure East of Suez has been more than offset by increased expenditure in Germany, he will now reduce the total defence budget to the level of the cost of the National Health Service and apply the balance to increasing retirement pensions.

Mr. Diamond

No, Sir.

Mr. Jenkins

Have not the Government got their priorities wrong—[HoN. MEMBERS: " Hear, hear."]—and is it not absurd for hon. Gentlemen to say that, when what has been happening is that my right hon. Friend has been following closely upon the pattern which they established? Is he aware that what is required is a completely new look at Government expenditure with a view to increasing the levels of social expenditure and decreasing some of the levels of rather over-generous expenditure which the Government have made in some areas towards business people, which has not been sufficiently closely supervised?

Mr. Diamond

My hon. Friend will be aware of the arrangements made for tax purposes with regard to entertainment expenses incurred in the course of business. As to reducing expenditure and getting priorities right, I am sure that he will agree that our priorities have been right in two respects. First, we have reduced to something under 5 per cent. of g.n.p. the cost of defence as compared with the 7 per cent. absorbed by the previous Administration. We have also turned our attention to the live theatre.