§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Edward Boyle)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
As the House is aware, the proposals announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health on 1st February fell into two parts. There were, first, the increases in certain charges for the use of the Health Service and, secondly, the increase of Is. in the National Health Service contribution. I think that it is fair to say that when, a week ago, we debated the Opposition's Motion of censure on my right hon. Friend's statement, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite devoted not the whole but a great part of their attention to the Health Service charges. I want to make it clear, at the outset of my remarks, that the Bill whose Second Reading we are discussing today is concerned purely with the increase in the contribution. I welcome this opportunity to explain and justify the Government's proposals.
The benefits of the National Health Service are available to everyone in this country; and I am sure that the House will not have forgotten the exposition by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health last week of the good state of the Service. None of the benefits of the Health Service is in any way conditional on any insurance qualification, but it is not in dispute that the weekly payments made by insured persons under the National Insurance Scheme should make some contribution towards the cost of the Service.
Ever since the inception of the National Health Service, under the Labour Government, in July, 1948, part of the gross cost has been met in that way, even though by far the major part is met, and will continue to be met, from the proceeds of general taxation. It is quite true that in terms of strict legality the Health Service contribution has had a separate existence only since the passage of the National Health Service Contributions Act, 1957. But throughout the whole period between 1948 and 1957 an element 1413 of the weekly insurance contribution was notionally set aside, and the yield from it was actually paid over towards the cost of the Health Service.
While I entirely accept what right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have said during this past fortnight about their strong and sincere feelings in these debates, it seems pointless to exaggerate the difference between the parties on an issue of this sort. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible for both the National Insurance and the National Health Service Acts of 1946, and they accepted, just as we do, that a flat-rate contribution was an appropriate way of financing part of the Health Service.
Just how big that part should be—in other words, just what should be the balance between the proportion of Health Service expenditure financed out of the proceeds of general taxation and the proportion financed by contributions—therefore cannot be regarded as a matter of major political principle. We on this side think that there is nothing unfair or unreasonable about the balance which we propose to achieve in the forthcoming financial year.
The net yield of the proposed flat-rate contribution for the financial year 1961–62, as a result of the Government's proposals, will be £148 million. But, even after taking into account the increased charges and contributions, the cost to the Exchequer of the Health Service in 1961–62 will still be £600 million. I do not see how it can possibly be claimed that the Government's proposals are relieving the generality of taxpayers of paying their fair share of Health Service expenditure. When all is said and done, £600 million is a sizeable fraction of a total estimated civil expenditure of £3,530 million. Hon. Members will see both these figures in the Vote on Account, published today.
The case which I have been making is considerably strengthened by the fact, as I said when winding up in the censure debate last week, thatwe are here dealing with a problem which has faced all Governments in their turn."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1961; Vol. 634, c. 5201I know that it is widely believed on the benches opposite, and last Wednesday I got the impression that it was believed even by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, that the ceiling 1414 on Health Service expenditure announced by Sir Stafford Cripps was imposed only because of the economic difficulties caused by the Korean War. That is just not true, and I am returning to this matter only because it is important, in view of our present controversies, that the record on this matter should be put straight. Sir Stafford Cripps announced in his Budget speech of April, 1950, nearly three months before the outbreak of the Korean War:… it is not possible in existing circumstances to permit any overall increase in the expenditure on the Health Services.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I am only pointing out that it had nothing to do with Korea, but with the perfectly normal financial circumstances of that time.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I shall be developing this point in my speech. I am grateful for that intervention.
I am saying that in the present economic circumstances, following a year in which Government expenditure rose by £ 340 million on the Estimates, and then this year, when, but for these measures, Government expenditure would have risen by another £ 330 million, in the same way there is nothing in principle wrong with the Government exercising their judgment in the way that they intend to do This year.
Sir Stafford Cripps went on, after the passage I have quoted, and expressed a view on the financing of the Health Service which went far beyond anything which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health or I myself said last week. He said:Any expansion in one part of the Service must in future be met by economies or, if necessary, by contraction in others."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th April, 1950; Vol. 474, c. 59–60.]I simply do not believe that any unprejudiced observer, looking at the facts and not merely at speeches or interjections in this House, could possibly agree, in the words of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), that there was "a great, fundamental and deep gulf" between the parties on the issue 1415 of financing the National Health Service. On the contrary, each party has been faced by very similar problems and successive Chancellors of the Exchequer have had to exercise their judgment as to what was a fair division between the part of the Service financed by contributions and that financed by general taxation, in the light of the economic and financial circumstances of the time.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
. Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the difference between what Sir Stafford Cripps did and what the Government are now doing is that Sir Stafford Cripps wished to curb the overall cost of the Health Service in terms of resources, whereas the Government's present proposals are not to curb the overall cost of the Service but to redistribute the expenditure as between the budgetary cost and other sources of revenue, contributions, prescription charges, and so on?
§ Sir E. Boyle
Of course, the Government's proposals are intended to affect the overall cost to the Exchequer, and I do not altogether disagree with the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). As I said, Sir Stafford Cripps's proposal to impose an overall ceiling on the Health Service was a much more severe measure than anything that the Government proposed, and that point was powerfully and rightly put by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health in answering questions after he had made his statement.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
Will not the Financial Secretary go a little further, because he is taking those remarks out of context? Does he not recall what Sir Stafford Cripps said about existing circumstances?
§ Sir E. Boyle
When Sir Stafford Cripps spoke about the existing circumstances, he was referring to the economic and financial circumstances prevailing at the time. The present Government are concerned with economic and financial circumstances in exactly the same way. This is what I think the hon. Gentleman forgets. There was no more a crisis in April, 1950, than there is a crisis today. The crisis came after the Korean War, and not before. That is what the hon. Gentleman is overlooking.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I cannot give way again.
I come now to the details of the Bill. Here, I shall to some extent have to repeat what I said to the Committee of Ways and Means in moving the Resolution at the start of our now somewhat notorious debate last Wednesday. In view of what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said on Monday, may I take this opportunity of apologising if, on that occasion, my description of the proposals and the Resolution were spoken rather too quickly and perfunctorily to be intelligible to some hon. Gentlemen opposite. I will try on this occasion not to speak too fast about the proposals.
As the House will have observed, this is a short and simple Bill consisting of two Clauses, one Schedule of new rates of contribution, and another Schedule covering certain minor amendments to the 1957 Act, on which the arrangements for collecting the contributions are based.
Clause 1, the only main Clause, substitutes the new rates of contribution in the First Schedule for the rates which were originally in the 1957 Act and which were amended in the 1958 Act. These rates will come into effect from an appointed day which, if Parliament enacts these proposals, we propose should be 3rd July. I can tell the House that this is the first available and convenient date.
The 1958 Act is repealed by this Bill, and the reason for the repeal of that Act is because it did no more than change the rates of contribution, which we now propose to change again. The main provisions governing the contribution remain as they were drafted in the 1957 Act. Clause 1 also applies certain provisions of the 1957 Act to the Government's present proposals. In particular, it continues the provision by which the Crown is "bound"—to use the technical term—so that the new rates of contribution are payable by Crown servants and members of Her Majesty's Forces.
Clause 1 also applies the provisions of the 1957 Act which removed those marginal restrictions that would otherwise prevent the Northern Ireland 1417 Government from passing legislation similar to our own. I should like to make it clear at this stage—because I think that there was some discussion on this during the passage of the 1957 Act, that, in general, the Northern Ireland Government are fully competent to pass legislation to increase rates of contribution as in this Bill; and I understand that the Northern Ireland Government have announced their intention of so doing. But, in respect of certain very limited classes of contributors, notably Crown servants, the Northern Ireland Government might be thought to be prevented by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, from legislating in respect of these limited classes. All we are doing as regards Northern Ireland is to get rid of these minor restrictions.
I think that I have made the point about the Northern Ireland Government's case. When the 1957 Act was going through the House, there was a lively discussion in Committee on trade and employment in Northern Ireland, but in view of the relatively narrow scope of our discussion today it is possible that such a discussion might not be ruled in order this time.
There is only one other point I should like to mention in connection with Clause 1. Hon. Members may have noticed that the power to appoint the day on which the increased contributions become effective is placed on the Treasury. Here, I should like to refer also to the second paragraph of the Second Schedule to the Bill which transfers to the Treasury from the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland jointly the power to make certain regulations about the payment of contribution by the employers of foreign-going seamen. During the debate on the Ways and Means Resolution hon. Members asked to what extent the Secretary of State for Scotland was divesting himself of his responsibility in this respect.
As the House will recall, during the discussion on the Ways and Means Resolution, while I achieved quite a markedly high level of success in catching the Chairman's eye during that debate, I was not so successful in gaining the ear of the Committee. I should, therefore, like to deal with that point now.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
The hon. Gentleman will remember that the point about Scottish responsibility was made by way of a point of order and not by way of discussion.
§ Sir E. Boyle
However it was made, it was rather a curious point of order, if it was a point of order, like many raised that evening, but I will try to make the point now.
The position of the Secretary of State for Scotland in this matter, as of the Minister of Health, is virtually unchanged by the Bill. That is to say, the two Health Ministers will continue to receive and apply the net yield of this contribution. The only difference is that on earlier occasions the Health Ministers jointly appointed the day on which the increase in contribution came into effect; and they dealt with this matter about seamen. Now these powers are to lie with the Treasury. I think that the reason for the change will be clear to the House.
I do not, at this stage—though we may perhaps debate it later—want to enter into a prolonged controversy with the hon. Member for Sowerby about whether the National Health contribution can properly be called a tax. I think that there is a good deal to be said for confining this term to those revenue operations which are a means of general financing of the Exchequer. But the Government have felt, and, I think, rightly, that the proposal which we are discussing in the Bill is sufficiently significant in relation to general Government policy with regard to the raising of revenue that it was only fair to the House that Treasury Ministers should move the Second Reading. I am moving the Second Reading, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will wind up the debate.
I now turn to the First Schedule, which is the most important part of the Bill, because it sets out the new rates of contribution. I think that the House is fairly well aware of the history of these rates, but perhaps I might remind hon. Members of the course of events since the National Insurance Act, 1946. passed into law.
The element of the original contribution under the 1946 Act which was allocated to the Health Service was 10d. for a man. This was raised to 1s. 8d. 1419 in 1957, to 2s. 4d. in 1958, and is now to be raised to 3s. 4d., a 10d. increase for the employed man and 2d. on the contribution from his employer. The increase is to be 8d. for an employed woman, and 6d. for a boy or girl. For the self-employed and non-employed the increase will be 8d., 6d. and 4d. respectively.
As a result of these proposals the payment in respect of an employed woman will be 2s. 8d., of which she will pay 2s. 0½d. The other night the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) asked why we had chosen to increase the contribution for the employed woman by 8d. The answer is that we have kept the same ratio between the contribution for a man and for a woman as has been in effect, with only very slight variations as I shall show in a moment, since 1948. Under the proposals in the Bill, the ratio will be 75 per cent. It is true that at present the ratio is only 73 per cent., but in 1948 it was 76 per cent., and it became 75 per cent. in 1957. Of course, these percentage points represent only a fraction of ld., so one is justified in claiming that the ratio has remained virtually constant since 1948.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for taking notice of the point that I made, but I would be more grateful if he would explain the real basis for this, shall we call it, 75 per cent. three-quarters—contribution for a woman?
Is it based on earnings? These are employed women, and, whatever one might have thought in 1948 as to the course of women's earnings in relation to those of men, what has happened is that the earnings of women in relation to those of men are roughly a half. Therefore, it seems to me that these contributions, if based on employment wages, are completely out of proportion. Will he explain the present basis for them?
§ Sir E. Boyle
As the hon. Lady says, the decision was taken at the time when the original insurance scheme came into operation to make the ratio about 75 per cent., and we have thought that what was considered a fair ratio in 1948 should continue today. We have certainly not closed our minds on this for all time.
When the hon. Lady speaks about earnings, it is relevant to recall the fact 1420 that, certainly in the realm of salary movement, with the advance of equal pay in many cases, women have tended to do better during the last ten years. But I am quite prepared to agree with the hon. Lady that whereas we have maintained a constant ratio up to now, that does not mean that the ratio will always have to stand in the future.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
These comparisons between the ratios existing for men and women are very interesting and probably capable of debate, as the hon. Gentleman said. What is even more interesting from the figures quoted is the comparison between the original charge for Health Service purposes and the present one proposed by the Minister which, according to my reading, represents a 400 per cent, increase over the years during which the present Adminitration have been in power. This is the serious sticking point between us—not only the frigging about with marginal differences in contribution between men and women, but the tremendous difference between the original charge and the 400 per cent. increase.
