Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Smith: The fact that we have been so successful on this Bill is obviously getting to Ministers and is bringing them to the Dispatch Box. They are worried that we have been an effective channel for public opinion on

Column 1607

the issues in the Bill and that, one way or another, we have helped to secure so many changes; clearly, that upsets them.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: If the hon. Gentleman was so against the imposition of value added tax on domestic fuel and power, why did not the Labour party support the amendment tabled by another Opposition party to reduce the rate from 8 per cent. to 5 per cent?

Mr. Smith: Because everyone knew that that was an opportunist amendment-- [Hon. Members:-- "Ah!"] Conservative Members know that is true. That amendment could have resulted in the loss of the change in VAT to 8 per cent. It could have forced it back to 17.5 per cent., which is where the Conservative party wanted it. Having won that victory, we were determined that we would do nothing to put the rate at risk, nor will we do anything this evening that would put it at risk, but more of that later.

I was surprised to hear the Chief Secretary claim a share of the glory on the Government side for what has happened to the Finance Bill because he had little to do with it in Committee. On one visit, we saw him reading Will Hutton's book, which resulted not in radical amendments to the Bill but in a rather acerbic review in The Sunday Times in which he conceded that

"British businesses are still finding it difficult to adjust to the new economic environment"--

that is one way of putting it. He continued:

"Successful competitiveness can be uncomfortable."

That obvious reference to his rivalry with the Secretary of State for Employment, the right hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo), who is going to lead the Conservative party from the right in opposition, prompted me to compare their contributions to Finance Bill proceedings. I am sorry to say that it is not all good news for the present Chief Secretary, who has not been doing enough to display his talents. The sad truth is that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, when he was Chief Secretary last year, had spoken more after eight days of the Committee stage than this Chief Secretary did during the entire proceedings. The former Chief Secretary made three times as many speeches in total, five times as many interventions and managed to be present for 87 per cent. of the sittings, as compared to the present Chief Secretary's 44 per cent.

We have heard a good deal in this Finance Bill on

performance-related pay. It seems that the matter is in the Chief Secretary's hands and that a bonus will shortly be transferred from the present occupant of the office to his predecessor, perhaps with a well- earned cut for the Financial Secretary, the Minister of State and the Paymaster General, who worked hard on the Bill, as we would all agree.

It would not be fair for me to refer to the work accomplished on the Bill without drawing the attention of the House and the country to the performance of the Liberal Democrats because it was an incredible record. Between them, they were present for barely half the time. They were missing for our crucial tied vote on pools betting duty, their representatives on the Finance Bill Committee are not even here this evening, and they did not turn up in Committee to move their new clauses on child care. It will not escape the notice of the country that, when it comes to action on child

Column 1608

care or anything else for that matter, people can look with confidence to the Labour party, not to the Liberal Democrats. We have taken our opportunities to improve this Bill where they have relinquished theirs.

As a consequence, there is much in the Bill that is better than when it started. Areas of concern remain, however. Even with the small amendments to the regime on venture capital trusts, allowing a larger proportion of non-voting shares, which the Government conceded yesterday and which responded in part to points that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Mr. Pearson) and I made earlier, we remain concerned that the venture capital trusts and enterprise investment scheme provisions in the Bill may do more to attract savings into property-backed, lower-risk investments than into the higher-risk, higher-tech areas intended, but we shall see what happens as the scheme proceeds.

As we said yesterday, we remain concerned, too, that the introduction of self-assessment in taxation contains some big hostages to fortune on which, as we enter a general election period, the Chief Secretary and his hon. Friends may yet have cause to regret opposing our proposed postponement.

When people look at the Bill, they will see that its most outstanding political aspect is the Government's defeat over the rate of VAT on fuel. People will remember that, when the Conservatives were banging through tax increase after tax increase--20 in total, adding up to an extra £812 imposed on a typical family--the only tax cut was in the prospective rate of VAT on fuel. They will remember that Labour's campaigning and votes, along with those of the smaller parties and a handful of Conservative rebels, won that tax cut for the general public. The Bill incorporates that victory, which is one of its most important features.

