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Finance Bill (Committal)

Volume 21: debated on Tuesday 6 April 1982

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That Clauses 18, 22, 29, 65, 71, 75, 117 and 128 and Schedule 10 be committed to a Committee of the whole House:
That the remainder of the Bill be committed to a Standing Committee:
That, when the provisions of the Bill considered, respectively, by the Committee of the whole House and by the Standing Committee have been reported to the House, the Bill be proceeded with as if the Bill had been reported as a whole to the House from the Standing Committee.—[Mr. Ridley.]

10.14 pm

We should pause before rushing to pass this motion impetuously. We should ask ourselves whether the specific clauses mentioned in it—clause 18,

"Charge of income tax for 1982–83",
22, "Personal relief'; 29, "Social security benefits"; 65,
"Increase and indexation of annual exempt amount"
on capital gains tax; 71,
"Indexation allowance on certain disposals",
75, "Reduction of tax"; 117,
"Increase of petroleum revenue tax and ending of supplementary petroleum duty";
"Reduction of national insurance surcharge";
and schedule 10 should be dealt with on the Floor of the House, in Committee of the whole House, because they are matters that we should consider carefully before impetuously rushing into a decision about what to deal with here and what to deal with in Standing Committee upstairs.

In this Finance Bill we are dealing with the Cockfield memorial Budget. He is the noble Lord who provided most of the Budget but who has now fled the scene, leaving this honourable House to clear up the debris which he left, before going on to rather lusher pastures. If we pass the motion to send the remaining clauses to the Finance Bill Committee upstairs, it will be our task to labour over them from dawn to dusk on many occasions. There, we shall face the same situation that the Government face, because the whole purpose of the Finance Bill is to distract attention from the economic situation and the mess that have been created by the simple technique of moving furniture, while at the same time slipping more of that furniture out in the direction of the country houses. We now have a bigger economic mess than ever, and the furniture-moving in a number of clauses in the Bill has become more and more frenetic. This Finance Bill is the biggest that we have had since 1970. It is a huge document. Last year's Bill was enormous, but this one is 13 clauses longer, and as such I think that it is the longest Finance Bill since 1970. I admit that it has five fewer pages than last year's Bill, but it is nevertheless an enormous document.

We therefore have to make a weighty decision about which clauses to deal with on the Floor of the House, in Committee of the whole House where all right hon. and hon. Members can pay attention to it and it can be fitted into the context of the Government's overall economic policy and what should go upstairs to the select band of people who will devote most of May and June to labouring over the Cockfield vineyard. It is crucial that that work be done with great attention and diligence, because the Finance Bill is essential to the Government's economic strategy. We have a Government who have turned Micawberism into a system of Government——

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. Is there not a danger that if the clauses that we want the country to know about—those which add substantially to the wealth of a few people in society and take it away from the people whom we represent—go to Standing Committee upstairs they will not be drawn to the attention of the country in the way that we want? Are not two of those clauses those which deal with capital transfer tax and capital gains tax, whereby again this year the Government are giving substantial amounts of money to a very few——

Order. The hon. Gentleman is making an intervention, not a speech.

My hon. Friend will understand that what I am saying is very important. The Government will again arrange the Bill in such a way that clauses which are uncontroversial are heard on the Floor of the House, unlike the controversial clauses on capital transfer tax and capital gains tax. The Government have come forward with concessions in these areas for the fourth year running. My hon. Friend is trying to get these matters debated on the Floor of the House so that the country may know what is happening.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his telling intervention. He and I laboured last year for many hours while considering the Finance Bill in Standing Committee. We warned the country of exactly what is involved in the process of chipping away at capital taxation, which is becoming under the Government largely a form of voluntary taxation. That is being taken further in the Bill. Index-linked gilts should be referred to as index-linked guilts in the Bill. The guilt lies with the Government, who are giving to their wealthy friends in some clauses while treating the rest of the population in the mean, Gradgrinding fashion that is set out in other clauses.

We wish to show the Government in their full colours by dealing with the Bill on the Floor of the House. Extremely important principles are involved, especially in the form of handouts to the wealthy and in the ways in which the economy and the Bill will interact. The Government were seeking restlessly last year for swallows and silver linings in every cloud that passed overhead. None of them materialised and we now have a Finance Bill that is incapable of improving a situation that is becoming economically disastrous.

