§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
I beg to move,That this House deplores the failure of Her Majesty's Government to protect the consumer, as shown by its abolition of the Consumer Council, it unconcern about rising prices, the introduction of import levies on food, increased charges for public services and the cutting of housing subsidies; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to refrain form imposing further burdens on the housewife such as a value added tax.There is a dark rumour, happily unconfirmed, that I am to be excluded from Private Members' Ballots. I readily concede that it is most unsual, not to say a parliamentary happening, for anyone to win first place in the Ballots both for Private Members' Bills and Private Members' Motions within the space of a single year. But, Mr. Speaker, the frequency of my success in these Ballots is as much your doing as mine.
§ Mr. Morris
I merely pick a number. It is your hand, Mr. Speaker, which has the far more important function of picking numbers out of the hat. If ever we can devise a system for basing the allocation of private Members' time not on luck but on the quality of an hon. Member's ideas, it will have my full support. Meanwhile, Mr. Speaker, long may our felicitous division of labour continue.
One of the big decisions for any Private Member who wins the Ballot is whether to make his Motion controversial. Mine may possibly become deeply controversial between the parties in this House; but I am certain that the electors outside, of whatever party, will regard the Motion as being both reasonable and timely. It is reasonable because the party opposite made prices the dominant issue in the recent General Election. Moreover, against the background of mounting inflation, it could hardly be more timely. As Sir Roy Harrod has said, the Government's position now is that they recognise inflation to be the greatest evil but intend to do nothing about it.
But first, let me deal with what Dame Elizabeth Ackroyd terms the "brutal murder" of the Consumer Council. It 915 was a murder preceded by the most blatant act of electoral deception and cheating because, in their pre-election campaign guide, the Conservative Party patted themselves on the back with these words:In 1963 the Conservative Government set up the Consumer Council, which has since proved to be a powerful and influential spokesman for the interests of the consumer.Who, reading those words, could possibly have guessed that one of the Conservative Party's first actions, if returned to government, would be to liquidate—at a stroke, as it were—the Consumer Council? Yet the blow was struck by the same right hon. Gentleman who, as the national chairman of his party, was personally in charge of the Conservative Central Office when its campaign guide was published earlier this year.
Without even the semblance of an apology for misleading the electorate, the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) reported the Council's demise in his first major statement as Chancellor of the Exchequer on 27th October. The official announcement said:The Government have decided that the grant to the Consumer Council should be discontinued. It follows that the Council will cease to exist.In recalling the right hon. Gentleman's responsibility for his party's campaign guide, any self-respecting industrial worker would have demanded "dirt money" for doing a job as unwholesome as that. One knows there to be hon. Members opposite who privately agree that the financial saving is as derisory as their party's volte face is despicable. I hope that some of them may have the opportunity to speak their minds in this debate. It would help to retrieve at least some vestige of honour for their party if they did.
There are hon. Members in all parts of the House who have had first-hand experience of the Consumer Council's fearless campaign for fair trading and fair dealing. I myself received considerable help from the Consumer Council with my Home Buyers (Protection) Bill. The scheme which now operates to protect home-owners against the nightmare of shoddy building is due in no small measure to the Council's very close 916 interest in my Bill. Among many other achievements, the Council can be especially proud of the leading part it played in banning the sale of flammable nightdresses for children, in campaigning against landlords who overcharge for electricity and in shielding deaf people from the high-pressure selling of hearing aids.
Who will have the duty of proposing such reforms in future? As Dame Elizabeth Ackroyd has said, they will not come through competition. Nor will they be put forward by Government Departments without a goading voice to stir them.
Meanwhile, the Consumer Council's disappearance means an abrupt end to its plans for helping the consumer to get justice for small claims, for improving the supply of educational material for schools, for the improvement of safety standards — particularly of electrical supply—for persuading suppliers to abolish small-print conditions in contracts, for research into consumer needs and for better labelling, servicing and information for consumers.
In a recent reply—it was an extremely ill-informed reply—to my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones), the Prime Minister suggested that the Consumers' Association could take over the work of the Consumer Council. But Mrs. Jennifer Jenkins, the respected Chairman of the Consumers' Association, had already confirmed that this was impossible. In fact, some of the most bitter criticism of the Government's action against the Consumer Council has come from leaders of the Consumers' Association. In an official statement, the Association described the Chancellor's decision as "shocking" and as an act of "niggardly shortsightedness".
At the Association's recent annual meeting, the decision was described as:irrelevant, paltry, incomprehensible, ignorant, profoundly regressive and wholly bad".That is a suitably comprehensive verdict both upon the Government's action in killing the Consumer Council and upon the reply which the Prime Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles.
We need much more consumer protection, not less. Consumer experience in the United Kingdom, as in all industrial countries, is that it is becoming more—not less—difficult to get value for money. 917 As promotional and selling techniques advance, the public are more—not less—exposed to marketing pressures. The variety of ways in which credit is made available is becoming more—not less—bewildering as goods on the market become more sophisticated in design and use.
With the end of the Consumer Council, many people will say that the answer to these traps for the unwary shopper is to increase controls. But is that the Government's view? The Consumer Council advocated statutory controls only where health and safety were at issue. Its policy was to help consumers to help themselves, by arming them with information and advice, and to stimulate suppliers both to produce reliable products and then tell their consumers the hard facts about them. That is the policy which the Government have now wantonly and thoughtlessly destroyed.
Whose side are the Government on? That of the consumer, or of the hire-purchase firms whose print is as small as their interest rates are large? If the Prime Minister really respects the Consumers' Association, let him now respond to that Association's campaign for the reversal of his Government's decision on the Consumer Council. Let him also recognise that Governments all over the world are now spending more not less on organisations set up to advise and protect the consuming public.
I turn now to the Government unconcern about rising prices, which may by no means be unconnected with the killing of the Consumer Council. On 27th June, the present Prime Minister in his last major speech to the electorate said that the Government would take action "at a stroke" to deal with prices. He now heads the only Government in our history deliberately to have set out to increase prices. He is abolishing not only the Consumer Council but every other safeguard against rising prices, including the early warning system and the monitoring rôle of the P.I.B. in alerting the public to unnecessary price increases.
Having duped the housewives at the election, his pals in industry and finance are now given the freedom to fleece them.
When the Conservative Party was returned to power in October 1951, the Conservatives took pride in their bonfire 918 of controls, but the party returned at the General Election of June 1970 make the bonfire of their own election addresses. They may point now to some of the fine print in their manifesto, but let them look again at their election addresses. They were elected to deal with prices but have let prices rip. Their financial backers have more than recouped themselves at the consumer's expense. Ask the brewers. Or better still, ask their customers. Indeed, ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior). Not that one is likely to get an up-to-date answer from the right hon. Gentleman. While he tells the House of price reductions, the whole of the Press simultaneously gives evidence of price increases As the trade paper The Grocer on 21st November said:The Minister of Agriculture's surprising statement in the House … has been greeted with more than just disbelief. A puzzled nation is trying to work out Mr. Prior's sum, which, according to some newspaper reports, even Mrs. Prior has found difficult.One explanation could be that the right hon. Gentleman's tastes are much more eclectic than those of most consumers. Mrs. Prior tells us:We are probably lucky—we live in the country and grow a lot of our own vegetables, and we shoot pigeons and so on.Knowing the Minister's room in Whitehall Place so well, I can confirm that the right hon. Gentleman is ideally placed almost to catch his lunch by hand. The House will, of course, recall the right hon. Gentleman's advice, a la Marie Antoinette, but forgetful of the lady's fate, that we should all shop around and try some peaches. Perhaps we shall now be told to make our omelettes with pigeon eggs. Who knows what will issue next from "Peach and Pigeon Prior"?
But the right hon. Gentleman is not quite so ham-handed, certainly not as ingenuous, as he often likes to appear. He knows just as well as the editor of The Grocer that there were 5,044 price increases in groceries alone between 27th June and 21st November. Notwithstanding his instant Press comment over the weekend, he also knows that the effect of the food import levies he plans to introduce next April will be extremely serious for millions of housewives in this country. For the higher food prices he is planning will be in straight addition to 919 other factors making for price increases. Let it be fully understood that they will be price increases caused, not by any unavoidable change in world conditions, but by the deliberate policy of the Conservative Government. The right hon. Gentleman now tries to spar with my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) by saying that his policy is not one of taxing food. Why play with words? It is certainly a policy of higher prices through taxing food imports, as Mr. George Catlin, President of the Butchers' Federation, will tell him.
In a recent interview with Mr. Alex Kenworthy of the Daily Express Mr. Catlin stridently attacked the right hon. Gentleman's policy of deliberately forcing up prices by import levies. In fact, Mr. Catlin let it be known that his Federation would be sending a strong protest deputation to the Minister and he emphasised its view that:Concentration on high prices to avoid payment of subsidies, without demanding efficient and economic production, is futile and will encourage the wrong type of producer.I am sure the House will want to hear from the Treasury Bench what reply the Minister gave to that deputation.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Prior)
I can reply now. The same sort of reply that the Opposition gave to Mr. Catlin when they were trying to do precisely the same thing.
§ Mr. Morris
My right hon. Friend never set out deliberately and comprehensively to increase prices.
§ Mr. Morris
I should like to proceed, because I know there are others who wish to participate in the debate; it has already been foreshortened, which is unfortunate, because this is Private Members' time. However, I will give way to the hon. Member.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
It is very good of the hon. Gentleman. Would he not recall that the first attempt ever made deliberately to tax food in this country was the imposition of Selective Employment Tax by the Government of his party? [Interruption.] Yes, the first attempt was the imposition of Selective Employment 920 Tax. Whereas the Tories will cancel it, and reduce the cost of living, his party are enthusiastic supporters of taxing food.
§ Mr. Morris
I should say that was not the first instance. If the hon. Gentleman for Worcestershire, South will look up the history of the Corn Laws, he will find there are much earlier instances than the one he mentioned.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rhodes (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) should go back to the Library and do some more homework.
§ Mr. Morris
To revert to my speech, the right hon. Member for Lowestoft's comment was extremely thin. But now that his levy plan has received so much attention in the Press I trust he will be asked by the Leader of the House to come here and make a full and early statement so that we can question him upon it.
Meat is but one of the important commodities which will increase in price as a consequence of the policy on which the right hon. Gentleman has now embarked. The policy will also affect many other major food commodities which form such a big element in the cost of living, particularly for working people. The cost of food takes up much more of the expenditure of the poorer sections of the community than of the wealthier. In the general retail price index, food represents 28.8 per cent. of the total expenditure of households.
For a household consisting of two persons living on a pension, the proportion of expenditure represented by food goes up to 43.4 per cent. For a single person living on a pension, the proportion is 42.2 per cent. These figures are weighted acording to the pattern of expenditure of the various households. There would be special hardship to pensioners and others living on small fixed incomes following the rise in food prices consequent upon the adoption of the import levy system. May we, therefore, be told whether retirement and other pensions will be increased before or after this policy takes effect next April?
Furthermore, the right hon. Gentleman should take an early opportunity of 921 discussing the effects of higher food prices with Professor Peter Townsend and the Child Poverty Action Group. For the cold, watery porridge of FIS—family income supplement—will become even more offensive to the working poor when his import levies on food take effect. Seeking to minimise the effects of his policy, the right hon. Gentleman says that it will add only 2 per cent. each year to the cost of food over the period of the next three or four years. He then says that these are relatively small increases compared to the increases to which we have become used.
There are, however, five points which must be emphasised in reply. First, his estimate takes no account of any increase in distributors' margins. Second, the increases will be gratuitously imposed by the Government and will be entirely additional to other price increases which are going on all the time. Third, the policy has more to do with paving the way for entry into the Common Market than with the real interests of the British people. Fourth, it makes nonsense to have high food prices at home when abundant supplies are available in the world at bargain prices. Fifth, the increases will be concentrated on essential foodstuffs so that the poorer sections of the community will be the hardest hit.
The right hon. Gentleman, may, of course, be a very strong believer in the Common Market's agricultural régime and he may regard this as a sufficient reason for paving the way for British entry. But if that is his argument let him end the cant of promising to limit the rise in food prices to 6–8 per cent.