As I said in Committee on the Floor of the House, the Opposition intend to put neither that VAT victory nor their other gains at risk. That is why we shall not divide the House against giving the Bill a Third Reading tonight. No one should suppose, however, that this Bill is enough. Britain needs effective action for jobs, investment and partnership to create a truly dynamic economy and a fair society. For that, we need a different Finance Bill and a different Government. 8.10 pm

Mr. Forman: At the end of our debate on this Finance Bill, which has, on the whole, been good humoured, I can strike agreement with the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) on one point: his strictures on the Liberal party. I have personal experience of coping with the Liberals in my constituency, and his point was well made. The Finance Bill, and the two Budgets of which it is the legislative consequence, are the latest welcome instalment of the Chancellor's prudent and successful fiscal policy. It is prudent because it has sought to restrain public expenditure by some £24 billion over three years, off the control total. It has also sought to achieve a broadly neutral fiscal adjustment for 1995-96. It is successful because it has contributed to greater confidence in the financial markets, measures to improve the supply side of the economy and the continuing economic recovery based on non-inflationary growth, which, as my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary said, is helping to reduce unemployment by about 1,000 a day and to create new wealth and jobs.

Column 1609

The nature of that recovery and how we are prospering here and overseas has many interesting aspects. One of the more interesting facts that was not picked up in the Sturm und Drang of parliamentary questions to the Chancellor on Thursday was the point that he made in answer to a question about trade with the far east. He pointed out that

"we have now restored the old level of investment that Britain used to have before its past portfolio went during the wars, and the flows into this country are extremely valuable--as valuable as visible trade to the well- being of this country."--[ Official Report , 30 March 1995; Vol. 257, c. 1172.]

The importance of both inward investment, which is often debated in the House, and remittances, which is the point that the Chancellor was making, can be underestimated. In a global economy, we must all pay more attention to those valuable aspects of our income flows. Overseas assets can be beneficial to this country, as other countries such as Japan are finding. It is not just a matter of retaining confidence here to attract inward investment; it is also a question of creating a fiscal and monetary structure within which our firms, many of which are now multinational, can prosper and invest successfully overseas. This country can see the benefits of that repatriated income later on.

In those satisfactory circumstances, it would be folly for the House to follow any of the Opposition's economic advice. The House and the country should note that, in this respect, both the Labour and Liberal parties are, by instinct and tradition, high-spending parties.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (Surrey, East): The Liberals have gone.

Mr. Forman: Yes, I see that they have gone.

If the Labour and Liberal parties are high-spending parties, they are unavoidably parties of high taxation and borrowing. I remind the House that the last Labour Government--that seems a long time ago--introduced the highest marginal rates of tax on income in peacetime history. The present Labour party has voted against nearly every income tax cut made by this Government over the past 15 or 16 years. Furthermore, records show that Labour Governments tend to borrow more than Conservative Governments. For example, the 1974 to 1979 Labour Government borrowed, on average, nearly 7 per cent. of national income a year whereas, since 1979, in spite of the difficulties of two recessions, we have borrowed on average 2 per cent. a year.

Not the least important point about that broad contrast between the two sides of the House is that the views that I now put to the House are largely shared by the unsentimental and realistic British public, particularly as represented in a recent MORI poll published in The Times . It showed that 62 per cent. of the middle classes expected a future Labour Government, were there to be one, to increase the burden of income tax; 23 per cent. thought that their standard of living would decline rather than improve under a Labour Government; 21 per cent. thought that a future Labour Government would not keep their promises; and 38 per cent. doubted-- indeed, disputed--the idea that a future Labour Government would keep inflation under control. If the current political scene is a battle for the hearts and minds of the middle class and middle England, we can see that those people have

Column 1610

already understood, perhaps more clearly than we sometimes give them credit for, exactly where the national advantage and their own advantage lie.

Mr. Betts: In response to the hon. Gentleman's comment that 21 per cent. of the middle class would not expect a future Labour Government to keep their promises, has he any idea what percentage of middle England would expect a Conservative Government to keep their promises, given what we have seen in the past few years?

Mr. Forman: I would need notice of that question, because the poll on which I draw focused principally on the Labour party's struggle to convince the middle class.

In case people are tempted to think that Liberal policy is anything more than what I believe it to be, which is a dilute version of Labour policy, they need only look at Liberal policy in areas of the country where, temporarily, the Liberals control local authorities to see the extent to which their spending policies are irresponsible and even feckless as they do not give correct priority to sensitive areas such as education.