The Government are merely moving the furniture around in minor clauses and amendments to distract attention from the major problems in the economy. Part I consists of 11 clauses on Customs and Excise. They are all of great significance and we wish to deal with them on the Floor of the House in appropriate detail. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and I are well aware from our experience last year that what is said in Standing Committee when considering a Finance Bill does not reach the country in the way that words uttered on the Floor of the House come to the attention of the people.

The Government have cut industrial production, through their economic policies, by one-fifth. They have caused every fifth job in British industry to be lost in three years. They have brought British industry to its knees. The Bill will do nothing to change or improve that situation. It will not regenerate the economy. That being so, it is important that the words of condemnation are expressed on the Floor of the House. It is especially important that that happens when we bear in mind what members of the Government said when they were in Opposition.

I have a copy of a lecture that was given by the present Chancellor when he was a member of the shadow Cabinet. He addressed the Addington Society at the London School of Economics in February 1977. That was a long time ago, when monetarism was young and the present Chancellor was naive. The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), who is now the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, was lively, exciting and stimulating in Standing Committee when considering Labour Finance Bills. Tonight we had a Mogadon performance from the hon. Gentleman. It seems that Mogadon takes over everyone who becomes a member of the Treasury team.

The world was young in those days. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer was telling us extremely important things about the way in which Finance Bills should be treated by the House of Commons. I shall draw attention to what he said in 1977 and contrast his words with the way in which this year's Finance Bill is being treated by the same right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir Geoffrey Howe). Of course, five years have passed and he is now holding office. His lecture at the LSE was given shortly before the Grimsby by-election. he said;
"The one certainty about our tax system is that what the Government gives it must first take away. The archaic ritual by which Parliament decides how this shall be done is about as appropriate to a modern industrial democracy as stylistics to the international money market."
He might have added "or as monetarism to the complex workings of a modern economy". He then described how we should treat the Finance Bill in the House, and said that the Chancellor comes to the House and:
"Included in his proposals are the broadest brush-strokes of economic policy, embracing whole new tax systems"—
in this case, whole new give-aways——

I was under the impression that the clauses that are to go to Committee were agreed between the two Front Benches. I was also under the impression that the hon. Gentleman was an Opposition Whip. Therefore, I find his speech difficult to follow.

There were long and complex negotiations, and it would not do for me to reveal the context of those. Of course, the Opposition asked for a considerably greater amount of time on the Floor of the House. It is the Opposition's duty and responsibility to draw the country's attention to what the Government are doing in the Finance Bill. The Government effectively decide these things and not the Opposition. We requested substantial time. The hon. Gentleman obviously does not like being reminded of what was said in 1977. The Chancellor comes to the House with the

"broadest brush-strokes of economic policy … rubbing shoulders with the minutest reform of administrative machinery, demanding but not deserving equal attention."
He could certainly say that again about this Finance Bill, which is Cockfield's dustbin, as far as most hon. Members are concerned. It is the debris of three years devoted attention to the minutiae of tax legislation. The present Chancellor, having drawn attention to those problems, continued:
"Publication of the Bill is the cue for massive far-reaching and multitudinous amendments, which tumble out like lemmings."
That was the compelling literary gift of the Chancellor in opposition. How dull he has ecome in power. "Tumble out like lemmings"—what vivid imagery.

Is the hon. Gentleman saying this with the approval of his Front Bench, or is it just a UDI on his own behalf?

The principle is important and is not helped by minor arguments of that nature. The Chancellor's lecture in 1977 stated an important principle. He continued:

"There follows the by now traditional struggle on Finance Bill Standing Committee. Both sides arrange themselves in an adversary relationship with the Opposition attacking the Treasury and the Treasury defending. Because of the debating nature of the proceedings, the Minister often feels no compunction about glossing over questions that are beyond him."
He was obviously considering the arrival of that Finance Bill and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in Committee the following year. It is sad that all the natural humility that comes to the hon. Gentleman from an education at Balliol and Eton will almost certainly not be shown on this Finance Bill in Committee.

My goodness, what a mistake the hon. Gentleman has made. As I understand it, he has talked about the effect of this on those with high incomes. Where does he place himself in that bracket? Does he place himself at the upper or lower end? Is he prepared to accept the consequences of all his remarks? He has spoken in strict defiance of his Front Bench and the agreement that it made. What the devil does he think he is playing at?

I cannot be sidetracked by that sort of irrelevance. I am making an important point and quoting from the Chancellor. I was talking about capital taxation. It is fair and reasonable, since the question was asked, that capital should bear its share of the burdens of Britain and not be treated in the way that the Government have treated it.