The Prime Minister has said again and again that we must come to terms with the Common Market's agricultural régime. But let me quote the recent words of one of the Prime Minister's leading colleagues at the abortive negotiation with the Six initiated by Mr. Harold Macmillan. My source is not a party political figure. He is one of Britain's most distinguished experts on the cost of adopting the Common Market's farm policy in this country.
He tells me:Wages and salaries must rise to compensate for the rise of 20 per cent. in food prices. So our competitive position in exports both to the E.E.C. and the rest of the world will be worsened. Our competitive position will be made worse still by our being forced 922 to adopt indirect taxes, like the value-added tax, which will give further wage and salary increases. We could rapidly reach another balance of payments crisis and further devaluation. That in turn would increase food prices still further and you have the prospect of a truly terrifying syndrome.These are the words of Sir John Winnifrith, for many years until recently the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, than whom scarcely anyone knows more about the real cost for Britain of adopting the common agricultural policy of the E.E.C. He has been very much more closely involved in detailed negotiation with the Six than the right hon. Gentleman or, indeed, than the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon). Moreover, as I know from working with him for a number of years, he is not given to exaggeration. His words provide the most eloquent possible comment on the Government's attitude to rising prices and their pretence about being concerned with Britain's economic strength.
§ Mr. Prior
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. If I remember aright, Sir John Winnifrith was Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture at a time when the Opposition were in government and when they were as committed as we are now to begin negotiations to join the Common Market. What is he arguing with us for?
§ Mr. Morris
Sir John Winnifrith has given an account of the effects on the British consumer and the British economy if we enter the Common Market now. I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would have thanked me for informing him of the views of a civil servant who was so very distinguished a leader of his own present Department.
As the House knows, the rising price of food is far from being the average family's major headache. Nearly every major item of household expenditure is being forced up by the Government's abandonment of their central commitment to the electorate. The halving of the Labour Government's rising annual subsidy to domestic ratepayers, higher charges for school meals, the abolition of free school milk for primary school children over seven, hefty prescription charges and prodigious increases in rents are examples of the heavy burden now facing the average family.
923 With regard to school meals and primary school milk, I have two straight questions to put to the Government. I should first like to know why, in taking their decision to increase the price of school meals, they appear completely to have ignored the investigation into the school meals service which was carried out by Dr. Bleddyn Davies and Mr. Michael Reddin. The investigation was sponsored as a research project by the D.E.S. and its conclusions were anything but favourable to the price increases which are now in train. We should therefore be told why the report of this important investigation has been set aside: or alternatively what representations the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Education and Science has now made to the Chancellor on the basis of this report.
My further question concerns the abolition of free school milk for children over seven. I should like to know whether the decision to end free milk for the over-sevens has at any time been considered by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy. It was Professor John Yudkin, himself a distinguished member of that Committee, who raised with me the eminently fair point that the Committee might just as well cease to exist if it is not to be allowed to consider matters of such importance to child health in this country. May we now be told whether the Government's decision has been or will be considered by the Committee?
The Motion also refers to the cutting of housing subsidies. The House will be aware that the swingeing cuts proposed will be of the order of £100 million to £200 million a year. We have yet to learn where the axe will fall. But this much at least is clear. The Government's policy is about slashing subsidies, not the provision of adequate housing. It will thus involve even sharper increases in rent than those which have already been imposed or projected.
There is one conspicuous omission from the policy, namely, the future of tax allowances on mortgage interest. These roughly equal in total the sum of Exchequer housing subsidies to councils and the sum of housing allowances paid by the Supplementary Benefits Commission.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
Before my hon. Friend leaves this point of council house rents, would he consider, as a Manchester Member, asking the Government Front Bench before the end of the debate to give their view on the estimate of the Manchester Evening News, confirmed as realistic by a spokesmen of the Manchester City Council, that their housing subsidy policy will mean an increase on average of £1 a week for each householder in a Manchester Corporation dwelling?
§ Mr. Morris
I have seen that very disquieting report. I hope that the Treasury Bench will have noted my hon. Friend's question and will see to it that we receive an answer in the course of this debate.
As I was saying, tax allowances on mortgage interest are roughly equal in total to the sum of Exchequer housing subsidies to councils and the cost of housing allowances paid by the Supplementary Benefits Commission. Yet, as The Times noted on 4th November:… of the three types of assistance, tax allowances in their present form are least directed to those in need. The explanation for the omission is not far to seek, but there remains the anomaly that a Government which advertises its bold and radical approach to questions of public finance and its intention of ensuring that everyone stands on his own feet, if he has any, makes no mention in its opening statement on housing of that third of total public subvention that is of least assistance to the needy.The explanation "that is not far to seek" is the Conservative Party's almost tribal dislike for council house tenants. Knocking the council tenant has become one of their low-grade parlour games. The golden rule is that you must never allow facts to divert your attention from the play. The fewer the facts at your disposal, the better you will play the game. None of the top players has ever lived in a council house. Nor do they need to know much about the lives of those who do. It is all part of the game to talk of the council estate as if it were a holiday resort for "well-off layabouts" who grow fat on the subsidies they draw from the good old taxpayer.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I am sure my hon. Friend does not mean to say something that is untrue. He says that they do not understand what living in a council house is like. Yet all the Ministers are living in tied houses 925 and they have a 100 per cent. subsidy. They know what it is to live in tied houses, and, incidentally, they live there very well.
§ Mr. Morris
The game that I was talking about is about council houses in which millions of very hard-working people have to dwell.
It is also part of the Tory parlour game to indulge the fantasy of selling all council houses and of making the market for homes as free and competitive as the markets for cars and detergents. According to the earlier rules of the game, one could score heavily by describing the council tenant as a person who kept coal in the bath. But the sport has come a long way since then. To play at all well, one must now see the council tenant as a man with two cars, one a Bentley, and a net income of between £70 and £100 a week.
More important still, one must never breathe the words "Prices and Incomes Board" in the game. The reason for this, of course, is that the N.B.P.I. went near to destroying the game. It did so by publishing a survey of the actual gross incomes of council tenants and their wives in many different parts of the country. Shattering the image of the council-housed Bentley owner, the National Board for Prices and Incomes showed that, in fact, only 1.3 per cent. of husbands and wives had a combined income of over £40 a week. Only 10 per cent. had a combined income of over £30 a week. What was even worse for the game was that these percentages would have been much smaller if tenants living on sick pay and supplementary benefit had not been left out of the survey. The N.B.P.I. also showed that more than 50 per cent. of council households, again excluding the sick and the elderly poor, lived on a combined husband-and-wife income of less than £20 a week, while more than 20 per cent. of husbands and wives earned gross incomes of less than £15 a week. It is facts like these which have brought so many people to dismiss with contempt the whole unfunny game of knocking the council tenant.
Listen, for example, to the normally conservative voice of the weekly journal The Economist:Does council housing really represent the grotesque diversion of subsidies from the needy to the affluent that the fashionable cry of 926 'more selectivity' often suggests? Some striking figures from the N.B.P.I. suggest, that, on the contrary, local councils are doing the job of housing the needy more thoroughly than has been supposed.Again from The Economist:… there is plenty of evidence in this Report that local authorities really do house a very large proportion of poor people and families with several children.I shall be grateful if it can be confirmed that the Secretary of State for the Environment will very soon be explaining his policy in much more detail than he has done so far. Meanwhile, perhaps the Chief Secretary of the Treasury will comment on the crucial point about equity raised by The Times. For, while council tenants, because of rebate schemes, usually receive less help as their incomes increase, home buyers may well receive more help as their incomes rise. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the bigger the home buyer's house and mortgage—and the higher the rate at which he pays tax—the more he receives in interest relief. Thus the principal question is: who is subsidising whom? I know that the hon. Gentleman will want to address himself to this very important question if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
I turn, finally, to my appeal to the Government to refrain from imposing further burdens on the housewife such as a value-added tax. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) argued with compelling force against this form of taxation in his speech at Aberystwyth on 28th June, 1969. The relevant extract from his speech can be read in my Fabian Research Pamphlet No. 284.
§ Mr. Morris
The pamphlet costs 3s. and it is entitled "Value-Added Tax: a Tax on the Consumer". My right hon. Friend strongly emphasised that a value-added tax would lead not only to a heavy increase in the number of civil servants and an immense increase in paper work for trade and industry, but also a very sharp increase in prices for many commodities. As the introduction of V.A.T. is one policy which the Conservative 927 Party did not pledge itself to introduce, I suppose there is now a particularly strong case for considering its implications. Certainly the Prime Minister has given some very equivocal answers in recent exchanges in this House. Is he planning a "VAT 71" or is he not?
As I have shown in my research pamphlet, the first thing to know about V.A.T. is that it is ultimately a tax on consumers and no one else. While every firm, whether manufacturer, wholesaler or retailer, pays tax on the value it adds to any product, it fully recoups itself from the immediate purchaser of its goods. The N.E.D.O. Report on value-added tax, on page 1, describes V.A.T. as:… essentially a tax which falls on consumer spending, but which is collected in instalments in the course of production and distribution in proportion to the value added at each stage in the process.Each firm pays the tax authorities the difference between the tax it collects from its consumers and the tax it has paid its suppliers. The manufacturer fully recoups himself from the wholesaler and the wholesaler fully recoups himself from the retailer, who then adds his V.A.T. liability in full to the selling price of the goods in his shop. So the buck, the whole buck, is always passed to the consumer. Up to the point of sale in a shop, everyone has shifted the tax burden forward and recouped himself. But the ultimate consumer, who cannot shift forward and cannot recoup, is left to pay all the tax through higher prices. So V.A.T. is a classical tax on consumption and would almost certainly prove to be the biggest ever shock for shoppers. As a Member of Parliament having close and strong links with the Co-operative Movement, I am extremely concerned at the prospect of a British V.A.T.
Again, it may be argued that we shall have to come to terms with V.A.T. if Britain enters the Common Market, in which the introduction of a multi-stage V.A.T. is now obligatory on every member State. Indeed, our agreement to adopt V.A.T. cannot even arise in the current negotiation. There is unfortunately no half-way house. Supporting entry to the Common Market now means supporting the early introduction of a multi-stage V.A.T. and, equally, since the E.E.C.'s directives on the new tax cannot even 928 arise in negotiation, rejecting V.A.T. means rejecting the Common Market. The logic is both severe and unmistakable.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
I understand that in France the standard rate of V.A.T. is 23 per cent. and the higher rate 33½ per cent. What does the hon. Gentleman think would be the average rate within the whole Common Market once all countries pay V.A.T. and we are in the Common Market?
§ Mr. Morris
I think it is intended that the whole of indirect taxation in the Common Market would be raised through V.A.T. Moreover, it is the French system which appears to be becoming the basis of the common system.
Let me briefly explain why I still maintain my opposition to this form of taxation. Much to its honour, the British Labour movement has traditionally preferred taxing means to taxing essential needs. The preference for relating tax liability to the individual's ability to pay has clearly also been a factor in our movement's strength compared with the democratic labour movements of other countries.
Many of the British Labour movement's achievements in reducing social inequality would have been impossible but for the insistence over the years on evolving a tax structure that is at least moderately progressive. For the higher degree of income redistribution through progressive taxation, the greater the measure of equality that will emerge. It is perhaps no less true that increasing social equality has made it difficult for extremist parties to flourish in this country and easier for our institutions to remain more durably stable and democratic than those of countries which have preferred to raise a lower rather than higher proportion of budget revenue by progressive taxes.
In recent years, the Labour movement's thinking about taxation has become more flexible, but it is still the distinguishing feature of the British democratic Socialist that he will prefer, wherever possible, to avoid taxation of essential needs and choose instead the equity and fairness of taxing people according to their ability to pay.
That is my main case for rejecting the idea of V.A.T. I commend the Motion to the House.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Selwyn Gummer (Lewisham, West)
I should like to thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to make my maiden speech. I wish to ask the House for its customary indulgence, even though on this occasion it will be particularly difficult to speak in an uncontroversial way.