§ Sir E. Boyle
The hon. Gentleman raises a much wider point. I hope that he will remember that the net average earnings in industry have doubled during the period. This is a context in which percentages can be very misleading. The really important point to consider is whether the contribution as a whole today is reasonable in relation to average earnings and to our level of taxation. After all, the House will have many opportunities in the coming months to discuss the distribution of the national income generally.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
Will my hon. Friend direct his argument to the position of those on low earnings, whose wages and salaries have not doubled, rather than those whose salaries and wages have gone much higher than double? It is in relation to people with low wages and salaries that I should like to hear an argument advanced.
§ Sir E. Boyle
At the moment, I am dealing with the Bill, but I shall be putting a more general case later. My short answer to my hon. Friend is that there is, of course, a level of flat-rate contribution which would be socially unjust.
1421 But I say that we have not reached a socially unjust level by the increase in the fiat-rate contribution proposed in the Bill.
I wish to say a word about the self-employed man, who will pay 2s. 10d. It is very easy—I am sure that on this point I shall carry with me my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward)—to under-rate the importance of the self-employed man in our society. I hope, therefore, that the House will forgive me if I go over again the reasons I gave when moving the Ways and Means Resolution for adopting this figure. At this level the self-employed man will be paying a little more—it is 1½d. more, in fact—than the man in employment has to pay, but rather less than the total contribution for the employed man taking into account the employer's contribution as well.
The Government have given some thought to this matter and they feel that they have got the relativities about right. In the view of the Government there is a case for affording some marginal relief to the self-employed man, but it should not be such that his level of contribution is reduced to that borne by the employed man personally, because we do not want to get too far away from the original concept of the 1946 Act.
I come now to the Second Schedule. which is brought into effect by Clause 1 (3) of the Bill. Like many Schedules, it may appear complicated at first sight, but what we are trying to do is quite simple. The first paragraph of the Second Schedule substitutes an up-to-date definition of liability to pay National Health Service contributions—which, as the House will probably be aware, is exactly the same as liability to pay National Insurance contributions—for a definition which the passage of events has rendered obsolete. In effect, what this paragraph does is to extend the reference made in the 1957 Health Contributions Act to the 1946–56 Insurance Act. It extends that reference to cover the five further National Insurance Acts which have been passed since the National Insurance Act, 1956.
The second paragraph transfers to the Treasury the power to make regulations about the employers' contribution for foreign-going seamen. Perhaps I may 1422 explain the purpose of this power. It is used to reduce the contribution paid for medical treatment for seafarers during periods of incapacity abroad. So far as employer liability is concerned, this is the only relief or concession throughout the whole of our legislation regarding insurance and health contributions.
Paragraph 3 of the Second Schedule—which 1 recognise is the most important—deals with the way in which expenses incurred in collecting the contribution shall be assessed. It makes sure that the assessment is made on the same basis as that used for the National Insurance contribution, of which paragraph it was a part until 1957. I think that it is generally accepted that the income from the health contributions should be paid over on behalf of the Health Service net of the cost of collecting them. But there have been some doubts as to whether the words in the principal Act cover all the deductions which have properly been made. They certainly cover some,. and probably most, but I am advised not all; and it is the purpose of this paragraph to put the situation right.
The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), the other evening, during the speech I was allowed to make, was perfectly right when he suggested that what we are here proposing is, in fact, retrospective legislation. But it is the sort of retrospective legislation to which the Government do not see any objection in principle, because it is designed to make clear that the law really is as people have hitherto thought it to be.
So much for the Bill. I know that a number of hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Sowerby, feel that we ought to have waited to introduce the Bill until the time of the Budget, so that this proposal could be viewed in the context of the one occasion in the year when all the various forms of taxation come under review. All 1 can say about that to the House is that the Government felt strongly the weight of this consideration, but eventually decided to legislate in advance of the Budget for two reasons.
First, as a matter of practical administration any change in the rate of contribution requires several months of preparation; and I think that here it is relevant to point out that the yield of 1423 even two months collection of the increased contribution corresponds to about £ 8 million. Secondly, and just as important, the Government felt that it was right to announce this proposal to the House and to the country at approximately the same time as the publication of the Vote on Account.
As I pointed out in this House last week, the original Estimates presented last year showed an increase of about £ 342 million and, but for the measures we have recently been debating, the Estimates for the forthcoming financial year would have shown an increase of slightly over £ 330 million.
These are by any standard massive figures. and I am sure that the Government have been right to show at the earliest possible moment that they were fully prepared, without delay, to take unpopular measures in order to leave room in our economy for those other demands on our national resources—expolts, capital investment, and so on—which are so vital to our national wellbeing.
Furthermore, as I pointed out in a debate last Wednesday, hon. Members will have ample opportunity during the debates on the Budget and the Finance Bill to discuss the distribution of the national income, and, obviously, it would be an absolutely proper and highly important subject for the House to discuss.
We do not fear any calculations or comparisons which hon. Members opposite may make, because, however much we may disagree over some details of the sort of society we wish to see, the fact cannot be contradicted that ordinary wage-earning families have advanced their standard of living more rapidly during the last ten years than in any earlier decade of our national history. If the Health Service is to grow and develop in the way in which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health outlined last week, it is essential to get its financing established on a firm basis. There is no truth whatever in the claim of hon. Members opposite that we are making attacks on the Service.
That really is an absurd charge to make at a time when, as my right hon. Friend pointed out last week, to quote his own words: 1424The last few years have seen a steady and, in some respects, a quite dramatic increase in the staffing of the hospital service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1961; Vol. 634, c. 427.]Of course, the hospital service, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, is not only the largest single element in the Health Service, but is the key to further medical progress in almost every direction.
It is also absurd to talk about the Government attacking the Health Service at a time when the cost of the Service is increasing more rapidly than the gross national income. It is quite true, as hon. Members opposite pointed out last week, that the proportion of the national income taken by the Health Service is not greater today than it was in 1950. But—and I say this to hon. Members opposite—think of the expansion which we have achieved in other directions since then, and particularly in productive capital investment, social investment, housing, and education.
§ Sir. E. Boyle
Office building is absolutely minute, compared with capital investment as a whole, or housing, or education. Obviously, it is more difficult for any service to maintain its percentage share of the national income at a time when other services, as a matter of deliberate Government policy, are being expanded also.
In my view, it is only necessary to look at the way in which the gross cost of the Health Service has risen in order to refute the charge that we are attacking this Service. Let me remind the House again that the Government are not setting any arbitrary limit to the cost of the Health Service, thereby cutting out some benefits which it conveys to the community. There is nothing of that in the proposal which we are discussing today, nor indeed, in the other Health Service proposals which my right hon. Friend announced last week. What we are debating today is a financial adjustment and not an economy cut. Furthermore, this arrangement cannot, in my view, be represented as an unfair attack on the contributor to the advantage of the taxpayer. I do not think that it makes sense to try to divide the community sharply into contributors and taxpayers, as if they were completely separate categories.
1425 If we want to measure the effect of the Government's proposals, we have to consider the position of the ordinary citizen in three aspects—as taxpayer, as contributor, and, and by no means least, as a recipient of the benefits of the social services. If we consider the main recipients of the social service benefits, that is to say, the ordinary wage earners, one fact emerges which cannot really be disputed. Not only have they increased their standard of living more rapidly in the 1950's than ever before, but they have also enjoyed a higher rate of social benefits than ever before. This applies to the lower-paid workers as well.
I do not want to get out of order, but when we are thinking of the range of social benefits, we have to remember that the agricultural workers, who are among the lower paid workers, have all gained from the very great increase in number of county secondary schools and the expansion in other social services besides the Health Service.
§ Sir E. Boyle
That is absolutely right. I am not saying that they should not. I am only saying that the ordinary wage earner has increased his living standard and has also his enjoyment of the benefits of the social services.
§ Mr. Collick
Surely, the Financial Secretary understands clearly what is the attitude of the Opposition. He is trying to justify increased contributions, apparently, on the basis of relative increases in wages, but why does he only compare the working people in this matter? He must understand quite well that remissions of taxation to the wealthy classes since the Tory Party has been in power are much more substantial than anything that the working people have had.
§ Sir E. Boyle
If the hon. Gentleman will listen to my speech for a few minutes longer, he will find that I shall be able to tell him—what is the fact—that progressive direct taxation in this country contributes today a larger share of our total tax revenue, and not a smaller share, than when we came into office in 1951.
What I say is that the social service benefits are now something which most—not all supporters of the party opposite genuinely did not expect when they 1426 were defeated in 1951. Many of them and the increased enjoyment of social service benefits by the ordinary wage earners, under a Conservative Government, a genuinely uncomfortable fact to face, but it is a definite fact and there can be no doubt about it. I would remind right hon. and hon. Members opposite of the wise words of one of the most sensible British thinkers in the eighteenth century—Bishop Butler—who said:Things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be: why should we then desire to be deceived?I cannot quite understand why right hon. and hon. Members opposite want to go on being deceived in this manner
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
While this is very entertaining, is it not really irrelevant'? Is not this a question, as this Service must be paid for, of what is the fairest way of paying for it? The question of relative incomes is dealt with by the Income Tax authorities, who tax people according to their ability to pay.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I do not believe that what I have been saying is at all irrelevant to the question whether the Government's proposals are fair. I pointed out last week:Since 1957, the proportion of public expenditure to the gross national product has been rising again. In virtually every part of the public sector today there is a strong expansion in expenditure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1961; Vol. 634, c. 519.]Government expenditure on civil account, as is quite clear from today's Vote on Account, continues to rise, and it is likely that the Government will be taking at least as big a proportion of the national income in the coming year as they have taken in the last two or three years. A large part of this increased expenditure arises from increases in civil expenditure, of which social service expenditure is itself a major constituent. So there can really be no doubt that the citizen, in his role of recipient of social benefits, has improved his position in relation to the citizen in his rôle of taxpayer and contributor.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I have given way to the hon. Gentleman twice.
I do not think that when hon. Members study the Vote on Account, which 1427 is published today, they will feel that it gives much support to their claim that the Government are engaged on an all-out war against the Welfare State. Whatever criticisms right hon. and hon. Members opposite may wish to make of our fiscal and financial policies—and we shall have plenty of opportunities of returning to this subject during the coming months—I simply do not believe that our tax system as a whole can be stigmatised as unfairly redressive.
When we are considering the Government's proposal for an increased Health Service contribution, we ought also to remember that our highly progressive system of Income Tax and Surtax yields a higher proportion of total tax revenue today than it yielded when the party opposite was in office-441 per cent. as compared with 43 per cent. for the financial year 1951–52—and it just is not true to suggest that, in relation to our social services, the direct taxpayers are not pulling their weight.
I come back, in conclusion, to what I said earlier in my speech. What we are debating this afternoon is not a matter of principle, but rather a matter of judgment. Of course, it is the duty of the Government to satisfy themselves that the total burden they place on the contributor is not too heavy. All I can say is that I believe that the extra scale of contributions which we propose in the Bill is not unreasonable, bearing in mind three considerations: first, the increase in average earnings since the Health Service came into operation; secondly, the fact that for the last four years social expenditure generally, including expenditure on the Health Service, has been rising more rapidly than the national income; and, thirdly, the fact that the Government have shown their intention to effect a real and nation-wide improvement in the standard of the Health Service through their large and imaginative plans for new hospital building.
I ask the House to support us, tonight, not because we want to dismantle the Welfare State, nor because we are planning a desertion or betrayal of those ordinary families who have rightly put their trust in the Conservative Government, but because we believe that the people will respond to a Government who are not afraid to exercise their 1428 judgment, nor to make difficult decisions because they are unpopular.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
The first thing that I should do, I think, is to congratulate the Financial Secretary on making this afternoon a speech which the Patronage Secretary prevented him from making in the early hours of last Thursday morning. I am sure that we all judge from his speech how much enlightenment the Committee missed during those turbulent hours. I should also like to say that I am very glad indeed to see the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer present this afternoon. I understand that he has been indisposed. I am sure that it is significant that the Chancellor and the Financial Secretary are sponsoring the Bill before the House today. It is, as the hon. Gentleman said, a Treasury Bill.
What does the Bill do? It raises another £ 49 million from the contributors to the National Health Service, bringing the grand total of Health Service contributions to £ 161 million. That is a tax and I think that it can be proved to be a tax, too, when I draw the attention of the House to the fact that it is not based on actual benefits received. It is levied universally and indiscriminately on all persons who are contributors to the National Insurance Scheme. There can be no doubt that an imposition of these dimensions, even for a special service, constitutes part of our comprehensive system of taxation.
Speaking on 1st February, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health referred to this matter. He alluded to the fact that the contribution had been called a poll tax, and he went on to say:It falls, of course, to be considered in the context of the whole economic position of the country, of the earnings of those who will pay it and of the tax system as a whole …That concedes, I think, that it is part of the system of taxation. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say, somewhat by way of excusing the present proposals:… but the proportion of average earnings which will, in future, be collected by way of the stamp, is not appreciably greater, in the nearest practicable comparison, than it was in 1948."-[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st February, 1961: Vol. 633, c. 990.]I submit to the House that a tax is no less of a tax merely because it is in the same proportion today as it was before to the level of average earnings.