As a believer in public spending and the benefits of public spending, I am certainly more than prepared to bear a share of taxation to maintain it at a level appropriate to stimulate the economy, and to deal with the burden of unemployment that the Government have created.

Order. I allowed the hon. Gentleman to answer the question, but I remind the House that we are discussing whether certain clauses should be taken on the Floor of the House or in Committee. We should confine ourselves to that argument.

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall now confine myself to that by returning to the Chancellor's remarks in 1977. He warns about the way in which the Finance Bill Committee has to proceed. He talks about the internal mechanics of the Household—something about which I do not know—and says that this is called the "nocturnal tug of war". He adds

"As the tug of war progresses, nocturnalisation takes over. Few people are at their most receptive to the intricacies of sale and leaseback provisions explained at 3.30 in the morning. Small wonder that many Government Members of Parliament take to their beds in the corridors"——
and presumably dream of bombing Argentina, as they almost certainly will this year. That is a telling indictment of the Committee to which this Finance Bill is in major part being relegated. The Chancellor continues:
"But the harsh judgment remains. This is a crude way in which to proceed and leads to even hastier consideration of possible remedies to problems that have been raised. It is left to Government, and not to the Committee, to choose which problems (if any) to solve, and which to ignore … Eventually the Bill reaches the Statute Book, with all its errors and loopholes, to await real life illustrations".
That is a powerful indictment of the procedures that we are being asked to accept tonight. He goes on:
"During the whole weary, yet far too hasty, procedure, there has been far too little opportunity for outside experts—lawyers, accountants, industrialists—to give the benefit of their advice, either on the broad economic measures or the practicality of operating the more detailed provisions."
That is another important point. We have an opportunity to make history in this year's Finance Bill Committee by examining exactly the kind of witnesses that in 1977 the Chancellor wanted us to examine. We can look at the detailed nature of this Finance Bill and how it affects people, particularly the unemployed, those on benefit and the less well-off. That is what we should be examining in preliminary hearings. We should not treat it in this brusque fashion.

I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman earlier, because I understand that this is his resignation speech as a Whip.

I am sure that comment is humorous, and perhaps I can have it explained later. It is more characteristic of the Standing Committee on the Finance Bill at 3.30 in the morning than of the House of Commons at 10.30 at night.

The Chancellor continued:
"Effectively this has given Parliament about 18 days a year, on average, in which to consider all fiscal change. This contrasts sharply, for example, with the much more leisurely timetable followed in the United States Congress, which normally fills several months for the House Ways and Means Committee; and is accompanied by continuous consideration by the Joint Committee (of House and Senate) on Internal Revenue Taxation."
Now that America is running into the same economic difficulties through "Reaganomics" as we have through "Thatchernomics", we should bear in mind the way in which America treats its financial legislation. It has a much more effective procedure for unveiling its inadequacies.

We then skip through a large chunk of quotations from Swift. I shall not repeat them, because Swift has been nationalised by the Labour Party. I come to another extremely telling point made by the Chancellor on the procedure that we are being asked to adopt tonight. He says:
"But it is the politician who must bear the principal responsibility for improving the system … It is we who have the highest responsibility for securing the survival and acceptance of our parliamentary system of government. And it is Parliament, and democracy itself, that suffers most from the universal scorn that greets the legislative output of our present system."
Here the Chancellor is talking about the Finance Bill and what should go to Committee. He went on:
"I have called often enough for its reform. So have many others. Yet, judged by our record we can hardly complain if commentators react with scepticism to our promises to `do better next time'."
That Chancellor said that they would do better next time, but what changes have we seen in the procedures? They are still the same old Finance Bill procedures. We are still not examining witnesses and looking at it in the detail we should with the benefit of expert advice. He says:
"The main budgetary provisions of the Fiannce Bill might usefully be detached from matters relating to machinery and technicalities."
This year we have more provision for machinery and technicalities than we have had in a Finance Bill since 1970. It is the most detailed piece of legislation, with more machinery and technicalities crammed in with what the Chancellor calls the "broadest brush-strokes of economic policy". They require more leisured scrutiny and should be taken at another time in the parliamentary year and be incorporated in the Taxes Management Act. He then says:
"There was no reason why financial legislation should be treated as a rare species with an almost permanently closed season.
We must strive to escape from the adversary relationship of Standing Committees and draw more from the pattern established for Seclect Committees."
That is something like the impatience we have heard tonight, not to hear what their own Chancellor told them when they were in Opposition in 1977.