I represent a constituency that is particularly affected by the matters raised by the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris). West Lewisham is largely a residential area with a higher than average population of older people and, therefore, the concerns of the cost of living hit them perhaps more directly than they hit other kinds of communities.
This Motion begs a major question, a question to which the hon. Gentleman did not fully address himself, namely how a Government should protect the consumer. This is a basic question, the kind of question to which my predecessor as Member for Lewisham, West, Mr. James Dickens, would have addressed himself with a sturdy independence irrespective of the views of this side of the House or, indeed, of his own Front Bench. I hope that sturdy independence which he represented in West Lewisham will not disappear with the change of régime.
There is implicit in the Motion not only the question, but the answer that the hon. Gentleman would like us to give. Unfortunately, it seems to me that that answer is precisely that which was attempted for over six years by the Labour Government and which was attended by a conspicuous lack of success. Therefore, in addressing ourselves to this Motion it would seem more reasonable not to make apologies for past history, but to try to find a new way of solving the problems which, quite rightly, were highlighted by the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Gentleman's reference to the National Board for Prices and Incomes reinforces what I have said about his remarks. If we become mesmerised by the easy answer which is very popular with the country on the lines of, "Let us have some kind of automatic panacea; let us have a prices and incomes policy", we know that, after six years, such a policy very soon becomes only an incomes 930 policy; there is no real effect except to raise prices, and the incomes policy very soon can be proved to increase rather than decrease the way in which incomes rise with the consequent effect on the price spiral.
I notice that there has been a great deal of quoting from the Grocer, a magazine not often quoted by the Labour Party before 18th June. I believe the hon. Gentleman now quotes it to suggest that if only we were to use the same methods as had been used then we will have a great deal of success, though this has not been the case over the past six years. I agree that if the present Government were to use the same methods as were used by the previous Government in the last six years, the present Government containing the sort of people it does, would achieve greater success. But what we need is a different method from that set out in the Motion.
Is it reasonable to suggest that we can protect the consumer unless we are prepared to do something about the reasons why prices rise unnecessarily? One of those reasons is the way in which our industrial situation has caused overmanning in industry so as to make us uncompetitive. I must declare an interest since I am connected with the printing industry, and it is surely unreasonable to have a situation in which every printing press in Britain has more men working on it than is the case on the Continent. Until we solve that sort of problem we will be able to do nothing for the old-age pensioners of West Lewisham, or of anywhere else.
On the matter of social welfare the attitude behind the Motion is that all is well and that we should merely stay in the same place. That is what worries me. The situation is not solved merely by saying, "How appalling it is to change the social welfare system." That is the burden of what is proposed in the Motion. When I go round my constituency I see hundreds of people in private tenancies who need help, and I do not believe that they will regard a change in the system of housing subsidies as being to their disadvantage.
When we find references made to Professor Townsend and the Child Poverty Action Group, we must remember that, even in every one of six years of Labour 931 Government, child poverty got worse and worse year by year. Nor do I believe it necessary to talk of school milk in the terms used by the hon. Gentleman in moving this Motion when one remembers that school milk was introduced at a time when the major health problem for children in Britain was rickets. Indeed, the major problem today is that of obesity. We have only to look at the evidence to see that that is the case. It has recently been said that nearly one-third of the children of London are overfed. We might well look at that situation in the light of what is said in this Motion.
To go back to housing policy, it would be wrong to face a situation in which we are not prepared to say that, in order to solve the problems which face the nation, in order to do something about the rising cost of living, we should not ask those who are able to do so to stand on their own feet, simply because there are some—and there are certainly some people in this category—who cannot do so.
On the matter of consumer choice, it is curious that we should not allow people to make choices in housing and education, which are important, and then complain when people make trivial choices. This takes away the right of a person to make a meaningful choice.
This Motion not only contains a major question, which it begs, but it gives the wrong answer. Our only choice in solving the problems which face us today is to change the whole nature of our competitiveness. I do not see how the system will work without changing the taxation system to make it possible for companies to improve their liquidity, or to alter the system in such a way as to encourage people by changes in their personal tax situation. Without changing those sorts of things, I do not see how we will avoid the hand-to-mouth system which exists at the moment merely by putting a new subsidy in place of the old. Subsidy is merely a redistribution of present wealth. We want to see an increase in our wealth. This Government have put that matter first and I believe that is the successful answer to our situation.
The hon. Gentleman spent a good deal of his time sniping at the possibility of 932 Britain entering the Common Market. This was all of a piece with the same argument. He was saying, "Let us stay in the same place. Let us make no major changes. Let us go on like we have always done. Let us not solve the basic problems first." I feel that unless we enter the Common Market on suitable terms, we will be unable to bring about a change in the continuing costs and wages spiral and that this will go on until we find ourselves unable to operate in the world in which we live. The whole proposition in the Motion seems to demand a return to a world of what one might call Socialist myth, a world which may have existed but does not today—a world which can exist only if Governments are not prepared to make fundamental changes in our society.
I believe that the Conservative Party was elected to make these fundamental changes in our society. That means changes, and not just tinkering about with and replacing old ideas that have failed over six years of Labour Government. This can be done only by restoring national competitiveness, by changing the taxation system and by being prepared to provide aid for those who need it—and there are many who do—and, above all, by seeking a new place for Britain in the world by finding an accommodation with Europe so that we can play our full rôle.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Mark Hughes (Durham)
May I, as a fellow maiden, begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer) on an excellent speech. Were I listening to him in any Chamber but this, I would regard it an honour to call him "my honourable Friend".
I doubt whether there are many Members of this House who have not passed through Durham by train and seen from the railway one of the most beautiful examples of man's handiwork. There is another Durham epitomised for me by the villages of Pittington and Kelloe of which I doubt that many Members have ever heard. These have churches as old as the cathedral, yet the nineteenth century dealt them a heavy blow. These churches were built overlying seams of coal, and pit life, in all its brutality, descended on their rural life. The coal has now gone, the seams largely exhausted; but there remain men in 933 Durham of quality, hardened in the university of the coal face. It is this inexhaustible seam of humanity which stands in 1970 proud of being of Durham and asking charity of no man and no Government. We in Durham do not ask for any charity; we ask for no special doles for our people. We simply ask to be given the chance to work in a countryside that we love.
Over the last 25 years there have been few more distinguished people from Durham than my predecessor. Charles Grey made a point of serving his people honestly and faithfully, and few can have succeeded better in achieving that objective.
During the previous 250 years my constituency has had the good fortune to be served by a succession of Lambtons, Shaftoes, and the progenitors of a large number of right hon. and hon. Members of the Government Front Bench. But in 1843 there arose among this motley array an unlikely figure, John Bright, at a period when the Corn Laws were at the centre of British politics and John Bright was at the centre of the anti-Corn Law League. It was for the City of Durham that he stood. Yet, again, we see today the spectre of food being taxed in order that the few may live in comparative affluence.
Whatever the particular detailed analytical merits of subsidised agriculture through deficiency payment schemes or through import levies, of the broad outline there can be no doubt: that the function of all agricultural support schemes is to transfer money from one set of pockets to another.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has made it clear that he does not intend to diminish the quantum of this transfer. The right hon. Gentleman is not diminishing the amount of money which the agricultural sector is to receive; he is changing the mode by which it is received.
This seems to bring into question how it is done. I should be the first to admit that the problems facing British agriculture under the 1947 Act procedures are considerable. Not least of these problems is the Treasury. We have the problem of raising farm incomes by some means which provide the farmers with security, with long-term prospects, and 934 yet, at the same time, do not place a burden upon the vast majority of the community which they would find economically or politically intolerable.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) is not in the Chamber, since, he having said that we introduced food taxes, I should like to quote from the speech in this House by Sir Robert Peel when he resigned as Prime Minister on 29th June, 1846:In relinquishing power, I shall leave a name, severely censured I fear by many who, on public grounds, deeply regret the severance of property ties … but … I shall leave a name sometimes remembered with expressions of good will in the abodes of those whose lot it is to labour, and to earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brow, when they shall recruit their exhausted strength with abundant and untaxed food, the sweeter because it is no longer leavened by a sense of injustice."—[Parliamentary Debates, 29th June, 1846; Vol. 87, c. 1054–5.]It is not use pretending, with the greatest deference, that import levies are other than taxes on food. It may be that levies on food are a proper way of supporting agriculture, but it can only mean that it is a tax on food in the sense that one is substituting the current scheme of an artificially low price for food for a new scheme of an artificially high price for food.
There is not in the world at the moment a genuine free market for agricultural products. Whatever we do, we are faced with agricultural product prices which have a degree of artificiality. The imposition of, say, 3d. a pound on the wholesale price of New Zealand lamb cannot do other than introduce an element of artificially increased high prices. No hiding behind percentage per annum increase rates can get away from the fundamental issue that the Government are currently intent on making food prices unnecessarily high. It may be that they have a good case for doing this, but they cannot pretend that they are doing other than that.
In so doing, I suggest, first, that they do British agriculture a grave disservice. To expect 96 per cent. of the population to continue to pay more for the very necessities of life than they must needs pay will in time lead them to change their minds. They will not continue to 935 pay. They will exercise their perfectly proper political right of saying, "No".
The great strength of the 1947 Act lay in the bipartisan approval that for 20 years it has received. To bring this whole operation once more into the centre of political debate does British agriculture no service at all.
Secondly, to raise grave fears among our traditional suppliers of food—I note, in a Written Answer which I recently received from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, that the Argentine was not present at the recent negotiations with our meat suppliers into the possible reallocation of import levies—to arouse such disquiet wantonly in order to increase the food levies and decrease others, is curious to say no less.
Finally, to introduce a scheme whereby the taxation of food, which is the archetype of regressive taxation, is substituted for albeit an inefficient and difficult process whereby agriculture is supported out of general taxation cannot be other than a most dangerous precedent. How can we argue against the potential imposition of tariffs by the United States when we are about to introduce them ourselves on that which we are importing from the United States?
I have great admiration for the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, but how can they work out the alterations in the price relatives between agricultural products so that, by imposing a levy of £X on maize, they can say how much has to be put on poultry imports so that the balance between imported and home produced poultry is not altered? Such highly technical problems, once one introduces levies, spread right the way through agriculture.
The history of the working of the Common Market agricultural policy over the last 10 years, and of the individual countries right back to 1945–46, is a standing example that levies and import quota restrictions carry with them more problems than they solve. How many thousands of tons of butter lie waiting for someone to eat it in the vaults of the Common Market? What is the cost to those countries? I do not mean this in any partisan sense—please accept that; it is simply that, for my sins having had to 936 lecture on agricultural economics, I find that it is a most difficult way, historically to achieve agricultural support and that the only logical explanation I can now come to is that, having decided to pay the price for entry to the Common Market before we have even decently entered upon negotiations, we are falling back upon medical diagnostic procedures—that if we are inoculated now with the whips we shall not feel the stings of the scorpions when we enter. I have no desire to be amongst the recipients of either the whips or the scorpions' stings.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Marples (Wallasey)
It falls to me, in making what is practically my maiden speech, to congratulate two hon. Members on two excellent maiden speeches. First was my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer), who won the seat for the Tory Party at the General Election. His speech was very spirited, lucid, excellently delivered and showed not a trace of nervousness—indeed, showed traces of certainty in his eloquence. I hope that we shall hear more from him. Indeed, I am sure, judging by his delivery, that we will.
There is one point I should add. I had great difficulty in finding out who he was, or his name from The Times guide to M.P.s. The reason is that he has grown something on his face since his photograph was published. If he could make that slight correction, it would assist his colleagues.
The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Mark Hughes) comes from a county which I have known very well. I once was in a unit of men from Durham at a time when I was a regimental sergeant major, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, as a lecturer, is a very popular figure in the Army. I did not always understand what some of the people from Durham said but they always produced good soldiers and good footballers. They have always been very consistent in Durham—perhaps a little too consistent—in their political beliefs and I have always said that if England were to give home rule to Scotland, Wales and Durham, we should have a permanent Tory majority for a century in this House.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) on his speech. I congratulate him 937 on being lucky in the Ballot. At the same time, I commiserate with him for the amount of time pinched from him by other business. He had a carefully prepared speech and had to reduce it because of the time, which is always difficult for anyone. As a fellow Mancunian, I congratulate him.