1429 I think that the Government are asking all the time, and the hon. Gentleman has stressed this several times this afternoon, that this tax should be judged in relative rather than in absolute terms. The hon. Gentleman said that the Government had considered whether it was appropriate to introduce this Measure in advance of the Budget. Presumably, they have considered this same point on three occasions, because they have done exactly the same thing each time. They did it in 1957 and in 1958 and they have done it again in 1961.
As I pointed out in the speech which I was allowed to make on the Money Resolution, in 1957, very shortly after announcing the first imposition of National Health Service contributions, an amount of tax relief equal to one-half of the new burden of Health Service contributions was given in additional earned income relief to the general taxpayer. I mink that we shall, perhaps, approach the forthcoming Budget with deeper suspicions than right hon. and hon. Members opposite realise.
We have got it very firmly fixed in our minds that the Chancellor intends to make some concessions of direct taxation which will be an affront to those upon whom he is now imposing additional Health Service contributions. That is what makes us more alert and somewhat more alarmed this time—because of the order of business which the Government have chosen
I concede that with the announcement of the Vote on Account for the National Health Service the rise in the total cost of the Service would be noticed and that questions would occur to people in the country concerning how this additional cost was being financed. The same, of course, applies to other factors in the general budgetary situation, but nobody asks how the additional Vote on Account for defence is to be paid for. They know that it is coming out of taxation, but because of the existence of National Health Service contributions there is admittedly a doubt of what would be in the minds of the Government on the financing of additional expenditure.
Now that we know what the Bill does, and now that I have, I think, established to the satisfaction of the House that it really is a tax and should really be part of the general Budget survey of the 1430 economic and financial condition of the country, I want to leave that and go on to deal with another point with which the hon. Gentleman dealt in some detail. namely, the history of the matter.
In earlier debates there has been a good deal of disputation thrown across the Floor of the House and the Committee as to who started what and who was responsible for the National Health Service contribution. The hon. Gentleman has given some of the facts. I was rather surprised that he did not quote the paragraph from the Beveridge Report which has been prayed in aid on each previous occasion when National Health Service contributions or increases in them have been under discussion. In paragraph 430, Sir William Beveridge, as he then was, said:There is no obvious reason, apart from a desire to keep the insurance contribution as low as possible, why insured persons should be relieved of the burden wholly, in order that they may bear it as tax-payers. If importance attaches to preserving the contributory principle for cash benefit, it attaches also to contributions for medical treatment.That was the eleventh commandment or basic faith which was imported into the discussions in 1957, and again in 1958, in support of the Government's proposals.
In a debate on the National Health Service the other day in another place, Lord Beveridge made some remarks very much along these lines. But I think that we have to bear in mind in this connection that Beveridge laid down no principles for financing the Health Ser vice. He explicitly said so and, indeed, in another place the other day said that the Service had really nothing to do with him. He had not started it at all. All he did was to accept it as one of the assumptions in the general pattern of social security which he took into account, along with family allowances and full employment, in devising his scheme of social insurance.
We should also remember that before the new scheme came into operation as a result of the Beveridge Report we had a National Health Insurance Scheme which combined money benefits and medical benefits. We remember that contributors under that scheme were entitled to a doctor and medicine as well as money payments during periods of sickness. On the introduction of the new 1431 scheme of National Insurance and the National Health Service, the two things were divided. The National Insurance Scheme dealt with money benefits only and the National Health Service dealt with medical benefits only, or benefits of a medical kind.
It was natural, therefore, that when the two schemes were separated some provision should be made for part of the cost of the new National Health Service to be borne by a grant in aid—that is the term used by the Beveridge Report—from the National Insurance Scheme to the National Health Service. We notice that in paragraph 170 the Coalition Government's White Paper of 1944, Cmd. 6550, there is a reference to what the Financial Secretary described as the National Health Service element in the National Insurance contribution. Then, as the hon. Gentleman said, it was fixed at 10d. for men and 8d. for women. It said:Of this, the employer … pays 1½d.It went on to say:This figure of 1½d. represents approximately the amount which the employer at present contributes towards the cost of medical benefit and has been adopted for that reason.I draw the attention of the House, in particular, to the cross-reference between the old and the new schemes when defining the contribution to be made by the employer. Nothing was said there, or anywhere else as far as I can discover, about the future financing of the National Health Service, but that same National Health Service element, incorporated in the National Insurance contribution in 1946, remained there, and remained unchanged from 1946 to 1957.
Even when Sir Stafford Cripps proposed to introduce charges for appliances, teeth and spectacles, and when power was taken by a Labour Government to introduce prescription charges—which, in fact, were never introduced by a Labour Government—no suggestion was made at that time by Sir Stafford Cripps about increased contributions, no proposed increase in the National Health Service element in the National Insurance contribution. It was a Conservative Government, in 1957, that plucked out the National Health Service element from the National Insurance contribution which previously had been built into it, separated it and increased 1432 it. They increased it in 1957, again in 1958 and are now proposing a further increase in 1961.
In passing, it is worth noting that in 1946 the proportion of the National Health Service element to the total contribution was 14½ per cent. and now, I think, it is 20½ per cent. under the proposals made by the Government.
§ Lord Balniel (Hertford)
The hon. Member is quite right in saying that the Beveridge Committee did not make a recommendation about what proportion should be financially made by contributions. Of course, it was not the responsibility of the Beveridge Committee to make a recommendation concerning the Health Service, but it took a figure and used it as a basis for discussion. I think that the figure it took as a basis for discussion was 19 per cent., so our proposals are not very different from that percentage.
§ Mr. Houghton
I have devoted some time to this matter in recent days and there is nothing in the Beveridge Report—
§ Lord Balniel
Will the hon. Member allow me to read it to him? The Beveridge Report takes as "a fair basis …"
§ Lord Balniel
On page 116, paragraph 287. It takes as "a fair basis for discussion" the following:If the total contribution by insured persons of all classes is compared with the total Security Budget, it represents about 22 per cent. If their contribution for cash insurance benefits is compared with the total of these benefits it amounts to 29 per cent. If their contribution for medical treatment and rehabilitation is compared with the estimated total cost of these services it amounts to about 19 per cent.
§ Mr. Houghton
I am very grateful to the noble Lord. It seems that Lord Beveridge was stating the facts of the matter in presenting the Report, but he did not go on to say, "and that is about right", "that seems fair enough ", or "this may well be the basis for the future financing of the services." He did not say any of those things.
§ Lord Balniel
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again, but Lord Beveridge did say that it was a fair basis for discussion although it was not his responsibility to recommend about the future of the Health Service.
§ Mr. Houghton
The discussion presumably took place, although it is quite extraordinary that it did not take place on any of the White Papers, or debates on the National Insurance Bill or in Committee on the National Insurance Bill, nor at any other time, so far as I can find, was that taken as a basis for discussion. It was written into the financial structure of the National Insurance Scheme and left at that.
I repeat, it is significant that although, during the time of Sir Stafford Cripps, one might have thought that this would again come under discussion, it did not, in fact, come under discussion, but was left alone from 1946 to 1957 until the Conservative Government discovered a new gold mine, a new source of taxation, and decided to exploit it. That is what we are discussing this afternoon.
§ Mrs. White
I wonder whether we can get this quite clear from the hon. Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel). Does the figure he gave include industrial injuries? He used the word "rehabilitation".
§ Lord Balniel
I am speaking rather "off the cuff". It includes the words medical treatment and rehabilitation ", but I would not like to define it closer than that.
§ Mr. Houghton
I have so many quotations from the Beveridge Report and elsewhere that it is not easy to lay my hands on the right one at the right moment. I am relying on my memory, but I think that in another paragraph—I believe it is No. 437—no, that was a description of the ideal of the plan; I shall have to leave it—Lord Beveridge said that it was not within the scope of his work to lay down the future financial basis of the National Health Service.
I think that something of what we have been dealing with in these exchanges will emerge in the next part of the history of the matter, namely, the ratio between budgetary cost and National Health Service revenue from other sources. In 1946, the Exchequer 1434 cost was envisaged to be 72.4 per cent., although, of course, we realised that the estimates of the cost of the Health Service were very tentative indeed at that time and they proved very quickly to be wide of the mark.
I stress that there was no suggestion that the ratio of total cost to be borne by the Budget of 72.4 per cent. was envisaged for the future, or even for a stated period. It was envisaged to be the position in 1946 or in the first full year of the National Health Service, which was 1949–50. In the first full year it was actually 76.3 per cent. By 1950–51, it had risen to 80.9 per cent. and, by the time the 1957 Bill was brought in, I think that it was just over 80 per cent.
In the debate on the 1957 Bill, on 8th May, 1957, relating to the rising cost of the National Health Service and the rising ratio of the budgetary cost to total expenditure, the right hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Vosper) said:The Government, therefore, have decided that this heavy and growing burden is more than the taxpayer can reasonably be expected to bear."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1957: Vol. 569, c. 989.]That was in 1957 and by 1958 the Exchequer's share of total cost had been pulled down to 75 per cent.
The Minister of Health has referred in earlier debates to the rising cost of the Health Service again now. But the present Bill and other charges connected with it will bring the Exchequer contribution to the total cost of the Health Service to 70–7 per cent., which will be the lowest Exchequer contribution to the total cost of the National Health Service since it began in 1948. Having regard to the varied ratios right from the beginning, and this new low level—though, admittedly high enough in terms of total expenditure to merit very serious consideration—of budgetary cost of the total cost of the Health Service, we are entitled to ask what the Government's policy is in this matter.
The Financial Secretary has said that it is not a matter of major political principle. We contend that it is a matter of major political importance. Although a noble Lord, in another place, said that the argument is not about "whether", but about "how much", "how much" is very important, especially when we are dealing with a flat-rate tax levied on 1435 all incomes, on all types of family responsibility, without regard to relative ability to pay. I have already said that as far as I can discover there has been no discussion on this question, although it was taken, or put forward, by the Beveridge Report as a basis for discussion. It never seems to have been settled, nor, indeed, has there been any substantial consideration given to it, in relation to the broad conspectus of budgetary responsibility, as to whether the ratio should be 70, 75, 65. 80, or whatever it should be.
It appears as though the Government wish to keep that ratio as low as possible and are prepared to levy contributions as high as possible to achieve it. On all matters of restrictions on the expansion of the expenditure of the Health Service right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite lean very heavily indeed on Sir Stafford Cripps. In an intervention which I made when the Financial Secretary was speaking I drew the distinction between what Sir Stafford Cripps was attempting to do and what the Government are doing now. Sir Stafford Cripps was curbing the demand of the Health Service on total resources which were so desperately needed in other essential directions when we were trying to lay the foundations of our postwar economy. It was a switch in expenditure that Sir Stafford Cripps was trying to get. The hon. Gentleman has admitted that there was no such attempt to get a switch of expenditure under the proposals that are before us this afternoon.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I recall clearly that Sir Stafford Cripps was very much concerned with the increased expenditure and capital expenditure on such items as electricity at the time and felt bound to keep a curb on Government expenditure for that reason. Today, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, we are embarking on an increased programme of hospitals, schools and university building. I do not think that there is so much difference between the economic situation of 1960 and 1951 as the hon Member is asserting.
§ Mr. Houghton
All I can say, in reply to that, is if that is the view of hon. Gentlemen the Government are behaving in a very strange fashion. After all, Sir Stafford Cripps, in that situation, put 1436 a limit on the demand which the Health Service should make on the resources of the nation. The hon. Gentleman has put no such limit on the demand which the Service should make on the resources of the nation. This afternoon, in fact, he said this was not a ceiling on the expenditure of the Service so much as a financial operation as to how to finance it.
I come now to the third of my four points. What are the short-term aims of the Bill? Here I address myself to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This is a shift from direct and progressive taxation to regressive taxation by contributions. That is the way we view it. Progressive taxation, unless it is being constantly reduced is said to be a disincentive to those higher up, while lower down the regressive taxation by contributions is, apparently, regarded as nothing of the kind. It is no hardship to them; it is said that they can afford it. It will be morally and socially good for them to pay. That is the argument used in defence of these increased contributions.
I ask this question: why do not right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite say that about the Income Tax payer and the Surtax payer? Instead, they say these taxpayers dislike it so much that they cannot put their heart into their work and it is necessary to reduce the burden of taxation to give them some kind of psychological fillip which, in turn, will be converted into higher productivity, greater efficiency, and will be a boon to the nation. The great mass of the workers can take it. That is the view expressed on the other side.