I commend my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench for the various parts that they have played in this Finance Bill, and I commend the Chancellor and the Government as a whole on introducing yet another prudent and successful Budget.

8.17 pm

Mr. Sheldon: I rise only briefly to express my appreciation of the work of the Opposition Front Bench and the way in which they have handled this Finance Bill.

We are in the shadow of the consequences of black Wednesday. The Government pledged themselves to maintain a deutschmark at 2.95 and failed miserably when the crunch came. We now have a deutschmark at 2.20 or 2.34 and a dollar at 1.60. For the first time in my 30 years in the House, I feel that the exchange rate is about right. Until now, it has always been wrong. It is the English genius to achieve things through mistakes, and that is how the Government have brought about a proper and defensible exchange rate. I would not like it to go any lower. Every time that I have made this sort of speech, I have said that I wanted lower exchange rates to encourage investment and our manufacturing exports. Now we have it about right, so will the Government please just leave it alone and let it continue to provide the wealth that the country needs?

The Government will now make the great mistake of talking about future tax changes. They should understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer needs flexibility. One cannot decide those things two years in advance; surely the reversal of the decision on VAT on domestic fuel showed that. One must make a judgment at the time. It is wrong to limit the Chancellor in any way.

I would draw attention to the fine tuning that we now have using interest rates. Conservative Governments in the past always opposed fine tuning. Now they talk about quarters of a per cent. in those matters.

The monthly meeting of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Governor of the Bank of England is one of the worst decisions of all. Denis Healey used to say to the Governor of the Bank of England, Gordon Richardson, "I wish I had your job." Today, the Governor

Column 1611

of the Bank of England has much more power than he ever had then. I am pretty sure that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer would like to change jobs, too.

Finally, I congratulate my hon. Friends on the Labour Front Bench on achieving one of the great reverses, on VAT on fuel. That will be something for which they will be long remembered and long appreciated.

8.20 pm

Mr. John Townend (Bridlington): Never in my parliamentary life have we debated the Finance Bill against such a favourable economic background; yet the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) says that we are in a mess. Underlying inflation 1.8 per cent. last month, exports soaring--we are in a mess. The balance of payments in balance--we are in a mess. Unemployment coming down month by month--and the hon. Gentleman says that we are in a mess.

The French level of unemployment is now--

Mr. Andrew Smith: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Townend: No; I have only four minutes.

The French level of unemployment, with a socialist President, is now 50 per cent. more than ours. The Spanish level of unemployment, with a Socialist Government, is treble ours. The budget deficit is decreasing and we have a budget deficit reduction plan that will bring us into balance by the end of the decade.

My only regret is that to bring that budget deficit under control we have had to accept tax increases, the last of which are in the Budget. I broadly approve of the Government's strategy, but everyone knows that I always prefer to cut public expenditure instead of increasing taxes. I welcome the fact that the Government now appear to have accepted that, henceforth, our first priority must be to cut public expenditure.

I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench that we need to launch a crusade against overmanning, extravagance and waste in the public sector. Wherever one looks in the public sector, at local government level or at national Government level, one can find glaring examples of the taxpayer's money being unnecessarily spent. I have about 20 examples here. Time will not allow me go into them, but I shall take them up in due course with my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

The public sector is bloated. If one questions that point of view, one has only to consider the privatised industries. Who would have believed that they could slim down their work force so much while improving the service to the customer and reducing charges in real terms? Indeed, their great success is one of the reasons why we have been embarrassed by the profits made and the share options given. No one dreamed that the nationalised industries were so overmanned. If we could achieve only 50 per cent. of the savings in manpower that the privatised industries have made or that every private firm that had to slim down during the recession has achieved, we would have no difficulty in cutting taxes substantially.

Column 1612

I hope that this Finance Bill marks the end of an era in two respects. First, never again should we have a Finance Bill as long as this. It shows, in my opinion, that the Inland Revenue is out of control. It is obsessed with the minutiae of tax avoidance and benefits in kind. The Institute of Chartered Accountants described the Bill as "another dose of obscurity" and protested about the complexity in drafting style. I therefore welcome the Treasury's proposals to consider giving the work of drafting future Finance Bills to the private sector.