The Motion refers to five different matters—indeed, it is almost five Motions. The last four are,… the introduction of import levies on food, increased charges for public services and the cutting of housing subsidies … and … a value added tax.I disagree with him on all those but I say right away to the Government that I agree with him absolutely about the Consumer Council. I am going to give my reasons, with illustrations, to the Government to see whether they can detect a flaw in my arguments. I shall speak about it for it is a matter which should really concern the Consumer Council. I will take a bet with anyone, including the Government, that they will not have detected the practice I shall describe.
A free market, which is what we on this side of the House want, will never really be a reality unless the consumer is fully and accurately informed, for otherwise he does not know what he is buying. He can be swindled quite easily, particularly as many more products are coming on to the market. The consumer cannot, in this modern technological age, in which things are complicated and products multiply like rabbits, do the job himself of finding out whether quantities and quality are right. It must be done for him by someone else. He has no time to go into it in depth and detail. He has no expertise. Above all, generally speaking he is not a lawyer—and we in this House know how much we suffer from lawyers. He has not got the money to remedy the position even if he has spotted a fraud.
Even if he could find it out for himself, it would not be any good, because as an individual he is powerless. If an individual writes to a supermarket with a complaint, I do not think that many people take any notice. I believe that the consumers must come together, in the same way as manufacturers and trade unions come together, if they are going to have any practical strength.
938 I am very sorry to see that the Consumer Council is to be abolished. I am even sorrier because, in 1963, it was the Cabinet of Harold Macmillan, of which I was a member, which introduced it. Now his son, who is to make the reply tonight, is the Minister who is going to take it out again. One can never again say of him, "Like father, like son."
§ Mr. J. D. Dormand (Easington)
What the right hon. Gentleman is saying is what the Government have said many times since June—that there is a way in which the consumer can do exactly what he is referring to—that is, that the solution lies in competition. That is what we are told. But does he agree that this can be done and meet the objections which he is so correctly making?
§ Mr. Marples
I shall not dodge that question. I shall come to it later. I will give the hon. Gentleman an example of how precisely these forces, in my view, do not work.
The Consumer Council did a good job. Government Departments, including the Ministry of Agriculture, have always liked a representative of the Consumer Council to attend meetings to put forward the consumer interest. Representatives of the Consumer Council have also served on Government committees. They were on 88 British Standards committees. No one is representing the consumers now in the consideration of such important things as fire extinguishers, electrical goods and credit, which is very important, as the hon. Member for Wythenshawe said. Who is going to help the consumer now? I do not think that market forces will work unless their goods are properly tested and properly labelled in every possible way and the public knows what it is buying. We need an independent, powerful body to do just that.
I want to give my illustration now of what I have in mind to prove the point I am going to make. It concerns the last thing which the Consumer Council was doing. It started about a year ago. It deals with liquids—not wine, in which I have a vested interest, but another liquid in which I have no interest, so I can therefore speak on it with that impartiality for which I was famous when I was Minister of Transport.
With bottled beer and milk, the Government insist that there should be 939 prescribed quantities—a pint of milk, or half a pint, for example. The liquid I am going to talk about is sherry—and I repeat that I have no vested interest in it, except for buying and drinking it. The Consumer Council found out a number of odd things. For sherry, for example, there are no prescribed quantities, neither for the label nor for the bottle. The normal amount of sherry that goes into a bottle is considered by the trade to be 26⅔ fluid ounces. This is what they call the "norm". But some bottles contain only 26¼ fluid ounces and others only 26 fluid ounces. It is left to the trade—not as in the case of milk or beer—to play the game and to arrange matters itself.
I want to see whether I can show the House how the trade has operated. I shall quote what was written in the trade newspaper Off Licence News of 24th July of this year. I shall first take the comments of two people who belong to the trade association—the Sherry Shippers Association. Then I will go on to what was said by people bottling and selling the different quantities of sherry. The question of showing the minimum content of the bottle on labels was investigated by the Association towards the end of last year. The idea was dropped because the Association came to the conclusion that it was "not altogether practicable". It is not practicable to show the volume on a label. They must be a brilliant collection of people in the Sherry Shippers Association. That is the first quote.
Then Mr. Tony Humbert, the Chairman of the Association, speaking in July, 1970, said:I do not feel that this is the time to start putting this kind of information on labels.If this is not the time, when is the time? If I am buying a bottle of sherry I want to know the quantity inside. I am not saying that it is wrong for different manufacturers to sell different quantities; I am saying that the customer ought to know what quantity he is buying—and he does not.
I now quote what was said by two firms who sell sherry. The first firm sells it in the normal quantity—26⅔ fluid ounces. Its name is Kinloch. The firm's marketing manager told the Off Licence News: 940We are in favour of this. I think it is fundamentally wrong, both short-term and long-term, to reduce the volume and we would certainly not consider making a change without first advising our customers and the trade.There is a man whose firm is selling the correct quantity in its bottles, and he is in favour of labelling.
I now come to a firm selling 26¼ ounces in a bottle—Bulmer, Findlater, Mackie and Todd. That firm says:Putting the contents on the labels would not present a great problem.That makes nonsense of the argument of the Sherry Shippers Association, which said that it is "not altogether practicable". The firm goes on to say,We would not object to doing this but at the same time we are not specifically in favour of it, either.I wonder why. Could anybody enlighten me why the firm that is putting in less than the normal quantity does not want to show the quantity on the label? I have not been able to discover the reason. Perhaps somebody on the Government Front Bench will be able to tell me.
I have just quoted Mr. Trevor Laws, a marketing director. Nowadays marketing is almost more important than manufacturing. It is becoming one of the most powerful weapons in modern society. I discussed this question with Doctor Schon, who is now broadcasting the 1970 Reith Lectures, when I was with him in America. There is no doubt that conglomerate firms introducing consumer goods make large marketing efforts, and those efforts must be checked by the Consumer Council in order to look after the consumers' interests.
I now come to a firm that puts only 26 ounces in its bottles—Harvey's, which has now been taken over by Allied Brewers. When Harvey's were asked about it a spokesman said that "at the present time" the company had "no plans" to change the volume for their sherries. I am very interested to know why it has no plans. Is it because they put into their bottles more than the norm, less than the norm, or the norm? Another firm is Sandeman's. A couple of months ago it switched over from 26⅔ fluid ounces to 26 fluid ounces. Sandeman's says thatit feels that very few people in the trade would want any change from the present system".941 I agree that the people in the trade do not. But I am a consumer, and I do. I telephoned Sandeman's and said, "Are your sherry wines the same as they were when I was in Spain?" The firm said that they were the same. They are the same quality but they did not tell me that they had taken two-thirds of a fluid ounce from each bottle. Then Mr. Tim Sandeman said to the Off Licence News:I have no doubt myself that this will come one day—and then comes the punch line, and I should like an answer on the point from my old Prime Minister's son who is going to wind up this debate—but until it does we aren't going to do anything about it".Is this the free market working? I am sure that nobody here knew that Sandeman's and Harvey's were selling smaller amounts in their bottles than anybody else. If they did, I am a Dutchman. My wife telephoned Wineways Supermarket, Harrods, Selfridges and the Army and Navy Stores, and on each occasion she was told that all the sherries were the same amount. So the retailer and consumer do not know that they differ. But they should know. There is no excuse for taking in the consumer. If anybody wants to read this publication I shall lay it on the Table. It is a trade newspaper and there has been no conjecturing by me.
Now if we work out the difference between Kinlochs and Harvey's we arrive at some rather shattering figures. If Kinlochs have a certain quantity of wine that will fill one million bottles, they will pay a certain amount of duty. If Harvey's bought the same quantity of wine they would pay the same amount of duty. But they would get 1,024,000 bottles and pay only the same amount of duty as Kinlochs, so I can see why Harvey's have no plans to change their method of selling wine. I am not as bright as I used to be, but at any rate in this respect the penny has dropped.
I want my right hon. Friends to think again. I am sure that they did not know these facts. I do not believe that anybody else in the House knew it. The Consumer Council—and only the Consumer Council—has brought this to light. Not only should labels show the amount in the bottle; that amount should be stamped on the bottle as well. It is in 942 France. On every bottle sold there the amount is stamped on the bottom.
I want to be short—
§ Mr. Marples
Now I am not so sure that I want to be short.
The Prime Minister should think again about this. The Government should remember that the Consumer Council has nearly always behaved sensibly. It backed my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when he was President of the Board of Trade, on the abolition of resale price maintenance. A Question was asked by Sir Thomas Moore on 19th March, 1964, and in answering it my right hon. Friend said:The Consumer Council has also expressed its support for the abolition of resale price maintenance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1964; Vol. 891, c. 1580.]The abolition of resale price maintenance was a rough ride for my right hon. Friend at the Board of Trade. He worked hard, long and against an immense number of adversities. It was a bitter fight. He must have welcomed the Council's support. I should have thought that he owed a debt of gratitude to the Council. I ask the Government to think about this. I ask them not in any hostile way, because I entirely disagree with the rest of the Motion. But if the Government abolish the Consumer Council they must tell me what is to be put in its place.
After what I have said about sherry they cannot say that it is a case of the normal market forces operating. I hope that the Prime Minister will show generosity in this matter, because we know that nothing will take the place of the Council. I am sorry I have kept the House so long and once again I congratulate the two hon. Members who have made brilliant maiden speeches.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)
I, too, would like to congratulate the two hon. Members who made their maiden speeches today, both of which were different, and good. We shall enjoy hearing them again. I do not want to be too hypocritical. One generally says that one wishes to hear maiden speakers again, but in 11½ years in the House I have found that everyone is usually dying for 943 them to sit down, so that they themselves can have a chance.
The right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) said that few people knew about the quantities in bottles. I know about the difference. I have no financial interest in it, but I do not know why he chose sherry, because brandy is much worse. Many bottles contain only 24 fluid oz.—
§ Mr. Mackie
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman does not enjoy brandy: I can recommend it to him. I have a cousin in the business who has the same name as myself and with whom I am often confused. He was the head of Seager Evans. When I complained that his brandy was dearer, he told me to measure the quantities. There was 26⅔ fl. oz. in his bottles and the quantity went down to 24 or even 23 in others.
This is a wretched and niggardly thrift—if it is thrift—of the Government, to try to save—only £240,000—by doing away with the Consumer Council, which has done so much good. It was the father of the Financial Secretary who brought it in, and he himself will see it out.
I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) on putting down this Motion. He has widened it a little, but that gives people a chance to speak.
I want to take the Minister of Agriculture to task for what he said in an earlier intervention. He implied that the levies that we put on were the same as those that he is putting on. There is a world of difference, as he knows. Our levies, working along with minimum import prices, put a floor on the market to protect the taxpayer and let the Chancellor know the most that he would have to pay to support agriculture. His levies are to do a totally different thing—to raise the price of imported food and, with it, home food to the price as near the guarantees as he can.
He knows that this is different, and he knew it during the election, as did the Prime Minister—but nowhere in their election manifesto did they say exactly what they would do. There were vague 944 references to a different scheme for agriculture, but they did not tell the public that they would deliberately raise food prices in this way.
My hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Dr. Mark Hughes) said that prices were artificially low, but I think he is wrong. If left to themselves, they are the market prices at which the British public could buy in the world's markets. He is right to say that they are artificially high in the Common Market, but they are not artificially low in the world's markets.
The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) must be behind in his reading if he thinks that S.E.T. put up the price of food. I have the Reddaway Report here. I would refer him to Table 22 and pages 210 and 211, which show that that distinguished body investigated this matter, and that the hon. Gentleman is quite wrong—
§ Mr. Mackie
The hon. Gentleman cannot possibly add anything to what I am saying. He is wrong to say that S.E.T. was one of the main reasons for the rise in food prices.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Of course I will answer the hon. Gentleman at once. He is entirely incorrect in suggesting that I am wrong in the matter. Every distributor of food and all his employees attract selective employment tax. Only the consumer can ultimately pay that tax. Indeed, the consumer pays all of it, which puts up the price of food by approximately 10 per cent. over the counter.