§ Mr. Arthur Tiley (Bradford, West)
About a year ago the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) was reported in the Yorkshire Post as making a speech in Sowerby—and I will send a cutting to him after the debate—in which he recommended that in the forthcoming Finance Bill, last year, the Surtax level should be immediately increased to £ 3,000. What does he think about that now, in view of what he has just said about Surtax payers?
§ Mr. Houghton
I think that the hon. Gentleman has misquoted me. I remember writing an article on the administration side of Surtax which had an entirely 1437 different context from that which the hon. Gentleman has put forward. However, if he says that he will send me the cutting I shall be glad to look at it.
I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the immediate aim of this transfer from general taxation to taxation by contributions? In fiscal terms, is it to avoid an increase in general taxation or is it to pave the way to a reduction in general taxation? Is it aimed at the redistributive effect of increasing social services out of general taxation whereby income, goods and services are transferred from the better off to the less well off and the poor? Those are the three questions I ask the Chancellor about these proposals in the fiscal term.
I have some questions in economic terms, but it seems to me from what the hon. Gentleman has said that there is no need to ask whether the Bill is intended to make room in a static economy and place a curb on the demand on the additional resources that the expansion of the Health Service would make, because he has denied that that is so.
I see that the Minister of Health is in his place. I ask him what is meant by the use of a particularly important word in the announcement he made on 1st February, 1961, where he says:I should have been betraying my trust if I had agreed to an increase in the budgetary cost of this Service, for it would inevitably have resulted in the development of the Service itself having to be curtailed or limited if these steps had not been taken."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st February, 1961; Vol. 633; c. 990.]Why "inevitably"? What was inevitable about a reduction or curtailment of expansion of the Health Service if this switch from direct to contributory taxation was not made? The inference is that the Government had put a ceiling on the budgetary cost of the National Health Service and had told the Minister of Health, "That is it and not a penny more. Unless you agree to the increase in contributions, an increase in prescription charges and other charges, the expansion of the Health Service will have to be curtailed." If a ceiling has been put upon the budgetary cost of the National Health Service we should know what it is.
It seems that the proposed new contributions are not designed to limit public expenditure on the Service, but to adjust 1438 the manner of meeting the cost. It is desirable for the whole country to have a firmer basis for future financing of the Service than the judgment or caprice of the Government of the day.
Viscount Amory said recently, in another place, that there are three things not worth running after a woman, a bus and a new principle of taxation. He said that if one waits a little while another one is bound to turn up. Is this the new principle of taxation which has turned up—flat-rate taxation to be pushed higher and higher? Defined as a principle, I would put it as taxation by relative inability to pay.
Judging from debates so far, both in the House of Commons and in another place, the whole operation seems to hinge on two factors—the ratio between contributions and average gross earnings, and the ratio between budgetary cost and combined Health Service contributions and revenue from other sources. To find a basis for both of these criteria the Government go back to 1946. We want to know whether the Government will maintain these two factors—the ratio of contributions to average gross earnings, and the ratio between budgetary cost and revenue of the Health Service from contributions, prescription charges and other sources.
The Minister of Health and the Financial Secretary have both referred to the fact that the contributions proposed in the Bill are, broadly, the same in percentage terms as the Health Service element in the original Health Service contribution. This must be looked at in absolute terms as well as in relative terms. There is no doubt that with this additional charge the total sum will bear harshly on many people of below average earnings. Ten shillings and sevenpence a week, which will be the new flat-rate contribution for men after July, will be more than 4 per cent. of the earnings of many people. It will be 5 per cent., 6 per cent. and even over 7 per cent. of the earnings of many people earning below average wages.
What about people on short-time working? They will have to pay the flat-rate tax just the same as those on full-time working. What about those who have lost substantial additions to their normal pay by the cessation of overtime? They 1439 will have to pay the same flat-rate contribution as if they were on overtime and earning more money.
The iniquity of this form of taxation is that it takes no account of these things. Pay As You Earn is by far the fairest direct taxation on the pay packet. It can be adjusted to family circumstances. If pay goes down, the tax goes down. If the pay goes up, the tax goes up. If a new baby arrives, the tax goes down, and so on. Hon. Gentlemen are familiar with the system. Even those paying the graduated contribution will find considerable difficulty in paying the new maximum contribution of 15s. 8d. a week.
These considerations have reflected themselves in Press comments on the Goverment's proposals. The Observer, on 5th February, and The Times, on 2nd February, both commented on the undesirable tendency of transferring the financial burden from progressive taxation to flat-rate taxation. The Observer said:If the Government finds it necessary to take steps to increase its total revenue in order to finance all its operations, including the Health Service, it should take steps to share the burden more equitably.This brings me to my final point. This is the question I want to ask and try to answer. How does the Bill fit into the Government's lamentable strategy for the future of the welfare services? Here I think we come upon the most serious aspect of the whole affair. The Bill must be seen as part of a stealthy and piecemeal process of changing the face and financial structure of the Welfare State. I say publicly that if the Conservative Government remain in office very much longer the main burden of the cost of the social services will have been shifted from the shoulders of those who can fairly bear it to the shoulders of those who cannot.
The Guardian, on 2nd February, and the Sunday Times, on 5th February, both had comments to make on this tendency, but I will not trouble the House with the quotations.
This matter does not stand alone. Looking back, the food subsidies, the housing subsidies, the new edition of which we saw yesterday, and the National Insurance Scheme all tell the same story of a shift from public to personal expenditure. This is widening the tax base with a vengeance, on the principle of relative inability to pay.
1440 We look for the Conservative inspiration on this matter in Peter Goldman, the Director of the Conservative Political Centre, who said in an article in Time and Tide, on 13th January, writing as a private individual:For some time a growing school of thought within the Conservative Party has advocated changes in the financing of the social services. Provided there is full employment for the working population, special aid for the big family and a safety net for the genuinely needy, I can certainly see no reason why the bulk of the population should not become more and more self-providing and less and less dependent on rates and taxes.Mr. Henry Fairlie, another notable Conservative writer, said in an article he wrote in Time and Tide on the same date:Almost everyone agrees … that a huge waste of money, or misappropriation of resources, is going on in the National Health Service. Much of this could be overcome, if it were recognised that today the primary object of the Health Service is not the provision of general services free, but making available to everybody the specialised benefits of modern medicine, which can be provided only by a universal authority such as the State.The same thread runs through all these things.
Professor Alan Peacock, who writes for the "Unservile State Group", has a more rabid view on the same theme. That presumably is the social doctrine of modern liberalism. He says:The true object of the Welfare State is to teach people how to do without it.What the Conservative Government say is that the true object of the Welfare State is to teach people by stopping them having it. That will be the tendency during the period of office of the Conservative Government.
While every other country is mobilising its social conscience and translating it into expanding social services, we in this country appear to be dismantling the Welfare State which was, at one time, a model for the world. There is a nobler concept of the Welfare State, and I ask the indulgence of the House whilst I read it.The Welfare State is democracy's highest attempt to develop a society in which there shall be a true and fruitful reconciliation between the rightful claims of individual freedom, enterprise, ambition on the one side and corporate order, co-operation, mutual concern on the other. It is the most difficult thing that any society has ever attempted. It demands 1441 a more deliberate wisdom, a higher level of detached and unselfish thought, a greater degree of true citizenship from the ordinary citizen than has ever been asked of men before.That is a much nobler basis on which to construct even the financial arrangements of the National Health Service.
The Government are chipping away at the foundation stone of the Welfare State with chisels made of self-interest, unfairness, false doctrine and—I must say it in all seriousness—a distinct streak of humbug and hypocrisy. If we can do anything to stop it, this Bill shall not pass.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Dr. Donald Johnson (Carlisle)
I would have been glad to follow the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) in crystal-gazing into the future, and perhaps I shall end by doing so, but first I have to tell the House that I agree with my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary when he says that this Bill is entirely a matter of percentages and not of principles. To put it in its simplest form, without this Bill the Exchequer would contribute 76.3 per cent. and the small shift now proposed brings that figure dawn to 70.2 per cent.
It is one of these adjustments that have been made before—there was a similar one four years ago—and which will have to continue to be made if the Exchequer contribution—the cost to the taxpayer—to the rising costs of the Service is to be kept within limits. The trend is clearly shown in the table contained in my right hon. Friend's Written Answer to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), published in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 8th February, 1961, in column 65, in which figures for a period covering the last twelve years have been set out as a continuation of the Guillebaud Report.
The National Health Service debate last week, and this one today, reveal a very strange situation. Last week was the first occasion since the General Election when we have had a full day's debate on the general principles of this Service. During the whole of the last Session only two hon. Members commented on that, and sought a debate—the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) and myself. As a contrast to that, at one o'clock or two o'clock on Wednesday morning last no less than forty people wanted to speak on the Service—
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
The hon. Member for Carlisle (Dr. D. Johnson) will also be aware that daring the whole period from 1951 we have had only sixteen debates on the Service.
§ Dr. Johnson
I have no doubt that that is so. I have not made such a careful count, but I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman is right, and he reinforces what I say. That is the extraordinary situation.
Of the various comments on this situation, I think that the most cogent was that appearing in The Spectator last Friday which said, in effect, that the present situation is the pay-off from the Guillebaud Report. We are reminded that the Guillebaud Committee was appointed to advise… how, in view of the burdens of the Exchequer, a rising charge upon it can be avoided, while providing the maintenance of an adequate service.We are also reminded that the answer in the Guillebaud Report was… delightfully simple … the charge of the Service … was not rising … there was no evidence of extravagance, and no need for any major change in the administrative structure …We all remember that everyone in this House took that as a pat on the back, and there was an atmosphere of complacency.
I may be pardoned, perhaps, if I refer to some of my own remarks on the Guillebaud Report at that time. In a debate similar to this in July, 1957, I stated quite clearly:The effect of this increased contribution is not only to make people pay more … but in a more direct fashion. One only hopes that it will lead to an increasing interest and informed public opinion concernng the economies in the Service. I am glad to have this opportunity to express my sense of disappointment with the Guillebaud Report."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1957; Vol. 569, c. 1081].On 15th July, 1959, I said:I regard the Guillebaud Report—I think I am repeating what I have said before—as a generally unhappy document, in that it encouraged a mood of complacency towards the structure and organisation of the Service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th July, 1959; Vol. 609, c. 507.]I am glad to be able to repeat that a third time.
For the last five years we have taken soporifics over the National Health Service, and we now wake up with a bad 1443 headache. This is the morning after the night before. I have no hesitation in stating again that I regard the Guillebaud Report as one of the most disastrous social documents of modern times.
This Bill does not alter the principle of contributions, but I agree with the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) who said last week that we should not regard this Service as a sort of sacred cow—as we have been doing for the last ten or fifteen years. He said that, in the present circumstances, we should examine all sorts of different principles. We shall go through this sort of thing over and over again unless the Service is examined quite fundamentally and on a radical basis—
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
If, as a nation, we expended less on non-productive and destructive services, we could meet this present situation without any increase in contributions at all.
§ Dr. Johnson
I would agree with the hon. Gentleman in so far as there is immense waste in the nation at the present time. Figures of teen-age expenditure were recently published. They showed that out of earnings said to amount to £ 900 million a year, no less than £ 600 million or £ 700 million went on wasteful expenditure. Such a sum would be enough to finance the whole of my right hon. Friend's hospital programme for the next ten years. Matters like that should be included in our examination. I will give the example of a health service elsewhere to show how it can operate. The health service in Australia illustrates how quite different principles can be applied to the matter.
Last Wednesday night, the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) reminded me of far-off days when my right hon. Friend who is now the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was secretary of the B.M.A. and I was merely an ex-defeated political candidate, and we went round the country on behalf of the doctors putting the doctors' point of view before the inception of the Health Service. In his speech, the hon. Member for Greenock accused us of opposing the Health Service—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—but we were not opposing the Health Service.
§ Mr. Pavitt
Does the hon. Member recall the referendum of the B.M.A. and the results of the referendum?
§ Dr. Johnson
We were opposing the Health Service in the way it affected the doctors. This brings me to the point I wish to make about Australia.
§ Dr. Johnson
The hon. Member says that we last. Of course, we lost. In Australia, on the other hand, there was a quite different course of events. There was an almost identical situation at the time, but it had a different outcome. In Australia, the doctors, with the assistance of certain of the State Governments, tested the matter constitutionally in the Federal Supreme Court. The result was that it was ruled that a health service on lines similar to the one brought in here was unconstitutional for the interesting reason that it was said to involve the conscription of civilian personnel in peace time. Subsequently, the Labour Government in Australia tried to amend the Constitution, but they did not succeed.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
The hon. Member is going rather far from the subject under discussion.
§ Dr. Johnson
I am just coming back to the point, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. There was a change of Government in Australia. The Coalition Government which came in introduced a health service on an entirely different contributory basis. The Australian health service was founded on voluntary insurance contributions—it is so today, and it has given satisfaction since that time—made up on a fifty-fifty basis by the Government. There are certain specified fixed charges for medical services towards which the voluntary insurance contributions make half, with an equal amount coming from Exchequer funds. That arrangement relates to general practice. The hospital service is on a slightly different basis, with the Government paying 40 per cent. to start with and then making up the 50 per cent. So the Exchequer contributions in the Australian service probably come to between 50 and 60 per cent. of the total. There are fixed fees for the doctors, but they do not in all cases 1445 cover the doctors' fees. They cover about 80 per cent., with the patient paying the other 20 per cent.
It has been suggested by hon. Members, for instance, by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) when she spoke the other night, that that service is not quite so comprehensive as our Service. In some ways it is more comprehensive than ours. It is more comprehensive certainly in two ways. One is that 111 pensioners have free drugs, and the other is that life-saving drugs on a certain list are free to everyone. It has the happy effect that there is not in it the feature that bedevils our Service at the moment, that is to say, the difference between private patients and National Health Service patients. In the Australian service there is no occasion for any division; everyone is on the same basis, and everyone has the same drugs. Any question of drugs as between private patients and National Health Service patients just does not arise.
§ Dr. Johnson
That service in Australia has obviously worked satisfactorily during the past ten years, because the Government have been re-elected after establishing it. I suggest that it has many points in its operation and structure which merit our attention.
We must look at all these things in the National Health Service for the future, things which we have, perhaps, ignored, things which it has not been convenient to examine, things which we may have thought would be vote-losing if we talked about them. All these factors we must boldly and courageously consider with a view to building a proper and dynamic Health Service for the people of this country.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I felt a sense of shame that a doctor could rise in the House and suggest that a patient who is ill should be treated differently depending on whether he has money or whether he has not.
§ Dr. Johnson
I am sorry to challenge the right hon. Gentleman so soon, but will he explain why he says that? I said no such thing.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. Member suggested that if people have doctors privately and pay for their drugs privately they will receive better treatment than if they were treated within the National Health Service where everyone is treated alike.
§ Dr. Johnson
I said nothing of the kind. I referred merely to the fact that there is this agitation which reaches the Floor of the House, and we recognise the fact that it is taking place. That is what I said.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. Member in his speech was trying to justify people in other countries receiving medical services according to whether they paid partly on their means.
I had the honour of being one of the Ministers who introduced the National Health Service. Nye Bevan was the Minister in England and I was the Minister in Scotland. The principle governing the Service was that all people who became sick should be treated according to their disease and not according to their income. I am ashamed that any doctor should suggest that there should be a different approach to sickness in this country. The principle I have enunciated is the principle behind the National Health Service. How it is to be paid for is another matter. The principle is that people should be treated according to their illness and not according to their income, and that is a fundamental principle for which we shall fight. I shall certainly fight as hard as I can, with all the energy at my command.
The hon. Member described to us the campaign he conducted before the National Health Service was introduced. He did a great disservice both to the doctors and to the Health Service. Instead of the doctors of the country sitting down with the Ministers responsible before the Service came in and discussing what was the best thing to do and how best the Service could be managed, their minds were concentrated on all manner of irrelevant and stupid issues which really did not affect them 1447 at all. For months, we had an argument with the doctors about whether, if some doctor were dismissed, he had a right of appeal to the courts. This was one of the great issues, although the fact was that, under the old National Insurance Scheme, on the average, one doctor was dismissed in thirteen years.
§ Dr. Johnson
Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that professional freedom is entirely meaningless?
§ Mr. Woodburn
I was responsible for blowing the campaign into smithereens by the simple question that a doctor, like everybody else, was entitled to be tried by his peers and had a right of appeal to a lawyer on all legal points. The last thing that any sensible doctor would want to have decided was whether he was a good doctor. The whole thing was so nonsensical that when the point was put to them, the doctors dropped it.
The point was that time was wasted by the doctors. I am glad to say that in Scotland, although they were loyal to the B.M.A. in not coming out in opposition to it, they played the game behind the scenes and tried to discuss the best way to have the Service. The hon. Member and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster did a great disservice in their campaign at that time by diverting the attention of the doctors from their real duty and campaigning for a great many irrelevant demands which had no basis.
The chairman of the B.M.A. Committee at that time, whose name I forget—it was not Dr. Wand—has since confessed that he was completely wrong with the campaign and he has paid tribute to the National Health Service as being one of the greatest achievements of the modern age. It should, therefore, be realised that the campaign was a great mistake and that it should not now be carried on, because the Service has been established and is the envy of the world.
The matter was discussed in the House of Commons both on the Scottish Bill and on the English Bill, and I have read the debates. Nobody, not one person on the Conservative benches, raised the question of destroying the principle of the free treatment of disease. Not one person even raised the question of 1448 whether payment should be made from taxes or anywhere else. We assumed that it would be paid for as a medical service by the nation for the nation. These questions have come about only in recent times, not because of any criticism of the Health Service, but because of the idea that the Health Service is making a demand upon the taxpayer which in all the circumstances is not justifiable. There might be an argument on that basis, but it has nothing to do with the Health Service.
I agree that treatment has to be paid for. It is an embarrassment if it has to be paid for in an awkward way. The one thing that is wrong, however—and this accorded with the demands even of Conservatives during those debates—is that there should be any interference in a doctor's right to prescribe what a patient needs. The patient should be given what he needs for his illness. What the Conservative Government are doing today is to prevent patients getting medicines to which they are entitled. Even if the contributions and the taxes had risen still further, they would have been justified in maintaining a free service of drugs, because during that campaign the hon. Member for Carlisle (Dr. D. Johnson), as a member of the medical profession, demanded that the State should never interfere between a doctor and his patient. Tomorrow night, however, he will go into the Lobby to support the opposite principle. He is saying that a poor person can walk out of a chemist's shop because he does not have the money to lay down on the counter to get his medicine. I challenge the hon. Member that tomorrow night he will go into the Lobby and vote for preventing a doctor to be free to prescribe medicine.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but, as he himself has pointed out, this subject would be more appropriate for tomorrow night.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I quite agree, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have pointed out that to maintain the principle of free medicine, there should be a greater charge, if necessary, upon the public. My knowledge of the public leads me to say that this is one service for which they would gladly pay. I am satisfied that the general public want the Service to be a complete service in giving people 1449 the treatment they require when they are ill. It is a mean thing if, when we economise, it is always at the expense of women and children, the poor and those who cannot hit back. It is not the Surtax payers who will get into difficulty.
The question is how the increased cost would be paid for if the additional charges were not imposed. I was disappointed in the speech today of the Financial Secretary, who knows a great deal about economics and usually has a clear mind. I am not clear about the principle that increased wages are a justification for higher contributions. If a man gets increased wages, he pays increased taxation. The important thing is that he pays according to his ability.
In the old days, the doctors used to charge people according to their ability to pay. I remember Dr. Chalmers Watson coming to me long before the Service was thought of and discussing the question of medicine. I told him that I never understood why doctors, in addition to being doctors, wanted to be tax collectors and why their wives had to sit down and send our accounts every week to bring in taxes to pay for the doctor. I could not understand how a doctor had to go round estimating how much a patient could afford to pay. Very often a doctor could be misled, because a person who wore poor clothes might have plenty of money but the doctor would let him off. On the other hand, a decent, respectable person trying to keep up a front, but who did not have money, was levied a higher payment by the doctor because the doctor estimated him to have a bigger income.
Therefore, I pointed out to Dr. Chalmers Watson that the much more sensible thing to do was to leave the Income Tax collector, who could better estimate people's income, to collect the taxes and to allow the doctor to get on with his medicine. I gather that the hon. Member for Carlisle wants to go back to making tax collectors of the doctors. I have a wealthy doctor friend in North America, who has a wonderful practice but cannot collect half his fees. Until the coming of National Insurance, many doctors had to act as benefactors to the general public, because they did not have the heart to charge some of the people fees even for prescriptions. It requires a Conservative Government to 1450 charge the people fees for prescriptions. The doctors would not have done it if left to themselves. I am sure that, even now, doctors will try to avoid all this penalising of these poor people by prescribing far more than they need.
The claim that extravagance in the medical service requires these contributions has not been proved. As the hon. Member for Carlisle pointed out, the Guillebaud Committee was appointed to find out the extravagances. As the hon. Member himself pointed out, that Committee did not find the extravagances.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Everybody knows that when the Service came in, far from there being extravagance, the first thing we had to do was to raise the standard of nursing. That put up the costs. We had to improve the conditions of doctors. Does the hon. Member object to that? That is what is putting up the cost today. I am sure that the hon. Member does not object to an improvement in the doctors' standards. Therefore, the cost of the Service increases.
Does anybody maintain that the cost of the Service, even today, is as high as it ought to be? There are many things which should be done as soon as we can afford to do them. The question that we are discussing today is not the deficiencies of the Service, the benefits of the Service or whether it is good or bad. It has not been proved to be extravagant. We are discussing how we are to pay for it.
As a citizen I would say that the first thing we must realise is that the Service must be paid for and that the people of the country must pay for it. They could pay for it privately, by paying their doctor so much and the State paying the doctor so much. They could have a sort of double deal with the doctor. They could pay half of their prescriptions and the doctor could pay half. There could be all sorts of complementary payments. Any sensible person would realise, however, that the simpler it can be, the better it is. If the State does it in a simple and clear fashion, we know what it costs, but if we have all this round-about parade, as one hon. Member opposite has 1451 called it, with bits being collected here and there, nobody knows what the Service costs.
Therefore, we should be straightforward about it and say that the State will pay for the Service and raise the money in the best and fairest possible way. The fairest way is that people should pay according to their ability. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has given the justification for the contributions today that they should be made on a poll tax basis, because some people have had increases in wages. But everybody knows that that is not the fairest way. He could not possibly justify it as being the fairest. The same person who pays the extra money per week will also pay any extra taxation that is imposed. The point is that the person who has too low an income to pay at all will be penalised and the person who can afford to pay more will escape.
The relief that will be given in Income Tax is just ridiculous when one thinks of what is necessary. I remember that when the food subsidies were abolished the average worker was given a relief in Income Tax of a few sixpences a week. He had to pay 5s. more for his food, and at the end of the week he had 1s. off his Income Tax.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent. North)
Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the poorer people are further victimised, because under the Tory Government the value of the £ has gone down to 15s.?
§ Mr. Woodburn
The Financial Secretary was arguing that the general standard of wages had gone up, and therefore we should have to go into all sorts of figures on that argument. All sorts of justifications are made for these increased contributions charges. The pharmaceutical chemists are supposed to be the blackguards. They are supposed to be responsible. I hope that the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) will take the opportunity of saying something about that in the course of the debate.
I am prepared to vote the money for this Service, but I want the money collected from the public in a fair way. I know the Chancellor's difficulty, because people do not like direct taxation even if it is the fairest taxation. They prefer 1452 to have a great deal of the taxation on cigarettes and beer and in other indirect forms. But even that would be better than a poll tax, because indirect taxation leaves a certain voluntary element in taxation. People are not bound to pay. They can avoid doing so by not buying beer or cigarettes. That form of indirect taxation is unfair in many ways but nevertheless it is a way of raising money.
There is a well-known gentleman who is engaged in the public Press who says that being given a licence to produce television is equivalent to having a licence to print pound notes. Great fortunes have been made out of television advertising. If the Government want to find a way of raising this £ 49 million, why does not the Chancellor collect some of the profits from these television advertisements instead of starting to lump this cost on to a cumbersome form of poll tax on the worker?
This method is silly from another point of view. Everybody knows that when increased sums were taken out of the workers' wages by the application of food subsidies, equalling 5s. a week, the engineers immediately had a rise in wages to cover them. All these things lead to industrial demands, and they go the full circle because the costs of industry go up and the value of money is reduced further by inflation. This tax, therefore, is not good from the point of view of recovering money from the public. It is a direct stimulus to demands for increased wages which cause a great deal of upset in industry. I am surprised that industrialists have not brought this to the Minister's attention.
Whether the cost of the Service is paid privately or not, the fact remains that it must be paid. Today we face the question whether this is the right way to raise the money from the public. It is my view and that of my hon. Friends, and I am sure that of any sensible economist on the other side of the House, that this proposed method is an unfair way to collect it. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Chancellor will get on to capital profits or to the wonderful profits of the television advertisers, or even to taxation on the advertisements themselves. If, for a start, drug advertisements were taxed it might reduce the cost of drugs and help to reduce the cost of the Health Service.
