HC Deb 27 July 1971 vol 822 cc184-6
1. Mr. Meacher

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will give as much information as is available to him relating to changes in the distribution of income in Great Britain and in each of the European Economic Community countries over the period 1957–70.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Maurice Macmillan)

Changes in the distribution of personal income in the United Kingdom are shown in Table 57 of "Inland Revenue Statistics 1971", which gives figures for 1959–60 and 1968–69, together with a number of intervening years. I regret, however, I have no comparable information for any of the countries of the European Economic Community.

Mr. Meacher

I find that a disappointing answer. Will not the Minister acknowledge that the most likely effect of our entry into a wider capitalist bloc free of tariff barriers is a rise in the profits share of the G.N.P. at the expense of the wages share, that this is all the more likely to happen in view of the relatively higher proportion of remuneration in British G.N.P. at present than in the Common Market, and that it is likely to be the lowest paid workers in the declining industries who will suffer most in the absence of remedial measures of the kind which the Government seem either unwilling to take or incapable of taking?

Mr. Macmillan

No, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman in anything he has said. Such evidence as there is shows that since the Common Market has been in existence the share of wages and salaries has risen considerably. From 1960 to 1969 the figure altered from 57.4 per cent. to 62.7 per cent. of the G.N.P.

7. Mr. Tilney

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will ensure that, whether Great Britain enters the European Economic Community or not, it will be possible to remit capital for investment in Australia and New Zealand.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Anthony Barber)

The obligations of the United Kingdom after entry into the E.E.C. relate to capital movements between the United Kingdom and other member States of the Community and not to investment in third countries.

Mr. Tilney

Despite the recent experience of unfortunate British investors in some almost non-existent Australian mines, does my right hon. Friend agree that investment by British companies in subsidiaries or in partnership with local capital has been beneficial both to Australia and New Zealand and to this country, and will he see that it continues?

Mr. Barber

I touched on this matter in the debate on the Budget and explained why we considered it necessary to retain the voluntary programme for the time being. The important thing in relation to the Question is that no undertaking has been given to the E.E.C. on this matter of the voluntary programme.

25. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the cost to the Exchequer of raising annually the income tax age relief, age exemption and small income relief by sufficient to compensate those living on small fixed incomes for the additional cost of living resulting from Great Britain joining the Common Market as set out in paragraph 43 of Command Paper No. 4715.

The Minister of State, Treasury (Mr. Terence Higgins)

It is not possible to provide such an estimate, but I would refer my hon. Friend to Paragraph 90 of Cmnd. 4715.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Will my hon. Friend ask his right hon. Friend to make such an undertaking, as it would go a long way to allay the fears of people on small fixed incomes about entry into the Common Market, which is so desirable?

Mr. Higgins

I am afraid that I could not do that. My hon. Friend will, no doubt, have noticed that one consequence of the new system of personal taxation is that small income relief and age relief will be unnecessary as they will be abolished from 1973 onwards. The income tax limit for age exemption is being increased both this year and next.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that part of the Government's pledges regarding entry to the Common Market is that people in receipt of social service benefits will be protected? Why does he make this unfair discrimination? There are masses of people on small fixed incomes with whom it is difficult to deal, and those who are in favour of going into the Common Market, as I am, are as entitled to have their ideas put into operation and assurances given to them as are others. It is a question not only of wanting to convert the anti-Marketeers, but of wanting to reassure the pro-Marketeers.

Mr. Higgins

Naturally, I appreciate the point which my hon. Friend has made. It was for that reason that I referred my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) to paragraph 90 of the Cmnd. Paper.