§ Mr. Mackie
That is exactly what I was saying—that the hon. Gentleman has not read the Report. At the top of page 211, that point is completely replied to. I do not want to bore the House with it, but I ask the hon. Member, before he intervenes again, to get himself up on his homework, as he obviously has not done today.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
Before I call the next speaker, may I draw attention to the fact that this debate has a time limit? If speeches are reasonably short, it may still be possible to fit in more speakers than appears probable at the moment.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
In that case, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will cut short the nice remarks that I had intended to make about previous speakers and get straight on to the Motion, which refers to our "unconcern" about rising prices. I very much object to that. We on this side are only human, like hon. Members opposite, and we are deeply concerned about this matter. I am sure that my right hon. Friends are as concerned as is the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris).
But we should ask ourselves what has caused the rise in prices. Basically, it has been the compulsory Prices and Incomes policy brought in by the previous Administration. That policy was begun by the Declaration of Intent, followed by seven White Papers, three Acts of Parliament, numerous statutory Orders, and over 150 Reports from the Prices and Incomes Board—and at the end of the day, we had the worst inflation for 20 years.
This is something of which we warned the Labour Party when they brought in this legislation—that when they took away the restrictions, all the pent-up wage demands would flow over the dam. That is precisely what we are seeing today and that, more than anything else, has caused the present rise in prices.
How did this happen? The policy was effectively ended in the autumn of 1969, when the election was on the horizon. I believe that the Government of the day let the wages rip in the hope that, by the time the election arrived, more money would be in the pockets of the voters but inflation would not have caught up. Of course, the electorate did not fall for that one.
The second reason was the one which has been discussed in the last week or two—the question of the money supply, which was planned at a certain level and, again, before the election was let rip. I will not go further into that, because there are various arguments about how much and at what point the money supply was expanded. But these two matters, more than any others, have caused the inflation which the Motion criticises.
In 1951, in the last year of the Labour Administration, inflation was 12 per cent., 946 and after two years of Conservative Government, with the bonfire of controls and so on, it was down to 2½ per cent. So that is the sort of time scale in which we have to deal with inflation. This cannot be done in a matter of months, as the Motion imagines; it will take up to two years to get the inflation down to a reasonable level.
I believe that employers and employees must in future take a rational and longterm view of their true interests in demanding and settling wage claims. If they do not, as the Prime Minister has said, they will be confronted with the consequences of their action. I hope that corporations and individuals will exercise their responsibility before either or both kills the goose which lays their golden eggs.
I was very interested to hear what was said about import levies on food by the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Mark Hughes) who, I am sorry to see, has now departed from the Chamber. He said that our policies would make food prices artificially high, but the fact is that the previous policies, from which we are changing, kept our food prices artificially low. It is important to remember that. With our system of levies, the increase in food prices will be 2 per cent. a year or 2 per cent. overall—I am not sure which—but it will be accompanied by tax reductions. I know that those reductions do not affect everyone, but the less-well-off will be compensated by various allowances.
If we go into the Common Market—and I do not apologise for referring to this aspect, as it is relevant to the Motion—food prices will go up not by 2 per cent. or 4 per cent., but by up to 25 per cent. We are told by the European movement that we would all be getting £7 a week more in our Christmas pay packet if we were now in the Common Market. That is a curious statement. If food abroad is so cheap why do European housewives cross by boat to Folkestone and Dover to do their shopping and still find it cheaper here, even paying the return boat fare, than it is to buy in their own Common Market countries?
I put down a Parliamentary Question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment—not to the Foreign 947 Office, whose Answers on this matter are sometimes rather dubious—asking… what factors he takes into account when calculating real wages in Great Britain in comparison with real wages in foreign countries; and on what basis a fair comparison can be made.The Answer I received was:International comparison of real wages is not practical."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1970; Vol. 806, c. 468.]Yet still the European movement pumps out this propaganda about our being £7 a week better off if we go into Europe. I hope that all that propaganda will be regarded with the same suspicion as was revealed by that Answer.
I refer to sugar because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is with us. If we go into the Common Market the price of sugar will go up from 8d. to ls. Id. a lb. We get it for 8d. a lb. because of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, under which we import annually about two million tons of sugar at about £45 a ton. That gives us stability of supplies and prices and gives developing countries stability of income and production.
Sugar is a very sensitive world commodity, and that is why we must take such great care of it in our negotiations with the Common Market. If we are to join the Common Market, satisfactory arrangements about sugar must be made. I say "If we are to join", because I do not believe that we shall; the country does not want it, and I hope that we do not. My information is—and if it is wrong I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity to make a correction—that in the Common Market negotiations we have put in a bid for sugar quotas to remain at their existing level for a number of years.
I understand that there is some talk that during that transitional period Australia may well be phased out of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. On the face of it, that may seem a logical and easy matter for a developed country like Australia, but it means dumping 335,000 tons of Commonwealth Sugar Agreement sugar on the world market. That would very much upset the International Sugar Agreement, which took a very long time, with U.N.C.T.A.D.'s help, to create. This phasing out may not 948 seem to be so much an important matter to Australia as to the other sugar-producing countries for whom we have such a great responsibility.
For the reasons I have given I will, should there be a vote, oppose the Motion.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)
I had a feeling that references to the Common Market might come into the speech of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), though I accept that it is related to the Motion, which is drafted widely. I very much enjoyed the speech of the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples). Why he should say that he is not as bright as he used to be I do not know. If I may say so, he is very bright indeed, and I agree with everything he said. I want to limit my remarks to the same point that he made, which is the winding up of the Consumer Council.
I ask the Government the simple question: why have they done it? Questions have been asked of the Prime Minister, but he has given no explanation of a decision which has been criticised by almost every organ of opinion. At first I thought that perhaps the Government think that the Consumer Council has not done a good job—that it is ineffective or inefficient, or the like—but that cannot be the case, because in the Conservative Campaign Guide at the last General Election we read:In 1963 the Conservative Government set up the Consumer Council which has since proved to be a powerful and influential spokesman for the interests of the consumer.That statement was relied on during the last election campaign when the present Government and their supporters were not indifferent, at any rate, to the interests of the consumer.
Why should a body which only a few months ago was said to be powerful and influential now apparently be so powerless and useless as to need abolition? The Government have not explained. It cannot be that they did not think at one stage that it was a worth-while organisation because, as the right hon. Member for Wallasey said, a Conservative Government set it up. The Consumer Council made some very useful reports during the lifetime of Conservative Governments, and the present Prime Minister paid 949 tribute to the Council when he very courageously pushed through his policy of abolishing retail price maintenance.
Can it be that the Council costs too much? The cost is only about £240,000 a year compared with the £40 million to £50 million which only last week or the week before the Government announced they would pay to Rolls-Royce. It cannot be the cost. If I have any criticism to make of my right hon. and hon. Friends, it is that we did not give enough money to the Consumer Council when we were the Government and could have done so.
§ Mr. Marples
And, what is more, did not themselves, in Government Departments, give it enough support.
§ Mr. Davidson
The right hon. Gentleman is probably correct in saying that.
Why did the Government abolish the Consumer Council? The Prime Minister says in his very evasive replies that there is some other body that can take over the work or is itself carrying out that work, but that is not the case. The only other body is the Consumers Association, on whose council I serve with the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart). That body has stated publicly that it cannot carry out the duties and work of of the Consumer Council. It just does not have the funds and the facilities to do so. That cannot be the reason why the Consumer Council has been abolished; it cannot be said that there is some other body able to carry out the work.
Even in the context of the Government's declared philosophy, the abolition of the Consumer Council does not make sense. In his mini-budget the Chancellor announced the phasing out of the Council, at the same time enunciating certain principles which were to be the guidelines of Conservative policy, of Government philosophy. The first—and it is an unexceptionable principle, but not very original—was that individual citizens should be able to keep more of the money they earn. I agree.
Everyone agrees with that, but it is exactly in that direction that the Council was able to help. It ensured that by careful and selective buying the citizen did not waste his money. To give one example of the sort of contribution the 950 Council has made, I would mention the Teltag informative labelling scheme. Why should a person be considered to have sufficient knowledge to be able to judge, off his own bat, whether a carpet is of good, bad or indifferent quality? How is he to know whether it will live up to the use to which he intends to put it? Now that it is labelled "hard domestic use" or "soft domestic use" he knows very much better the sort of purpose to which he can put the carpet.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The hon. Gentleman must be fair. I was in and around Kidderminster for 19 years and I know beyond peradventure that the labelling of carpets as to content, quality and various other matters was nothing whatever to do with the Consumer Council. It was a voluntary act carried through by a consortium of the principal carpet manufacturers, for consumer protection interests.
§ Mr. Davidson
The second principle enunciated by the Chancellor, again unexceptionable, was that the individual should have greater freedom in how he spends or saves his income. I agree. Greater freedom means that there should not be restraints upon his freedom of choice, placed there by commercial organisations who are deliberately not supplying certain things to him. The best example I can give of this is the three-star petrol. For a long time people were not able to get three-star petrol. Again, it was only as a result of intensive campaigning by the Consumer Council that three-star petrol was introduced. It has been of great benefit to every motorist, including those in Kidderminster.
There was criticism of the legal profession of which I am a member. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman who made that criticism did not have me in mind. I would like to mention one other report by the Consumer Council, published recently, which has a bearing on this, and that is the report on the need for a small claims court. Every hon. Member knows that at some stage someone comes to him and says, "The central heating has been installed badly", or "My car has been repaired inefficiently. What can I do?". 951 We all have to say, "You have your legal remedies but if you go to court it will cost you far too much. I would not recommend you to do it." The consumer-constituent goes away feeling that the law is inadequate. He feels indignant and if we feel strongly about British justice it is something we should take seriously.
If the Government believe that competition will protect the consumer that is one thing. Do they not also feel that competition brings with it certain excesses? The public needs to be protected from sharp salesmanship, shoddy goods, and that sort of thing. There is no other body apart from the Consumer Council with the funds, resources and trained staff to do this work. I pay tribute to the great work done by Dame Elizabeth Ackroyd. What will happen to that trained staff? I hope that a more satisfactory answer will be given by the Government today as to why they have taken this deplorable step.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)
I must declare an interest at once because I am a consumer. I am also a farmer. I produce food and help process it. I am therefore actively concerned with food and food prices. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) is not in his seat, because I wanted to make a few comments about him. He has a nerve to bring forward this debate today! How the Opposition can criticise this Government for increasing food prices when we think of what has happened in the last six years is amazing. Talk about the kettle calling the pot black!
Hon. Members opposite have forgotten. Do we have to spell out again the reasons why food prices have increased? Wage demands have been rising. Have they forgotten devaluation and what that has done to the price, of imported grains, particularly hard wheat, mutton and beef and a whole range of fruit and other products? All have been seriously affected. The Opposition seem to forget this. Have they forgotten taxation, particularly food tax increases? Every lorry that transports food throughout the country is costing more, and that is a direct result of the Socialist Government?
952 The hon. Member for Wythenshawe said that S.E.T. had had no effect. He ought to ask the food distributors. I asked them about this before the election and they told me that £85 million a year had been added to costs as a result of it. Have hon. Membes opposite fogotten that most expensive piece of legislation, the Transport Act? If ever a Measure has produced expensive food, it is that. We have only to look at what happens when a person has to carry meat from Cornwall and Devon to London to see how it is working. The ridiculous situation exists at the moment whereby a person has to have two drivers, one following behind the lorry in a car. Once the first lorry driver's time is up, the other driver in the car has to take over. We have present the hon. Member for Glasgow, Woodside (Mr. Carmichael) who helped form and devise that Measure.
There has not been a word about the effect of their legislation over the past six years on the price of food. Certainly the consumer needs protecting—but from Socialist legislation which increases food prices.
