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Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): Does the hon. Gentleman recall that there was a selective employment tax in 1970? I believe that it was 15 per cent. of the surcharge. Not only was it a terrible tax, but it condemned, for example, hairdressers to suffer additional taxation. That was unreasonable.
Mr. Kidney: I do not know why the hon. Gentleman refers to hairdressers, but he is right about the existence of the selective employment tax. It was telling that, as in 1951, the Leader of the Opposition observed that the
Mr. Hayes: I hope that my comments will match the hon. Gentleman's expectation of politeness. Will he reflect on two matters that were relevant to the run-up to that election? The first was the publication of the balance of payments figures. Many people believed that that had an impact on the result of the election. The second was the savings ratio. Both are less healthy now than they were then.
Mr. Kidney: The hon. Gentleman's first point is quite interesting, because the then Chancellor referred to our obsession with the balance of payments figure, and said that he looked forward to the day when people were no longer obsessed by it. At that time, people looked at the figure and thought that it was extremely worrying if it was an unhealthy one, whereas today people take a much more relaxed view of that indicator of economic well-being.
On the hon. Gentleman's point about the savings ratio, I confess that I do not recall the position in 1970. I adopt the approach of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East, who said that the savings ratio is not taken quite so seriously as it was in the past, because other economic factors are at work at the same time. Perhaps a good illustration of that is that in America, during its very successful period of growth in the 1990s, there were times when its savings ratio was negative, yet that did not impinge on its success.
Mr. Bercow: If published, the hon. Gentleman's brief history of Budget debates would make a racy read and a standard text book. He ought to savour that compliment, because I shall probably not volunteer many more in his direction. He made an important point about the 41.25 per cent. tax rate under the chancellorship of Lord Jenkins, as he now is. Will he now take the opportunity to acknowledge that the then Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton, South-West, the late Enoch Powell, was arguing at the time--as he did in a publication from Elliot Rightway books--for income tax at 4s 3d in the pound? The argument was developed in a legendary speech in Morecambe.
I shall move on to 3 April 1979, and the Budget that never was. Denis Healey--now Lord Healey--was the Chancellor, and he was due to deliver his 15th Budget in five years, believe it or not. That is a telling indicator of the difficulties with which he was wrestling in the late 1970s. The reason that he did not deliver that Budget was that, the week before, the Labour Government had suffered a defeat in a vote of no confidence and his Budget was scrapped. Instead, he came to the House to deliver a Finance Bill that would merely continue the authority to collect taxes and keep the Government in
To return to the story about income tax, the standard rate then was 33 per cent. There was a huge number of different rates, but the top rate was 83 per cent. I think that Lord Healey had just about had enough of the job by then, because during his speech he described the job of Chancellor as
I am pleased that that little history lesson has entertained at least one hon. Member present. It has enabled me to make the point that today's Budget speech was delivered from a position of immense strength and power, built on four years of preparation and the laying of proper foundations. We are in this position through choice, because of decisions that have been made, rather than by chance or happenstance.
When I listened to the leader of the Liberal Democrats make his contribution to today's debate, I was struck not only by his call--naturally--to spend more money, but by the inadvisability of spending such money before preparations have been made. That is the lesson of the previous three Labour Governments, who churned out a great deal of spending on public services at the beginning of a Parliament, hit a crisis in the middle of it, then spent the rest of it recovering their position and going to the polls saying, "We are sorry, we have made a terrible mess,
Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I apologise for disturbing the hon. Gentleman, who is making a most entertaining speech, but I wish to refer to a point of order made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) concerning information provided to hon. Members in relation to the Budget.
The original Budget bundle contained an indication of a number of additional press releases that were to be available to hon. Members, but they were not in the Vote Office when my hon. Friend raised his point of order. Since then, I have made an additional inquiry at the Vote Office and have received another bundle of documents that was not made available to hon. Members with the original Budget bundle, but is now available. It includes one important document referred to in the original bundle--"A Review of Small Business Taxation".
I have just been to the Vote Office again to inquire whether the press releases have now arrived, as they relate to important measures affecting business taxation. I was given an envelope that contains only parts of the Budget bundle. The press releases are still not available. I understand that they may be available on the internet, but I do not think that that is an adequate way of informing hon. Members of the contents of the Budget. Given the importance of the details of this Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget statements, it would be helpful if the Ministers on the Treasury Bench could arrange for those press releases to be made available in written form in the Vote Office at the earliest possible moment.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Sylvia Heal): The supply of documents to the Vote Office is not the responsibility of the Chair. I have no doubt that Members on the Treasury Bench will have heard what the hon. Gentleman said.
Mr. Kidney: I am happy to excuse the hon. Gentleman for interrupting my speech. He made an important point and wherever the fault lies, it is unacceptable that we cannot have access to the documents that we need on Budget day, of all days.
I shall move on to make three brief points that will conclude my observations. The first concerns public spending. Opposition Members have raised eyebrows and expressed concerns about the Chancellor's announcement that he intends further to extend his commitment to spending money on public services over the next three years. However, the cautionary note that I would sound to the Chancellor, and to those who might think that that was a worrying thing to do, is that so far, our Departments seem to be having difficulty coping with spending the money that they have already been given.
An article in the Financial Times today points out an underspend on the working families tax credit, and there is an even greater worry about capital spending, in terms of the inability to spend the money allocated. Ten months of this financial year have passed, and we are told that about £2.2 billion, out of an allocation of £7 billion, has been spent.
I am sure that the position will improve by the end of the year. Nevertheless, this appears to be becoming a bit of a habit. The previous year, the Select Committee on the Treasury, on which I served, pointed out that even the more modest capital spending total for that year had not been met: it had been underspent. On that occasion, the Chancellor told us that the Departments had got so used to being starved of capital resources that they were neither used to spending money nor geared up to do so. However, I would have thought that 12 months later, we would now be ready to spend the money.
When I talk to Treasury Ministers about the matter, they point out that there is now the ability to carry forward money, and it is not lost if it is not spent in the financial year allocated. That is a welcome development, and very healthy indeed. Nevertheless, there is an urgent need to spend that money, and those with responsibility for spending it ought to consider doing so as a matter of urgency.
We want investment in law and order, roads, railways, bridges, schools and hospitals. We want good quality and good design and we also want all those to appear physically sooner rather than later--[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) urges me on, and he will like my next point, which is on fair education funding.
The hon. Gentleman knows that a number of Members are unhappy about the way in which the Government distribute money to local authorities, however generous the sum. I received a letter from a constituent, Mrs. Eunice Finney, who says: