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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, Hansard will show that the same speech was made by two Members in a single debate, which is an interesting commentary on a practice politely called in the Companion, "extended reading notes".
Having said that, I think it my duty to say something about the Bill, although I cannot say anything about the debate. As has been said, the Government already publish estimates of the tax/GDP ratio in Budget documentation. That is the most commonly used measure of the tax burden, used by organisations such as the OECD, making international comparisons easier and bringing the UK into line with international practice.
The publication of an additional tax burden series that was calculated as a proportion by 365th parts of net national income, rather than GDP, would simply complicate matters. In addition, the capital consumption data that feed into net national income are notoriously unreliable, making international comparisons based on net national income much more difficult. So we do what is right and the Bill suggests that we do what is wrong.
The concept of the day on which the burden of taxation may be said to be dischargedthe tax freedom dayis also debatable and hypothetical. Some unkind people would call it a gimmick. Of course, it does not represent what it claims to. Individuals and businesses do not stop paying taxes on a particular day during the year, nor do they stop using the services.
I should be interested to know whether the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, was suggesting that on 3rd June, after tax freedom day, his beloved taxpayers would stop using schools, hospitals, the police service and the defence service, which are provided by their taxation. That is a totally artificial idea. It is also a bad idea because the provision of an extra holiday, particularly at a time of year when there are already many holidays, would be extremely damaging to the economy. The introduction of an extra day's holiday would result in a potential loss of output, an inevitable cost and disruption to industry, and could cost businesses up to £2 billion per year. Many employees have contractual rights to paid bank holiday leave or overtime pay for bank holidays. It would create uncertainty for business and individuals, who would not know on what date the tax freedom day would fall.
As a generator of column inches in the press, the Bill is a triumph. As a piece of argument, it does not deserve consideration. I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Newby, that a civilised society makes collective provision through collective taxation for the services that we all need and use. The Government do not seek to oppose a Private Member's Bill, nor shall
My noble friend Lord Vinson said that governments try to do too much; my noble friend Lord Northesk that they are too reticent about the true cost of taxation; my noble friend Lord Griffiths that they are too willing to exploit rising real incomes; and my noble friend Lord Northbrook that they are too ready to exploit the complexity of the system. I agree with all of them.
In presenting the Bill, I was hopeful that if its three clauses were in place and political debate were centred around this date, one of its advantages would be that it would expose the philosophical gulf between the parties. Nothing could have underlined the truth of that more than the closing remarks of the noble Lords, Lord Newby and Lord McIntosh.
It is clear that the Labour Party and the Liberal Party have a completely different view of taxation and its function. They do not agree with the great founders of liberal democracyRousseau, Locke and Jefferson, all of whom took the view that freedom from the state was a vital aspect of civilisation.
I am most disappointed by the Minister's reply. Had I been advising the Chancellor about the Bill, I would have taken a different line. I would have told him that one of the Government's problems seems to relate to trust. That seems to be what most of the commentators are talking about these days. Today the Government and the Chancellor had a wonderful opportunity to show that in a crucial area of British public lifethat is, taxationthe Government have nothing to hide, could be trusted and were prepared to be totally open and transparent with the people. I regret that that advice was not given to the Chancellor, or, if it was, he did not take it.
The noble Countess said: My Lords, in moving this amendment in the absence of my noble friend Lord Baldwin, I believe that noble Lords who were here for the Committee (on recommitment) will have heard my noble friend's very full speech on the subject of the York committee review. I understand from that review that the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Dental Officer have stated that they will announce in the autumn several research projects into the effects of water fluoridation.
Our amendment is very simple. It asks that the implementation of the amendment that we debated earlier be delayed until the results of the research are published. There is not much more that I can say. Noble Lords know of my concerns about these products. It is clear that the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Dental Officer are aware that there are problems. In fact, there has already been one advertisement for a research specification on a question that we have discussed thoroughly: whether natural fluoride is the same as that which is added to our tap-water supplies, whether they are both bio-available in the same way and whether the effects are the same.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley: My Lords, this amendment is tabled in my name. I understood that we were to resume at half-past ten, so I am not quite sure what has happened on this. But that is why I am late. I apologise for having missed my noble friend's remarks, but I will say very briefly what I was going to say.
The reason for this is a worry about the state of the science before anything is even put to the local authorities or whoever they are going to be. The Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Dental Officer are currently considering what advice on research to give to government. That probably will not be until the autumn. I do hope those who favour fluoridation can accept the need for more research which the two major reports have shown, in which case I should be grateful if they would consider the contradiction there seems to be in conceding that we do not know enough about fluoride and yet allowing further schemes to go ahead.
Basically, I do not feel that things should be even put in front of local communities until we know a great deal more about safety and efficacy. I go back to what I said earlier in the evening: do you want your policy to be based on good science or do you not?
I have three final points just to illustrate this. Both the major reports that we have hadYork and the MRChave recommended significant research into the effects of fluoridation. That may be a surprise to some of your Lordships from the briefings, because they do not tend to appear in it, but it is the case, and it is those that the chief officers are looking at.
The present evidence, as I think I said before, would not be good enough for even a medical drug. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, who is almost in her place, it was not a question of looking for endless research. The York reviewers, who are very experienced in this game, as this is what they dothey carry out systematic reviewsfound that in the case of fluoridation, it was unusually bad, both in quality and in quantity. So that is the basis on which they think there should be more research. At present, it would not underpin a normal drug.
My third and final point, just to remind your Lordships what I said earlier, is that the present evidence of fluorideI have this on the authority of the senior researcher at Yorkis actually less good than for HRT's cardio-protective effects, which turned out to be wrong.
Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, I am sorry that I was not present at the beginning of the debate. Have the noble Earl and the noble Countess any idea of how long it would take for the results of research into the effects of water fluoridation to be published?
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley: No, my Lords, I have not, and I do not believe that we should be influenced by that if we are serious about science and being sure of what effects it has. I do not know.
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