I hope that the Bill before us will be the last Finance Bill for many, many years in which the overall burden of taxation is increased. I can assure the Chancellor that he will have all my support in achieving those aims. I am sure that, with our present Chief Secretary to the Treasury, after the spending round this year, when we come to the Budget in November, we shall see the start of many, many Conservative Budgets when the burden on the taxpayer is reduced.

The Conservative party is the party whose philosophy is that we should leave as much money as possible in the wage earner's pocket, because we believe that he can take decisions about the way to spend his money better than the Government can. The Opposition believe that they should take as much money out of the wage earner's pocket as possible, because they believe that the state can take decisions better than the individual. That is the big difference between us. That is the blue water.

I commend my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench for all their efforts to reduce public spending.

8.25 pm

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham): The economic illiteracy that we have just heard, and that we heard in the opening speech, is great even by the standards of the Conservative Benches. The plain fact is that, when the Conservatives entered office in 1979, Britain stood fourth or fifth in per capita gross domestic product in Europe; we now stand 11th, sinking down the world league tables of growth and distribution. No economic legerdemain can reduce that fact. I shall return to the Bill, because that is what we are here to debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. First, it is an extraordinarily regressive Bill. In spite of the great victory won last November, when the proposal for VAT at 16 per cent. was defeated, nearly every measure proposed in the Bill--we do not have time to go through the clauses--has been regressive.

Secondly, where I do agree with the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) is that, at 351 pages, the Bill is far too long. Thirdly, the Bill is absurdly complex--more complex than any comparable legislation for any other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development country of the same size.

Fourthly, it is a remarkably insular, inward-looking Bill. An amendment to clause 123, in which there was a suggestion of examining ways in which we might consider taxation internationally, was thrown out in Committee.

Fifthly, it is an extraordinarily short-term Bill. Thank goodness the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) was successful in moving his amendment on shipping, with our support, and the Government finally accepted

Column 1613

that, because that measure extended slightly the time scale to back the tax relief necessary for our shipbuilding industry. However, for every other measure, the continual refrain was of resistance to the development of what one might call patient capitalism.

Sixthly, without question, it was a Bill designed in the Ritz and very much for the Ritz. Treasury Ministers made their

"proper prostrations to the Gods of the market-place", but underlying the focus of the Bill is a shift from a wage-earning to a rentier society. That should worry anyone who believes that income should be related to hard work, not to turning up now and then to sign off, or not as the case may be, on arms exports to a country under ban from the United Nations.

Seventhly, in the handling of the Bill there was some arrogance on the part of the Treasury Ministers. What does one expect from three Old Etonians and one Old Harrovian, all at Oxford? It was old England, which, thank goodness, was able to take some advice from new Labour. However, in spite of their politeness, their courtesy--which I acknowledge, because that is the class from which they come--there was a haughty disregard for any of the arguments made by Conservative Members, their colleagues. I ask for no pity or consideration for our opinions, but when their own side made sensible and helpful suggestions--of course very few of them coming from the Old Etonian and Old Harrovian gang--they were knocked back.

Eighthly, this is a profoundly anti-manufacturing Bill. I defy the Financial Secretary, in replying, to identify more than five clauses that will genuinely help industry. Last week, I had the honour of hosting a visit in the House from the Rotherham chamber of commerce. Those on the visit talked about education, skills and the lack of demand. There is nothing in the Bill that helps the manufacturing sector in a concrete way. I was particularly disappointed that the amendment on employee share ownership plans, which was moved by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) and supported by me, was so scornfully rejected.

Ninthly, the Bill is for rentiers, not wage earners. Tax-exempt special savings accounts and personal equity plans have been mentioned. But we must be careful, because we shall face problems in the future if we focus only on unearned income and unearned rents instead of creating a society in which value is added by people's work and income comes more directly from that work.

Tenthly, taxation is more than a contract between Government and the governed. It is the definition of the duties and responsibilities that society accepts in exchange for the freedom to make and spend money as it wishes. It is the equilibrium which is so tragically lacking in our two- nation society. We live in a society of two unbalanced halves, which fiscal policy should seek to connect, one to the other.

We need a major reform of our taxation system. With this Finance Bill, the Conservatives have shown that theirs is the party of high taxation and low lies. Only a new Treasury Front-Bench team can put that right.

8.30 pm

Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central): I am sorry that we did not hear more from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury during the passage of the Finance Bill. He read

Column 1614

his speech with feeling and we enjoyed it to some extent, but it was thoroughly unconvincing and demonstrated why the Government face difficulties.