They are swatting flies and making gestures, but it is that adversary relationship that the Chancellor criticises as not the kind of atmostphere in which we should deal with such complex matters. There should be some hearings about the technical aspects of any Finance Bill.

Order. The hon. Member is straying from the motion. The motion deals with which clauses should be taken on the Floor of the House and which should be on the normal Standing Committee upstairs. The hon. Member must keep to the motion.

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for bringing me back to the point. The speech given by the Chancellor in February 1977 is rather long, but he was making the point about the balance between the clauses taken upstairs in Committee and those taken on the Floor of the House and the amount of time with which we have to deal with the Bill on the Floor of the House. This Finance Bill falls in an odd way into two halves. There are major financial proposals, particularly an innovation such as the index-linking of gilts, but there is a whole heap of detailed legislation, and we do not have the allocation of time right on the floor of the house.

I will conclude——

I will conclude, despite the interruptions begging me to carry on, with just one more brief quotation from the Chancellor's speech to the Addington Society in February 1977, which illustrates the theme of what I say.

"Parliament is judged, amongst other things, by the quality of the laws that we produce. And by that standard we deserve to be harshly judged."
We could be harshly judged about the allocation of time on the Floor of the House.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman then said:
"Ministers and Shadow Ministers of both parties have often declared, and sometimes fulfilled, the best of intentions: but not often. If the bridge of confidence between politics and people is to be rebuilt, then this is an area where Parliament itself can act to set standards and design machinery which will secure more consistent virtue."
That was five years ago, but there has been no change. All those promises so lavishly held out about a changed pattern of behaviour and more detailed consideration of the Finance Bill, about separating the minutiae of tax legislation and the broadest brush-strokes of fiscal policy have not been kept. It is our responsibility to put all that in the context of an economy which has been in almost consistent decline since that Chancellor took office, which is not recovering and which the Finance Bill will in no way stimulate. It will simply maintain the pressure of economic decline. That is the context in which we have to look at the complex clauses on the Floor of the House and in the Finance Bill Committee upstairs.

10.38 pm

I should like to spend a few moments talking about the need to have more of the Bill discussed on the Floor of the House and criticising the arrangement of clauses that have been put down for hearing in Standing Committee.

I feel that there is clear evidence that the Government are seeking to remove the focus of attention from the House. The appointment, for example, of a Member of the House of Lords as Secretary of State for Trade is——

Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am doing just that. The motion selects only eight clauses and one schedule to be debated on the Floor of the House from a Bill that contains 17 schedules and 139 clauses.

That is only a tiny amount of a massive Bill. I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will agree that it is important to focus attention on the Chamber. I was saying, by way of passing reference and illustration and not as the main content of my remarks, that it seems concomitant with the desire to put a great deal of the legislation in Committee to appoint the Secretary of State for Trade from the House of Lords when the matters relating to that Department are dealt with in the Chamber in the ordinary course of events. I say no more about the issue except to remark that the textile industry will be outraged by such an appointment.

The Bill totals 17 schedules and 139 clauses—an enormous amount of legislation. Only a small proportion—eight clauses and one schedule—are to be debated on the Floor of the House. One recognises that the Committee contains a number of hon. Members, especially on the Opposition Benches, who are punctilious and diligent in getting through the work. But there is no doubt that there is not the focus of attention in the Committees of the House——

I should be grateful to my hon. Friend if he would allow me to finish this point. Much more importance is attached to the House sitting as a Committee than to a Committee of the House sitting upstairs.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He makes an important point partly in relation to the hours that the Finance Bill Committee works. On many occasions, it works all night. The pleasure of watching the dawn come up over the Thames is not exactly the most exciting intellectual experience or the best climate in which to consider detailed legislation. I should be interested to hear my hon. Friend's reaction to the suggestion put forward by the Chancellor in his Addington lecture and urged in the Finance Committee last year that the Committee should devote three days as a prelude to its discussions examining witnesses and hearing evidence. I accept my hon. Friend's point about the diligence of Opposition Members, but it is difficult for the Opposition to match the back-up available to Government——

Order. The hon. Gentleman has already made a speech. His intervention deals again with the form of interrogation in the Committee and not with the issue whether clauses should be debated here or upstairs. The hon. Gentleman must stick to the motion.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. If the motion was worded in a different fashion——

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In the light of the judgment you have given, will you say what Standing Orders affecting the operation of business in Standing Committee prevent us from taking evidence in the manner that my hon. Friend suggests? In the event that such evidence could be taken under the Standing Orders that exist, it must surely be in order for both my hon. Friends to raise the matters that they have sought to raise.