The hon. Member for Wythenshawe complained about our new policy of import control and levies. We need to return to basic thinking and decide whether we want to grow more food in Britain. I do. It is in the interests of the consumer and of our balance of payments that we should do so. It is ridiculous that at this time we should be importing Mexican carrots paid for with our precious dollars when we have the finest carrots in the world.
I sometimes think that our importers and the Board of Trade are not interested in import substitution. The report of the Agricultural Economic Council suggested that the annual gross output would be increased by £345 million—17 per cent.—with a net import saving of £220 million. This would be in the interests of the consumer and of the nation.
This was not easy to achieve under the Socialist Administration because the old system of deficiency payments did not always work. The more that was produced the more the end price was diluted. Treasury control and standard quantities work against the expansion of home agriculture.
953 If this very desirable increase in home agriculture is to be secured it must be done by import control and levies. Although the Common Market agricultural policy can be condemned as regards its internal working, in the matter of import control and levies and preventing dumping of food in the Community it works very well. I speak from experience, because I sometimes try to export cattle and meat to the Common Market.
If expansion of home agriculture is agreed to be desirable, Exchequer financing of agriculture must be bypassed. This is why it is necessary to introduce a policy of import control and levies. It will slightly increase the price of food—by 2 per cent. a year, or 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. over the transitional period.
In their six years in power, the Socialists increased the cost of food and of living by 22 per cent., without any advantages on their side. They did not increase home production, nor did they stop food imports. Yet they have the nerve to criticise us and our import policy.
Ours is a package deal. It will help to reduce taxation. It will save the Treasury at least £250 million. It will help with our balance of payments. To be set against the slight increase in food prices are the real advantages which will accrue from the new policy, whereas under the Socialists we had only price increases and no advantages.
The consumer benefits from a policy of expanding the production of homegrown food. Our products are first class. I defy anybody to show that Britain cannot produce the very best food cheaper than most foreign countries. It is dangerous to be dependent on foreign produce alone. A slight reduction in the maize harvest in America this year—14 per cent. or 15 per cent.—threw the whole cereal world into confusion and caused prices greatly to increase. If we produced more of our own cereals we should not be at the mercy of foreign countries.
The hon. Member for Wythenshawe was right to table the Motion so that we could discuss the matter, but he has not a leg to stand on. Under the Socialists food prices and the cost of living increased alarmingly. Our package deal will not only produce a healthy agricultural industry; it will help with the balance of 954 payments and save £250 million a year, thus allowing the Treasury to reduce taxation and help those in very real need. I for one would like to throw the Motion right out.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. John Smith (Lanarkshire, North)
One of the better features of community life in these islands over the last 10 years has been the growth of interest in the consumer. This has arisen because of an appreciation amongst the public and amongst people in all political parties that, with the expensive advertising and the marketing techniques deployed nowadays by large industrial enterprises, the human needs of the consumer must be recognised and consumers need to be protected against modern methods of salesmanship.
Two developments have typified this increasing concern on the part of the public. One has been the growth of the Consumers' Association, which has done a splendid job in bringing to the attention of the public the relative merits and defects of different articles offered for sale. The other has undoubtedly been the Government sponsored Consumer Council. It is to the decision to abolish the Consumer Council that I shall address a few remarks.
The question has often been asked by hon. Members on both sides as to why the Government decided to withdraw the Council's grant. It could hardly be said that it was reasons of financial necessity that impelled this decision, because the sum involved is fairly trivial.
It can hardly be said that the Consumer Council did not perform a useful function. Hon. Members will be familiar with a number of the things that the Consumer Council has promoted over the last few years. Reference has been made to the telltag scheme, whereby retailers were persuaded to put labels on their goods telling the public what they were buying. This was a wholly desirable innovation. It is only a matter of regret that manufacturers and retailers had to be persuaded to take such action.
Another of the things which the Council did which I thought was particularly commendable was to intervene in the operations of people who organise tours abroad—travel operators. The Council persuaded 22 leading travel operators to 955 introduce a voluntary bonding scheme whereby assistance could be given to passengers who went overseas and who were stranded by some mix-up in the arrangements. The Council persuaded Clarksons, a major tour operator, to enter into an arbitration scheme whereby complaints could be adjudicated by the Council. With the abolition of the Council, the arbiter has been removed.
In the light of these things it can hardly be said that the Council was not doing a useful job. Indeed, it was doing precisely what the Conservative campaign guide said that it was doing.
One other feature in respect of which the Consumer Council requires commendation is the pressure which it exerted over a number of years to bring about the amendment of the law, and in particular of the Sale of Goods Act, to abolish the exclusion clauses in contracts under which a consumer could be deprived of his rights under the Sale of Goods Act. As a result of pressure by the Council amongst others, the English and Scottish Law Commissions in 1969 produced a report recommending a change in the law.
These changes in the law would be extremely important for the consumer. I hope that the recommendations of these joint Law Commissions will be implemented as soon as possible. We need now a new Consumers Act to define the rights and responsibilities of consumers and manufacturers in a modern context. The law on this subject goes back to the Sale of Goods Act, 1893, and was framed in a society quite different from that in which we live. It is high time that Parliament took the necessary time and trouble to amend the law. If a Private Member's Bill emerges on this subject, I hope that the Government will look with favour at passing a new Consumers Act bringing up to date the law as it affects the consumer.
Many good ideas for protecting the consumer no longer have the pressure behind them which the Consumer Council was able to exert. The Council was able to influence Government Departments, to give informed comment to the Press, and to stimulate public discussion in an intelligent and responsible way. All that will go by the board as a result of the Government's decision. As I 956 understand it, they say that the job can be done by others. But that is not so, because the Consumers' Association performs a different function. Apart from anything else, it is a private organisation, responsible in the first instance to the members who subscribe towards it. The information which it provides is given to its members. It does a thoroughly good job, but it does not reach a very wide public. Only those with the initiative to have joined the Association have the advantage from its reports.
The millions of consumers who do not have the initiative and interest to join a body like the Consumers' Association were well looked after by the Consumer Council as regards safety standards, proper sales techniques and the protection of a sometimes gullible public from the artful arts of salesmanship. What will happen now that the Consumer Council has been removed? All that pressure, information and assistance will be removed and nothing will be put in its place.
I should have thought that the Conservative Party would have favoured the work of the Consumer Council. We are often given homilies by them about the virtues of self-help and competition. There can hardly be any competition unless there is a strong discriminating public which is well informed about the choice it has to make and able to make a real choice between various articles offered for sale. We surely cannot have proper competition when the public is not informed about the respective merits of articles offered for sale.
The right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) gave some good examples in his speech of how the public are just unable to obtain information upon which they can base a reasoned choice. I should have thought that if the Conservative Party believed in competition as something that should work, rather than just something to talk about, they would support the Consumer Council and make sure that the public had important information upon which they could base their choice.
Shortly after the decision was made, I happened to speak to a large retailer in the City of Glasgow. He told me that he was shocked at the decision to abolish the Consumer Council because, as an important retailer, he valued the work it had done and he had nothing to fear from 957 a more discriminating and critical public. Indeed, he thought he would be able to sell more goods if the advantages of his trading were demonstrated to the public. We speak for more than just this side of the House when we ask the Government to reconsider their decision. Apart from strengthening the interests of the consumer in this country, the Government might bear in mind that if they decided to reinstate the grant to the Consumer Council, Conservative candidates at the next election would be able to rely, for once, on the campaign guide.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)
Anyone listening to speeches of hon. Members opposite would suppose that we are about to assassinate consumer protection. We are doing nothing of the kind. All we are doing is murdering the Consumer Council. I am delighted to be a participant in that murder.
Fifteen years ago the noble Lady the Baroness Burton of Coventry sat on the benches opposite as the Member for Coventry, South. She was the progenitor in this House of consumer protection measures. I dubbed her "Meddlesome Mattie". She would interfere with every process of retail trade.
It is no part of the Government's duty to interfere or intervene in retail trade save only by Statutes passed in the House, such as the Companies Act, the Monopolies Act and the Trade Descriptions Act. Had I time, I could mention many more Measures of that kind. All of them operate very satisfactorily in the interests of consumer protection.
Take, for example, the racket of selling second-hand motor cars with the recorded mileages deliberately fiddled with, adjusted and reduced by certain dishonest dealers to attract a buyer at the highest price. A recent prosecution in the North Midlands has echoed right through the trade. Under the Trade Descriptions Act the court had no difficulty in reaching its verdict and fining the offender very heavily. That is the kind of consumer protection which the House should support. Notwithstanding the distinction with which Dame Elizabeth Ackroyd has presided over the Consumer Council for so many years, we should not perpetuate an organisation which is a hybrid and which 958 serves very little practical purpose among the general body of consumers.
Consumer protection organisations may be formed by retail trading interests and manufacturers combined. I am very much in favour of that, so long as the Government are not asked to contribute the taxpayers' money for the purpose, which is a misplaced application of public funds. It comes into exactly the same category as the Government's refusal to support financially the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, or the refusal to lend money to extend the tube from Hounslow West to Heathrow Airport. These are not functions which the Government should finance. They are functions which should be supported financially by the money market or by private manufacturing interests or retail interests, as the case may be. In my judgment, they are not a call on taxpayers' funds.
I turn to the long controversy in this debate about taxation and the part that selective employment tax and other similar taxes play in consumer prices. I believe hon. Gentlemen opposite are naïve; not knavish or dishonest. The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) quoted from Government reports that the incidence of selective employment tax does not influence the retail price of goods, including food. What drivelling rot!
Let me give the House the figures. This year the retained selective employment tax amounts to approximately £600 million. This year the amount of money collected from purchase tax amounts to approximately £1,200 million. The whole of the £600 million from selective employment tax and the £1,200 million from purchase tax, a total of £1,800 million, goes on consumers' prices paid over the counter. It cannot be absorbed in any other way. It is all charged to the consumer. I cannot go into the intricacies of the report quoted by the hon. Member for Enfield, East, but I disabuse him at once. The whole of the £1,800 million is absorbed in retail prices.
I want unashamedly the replacement of selective employment tax and purchase tax by a value added tax, for a whole variety of reasons not connected with the European Economic Community. I do not believe in the French system of 959 value-added tax, and when we have the next Budget I shall enunciate exactly the system which we should embrace—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I wish the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) would not shout comments like that. It is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—and I am not without hopes in that regard. The fact remains that for reasons of fiscal equity, of simplicity and of hedges against inflation, a value-added tax is infinitely preferable to the present system with a combination of selective employment tax collecting £600 million net and purchase tax collecting £1,200 million net.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The reason why I do not give way to the hon. Gentleman is that I have promised to sit down at 6.22 p.m. in order to allow his own Front Bench spokesman to wind up the debate.
I will deal comprehensively on future occasions with all these matters of indirect taxation—[Interruption.] Perhaps "exhaustively" would be a better word—and logically and objectively. All these would be manifestly in the good interests of the consuming public.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
I always admire the speeches of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), especially when they are short and crisp. However, perhaps I might point out that he has been the only speaker in the debate to call upon his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to sack the Chancellor of the Exchequer. No doubt that is because the hon. Gentleman wishes his policies to be accepted by the Government. I do not know what the Government's view will be about a value added tax. I had not intended to mention it, because I, too, want to keep my speech short so as to allow the Chief Secretary plenty of time in which to reply to the points which have been raised.
We have listened to two excellent maiden speeches, the first of them coming 960 from the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer), who asked a very pertinent question about how best we should protect the consumer. At the end of his very interesting speech, I felt like entering into a debate with him about it. I profoundly disagreed with most of what he said, but it was an extremely constructive speech, and we all look forward to the controversial speeches that he will make in the future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Mark Hughes) is the successor to an almost silent hon. Member who was a Whip and could not take part in our debates to any great extent. None the less he was a well respected Member of this House. I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend's references to the mining villages in and around his constituency and the living conditions of people who now have to seek work outside coal mining because mines have been abandoned. It was an eloquent and extremely pertinent speech which went to the core of the Motion that we are discussing.