1453 We maintain that people should be treated according to their needs and not according to their ability to pay. It would be a scandal if the medical service accepted the view that doctors should give better treatment to one person who has the money to pay than to another person who is suffering from a similar illness but who has not the money to pay. I hope that we shall fight for as long as we can for the principle that people should be treated according to their needs.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John Arbuthnot (Dover)
On 8th February the right hon. Member for Be1per (Mr. G. Brown) said:… I believe that the policy we seek to censure today is indeed a monstrous one. It is a monstrous policy which has offended many far beyond the ranks of those who normally support my party."—[OFFICE. REPORT, 8th February. 1961; Vol. 634, c. 406.]which suggested that he thought we were introducing a new principle by what it is proposed to do in the Bill. I am glad that the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) did not agree with his right hon. Friend.
The hon. Member for Sowerby, with the normal clarity of thought to which we are accustomed when he addresses the House, recognised that we are not embarking on a new principle, but he stressed the political importance of what we propose to do. I would agree with him that it is of great political importance. Hon. Members opposite have suggested that we are trying to undermine the Health Service. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is because we are determined that the Health Service, and particularly the hospital side of it. goes from strength to strength that we are seeking to place its financial structure on a firm foundation.
No new principle is involved. There is no intention to undermine the Health Service. The real argument between us today is that many hon. Members opposite have never accepted the decision of their own Government, a decision stoutly defended by two of their Chancellors of the Exchequer when they were in power. that there should be a strict upper limit to the charges for the Health Service which fall on the Revenue. We on this side of the House take the view that the greatest service that any Government 1454 can render to the social services, and particularly to the poor and those least able to look after themselves, is that we should maintain the value of the pound. This Bill is an important contribution towards that end.
There is no new principle, because the Labour Party itself introduced health contributions and prescription charges when it was in power. Under the present proposals the proportionate demand for the Health Service that is being made on the gross national product is approximately the same as it was when the Health Service was originally introduced. Since the real purchasing power of the weekly wage-earner is going up as compared with the real purchasing power of those in the high-income brackets, the weekly wage-earner will not contribute proportionately so much to the National Health Service as was the case when the Service was initiated. Those at the lower end of the income scale are relatively better off. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes in real terms they are better off than they were at the inception of the National Health Service. The proportion of direct contributions in stamp and charges—
§ Mrs. White
The hon. Member seems to be paying extraordinarily close attention to his notes, and I was wondering whether perhaps he was unable to read somebody else's writing.
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
The hon. Lady's sedentary interventions are not funny.
The proportion of the direct contribution made in stamp and charges, as compared with the indirect contribution by the Revenue, is also very roughly the same as it was when the party opposite introduced the Health Service.
If I thought that the Bill would make the poor suffer, I should not be in favour of its proposals, but nothing could be further from the truth. The propaganda of the party opposite very often associates together the retired, the old and the young as being synonymous with the poor. But the old and the young do not contribute to these contributions.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
The hon. Gentleman seems to imply that the Government are not introducing any special payment for the poor. Who does he think are the poor? Does he think that only those who are old or young—those not having an income—are poor? There are 7,440,000 persons whose wage, after making insurance contributions and paying tax, is £ 6 5s. a week. Does not the hon. Gentleman think that poor? I think that it is very poor. Including the wives and children of those men, there are 9,500,000 people in that group.
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
I challenge the hon. Member on the source of his figures. They cannot conceivably be correct.
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
Not at all. I asked the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) to give me the source of the figures. He proceeded to try to read out a number of figures but those include all the immediate school leavers, as he knows perfectly well. Perhaps I may now be allowed to get on with my speech.
During the course of the debates related to the Government's present proposals, it has been charged that much of the responsibility for the increase in costs lies at the door of the high profits in the pharmaceutical industry. That 1456 charge was levelled again today by the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn).
§ Mr. Woodburn
I made no such charge. I suggested that the charge had been made and that the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) had not so far risen to defend the industry against it.
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
The right hon. Gentleman was repeating the charge which he had heard from other people. I want to deal with some of the points arising out of that charge.
If it is being suggested that this industry has been responsible largely for the increase in costs we should recognise the sources of revenue of the industry. In approximate figures, one-third of its products only is sold to the National Health Service; one-third is sold over the counter, and one-third goes to exports. Thus, it makes a substantial contribution to our export trade, and anything that we might say in this House that would do harm to that industry would be a disservice to our export trade.
Let us put into proper perspective the cost of drugs, and the proportion they bear to the total charges of the Health Service. The cost of drugs amounts to only between 6 per cent. and 7 per cent. of the total National Health Service bill. Patent drugs are largely in the hands of foreign companies, and this is largely because tile amount of research conducted in this country is nothing like as great as in other countries, particularly the United States.
The Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, has some probing things to say about the cost of drugs, and we should clearly understand what the remit of the Committee is. It is not necessarily to reduce the cost of the drugs, though that might well be the effect of the probing. The remit is to give an assurance to Parliament—and I quote from paragraph 18 of the second Report of the Committee for 1959–60—… that The prices charged to the Health Service are no more than fair and reasonableThis year the Committee was unable to give that assurance, since the information available to the Ministry of Health was insufficient. There has not been 1457 sufficient confidence between the Ministry of Health and the industry to allow a full exchange of information to take place.
The industry has been unduly secretive and has made the Ministry suspicious that it has been making excessive overall profits. The Ministry, on the other hand, has given the impression to the industry that if it is given detailed figures for individual products it will attempt to screw down the profit on each individual item, rather than take into account the profitability of the firm as a whole, including research and losses on items which do not come to fruition.
The industry takes the view that the export criterion, whereby the prices charged to the National Health Service will be not more than the average price charged in the six main export markets, indicates a competitive price and, therefore, a fair and reasonable one. The question that has been still unanswered is whether, when such a large proportion of these drugs are patented, the export criterion is necessarily an effective one.
If we are to have some hope of stabilising the cost of the Health Service at somewhere around the present figure, on which the charges in this Bill are based, the Ministry and the pharmaceutical industry must get together. The Ministry must convince the industry that it will treat the industry fairly, taking into account its overall profitability rather than pursuing isolated individual items. The industry must cease behaving like a clam and provide the Ministry with all the detailed information necessary to convince the Public Accounts Committee and Parliament that the charges for pharmaceuticals are no more than fair and reasonable.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)
The hon. Member will remember that the Public Accounts Committee carried on this investigation for a number of years, and he will probably remember that in 1957, or 1958, the Ministry of Health approached three of the drug firms with the result that the three firms had to reduce their prices, resulting in an annual saving to the Health Service in respect of those three firms alone of £ 850,000.
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
I am not suggesting for a moment that all the firms are without blemish, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) knows full 1458 well from some of the questions which both he and I asked in the Public Accounts Committee. What I am suggesting is that the Ministry, as well as the firms, could make a contribution to a greater understanding. If the Ministry makes a contribution by giving the firms confidence, and they make a corresponding contribution by being less secretive, then the members of the Public Accounts Committee will be able to assure Parliament that the prices of the drugs are no more than fair and reasonable. One hopes to see a stabilisation of prices to the Health Service, which will mean that we shall have no more need to increase charges and introduce Bills of this kind.
In that connection, I welcome the action which has been taken in the new negotiated price agreement which will enable the Minister to investigate the cost of drugs supplied to the Health Service in large quantities. When a firm is supplying considerable quantities to the Health Service it is reasonable that prices should come down as a result.
§ Mr. Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)
The hon. Member's argument seemed to be that if the Ministry of Health had been more alive to the public interest, there would have been no need for a Bill of this sort. Is he saying that the Ministry of Health has not been doing its job and that it would have been better if the Ministry had looked into the cost of drugs before it started putting up charges?
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
I did not say that at all. What I said was that the public relations between the industry and the Ministry left much to be desired and that there were faults on both sides.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
The fascinating part of the last few remarks of the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) was when he spent a great deal of time informing us that he thought that there was something radically wrong with the drug industry and that he felt quite strongly that the industry should be kind enough to let Her Majesty's Government know the basis upon which the present £ 90 million worth of expenditure in the drug industry was compiled.
The hon. Member's words showed the significant difference of attitude adopted by hon. Members opposite when they 1459 talk about the £ 90 million spent on drugs and profits for the drug industry and that which they display when they talk about the cost to the patient in the National Health Service. That is one of the significant things which we have had throughout these debates on the Health Service.
The hon. Member for Carlisle (Dr. D. Johnson) was asked about wastage, and whether savings could have been made in defence expenditure to enable the Government not to have increased the charges. I do not agree with some of my hon. Friends about what changes could be made, or how far they should be made, but when an hon. Member opposite mumbles something about teen-age expenditure being very high, he is missing one of the major points. He should have read some of the Reports of the Public Accounts Committee. The amount which the Government wasted on Blue Streak alone would have paid for these contributions for about ten years. If the Government needed to find this increased money for the Health Service, they should have paid more attention to the bookkeeping on Fire Streak, Seaslug, and the Swift fighter. On guided missiles alone they wasted about £ 300 million quite recently.
It is humbug for them to mumble something about teen-age expenditure when the Government have wasted more money than any time since Charles I met Nell Gwynne—[HON. MEMBERS: "Second."] Charles II—it is reassuring to know that hon. Members opposite have a greater knowledge of history than of economics.
The Financial Secretary clearly tried to drown the controversy in a speech which had the bubbling effervescence of a cup of cold cocoa. He gave a long recital of facts and figures and assured us that there was nothing fundamental about the Bill and that the Minister was just tying up a few odd ends and that the principle was very much the same as it had always been. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."]
I am glad to hear hon. Members opposite agreeing with such alacrity, because it gives me the impression that they think that the Minister might be correct.
§ Mr. Marsh
One of the most significant things which my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) said was that much of the speeches of hon. Members opposite was sheer pious humbug. There are one or two babes in the wood, but the overwhelming majority of them do not believe, any more than we do, that this series of Bills represents anything other than a major, blatant attack on the fundamental basis of the Service.
I remember when the Health Service was being introduced in 1948. As an outsider—I was not then in the House—.I wondered why it was that if hon. Members opposite were as enthusiastic about the Health Service as they appeared, there was so much difficulty about getting the Bill through. I remember that in 1948 the then Member for Oxford, Quintin Hogg as he then was, spoke to the Oxford Union. I took two American friends to hear him and the noble Lord, as he now is, made a long speech in which he attempted to prove conclusively that the Conservative Party had not only supported the National Health Service, but had thought of it first. He never quite succeeded in telling us whom his party was fighting, but he explained his argument at great length. At the end, one of the Americans turned to be in absolute horror and said, "Gee, that guy is a Commie".
It is an indication of how far we have come that in 1948 hon. Members opposite did not dare to attack the Health Service openly after ordinary people had come to understand what it meant. There are only a few who do. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) is completely sincere. He has always believed that too much expenditure on the social services is bad. Hon. Gentlemen who get up on public platforms just before a General Election and pour out their hearts in support of the social services and then, immediately after the election, introduce Bills of this nature, act to the detriment of those services.
There has been a lot of talk today about the increase in average earnings. Indeed, after listening to some hon. 1461 Gentlemen opposite one would expect to find the car parks of industrial areas chock-a-block full of Rolls Royces and Bentleys. It is true that average earnings have increased, but they are still in the region of only £ 14 per week and many people receive less than that.
§ Mr. Percy Wells (Faversham)
I hope that my hon. Friend will not overlook the 600,000 agricultural workers who receive only £ 8 9s. per week.
§ Mr. Marsh
I hope later to make a point to show that that is true not only in the case of agricultural workers.
We have heard a great deal about the increase in the cost of the Health Service, but the point is that although earnings have increased taxation has increased with them. I have no objection to a man who earns more paying more towards the social services. We have heard about Surtax payers. I am a good Socialist and I openly make the offer to any hon. Gentleman who is worried about paying Surtax that I will change incomes with him and pay his Surtax for him.
This is not just a tying-up of little ends. This is a fundamental attack on the National Health Service. It proves conclusively, as it has done on many occasions when we have talked about the Health Service, that the suggestion which has been made from time to time in this country that the two great parties are moving closer together is complete nonsense. The gulf which divides hon. Members on this side from hon. Gentlemen opposite is quite insurmountable, because what divides us is not an argument about the details of legislation, or an argument about weapons, but an argument about the fundamental approach to the way in which we should look after our people.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) said the other evening that he could not understand how it was that hon. Gentlemen opposite, many of whom he had known for many years, could, in their personal private lives, be such generous and pleasant people—they keep cats and tip waitresses—
§ Mr. Marsh
—yet when it came to a Bill, and a series of Bills, dealing with the living standards of the ordinary people their attitude was so different.
I say that there is nothing new and surprising about that, because theirs is the Poor Law mentality. They believe that the social services exist purely for the alleviation of poverty. Theirs is the attitude which was prepared to accept with great sincerity the idea of the workhouse. They do not believe in people being allowed to starve in the streets—it is untidy and it lowers the rateable value. They have always regarded the social services as something which should be kept down to a minimum and used merely to alleviate dire poverty.