The hon. Gentleman knows that one cannot take evidence in an ordinary Standing Committee. We are discussing whether clauses should be taken in a normal Standing Committee or on the Floor of the House.

That is correct. Evidence cannot be taken. In view of this and the fact that no provision has been made for taking evidence upstairs, there seems to be an even stronger reason for taking much more of the Bill on the Floor of the House. There is no question that the focus of attention in the House has been shifted due to the development of Select Committees. To put more of the Bill on the Floor of the House would shift the focus back to where it belongs, on the Floor of the House.

The Finance Bill used to be taken on the Floor of the House, when the Committee sat as a Committee of the whole House. Because of the enormous amount of time and the intricate detail involved, the House decided to section the Bill out and to discuss parts of it in Standing Committee.

That was for the convenience of the House but it is clear that in the intervening years the emphasis and burden have shifted the wrong way. From being a convenience for the House, it has become a convenience for the Government to put matters into Standing Committee and out of the way, as my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) said. That is quite the wrong focus of attention. Although the Government have a clear majority, Parliament should be able to exercise its scrutiny sitting as a Committee of the whole House. The House should be wary of any manoeuvres by Government to take that focus of attention away.

If we do not take care to preserve the Chamber as the focus of attention, its importance as a debating chamber will be diminished. It would therefore be open to a Government to manoeuvre in that way and to shift embarrassing clauses into Standing Committee, where the attention cannot be given by the press and constituents as Committee Rooms have far less accommodation for the public to come in and listen. They would be interested to see the way in which the tax lawyers on the Government Benches work so scrupulously to feather the nests of their friends in the Conservative Party.

My hon. Friend will recall the row in the Finance Bill Committee last year when opposition Members objected because Conservative Members moving amendments refused to declare their interests to the Committee. Because that major row did not break out on the Floor of the House, the country never knew what was happening.

Even today, the public do not realise that Tory Members on that Committee moved amendments which, had they carried Government support, would have cost the Exchequer millions of pounds. They did so because they were paid lobbyists for industries outside. Is that not disgraceful?

Conservative Members are suddenly eager to participate in a debate to which they showed antagonism at the beginning. I shall just answer my hon. Friend's point.

While Standing Committees, are, of course, run properly in accordance with Standing Orders, much more attention is given to this Chamber. If hon. Members fail to declare a financial interest here, that fact is known to more hon. Members and therefore closer scrutiny is given to it. The press is in attendance here more regularly. That type of slipshod declaration, or lack of it, cannot happen so easily in the Chamber.

The hon. Gentleman suggests that the Government move clauses into Standing Committee to avoid embarrassment. We recognise that for what it is—a manifestly stupid claim. Let us suppose, however, that some Labour Members do not think in the same way as Conservative Members. As clauses that go to Standing Committee have been agreed to by the Opposition Front Bench, are we to assume that the hon. Gentleman is accusing his own Front Bench of conniving with the Government?

Not at all. The Government decide the number of available days on the Floor of the House. It therefore follows, as night follows day, that the number of clauses available for debate on the Floor of the House is determined by the Government, not by the Opposition.

Perhaps I may help the hon. Gentleman further. The number of days were agreed by the party of which he is a member in the person of the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), who agreed both the clauses and the days. We merely complied with what he asked for.

I am most grateful. Is the Financial Secretary now offering more time to debate this measure on the Floor of the House? If he wishes to intervene to offer more days, I shall be pleased to give way and to learn how many more days he intends to offer.

I am sure that the Government will be happy to withdraw the motion if the hon. Gentleman does not like it.

I wish to be clear about this. Is the Financial Secretary offering more time to debate this measure on the Floor of the House? If he is, he should say so clearly because we would welcome more days on the Floor of the House.

One of the reasons advanced against holding the Committee upstairs was that there was no room for a large number of the public or the press to listen to the debate. Since the hon. Gentleman started to speak, he has cleared the Strangers Gallery to such an extent that all the remaining members of the public could be accommodated in any Committee Room.

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is out of order to refer to the Strangers Gallery.

The hon. Gentleman's eyesight is certainly not so good today as when he is watching the gee-gees of which he is so fond.