I want to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshaw (Mr. Alfred Morris) on his choice of subject, though some hon. Members would perhaps have worded the Motion slightly differently. There is bound to be a difference of opinion on the last six words which refer to a value-added tax. However, the upward trend in living costs is undeniable. I take issue with the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) about when the upward trend began and what are the reasons behind the inflation which we see not only here but also in many other Western countries.
As I have said, the upward trend in living costs is undeniable, and I am sure that it is just as disturbing to hon. Members opposite as it is to my right hon. and hon. Friends. If the last six words of the Motion were omitted and instead of sayingThat this House deplores the failure of Her Majesty's Government …",it saidThat this House regrets the failure of Her Majesty's Government …and did something about the word "unconcern", hon. Members opposite would find it difficult to oppose. Anyhow, I support it as it is worded.
It is right to criticise the Government for their failure to protect consumers from 961 rising prices. They followed their leader, and the notes from the Conservative Central Office, during the election campaign in making categorical promises to check the upward trend and to keep prices steady "at a stroke". Since then, we have had premises to keep prices and charges in the public sector under a very close and strict review.
I remember the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry making this pledge a few weeks ago, and it seemed to me to be an encouraging change of policy. Apparently we were not going for a complete market economy with no Government interference, at least in the public sector. In view of that, I tabled a Question to the Secretary of State in the very words that he had used in reply to the Question which had encouraged my hopes. I asked whether he wouldseek powers to enable him to scrutinise all proposed price increases in the public sector and allow them only when there is a proven case for them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1970; Vol. 806, c. 325.]It is not much use Ministers scrutinising proposed increases unless they intend to do something about the increases, and I wanted to help the Secretary of State to carry out his pledge. On 16th November, I got a very dusty answer. There was no ambiguity about it. It was a plain "No". Apparently the Government will look at increased prices and charges in the public sector and do precisely nothing about them. So we have another pledge discarded without any expression of regret or apology.
I will not go into all the matters which have been discussed in the debate so far. Instead, I will draw attention to what I consider to be the likely effects of Government policy on the living standards of families with low incomes. I am quite sure that my hon. Friends have understated the probable effects. We begin by following the Government's point of view, which is that wage and salary earners are now much better off than when we started to build up the Welfare State. That view has been repeated by hon. Gentlemen opposite today. They say that people can now afford to do without subsidies and welfare services and are able to meet the economic costs and prices which have been or are likely to be determined by competitive forces in a free market. I think that that is the Government's argument.
962 It requires a great deal more examination, before we can accept it, and we have to ask a few questions. First, what is a reasonable minimum wage to ensure that our work people can meet increased charges, can stand on their own feet and can manage without any kind of subsidy? It is only when one establishes what is a reasonable minimum wage that one begins to understand the size of the problems in terms of social welfare that we may have to face.
We could, I suppose, take the average wage which is given in the Department of Employment Survey, the most recent one being for April of this year. The average wage for all wage-earners, in the wide sample that is taken, is about £25 a week for men for a 46-hour week, before deductions and insurance. Their take-home pay, therefore, is less than that figure. Is that an acceptable minimum wage in present circumstances? Is that the kind of wage that will keep a man, his wife and two or three children in decent circumstances without any help from social welfare and enable the family, as the Government say, to stand on their own feet?
I have gone on to make some further inquiries about this. It is no use talking about an average wage without reference to the number of people who do not get the average wage. If one looks carefully at the information given in the Department of Employment's Gazette one sees that about half the wage earners receive less than the average. [Interruption.] If hon. Members want a lesson in statistics, they can have it. One could have more than half the people below the average or more than half above it and still arrive at the same average. It depends upon the spread of incomes. The spread of incomes is indicated in the Survey.
When half the male workpeople are getting less than what I consider to be a decent standard of living, they cannot be expected to face up to the Government's policies without hardship and without a great deal of complaint—and complaint will come—in demands for higher wages.
Finally, I want to comment on the abrupt closing down of the Consumer Council. To my mind, this was a mean and unworthy decision. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South has disappeared, because I disagree strongly with the views which he 963 expressed about the Consumer Council, which showed that he did not know how it was constructed, what were its terms of reference and what it has achieved. This was an unworthy decision by the Government, and the manner in which it was announced—without warning and without discussion or consultation with the Council—was disgraceful.
I hope that when the Chief Secretary intervenes, he will make good the Government's regrettable omission to pay a tribute to the extremely useful work which has been accomplished by the Consumer Council. For my part, I want here to pay a tribute to all who have served on the Consumer Council, and in particular to Dame Elizabeth Ackroyd, who has been its director from the beginning.
I have with me, and I could quote, many statements which have been made by appropriate people who are involved in trade and industry about the good work which has been done by the Council, but I should like to say this on a personal note. If the Chief Secretary or his officials have looked up the discussions that we had when the Consumer Council was established, he will have seen that I was somewhat sceptical of the Council's constitution and its terms of reference. I wanted something much stronger.
I was wrong, however—I freely admit this—and the Molony Committee was right when it recommended that a Consumer Council should be set up but that the Council should be limited to collecting and disseminating information, giving advice to Government Departments and generally trying to make a better climate of opinion in our trading services, a point which was made by the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), and that law enforcement and administration of all the legislation about trading standards should be left to local authorities. I agree there with the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South.
The Consumer Council has done well and at very little cost. The £½ million has helped the public to get value for money because of the educative work of the Consumer Council alone. That cost is very small indeed. In fact, the public has got more out of the work of the Consumer Council than the cost.
964 I suppose that it is now impossible to plead with the Government to revoke this regrettable decision, although the Government would gain in public esteem if they would occasionally admit that they can make a mistake rather than always claiming to be omnipotent.
If, however, the Consumer Council is to go, I sincerely hope that the Government will consider the administration of what, in shorthand and for convenience sake, I can call our trading standards service. The Chief Secretary will understand what I mean. I refer to the administration of the necessary legislation that we have had to pass. It is not only for the protection of consumers; we also have to bear in mind that the vast majority of manufacturers and traders are perfectly honest and value their good will. What we are really getting at are the shysters on the fringe and also certain trading practices which may grow up and which should be checked even among reputable traders. This is where the trading standards service is needed.
I sincerely hope that if the Consumer Council has to go, if the Government will not admit that they have made a mistake, they will consider again the administration of this trading standards service, so that we can go on guaranteeing that the people continue to get value for money.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Maurice Macmillan)
The Motion which is before the House is very comprehensive. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) said, it is a real portmanteau. It ends up with a request to the Government about a value-added tax, a method of taxation which is held by the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), who moved the Motion, in all the dislike and suspicion with which a traditional executioner must have viewed the rather more impersonal guillotine.
That plea in the Motion is tacked on to a statement, set out in some detail, of the points which are now the main worries of most of our people and represent a very great threat to our whole economy. Tacked on to that again is a selective list of some of the Government's policies, coupled together in a way 965 which seeks to pretend that one is the cause of the other.
As a result, the debate has followed a predictable pattern, relieved by two maiden speeches, to which I gladly add my tribute. One was by the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Mark Hughes). I should like to endorse his view of his constituents, who many years ago were very kind to me, doing everything they could except elect me as Member for Seaham Harbour, which was hardly to be expected. The hon. Member spoke with the eloquence, erudition and elegance that one has come to expect from graduates of his college.
The hon. Member for Durham paid a graceful tribute to his fellow maiden speaker, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Selwyn Gummer). He, I thought, was the first person in the debate—and almost, in some ways, the only one—to deal more deeply with the problems, turning from the symptoms to the disease itself, trying to answer some of the questions which the hon. Member for Wythenshawe had begged and bringing in wider considerations of policy. I hope he will forgive me if I say that if that was uncontroversial, I look forward to hearing him when he is really going it.
Despite that relief, however, we have had a rehash of the previous two-day debate plus a large number of speeches about the Consumer Council. Apart from this, on the general line of the Opposition's attack and on the Motion itself, the Opposition's speeches have ignored the past in a sort of bland assumption that all our present problems stem from events and policies which have occurred since 18th June.
I hope that the House will allow me to set our discussions briefly in their proper context. In so doing, I hope to expose the gross oversimplification of the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling). Perhaps I may mention now what, I am sure, was an unintentional mistake when the right hon. Gentleman referred to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Government looking at public sector prices. They did not say that they would do nothing. They said that they would take steps to prevent unjustified rises in price, and, indeed, they have taken such steps.
§ Mr. Darling
I am sorry to intrude, but the reply I was given by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said that the Government would not seek any powers to control or prevent the rise of prices in the public sector.
§ Mr. Macmillan
That is perfectly correct, nor is it incompatible with what I said. Prices indeed have been kept lower than they would otherwise have been without the use of powers which we are not seeking.
I think it is perhaps not surprising that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough would have liked to have altered the terms of his hon. Friend's Motion. It really is extraordinary that the hon. Gentleman should have forgotten so much. He referred to charges in the public services, charges which were being imposed by this Government. Has he forgotten the increases which the last Administration made—for school meals between 1968 and 1970, and school milk, in prescription charges and other health charges? The hon. Gentleman did, I think I am right in recollecting, oppose those, and he has a clearer conscience than many of his colleagues sitting with him.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris
My right hon. Friend did not say he would have liked to have reworded the Motion. Nor is it enough for the hon. Gentleman to try to take attention away from the enormous new burdens which are being placed on the users of the public services, particularly housewives.
§ Mr. Macmillan
These questions were dealt with by my hon. Friends on this side, and when the hon. Gentleman was not in the Chamber, and it is no good hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite seeking to evade the issue. This is part of the context of what we are now debating. This is the background against which the policies which we are developing have to be set. After all, it was the previous Administration which made the real cuts in the real programmes—in July, 1965, July, 1966 and January, 1968—and they increased taxation more than any other Government had done since the war.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the unconcern of the Government over rising prices. How much concern did the previous Government show in their term of 967 office—when prices rose 6s. in the pound—accelerating; when they were responsible for the wages explosion which is still causing effects now? In December, 1969, the norm of 2½ per cent. to 4½ per cent. was set. In the Spring of 1970, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) pointed out, wages were let rip up to the time of the General Election and their average increase was 10 per cent. It was the previous Administration which jacked up inflation in other ways. In April last the expansion of domestic credit was set at a limit of £900 million a year, but when we got in we found that in the first quarter the expansion had been some £700 million.
Of course we are concerned, and we made it clear at the election. We said in our manifesto that inflation wasthe major cause of social injustice always hitting hardest at the weakest and poorest members of the community".That was how we described the inflation which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite left behind. And we warned:Britain now faces the worst inflation for 20 years. The Labour Government's policies have unleashed forces which no Government could hope to reverse overnight.As I say, I must exempt the hon. Member for Wythenshawe from some of the worst inconsistencies, and he has been a consistent opponent of value added tax, too, in or out of the Common Market context.
I will turn now to this question. In our manifesto we said:We will abolish selective employment tax as part of a wider reform of indirect taxation possibly involving the replacement of purchase tax by a value added tax.
§ Mr. Macmillan
Incidentally, I think I must put the House straight on this, and the hon. Gentleman would, I am sure, agree with me, that the form of value added tax he described is one form: there are in fact other variations which we need not go into. I would remind him and the House that value added tax is not the only tax which falls ultimately on the consumer. So does purchase tax, and there is no proposition for any combination in which we would have both; and despite what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) 968 said, selective employment tax, as all taxes which fall on companies and employers, and corporation tax, falls ultimately on consumers, as does the employer's share of the stamp, which, frequently, through wage rises, falls on the employees, too.
It is a wider reform of taxation which we are studying, and it has been under intensive study since the Government took office. No decision has yet been taken, but the study is continuing, and one of the questions being considered in this review is the possibility of a value added tax. I think the House would not expect me to be categorical in any way about it before a decision in principle is reached, whether it is desirable or not, but we would expect that food, apart from a few items now subject to purchase tax, would get relief. How, would be a subject for study and discussion, including discussion with the National Farmers' Union, and our present studies of value added tax envisage consultation beforehand with interested bodies.
Now, as one of my hon. Friends indicated, the best contribution the Government can make to price stability is to provide a consistent monetary and fiscal framework to encourage enterprise and competition, and this we are doing, and this strengthened competition is the best protection for the consumer.