It is not surprising that the Chief Secretary did not speak much about the Finance Bill, as he was not present in Committee very often. The only thing that can be said about him is that he was present on slightly more occasions than the Liberal Democrats, who were hardly there at all. One was bound to wonder why they asked for places on the Standing Committee on the Finance Bill--perhaps that is something that the Committee of Selection might want to take into account next year. [Interruption.]

Even as I speak, the Liberal Democrats cannot stand the heat and have withdrawn from the Chamber. The Liberal Democrat Benches now remain empty. I hope that those who sometimes pick up their press releases will ask them exactly how much time they spend in the Chamber when they are given the opportunity to talk about their economic policies or anything else.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) mentioned that the Chief Secretary was hardly ever in Committee. His absence lends some credibility to his claim that when he was the director of a certain company he did not spend much time there. Clearly, not attending meetings and not being there seems to be a trade mark of the Chief Secretary.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East also said that the Chief Secretary spent some time reading Will Hutton's excellent book, which was indirectly plugged by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane). I also noticed that for some time the Chief Secretary was reading a book entitled "The Law of Islam". I do not know why he was reading it, but perhaps, sooner or later, we will find out what he was so interested in.

The Chief Secretary's speech was unconvincing. He talked about success, but the truth is that people do not feel that they live in a successful country. They do not believe that they are being successful themselves and they do not believe that Britain is successful. The people feel cheated and deceived. They were promised tax cuts in 1992, but they got tax increases-- there have been 20 different tax increases since 1993 alone. A typical family is paying £800 a year more in tax.

The hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) talked about the instincts and philosophy of the Government and the Conservative party. We know the Government's instincts--to say one thing during the election campaign and to do completely the opposite thereafter. The Government said that they would reduce taxes year on year. Instead, they have increased taxes year on year. It is no wonder that people do not trust the Conservatives on tax or anything else.

It would have been interesting if, when the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) reviewed the opinion poll in The Sunday Times , he had told us its conclusion. If I am not mistaken, despite what he said, the majority of people, no matter where they stand--whether they are on middle incomes, lower incomes or no income--are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Government and do not believe one word that the Government say about taxation or anything else.

Just last weekend, we were told that there would be a Tory relaunch. We saw the Prime Minister appearing on the Anne and Nick show to announce his relaunch. The

Column 1615

relaunched Tory party is the party that we have known for the past 16 years. It is the party that is prepared to say anything to get elected and do the opposite once given power.

Over the weekend, the Tory party chairman said that he backed a proposal for a rolling programme of tax cuts. He said that that was an excellent idea. A few hours later, the Secretary of State for Employment said that he was not so sure. Tonight, the Chancellor told the Tory Back Benchers to dampen their expectations as there was no guarantee that the Government could deliver.

The Government strategy for relaunching themselves has fallen apart after three days. The truth is that the Government are bankrupt of ideas and have no idea about what to do with this country. What we see now is the Government's desperate attempt to cling to power by holding out the vague hope that there might be something better some time in the future.

We have had 20 tax rises since 1992. The Government may say that their instinct is to cut taxes, but their action shows something different. The only tax cut that we have had in 1995 has been a Labour tax cut, when VAT on domestic fuel was cut from 17.5 per cent. to 8 per cent. That is not all --as my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East said, the Opposition have won a string of victories over the Government.

One victory seems to sum up what is wrong with the Government. We heard about it from the hon. Member for Bridlington and the Chief Secretary when they talked about executive share options. This afternoon, the Government were forced to amend a proposal in the Finance Bill to ensure that part- time directors could not exploit the provisions relating to executive share options. What the Government said was instructive. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury seemed to extol the idea that people should be given executive share options without reference to the company's success. That was in stark contrast to the Prime Minister who, at the outset of the Finance Bill, said that nothing could be done, it was nothing to do with the Government and all to do with private companies. But half way through the spring of this year, in the midst of the Finance Bill, the Prime Minister suddenly arrived in the Chamber and said that the granting of share options and huge salary increases in privatised utilities could not be justified. He executed a complete U-turn, which was followed by another one two days later, when it seemed to be suggested that nothing could be done about it.