When the Beveridge Report was introduced, it was not just a series of suggestions about new legislation. It marked a fundamental change of approach to our people. It marked a change which hon. Gentlemen opposite have tried to overturn ever since the early 1940s.
What is happening in this Bill is that we are gradually moving back to a situation where the Health Service is not a Service which is intended for all according to need. It is a Service which one is gradually trying to cheesepare so that it looks after only the very poorest in the land.
This is not an isolated instance. This is not an isolated Bill. It is not a coincidence that just as the Bill arrives we hear suggestions from the Bow Group and from hon. Gentlemen opposite that we ought to introduce charges for education as well. It is completely logical. If one introduces this type of attitude to the National Health Service, it is sensible to apply the same sort of attitude and the same sort of mentality to the education service.
§ Mr. Marsh
Yes. We expected that. That has always been the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I hope it will be made clear in the course of the debate that what we are talking about is whether the Health Service, and every other social service, should be financed according to ability to pay and should 1463 be used by people according to their need to use it.
We have heard a good deal about the state of the Health Service. Is it in financial difficulties? Do we have to introduce charges of this kind? No one denies that the cost of the Service is increasing. It would be foolish to deny it. Few on this side would deny that the cost of the Health Service ought to be higher than it is at the present, because too little is being spent on the Service. We have heard a lot about how this money is needed to improve the Service and to allow it to continue to improve, almost day by day.
What sort of situation is the Health Service in now? We heard that one of the main reasons for the rise in the cost was the increase in staff salaries. Because of these increases in wages, more money is needed to pay the staff. We heard a lot about wages in other industries, but in the Health Service the basic rate for some employees enables them to take home less than £ 8 a week. These are the people to whom the Minister has been so generous.
I think that one of the most glaring examples of the state into which this Service has got, the answer to all the eyewash that we have heard about the strong feeling for the Service, is these leaflets that I have. They are trade union recruiting leaflets issued by the National Union of Public Employees. The blue leaflet is printed in Spanish; the yellow one in Polish; the green one in Italian; the orange one in Hungarian; and the red one in German.
§ Mr. Marsh
No. This Union has found that the National Health Service is being run with staff who cannot speak English because conditions are so deplorable that they cannot get our own people to do the work.
In case any hon. Member wonders whether that matters, I remember going to an inquest at Epsom a couple of years ago. It was on a patient who was killed in a mental hospital. He was put in a bath of water that was far too hot. As hon. Members may know, there is only one tap to a bath in a mental hospital, and a key has to be used to set it going.
1464 Because there was an Italian boy there, an untrained nurse—the sort of people we use to push up the nursing figures—who could not speak English, he thought that as there was only one tap it must produce water at the right temperature.
When this mental patient complained, the boy could not understand what he was saying and the old man died. That happened because in recent years in many mental hospitals we have employed people who cannot speak the language of the country in which they are employed. That illustrates the state to which the Health Service has got in recent years.
We hear a great deal of talk about the drug firms. Not only do they get a big profit out of the Health Service, but they take the cream of the technical staff of the Service because they can pay them better salaries.
In the Health Service we pay a trained radiographer, a qualified professional person, something less than £ 10 a week and we wonder why these people go out to get jobs in private industry. We pay a physiotherapist £ 500 per annum and a laboratory technician £ 595, and the Minister has the audacity to tell us that he needs more money because he is to build up the Service into a bigger and better Service than ever before. When my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby said that there was a lot of hypocrisy and bunk being spoken from the other side of the House he was, to some extent, playing it down.
What has been happening, what is the key to the whole thing, is that the Government are not raising any more money at all. The purpose of the exercise is not to raise more money, but to redistribute the cost of the Health Service. It is a very simple exercise. It is believed by hon. Members opposite that we should take some of the charge for the Health Service away from the taxpayer and place it on the sick, on the ordinary person, people whose income often absolves them from paying Income Tax at all. We say to them that they do not have to pay Income Tax, but will be paying more money in National Health Service contributions. This system is not only unjust, but it is completely immoral.
1465 Where can the money come from? Hon. Gentlemen opposite are entitled to ask that, if there is an increase in the cost of the Service, and this is a redistribution and is not meant to meet the cost. If hon. Members on this side of the House say that more money ought to be spent on the Health Service, hon. Members opposite are entitled to ask where it shall come from. Hon. Members opposite often ask that question, but they never listen to the answer. The country would be much healthier if they did.
During the last ten years the Government of the party opposite have given away £ 1,000 million in tax concessions. We believe—and this is where hon. Members on this side differ from hon. Members opposite—that if the choice is between £ 1,000 million to be given away in tax concessions and the spending of a few millions on people who do not pay tax at all, the people who have had tax concessions ought to pay their share. I do not think that any Government has a right to reduce taxation and, at the same time, on the basis of a poll tax, impose taxation on the sick and on other people.
I could discuss the question of denationalisation which, I think, is relevant in this connection—[Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but the only way that they can raise this money of which they are in such need is by going to the poorest section of the community. I am saying that a Government which can cheerfully give away about £ 70 million from the steel industry should have found a better way to raise this money. Before starting to give away the taxpayers' money to their friends and supporters they might have shown some concern for the Health Service and made sure that the Service had the first choice.
There has been much propaganda in favour of shifting away from direct to indirect taxation. It is all part of a campaign. It is quite simple just a 5 per cent. sales tax. If one wants to buy a Bentley, one pays the 5 per cent. tax; if one wants to buy a loaf of bread, one pays the 5 per cent. tax. All men are equal, but some manage to be more equal than others. Since the end of the war, there have been nine people who have been able, under this Administration, to make over £ 40 million in tax-free capital gains.
1466 Are the Government trying to persuade us that they cannot raise this money in any other fashion? Surely the answer is simple When we get down to the fundamental issue it is simply a question of whether the people shall be entitled, as of right, to certain basic needs, to a decent standard of education regardless of ability and the status of their parents; to a decent retirement pension regardless of their earnings and to the best health that science and modern progress can provide. That is the simple argument between the two sides of the House: do we want that to be paid for according to the ability which people have to pay, or are we proposing cynically to continue to watch this burden of payment being shifted from the shoulders of those most capable of bearing it on to the shoulders of those least capable of bearing it?
Hon. Members opposite are very clever. They always bring in these proposals after a General Election. There was no suggestion during the election campaign that this might be necessary. At present, we see posters telling us that the Conservatives care—
§ Mr. Marsh
I agree that the party opposite won three in succession, but I am sure that there must be many hon. Members opposite—if one assumes that some of them have consciences—who must feel rather concerned about the measures which were adopted to win those three elections.
I hope that during this debate we shall make clear that this is not an argument about figures nor is it a mass of technicalities. This is an attack on the social services, an attempt to take them back to the pre-1948 standard, and that is why hon. Members on this side of the House will do everything they can to oppose it.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
I am glad to have the opportunity of speaking after the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh). Although I like the way in which the hon. Member speaks in the House, I must say that he always makes a speech—as do so many of his hon. Friends—as if he were representing a country which was nothing less than a soup kitchen—
§ Sir D. Glover
It is because we do not want to have that mentality, because we want to move away from that mentality, that we are bringing in these measures.
Perhaps hon. Members opposite might think about getting up to date. In 1945, the greatest electoral advantage which they had at the hustings and on the platforms was that their party was known as the Labour Party. Do they realise that in 1959 their biggest disadvantage was that their party was known as the Labour Party—because people today like to look upon themselves as a middle-class society—[Laughter.] It is true—
§ Sir D. Glover
Yes, the standard of living has risen during the last fifteen years, since the end of the war, until, broadly speaking, we are today dealing with the attitude of mind of a middle-class society.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) was speaking the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) made great play with the fact that there are 7 million people in the Blue Book on National Income and Expenditure whose net disposable income, after paying these contributions and their taxation, was about £ 6 a week. What the hon. Gentleman did not take into account is that in this 7 million we have all the school leavers from the age of 15 to 20 and that there are over 100,000 school leavers a year. We have in that group alone 2½ million school leavers and at least 2 million people who are in part-time occupation.
As the average earnings are £ 15 a week, and if we take it that 5 million of those people are school leavers and people with small responsibilities—and, therefore, it is perfectly right and proper that they should pay a reasonable contribution towards the Health Service charges—it means that the great mass of the people who are paying the contribution have an income very much over £ 15 a week. The average is £ 15 a week.
§ Sir D. Glover
I did not say that they all left school at 15 to go to their first job at £ 5 a week. But it is only a very short period before they do get jobs at £ 5 a week. That is because of the state of the labour market. When we hear all these questions about staff difficulties, we have to remember that it is because there is a great demand on the services of the population that the problems which the hon. Member for Greenwich mentioned arise. That is why there are foreigners in this country doing the less pleasant jobs because, in fact, by and large, for the average intelligent person there are a great many jobs which are paid for today at what I would call a middle-class remuneration.
There is a mental attitude among the great mass of the population. I am quite certain, realising as they do—and we had a great deal of this argument during the General Election campaign—that any service has to be paid for, whether we meet it out of taxation as a general charge on the people it falls on exactly the same people. Indeed, by and large, it is the same people who are concerned. When there is a service given, it is not a bad thing that people should make some direct contribution, so that they can see that they are paying for it and realise for themselves the expensive nature of that service to the national economy.
§ Mr. Collick
I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. He started off by saying, in effect, that it was wrong of us to call ourselves the Labour Party, because we now have a middle-class population and everybody is so much better off. If that is the argument. perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell me this. If everybody is so much better off, as he is asking us to believe, it follows again that they must be paying more in taxation. If, therefore, they are paying more in taxation, why do the Government find it necessary, as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury told us when he opened the debate, to say that we cannot afford to spend so much on our Health Service today as we did in 1950?
§ Sir D. Glover
According to the Estimates this year, we are spending £ 867 million, and if we ask any ordinary 1469 reasonable persons who make up the population, I think that they would say that that was a rather substantial sum to find.
§ Sir D. Glover
I admit that the first duty of a Government is to protect the State, and I also admit that the burden of armaments is very heavy.
§ Sir D. Glover
Yes, it is, but very few people, even on the hon. Gentleman's side of the House, would question in great detail a great deal of that expenditure. They make cheap "cracks" about the progress of the research that is going on, when they know very well that some of the research going on will never come to fruition.
I do not want to get out of order, but want to deal with the Health Service contribution. Some of the speeches from the other side of the House seem to me to have been speeches on the Finance Bill, or the Budget, and on the general picture of taxation in our society.
§ Sir D. Glover
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue. He has already made three contributions without getting up, and perhaps he will make an official one later.
I do not want to detain the House, but I am sure that, in a society in which there is a good standard of living and in which there is a definite service and benefit, it is not a had thing that people should be able to realise what a burden it is and should pay some direct contribution so that they may see what the Service costs. The Labour Party—
§ Sir D. Glover
No, I will not give way again. I have been very good, and have given way about five times already. I lose the thread of my argument if I give way too much.
In 1948, when the Labour Party brought in the National Health Service Bill, it accepted the view that a direct contribution on a weekly basis from the 1470 individual who was to be a beneficiary was, in fact, a good thing. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes, the Labour Party thought that it was a good thing for the individual to realise that the service was not something for nothing. In view of the standard of living that we now have, with the average level of wages at about £ 15 a week—and that figure is affected by all the young people with no commitments, who certainly ought to pay contributions, because they have no other direct responsibility themselves—I have no difficulty whatever in saying that in my honest opinion—it may be a cleavage of view, as the hon. Member just said I believe that we are doing something which is not only justified, but which will, in the long run, be for the good of the Health Service,
I am not paying lip-service to the Health Service, because I think that it is a very necessary edifice in the national life, but it is not a free one—[HON. MEMBERS: "It should be."]—whichever way we look at it. It cannot be a free one, although hon. Gentlemen opposite have already said that it is very largely. I accept that there is a great difference between us, but, in fact, people pay for it through taxation, or a stamp, or in other ways. It does not come out of a hat, and it is just as well that the thinking of the hon. Gentleman opposite, if widely held, should be reinforced by my argument that a contribution from the individual is necessary to make him realise that it is not free service, as the hon. Member seems to think it is.
§ Sir D. Glover
I cannot give way.
It is for that reason that I have no hesitation whatever in warmly supporting the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
It was indeed curious to me that the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) should open his speech with a reference to soup kitchens. May I tell him two things about them? In 1931, when we proposed that secondary education should be free for all, it was turned down by the then Government, and the President of the Board of Education said that it would mean that if everybody had secondary education we 1471 should be making education an "intellectual soup kitchen."
May I also tell him, too, that the words "soup kitchen" have a very deep connotation for people on this side of the House, that in hard times our own parents fed from soup kitchens that were to be found in the industrial areas when the Labour Party and trade union movement was beginning that organisation of the workers which has ended for all time both soup kitchens and the soup kitchen mentality.