I wonder why the Government have not joined the Opposition in insisting that certain items be debated on the Floor of the House. For example, clauses 18 and 22 are listed in the motion for debate and discussion by the whole House, but clause 21, which deals with tax rates for small companies, is not. I wonder why the Government have not insisted that that be dealt with in the full light of this assembly. They could then put forward their claims about helping small businesses.

In fact, of course, if that clause were debated on the Floor of the House, the Opposition could demonstrate that, far from benefiting small businesses, the Government have actually hammered them. The liquidation rate is at an all-time high and the concessions and grant aid that the Labour Government provided to assist small businesses have been cut. The Government's tax concessions merely keep up with inflation. I suspect that the reason behind the Government's reluctance to discuss clauses of this kind on the Floor of the House is that it would give the lie to their claim that they are trying to encourage small businesses in order to reduce the incredible total of 3 million that their policies have put on the dole.

If, as the Government claim, the Budget is so beneficial to industry, it is legitimate to ask why they are so shy about their financial provisions and why they are consigning so little of the Bill to the Floor of the House for debate. If the Government had told my hon. Friends that they wanted not just two or three days but three or four times that number of days to be spent debating these matters on the Floor of the House, it is beyond question that the Opposition would have been willing to accommodate the Government's aims by providing time for such debate. We are driven to the conclusion that in curtailing the amount of time for debate on the Floor of the House, the Government have deliberately pushed much of the Bill into Committee upstairs, thus diminishing its importance rather than debating it here as the Opposition would certainly wish.

For that reason, I believe that this represents a generally undesirable trend. What years ago was a useful trend is now shifting the balance away from the debating Chamber and towards greater convenience not for the House but for the Government of the day. I therefore believe that this marker should be put down for the future. We can then see what balance is achieved when the next Finance Bill is debated.

10.54 pm

This is the fourth Finance Bill to be considered in the House since I have been a Member. I have been on three Finance Bill Standing Committees. What is most notable about this Finance Bill is that it is the largest one. It has 139 clauses and 17 schedules.

I can well understand that my hon. Friends on the Front Bench would have been led into making an arrangement with the Government whereby few clauses could be dealt with on the Floor of the House. The Government allocate the number of days, as I understand it. They tell us what time is available.

If I had my way, we would discuss the whole Bill on the Floor of the House. A great many of the clauses that we will be required to discuss in the coming weeks—certainly clauses 23 to 58—in the main relate to special concessions that are being given to those people who are in work as against those people who are without work.

Anyone looking at the Finance Bill will be struck by the amount of money that is being given away to a small number of people. Labour Members represent a greater number of people who are unemployed and we believe that a greater proportion of this Bill should be discussed this year on the Floor of the House than last year because a greater proportion of it is beneficial to a small number of people.

Of the 10 clauses—clauses 65 to 74—in the capital gains section we are being allowed to debate only one clause in Committee. I believe that every one of those clauses should be debated on the Floor of the House so that the British people can be quite clear about the unmistakeable objective of the Government. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] The hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear". It seems that he firmly endorses my statement that it is the Government's objective to insulate the better-off in society against the problems which the worse-off in society are not to be insulated against. The great majority of people in my constituency will not gain any benefit from the proposals on capital gains tax and capital transfer tax.

It is a disgrace that the House has refused to discuss these matters on the Floor. For three of my four years here, I and my hon. Friends have objected to this section in the Finance Bill.

It was noticeable that the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, made a special point tonight of trying to refute my and my hon. Friend's suggestions that major concessions were being given to the better-off in society, yet, in his gross distortion of the statistics, he clearly revealed an even greater area for debate when this matter is taken up again. That debate should take place here on the Floor and not upstairs where it can be hidden away from the general public.

I was not here when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—the then hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot)—took part in discussions on the formation of departmentally related Select Committees. He objected to them on the basis that Select Committees would take away from the Floor of the House its special responsibility for debating issues publicly——

It being after Ten o'clock, and the debate having continued for three-quarters of an hour, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to order this day.

Question agreed to.


That Clauses 18, 22, 29, 65, 71, 75, 117 and 128 and Schedule 10 be committed to a Committee of the whole House:
That the remainder of the Bill be committd to a Standing Committee:
That, when the provisions of the Bill considered, respectively, by the Committee of the whole House and by the Standing Committee have been reported to the House, the Bill be proceeded with as if the Bill had been reported as a whole to the House from the Standing Committee.