The Government's attitude to the unwarranted and excessive executive pay options and excessive pay rises in privatised utilities seems to sum up all that is wrong with the Government's tax policy--a complete and utter lack of fairness. They show a complete disregard for fairness, which should be installed within any tax system. Their attitude towards share options and the unjustified pay increases taken by the bosses of privatised utilities sums up everything that is wrong with the Government's approach to tax and fairness. We welcome good news when we see it, but we criticise the problems that the country still has--the lack of manufacturing capacity, the lack of industrial policy and, above all, the lack of confidence in the Government. We are unimpressed by the casual promises being made

Column 1616

by the Chancellor, the Prime Minister and other members of the Conservative party. People do not trust the Tories on tax or anything else.

We will not oppose the Bill tonight because it contains one crucial benefit for the majority of people in this country: the reduction of VAT to 8 per cent. That is what people will remember about the 1994-95 Finance Bill. They will remember that the Labour party brought the one tax cut for those who face so much hardship and misery.

We shall continue to hound the Government for their failures. We welcome any good news, but the Government have no answers and no suggestions about what we should do in future. The country has lost confidence in the Government. Later this week and at the beginning of next month the electorate in England and Wales will show that they have no confidence in the Government. It will not be long before the electorate turn to a party that has the answers and enjoys the confidence of the people in this country.

8.39 pm

Sir George Young: I am grateful to my hon. Friends who spoke in the brief Third Reading debate for reminding the House of the positive measures in the Budget and the positive good news. Underlying inflation is below 3 per cent.--something we have not seen since 1961 for such a sustained time- -unemployment is falling by 1,000 a day and the current account is in broad balance. We have inward investment, jobs and an economy that is growing and strengthening. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) was unable to tell his local business men what was in the Budget to help businesses. One of the largest measures, involving some £600 million, was actually for businesses. It was the transitional relief scheme for the business rates-- something that had escaped his memory.

The Opposition failed to remind us of some of their new clauses, such as the one which, for the first time, would have provided tax breaks for tax planning. It had all the accountants in the country with their mouths watering. It proposed for the first time tax concessions for tax avoidance.

We heard nothing from the Opposition about this week's reductions in national insurance contributions--something that they overlooked--in addition to cuts in the previous Budget. The cost of hiring someone on half average earnings has fallen from £710 a year in 1993-94 to £610 in 1995-96.

The Opposition mentioned tax increases, but, for an average household, this week's tax increase amounts to no more than the price of a lottery ticket and is dwarfed by the £5 a week by which we expect households to be better off on average after tax and inflation.

There is, indeed, one party that has not come clean with this country on its tax policy--the Labour party. For five months, when the Finance Bill was in Committee, we asked Labour Members time and again basic economic questions. Will they spend more or less than a Conservative Government? Will they tax more or less than a Conservative Government? Will they borrow more or less than a Conservative Government? That is when the sound bites end and the air bites begin. Labour Members have no right to be taken seriously as a party until they come clean on their economic policy.

Column 1617

Nothing has looked so contrived as the Labour party's recent claim to be the taxpayer's friend. Could one imagine Labour Back Benchers piling into a room on the Committee corridor and giving the shadow Chancellor advice on how to reduce public expenditure and the burden of taxation? If they offered such advice, could one imagine him taking it?

The contrast between the advice that the Opposition receive and the advice that the Government receive could not be more stark. I note from today's Daily Mail that, whereas my colleagues talk to the Chancellor about reducing taxation, union leaders have been stridently reminding the Leader of the Opposition of their expectations. Not only do Labour Members portray themselves unconvincingly as the taxpayer's friends; they have also sought to represent themselves as standing up for the values of middle England. If they want to play political poker with the Conservative party on traditional values, we will take them on. When they have run out of chips, the Conservative party will have plenty left.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse): With the leave of the House, I shall put together the Questions on motions 3, 4 and 5. Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 101(5) (Standing Committees on Statutory Instruments, &c.),

Building Societies

That the draft Building Societies (Commercial Assets) Order 1995, which was laid before this House on 9th March, be approved.


That the draft Charities (Trustee Investments Act 1961) Order 1995, which was laid before this House on 13th March, be approved.

Family Law

That the draft Child Support and Income Support (Amendment) Regulations 1995, which were laid before this House on 16th March, be approved.-- [Mr. Andrew Mitchell.]

Column 1618

Next Section

  Home Page