Here I should like to pay tribute to the work of the Consumer Council and to Dame Elizabeth Ackroyd, who pioneered in this field. It was good work. It is not necessary that good work should in all circumstances continue to be carried out by the State. It was especially as a pioneering effort that this work was of value. The Consumer Council was never envisaged as having enough money to be able to get through to the great mass of the people, through the media of advertising, to achieve mass consumer education in that way. It was never intended, and because of this, and because of other things, and changes, we felt it was time that this should no longer remain a State activity. After all, the Teltag scheme took 20 per cent. or so of all the resources of the Consumer Council. The question was, should the remainder be found at the taxpayers' expense?
I think it was the right hon. Gentleman who referred to the tasks of the 969 Consumer Council—for instance the accumulation of knowledge; but for various reasons, in ways which were not foreseen by the Molony Committee, this was not always as successful as it might have been. The other, second, rôle which was referred to was that of the advisory and watchdog rôle of the Council. I think it is difficult in some cases to evaluate just how much and how wide this went, as my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) mentioned when it came to the question of labelled carpets.
As a result of all this, we decided that in view of the changes that had been and are being made to consumer protection law, because of the enormous increase in the use of the voluntary machine and the greater influence of voluntary bodies, and because of the work that is now being done in the trades themselves to protect traders from the less reputable elements amongst them, this is something which should not be continued by the Government.
§ Mr. Macmillan
Many things have been said about the Consumer Council in the opposite sense to that in which I am speaking, and I intend to develop the argument. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey gave a fascinating account of the vagaries of the industry with parts of which he is so familiar. I felt that he rather made my point, for the functions to which he was referring were those of consumer testing which is done so well by the Consumers' Association and is described in Which? He also suggested that what is required in this field is legislation. Indeed, now that he has rejoined us, perhaps he will think of introducing a Private Member's Bill.
§ Mr. Marples
May I intervene to say that a Private Member's Bill is ready, if my hon. Friend will accept a Ten Minute Rule Bill. The point is that the Consumers' 970 Association will not do the work which my right hon. Friend says.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I am aware that that is true of the voluntary bodies. They will not take over the work of the Council, in the sense of doing what they did—such as Teltag, the issue of free leaflets, the monthly magazine Focus and so on. But the work that the consumer groups are doing, in the National Federation, the National Citizens' Advice Bureau Council, in the circulation of Which? and similar advisory booklets, and, not least, the many women's organisations, including the Housewives' League, is having a great influence.
The House may be sure of one thing. Nothing that the Consumer Council or the Consumers' Association could do can in itself help us overcome the degree of inflation which was left by the policies of the previous Government. This Government will not seek a solution to the problems of inflation and the cost of living, to which the Motion refers, by trying to re-assemble the shattered pieces of those policies which so signally failed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) described.
Rather we shall look for a change in the level of wage expectation, through getting back to responsible collective bargaining, without, I fear, very much help from hon. Members opposite. We shall not connive at inflationary settlements in the private sector and we shall use all the influence we can against them in the public sector.
Part of this policy is a move towards greater realism, and this means three separate things: first, more freedom for the individual; second, therefore, more responsibility; and third, greater help for those whose need is greatest. We see this in the policies which we are bringing forward in housing, where 2½ million people are in private housing and 1½ million are in council houses, whose local authorities work no rent rebates scheme and who now cannot get help unless they are eligible for supplementary benefit. Under my right hon. Friend's reforms, if their income and family circumstances justify it, they will qualify for rebate and some will pay less rent than they pay now. The rest will move to the concept for which we are indebted to the party opposite—fair rents for council tenants as well as for private tenants.
971 I would not sneer at council house tenants—far from it. But neither would I support the proposition that they are necessarily poorer than those who live in private houses under private landlords. Our measures mean that these rebates will apply to both, and that fair rents will apply to both. We shall move by stages, starting at the end of 1971, at a pace to be discussed between the Government and the local authorities. I cannot, therefore, give an answer to the rumour, or story, about the rents rising in Manchester, because my right hon. Friend has not yet discussed this point with the local authorities concerned. In addition, there will be protection for the poorest tenants.
I want to deal with the question of the change from the present system to the levy system of support for agriculture. This will remove a cause for increasing taxation, will set a limit to the call on the taxpayers' money, and so by lessening public expenditure will enable improvement in other fields, including the social services. It will also provide a built-in protection for the industry against dumped or subsidised imports and so increase the farmers' confidence in the possibilities of increased production—an increased production which could be a very valuable saver of imports.
When we come to consider the effects of this change, it is very important to differentiate between the longer-term proposals set out in the White Paper and those which have been announced as the interim arrangements on cereals, meat and minor milk products. Despite what the Leader of the Opposition has said, the Tory Party told the country before the General Election that this change would lead to an increase in food prices of between 5 per cent. and 6 per cent. spread over three years, and my right hon. Friend confirmed it yesterday. [Interruption.]
§ That is on the longer-term proposal—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Macmillan
There has been no secret and no deception. The accusation of deception is in itself an attempt to deceive the people.
The interim levy arrangements announced by my right hon. Friend on 27th October will not necessarily in general increase prices much above the present market levels, which have been rising recently because of market forces. Because of this and as part of this, we are doing more in real terms in school building, hospital building, care of the old and the mentally ill. We are giving more help to public service pensioners, to widows and the old people, and we are in fact carrying out our promise to make life better for the poorer people. I admit that from next year many families will have to pay higher charges, and charges for some services which they now get free. But what is the alternative based on the past, based on the only alternative which hon. Members opposite can offer—the increased charges which they imposed—
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
Question put accordingly,
That this House deplores the failure of Her Majesty's Government to protect the consumer, as shown by its abolition of the Consumer Council, its unconcern about rising prices, the introduction of import levies on food, increased charges for public services and the cutting of housing subsidies; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to refrain from imposing further burdens on the housewife such as a value added tax:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 202. Noes 285.975
|Division No. 37.]||AYES||[7.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Bidwell, Sydney||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Bishop, E. S.||Carmichael, Neil|
|Allen, Scholefield||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara|
|Ashton, Joe||Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Clark, David (Colne Valley)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Bradley, Tom||Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)|
|Bagier, Gordon, A. T.||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Cohen, Stanley|
|Barnett, Joel||Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Coleman Donald|
|Beaney, Alan||Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Concannon, J. D.|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Buchan, Norman||Conlan, Bernard|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, Central)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||John, Brynmor||Prescott, John|
|Cronin, John||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)||Johnson, Walter (Derby, South)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Rankin, John|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Jones, Barry (Flint, East)||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Judd, Frank||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Kaufman, Gerald||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Kerr, Russell||Richard, Ivor|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lamond, James||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Latham, Arthur||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, Central)||Lawson, George||Roper, John|
|Deakins, Eric||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Rose, Paul B.|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Lestor, Miss Joan||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Dempsey, James||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Doig, Peter||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham N.)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Driberg, Tom||Lipton, Marcus||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lomas, Kenneth||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Dunn, James A.||McCann, John||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Eadie, Alex||McCartney, Hugh||Sillars, James|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||MacColl, James||Silverman, Julius|
|Ellis, Tom||McElhone, Frank||Skinner, Dennis|
|English, Michael||Mackintosh, John P.||Small, William|
|Faulds, Andrew||Maclennan, Robert||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, North)|
|Fernyhough, E.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Foley, Maurice||Marks, Kenneth||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Foot, Michael||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Ford, Ben||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mellish, Rt. Hn, Robert||Strang, Gavin|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mendelson, John||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Garrett, W. E.||Mikardo, Ian||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Millan, Bruce||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Ginsburg, David||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Golding, John||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Tinn, James|
|Gourlay, Harry||Molloy, William||Urwin, T. W.|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Grant, John D. (Islington, East)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Moyle, Roland||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Hamling, William||Murray, Ronald King||Wallace, George|
|Hanan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Ogden, Eric||Watkins, David|
|Hardy, Peter||O'Halloran, Michael||Weitzman, David|
|Harper, Joseph||O'Malley, Brian||Wellbeloved, James|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Orbach, Maurice||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Oswald, Thomas||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Horam, John||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)||Whitlock, William|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Palmer, Arthur||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pardoe, John||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, North)||Pavitt, Laurie||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hunter, Adam||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Woof, Robert|
|Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Pendry, Tom|
|Janner, Greville||Pentland, Norman||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.)||Perry, Ernest G.||Mr. Alfred Morris and|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||Mr. Charles Morris.|
|Adley, Robert||Body, Richard||Clark, William (Surrey, East)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Boscawen, R. T.||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Bossom, Sir Clive||Clegg, Walter|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Cockeram, Eric|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Braine, Bernard||Cooke, Robert|
|Astor, John||Bray, Ronald||Coombs, Derek|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Brinton, Sir Tatton||Cooper, A. E.|
|Awdry, Daniel||Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Cordle, John|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Corfield, F. V.|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Bryan, Paul||Cormack, Patrick|
|Balniel, Lord||Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Costain, A, P.|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Bullus, Sir Erie||Critchley, Julian|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Burden, F. A.||Crouch, David|
|Bell, Ronald||Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Crowder, F. P.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Carlisle, Mark||Curran, Charles|
|Benyon, W.||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Berry, Hon. Anthony||Channon, Paul||Dance, James|
|Biffen, John||Chapman, Sydney||Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christpoher||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Blaker, Peter||Chichester-Clark, R.||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Mal.-Gen. Jack|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Churchill, W. S.||Dean, Paul|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Kellett, Mrs. Elaine||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Redmond, Robert|
|Dixon, Piers||Kilfedder, James||Reed, Laurence (Bolton, East)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Kimball, Marcus||Rees, Hn. Peter (Dover)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||King, Evelyn (Dorset, South)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Dykes, Hugh||Kinsey, J. R.||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Eden, Sir John||Kitson, Timothy||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Elliot, Capt, Walter (Carshalton)||Knox, David||Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Lambton, Antony||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Emery, Peter||Lane, David||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Fell, Anthony||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Rost, Peter|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Royle, Anthony|
|Fidler, Michael||Le Marchant, Spencer||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Sharples, Richard|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Loveridge, John||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Fortescue, Tim||MacArthur, Ian||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Foster, Sir John||McCrindle, R. A.||Simeons, Charles|
|Fowler, Norman||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Fox, Marcus||Macmillan, Maurice (Famham)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Fry, Peter||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Soref, Harold|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Speed, Keith|
|Gardner, Edward||Maddan, Martin||Spence, John|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Mattel, David||Sproat, Iain|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Maginnis, John E.||Stainton, Keith|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Marten, Neil||Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mather, Carol||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Maude, Angus||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Gorst, John||Mawby, Ray||Stokes, John|
|Gower, Raymond||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Green, Alan||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Sutcliffe, John|
|Grieve, Percy||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Tapsell, Pater|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Mills, Stratton, (Belfast, N.)||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Gummer, Selwyn||Miscampbell, Norman||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Gurden, Harold||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Moate, Roger||Temple, John M.|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Molyneaux, James||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Hannam, John (Exeter)||Money, Ernie||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Monro, Hector||Tilney, John|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Montgomery, Fergus||Trew, Peter|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Havers, Michael||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Hawkins, Paul||Mudd, David||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hay, John||Murton, Oscar||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Neave, Airey||Waddington, David|
|Heseltine, Michael||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Hicks, Robert||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Nott, John||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Hiley, Joseph||Onslow, Cranley||Wall, Patrick|
|Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Walters, Dennis|
|Holland Philip||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Hordern Peter||Osborn, John||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Hornby, Richard||Owen, Idris (Stockport, North)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt, Hn. Dame Patricia||Page, Graham (Crosby)||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Peel, John||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, North)||Percival, Ian||Wilkinson, John|
|Hunt, John||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Pink, R. Bonner||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pounder, Rafton||Woodnutt, Mark|
|James, David||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Worsley, Marcus|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.||Younger, Hon. George|
|Jessel, Toby||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, South)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Jopling, Michael||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Mr. Jasper More and|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Mr. Reginald Evre.|