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Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire): It is interesting to hear the hon. Gentleman's discourse on the history of the Conservative party. What we have not yet heard are any tangible Labour party policies, or how the hon. Gentleman intends to pay for any of them.

Mr. Brown: I have just outlined 10 recommendations by Greenbury which the Government have failed to implement or whose implementation they have failed to supervise. We shall not take lectures from the Conservative party, which promises to implement proposals and then, as with Greenbury, fails to do so.

To return to one-nation Conservativism: even the solitary token wet speech traditionally given by Peter Walker to the Tory party conference is no more. At this year's conference the one-nation group could not even,

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muster a fringe meeting--they had to make do with a drinks reception. The Macleod society, which was to have been set up in a blaze of glory, could not find a sponsor for its first pamphlet, and is said to have only seven known members.

Mr. Fabricant: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is one thing, perhaps, to comment on what is not in the Queen's Speech; but is it in order to discuss the Conservative party conference in this debate?

Madam Deputy Speaker: That depends entirely on whether it is a passing reference or the mainstay of a speech. I am assuming that it is the former.

Mr. Brown: It is indeed, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman appears to be somewhat carried away after his appearance in "The Final Cut". Perhaps he is trying to sketch out a scene for a future edition of the programme--but it carries little weight in this place. He would do better to tell me whether he supports the one-nation group or whether he is on the extreme right of the Conservative party.

The country wants to know what has happened to the social conscience of the Conservative party. It used to exist, but it has now almost disappeared--

Mr. Ray Whitney (Wycombe) rose--

Mr. Brown: A one-nation Conservative? I shall take one intervention from a supporter of the chairman of the 1922 committee, and then another from one of his opponent's supporters--I do not know which the hon. Gentleman is.

Mr. Whitney: The hon. Gentleman talks of what the country wants to know. What the country wants to know, and what we have now been waiting to hear for 34 minutes, is the policy of the Labour party.

Mr. Brown: I have been outlining the investment and employment measures, and the action on the privatised utilities--

Mr. Brandreth: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brown: Does the House think that I am going to give way to the hon. Gentleman--who might do better to spend more time in his constituency, given the narrow majority that he must hold on to? I shall proceed with my speech, and respond to no more interruptions.

A further lurch to the right in the Conservative party relates to taxation policy. We now find that the Prime Minister has set the party a tax objective: the abolition of capital gains tax and inheritance tax. Who are the main beneficiaries of the new proposal? None other than the directors of the privatised water and electricity companies, which stand to gain £40 million each.

The richest 5,000 in the privatised utilities have gained £500 million. Here is an idea that originated with the poll tax and from the No Turning Back group, the 92 group and the Adam Smith Institute. It was peddled on the right of the Conservative party, and then adopted by the Prime Minister for his leadership campaign. Capital taxation has been supported by every Conservative Prime Minister this century, from Bonar Law to Lady Thatcher, because they understood that it was necessary--in particular, to prevent tax avoidance through the declaration of income as capital. Yet the Conservative party has now come up with

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a proposal that can benefit only a small number of people, and the Chancellor is having to adopt it as a major objective in taxation policy.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brown: I will not give way again.

Abolishing capital gains tax and inheritance tax is now a tax priority. What has happened to the Chancellor--the person who once represented one-nation Conservatism, and who once called himself a one-nation Tory? How has that proposal slipped past him?

The Chancellor has never been a details man--as he confessed after his speech on the Maastricht treaty, which he had never read. Does he now wish that he had been a little more careful with the detail? Does he wish that he had studied it more accurately? Is it not true that a new objective in taxation policy that can reward only the richest has been smuggled through the Treasury?

Sir Peter Tapsell (East Lindsey): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brown: No, I will not.

The whole Budget process has been planned in Conservative central office, just like the Queen's Speech, and directed by the chairman of the Conservative party. The narrowest interests of the Conservative party are to come before the interests of the nation. It is all directed less towards getting the economy right than towards--in the words of the Conservative party chairman-- "wrong-footing the Labour party". That is what the right hon. Gentleman said yesterday, when he held a press conference on tax and spending issues.

Even the Chancellor is now forced to admit that this will be "a political Budget". We know that it is not about the needs of the country, but about the needs of the Conservative party. Just as the Chancellor has been bounced into a policy favouring the abolition of capital gains tax and inheritance tax, on Budget day he will be bounced into doing things that he knows are not in the interests of the country.

What shall we see next Tuesday? The door of No. 11 Downing street will swing open; the photographers will step forward for the traditional shots; the Chancellor will appear on the doorstep, looking around for the official Rover that will drive up and from which, eventually, will emerge the chairman of the Conservative party to hand over the red Budget box. The Budget will have been conceived in Conservative central office rather than in the Treasury, but, to be fair to the Chancellor, he will already be well aware of what is in it: the chairman of the Conservative party will have briefed the press on its contents the day before.

So where is the Conservative party now? There is nothing in the Gracious Speech to rebuild our industries. There is nothing to tackle the huge skills gap revealed in the White Paper on competitiveness. There is nothing to bridge the gap between rich and poor in this country, and nothing to rebuild its infrastructure. There is nothing of which the Conservative party can be proud. There is no grand strategy, no broad vision, no new programme.

Even after the Budget next Tuesday, the Conservatives will still be in difficulty, still in the hole that the Chancellor says they are in. Nothing that they can give

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away next Tuesday can restore what they have already taken away. Even if they brought down taxes by 2p, 3p or 4p in the pound, the Chancellor would still have to find £6 billion to £10 billion to restore to the taxpayer the equivalent of the 7p in the pound by which he and his colleagues have raised tax since 1992.

That is the Tory strategy to try to win over the people, but a tax cut every five years will never make up for the 21 tax rises in the years in between--tax rises followed by tax cuts. No doubt, if the Conservatives had the chance, the new tax cuts would again be followed by tax rises after the election.

That is all part of a pattern that exposes a short-termist Government, motivated and driven only by electoral calculations, negative in all their campaigning and acting like an Opposition rather than a Government. Next week the Prime Minister will have had five years in power but, as the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Thames, has said, he has been in government, but he has not been making the decisions. There will be no prize of five more years, no street parties and no celebrations.

In 1990, the Prime Minister promised a classless society, opportunity for all and a nation at ease with itself. Instead, under his leadership his party has become a group dominated by extremists who have abandoned the centre in pursuit of unity--a two-nation party when there are no longer two-nation answers to the problems that the country faces.

The Conservatives are a party of the past, huddling round burnt-out ideologies, too weak to face up to the challenges of the next century. As we heard in the Gracious Speech, they are reducing complex problems to the repetition of the simplest and crudest slogans-- scapegoating, xenophobic and turning on minorities. They do not care what is left among the ruins.

A divided nation and an unsuccessful economy are too high a price to pay for the last days of the Conservative Government. They are out of touch and their Ministers are out of their depth; they are out of time, and they should be out of office.

4.57 pm

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Kenneth Clarke): Earlier this week, on a more solemn occasion, the nation was glued to its television sets as a major public figure made important pronouncements: the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) was trying to make an announcement about tax policy. It misfired--yet the author of the 10p tax gimmick has the nerve to accuse me of being "never a details man".

The hon. Gentleman has not mentioned his new idea today. I thought that we might be given a few more details, but apparently the policy that nearly emerged over the past weekend of error has already been withdrawn, and it played no part in the speech of the shadow Chancellor in the House of Commons four days later, a week before the Budget.


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