§ Sir D. Glover
The hon. Member is always very courteous. I am glad that he has raised this point. I should like to assure him that I did not use that expression in a cheap way, but to emphasise in one expression the change that there has been in our society, and that today we are dealing with a middle-class society. Nobody is more delighted than I am that time has brought an end to soup kitchens.
§ Dr. King
I think that the hon. Gentleman has now moved away from the position which he had already taken up.
May I say a word or two about the earlier speech of the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot), who has left the Chamber? He seemed to suggest that there was a difference in attitude between my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who opened the debate from this side of the House, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who spoke on this subject earlier, in that my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper said that there was a matter of principle and my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby seemed to have suggested that there was not.
May I say to the benches opposite two things about that? It is a simple fact of philosophy and of life that quantitative changes in time become qualitative changes, and to some of us, if we change a poll tax, as has been done in the lifetime of the Tory Government, from 81d. to 2s. 8d., the quantitative change has become almost one of principle.
Already in this debate, however, there has emerged in the speech of the hon. Member for Dover and in the speeches from this side of the House a real difference of principle. The hon. Member 1472 for Dover said that there ought to be a "strict upper limit" to Treasury expenditure on the Health Service. I emphasise the Treasury expenditure, not the Health Service. We are not debating the Health Service this afternoon, for both sides agree that its cost must increase.
The debate was opened by the Treasury and not the Minister of Health, because we are debating a distribution as between the graduated tax and the flat-rate tax levied by the Treasury. Hon. Members opposite believe that there should be a strict upper limit to Treasury expenditure on the Health Service. We on this side, on the other hand, believe that there should be a strict upper limit to the poll tax element in taxation, and I believe that that strict upper limit had been reached long before this new 10d. increase was introduced.
I had not intended to speak in this debate, because I regard tomorrow's subject for debate as one in which the Government reveal themselves as even more mean than in this Bill. What decided me to speak today was the speech of the Financial Secretary, who showed how clearly he understands the issue which divides us. Incidentally, he complained at not being allowed to address the Committee the other evening, although he had caught the eye of the Chairman. I thought that a strange complaint, coming from him. I do not know whether he expected sympathy from those of us who failed even to have an opportunity to catch the eye of the Chair, those of us who sat throughout the debate, and, indeed, throughout the whole day, trying to voice the views of our constituents. If he has a complaint at all it is one against the Patronage Secretary. We have no sympathy for the Financial Secretary, who could himself have helped alleviate the tension of that unfortunate evening had he given way and allowed more back benchers to speak.
The Financial Secretary said that he believed that this new poll tax element was not unfair, and he amazed me by saying that during the period of office of the Conservative Government the proportion of the graduated tax element in our revenue had risen. Indeed, if I remember him rightly, he said that it had risen to 47 per cent. It is for that reason that I return to the figures which I mentioned briefly in a debate last week, figures in 1473 the national income expenditure table for 1960. I hope that the Treasury Front Bench will take note of them. In 1950, the graduated taxes produced £ 1,811 million. In 1959, they produced £ 2,758 million. The graduated taxes had risen by 50 per cent.
In 1950, the flat-rate tax, the so-called contribution element—what I call the poll tax element—stood at £ 440 million and in 1959 it stood at £ 898 million—not, incidentally, the figure that is given in my speech in HANSARD where, owing to a misprint, it appears as £ 998 million. It rose from £ 440 million to £ 898 million, an increase of over 100 per cent., so that in the ten years of Tory Government, while the graduated tax had risen by just under 50 per cent. the poll tax element had risen by over 100 per cent.
That is the first figure. Putting it another way—and this is where I challenge the statement made by the Financial Secretary in the course of his speech—in 1950—and the figures are all from the Government's own tables—graduated taxation represented £ 1,811 million out of £ 4,380 million, or 41½ per cent. In 1959, it represented £ 2,758 million out of £ 6,834 million, or 40 per cent. The proportion of the national revenue levied by graduated taxation, far from having increased under the Tory Government, has declined from 41½ per cent. to 40 per cent.
On the other hand, in the same period, the poll tax element, the contribution element, which stood at £ 440 million out of £ 4,380 million-10 per cent. of the revenue levied by the Government in 1950—is now £ 898 million out of £ 6,834 million, or 13 per cent. This is then a matter of pure simple fact, that during the lifetime of the Tory Government that percentage of the national income which was used by the Government and levied from the citizens of England according to their capacity to pay has been reduced and that part which is levied as a flat rate on all citizens has been increased.
The figures that I have given do not take into account the savage increase in the flat rate which will be made in April in the National Insurance contribution and this new penal increase in the poll tax as proposed under the Bill. I assume that this charge, plus the other charge, will raise the poll tax element of our 1474 national taxation to nearly £ 1,000 million a year. That is why I said at the beginning of my speech that I am one of those who believe that the upper limit of the poll tax has long since been reached.
I agree with the Financial Secretary on one point. He was right in saying that this Bill should not be introduced by the Minister of Health, that it has nothing to do with the Health Service, that it should be introduced by a Treasury Minister and that the debate should be wound up by the Chancellor. For this is a minor Budget; it is an anticipatory Budget. It has to do with the redistribution of national income, and with nothing else. We on this side of the House believe in narrowing the gap between the richest and the poorest in the country. We believe that the flat-rate element in taxation, far from narrowing the gap between the richest and the poorest, widens it, whereas hon. Members opposite believe that it is their duty to widen that gap.
One justification for what it is proposed to do, according to the Financial Secretary is that wages have risen since 1950 and that the fact that they have risen is, to him, a reason why we must increase the poll tax element in the National Health Service charges. As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, however, by the Bill we shall raise the flat-rate contribution from 10d. as it was when we set up the Health Service to 3s. 4d., or the workers' part of it from 8½d. to 2s. 8½d., an increase of 400 per cent.
Is any hon. Member opposite prepared to claim that wages have risen by 400 per cent. since the Health Service was introduced? I know of no profession and no industry in which wages have risen by four times as will the flat-rate contribution under the Bill have risen.
Moreover, while it is true that some wages have risen and the Financial Secretary's own figure was an increase in wages of 200 per cent., while it is true that the average wage may be £ 14 a week, there are millions of people who are getting under the average wage. There are millions whose incomes have risen very slightly indeed in the last few years. While wages have increased, profits and dividends have also increased and, as has been pointed out, graduated taxation takes care of that. The sort of classic justification of graduated taxation is that 1475 it takes account of what the Minister wants to have taken into account and if there is a rise in a person's income he pays more under a graduated scheme. It ensures that those who pay most are those whose wages, or profits, or dividends have risen most. I believe that we ought to be moving away from the conception of flat-rate taxation altogether, from contributions, prescription charges and indirect taxation. All indirect taxation is in itself on a flat rate.
We ought to be moving steadily as a civilised community towards the principle of levying the bulk of our national, Government expenditure on the basis that he who has most should pay most. I believe that this is an iniquitous Bill. It is iniquitous because it imposes the same charge on men of whom an hon. Friend spoke, who have made recently £ 40 million each in capital gains, the same 10d. a week on them as on pensioners, low-paid wage earners, those with large families and those on low, fixed incomes.
I was very surprised to hear the hon. Member for Dover challenge the figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay). Those of us who know my hon. Friend will know from his speeches in the House, and from the fact that day after day we see him working in the Library. how hard he words in this field and that when he gives figures to the House they are figures that can be relied upon. From the Government's own statement on National Income and Expenditure, 1960, we find that in 1959 there were 5 million people earning under £ 5 a week and 8 million receiving between £ 5 and £ 10 a week. So 13 million people have incomes, after tax, of under £ 10 a week. I refuse to believe, with the hon. Member for Ormskirk, that those are all school leavers.
§ Sir D. Glover
I mentioned school leaving and part-time working. The hon. Member spoke about two people making capital gains of £ 40 million each and the pensioner paying the same increased contribution as they would pay. I am sure that he will agree that retired pensioners will not pay any contribution.
§ Dr. King
There are pensioners who are under the age of 65. I know that 1476 this charge will be a tax only on people up to the age of 65, but there are people under 65 who have to retire earlier, there are widows, and those who receive breakdown pensions. There is quite a group of people under 65 living on fixed incomes. Hon. Members on both sides of the House protest that they are really caring about those who live on fixed incomes. I am worried about the burden which the Bill will impose on them.
It is a matter of quite simple fact, and not even of political argument, that for the well-off people the 10d. which is being imposed will mean nothing at all. Some richer sections of the community have benefited so considerably from previous legislation brought in by this Government that they will be very willing to pay 10d. a week as a thank offering. But for millions of other people the new poll tax means both hardship and injustice. I am fortified in what I say by the fact that in this debate I speak for the whole trade union movement in my constituency. Every trade union in my constituency has written expressing its protest against this new Bill.
The poll tax element has long ago ceased to be fair to the bulk of British people. Of all the new health charges this Bill is the most significant in that it imposes the largest amount of poll tax element. I can only say to the Minister and hon. Members opposite that the Bill, like the proposal that we shall be discussing tomorrow, has roused the anger of hon. Members on this side of the House. Our fight will continue outside this House. In the country we shall expose to the best of our ability what we know of the motives which have led the Government to add new and unjust flat-rate taxes to help pay for our great National Health Service.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. R. P. Hornby (Tonbridge)
We all listen with interest, as I have on many occasions in other debates, to the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King). Before he spoke I felt that we were discussing, not principles, but percentages In one particular respect I would modify that view after listening to the hon. Member, notably in his argument that the whole shift of revenue-raising from direct to indirect taxation. or to contributions and poll tax from 1477 other forms of taxation, constitutes something which in itself is a principle.
I start on the particular and fairly narrow point of this Bill, which, we may remind ourselves, is quite simply proposing an increase of 1s. in weekly contributions, Is. on all the stamp books. That will produce £ 49 million in a full year; and, added to what the Health Service already gets from that source, it is a total contribution of £ 161 million to a bill of between £ 800 million and £ 900 million. The contribution factor amounts to about 16 per cent., or 17 per cent. of the total bill as against the Treasury factor of about 70 per cent. That factor has tended to grow under successive Chancellors of the Exchequer and periodically, as in 1957, it has had to be checked.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I think that the hon. Member will agree that the people he is talking about also pay part of the Exchequer costs. They do not escape tax.
§ Mr. Hornby
The majority pay through direct taxation, but almost every one of us pays through some form of indirect taxation.
I come to the two main criticisms which have been made of the Bill, that it is an unfair method of taxation and that it represents an attack on the Service. Those are the two main points made by hon. Members opposite. Dealing with the second criticism first, I wish to quote almost the final words of a speech made in another place the other day in relation to that point. These words were used by someone aged 82, whom hon. Members know well and who recently was a patient in the hospital across the river:I suppose that St. Thomas's, which has a big building scheme, can be made even better than it is, but, personally, I am more than content with it as it is, and I think institutions like that reflect great credit on all successive Governments who introduced the Health Service and carried it out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 13th February, 1961; Vol. 228, c. 616.]I expect many hon. Members will recognise those words as being those of Lord Beveridge, speaking in another place, the architect of the Service. It is a tribute to both sides of the House who have had any contact with the Health Service that is worth mentioning. It 1478 should carry some weight among those who have criticised Conservative Governments for attempting to run down the Service. It carries more weight, perhaps, than some of the figures that have already been quoted; figures about the total amount of expenditure which has gone up year by year, figures about the proportion of national income which. broadly speaking, has remained the same since the introduction of the Service This tribute is one which should carry some respect.
Why do we need the money which this Bill proposes to raise? We know that we need it for a variety of reasons. I do not think that anyone questions the need for the hospital modernisation programme, which will cost on an average about £ 50 million a year. I do not think that anyone questions the need for expenditure on a great many of the local authority Services, or the need, as one hon. Gentleman opposite quite rightly said, for higher salaries and wages in a great many of these services in order to recruit the calibre of person needed. It is a perennial problem of which we on both sides of the House are aware.
The problem of recruiting people to a public service in a society in which wage negotiation is traditionally free and in which employers who are short of labour put up their offers and unions, when bargaining, can also argue for a higher price for their labour. In those conditions the tendency in all the social services for the wage or salary element to become a substantially increasing cost is one we cannot overlook.
I come now to the point whether the increased contribution is or is not a fair method of taxation; a method which is, in fact, a poll tax, which demands of everyone who is at work and is not sick that they should contribute something to the cost of provision against ill-Health. I am bound to say that although hon. Members opposite rightly make a very good case for graduated taxation being the fairest system of taxation, I do not think that it means that one should push the argument the whole way through. I accept that graduated taxation seems the fairest form of taxation. I do not accept, because of that, that it should, therefore, bear the whole burden of revenue-raising for a number of reasons.
1479 First, it seems to me that it is a responsibility of everyone to try to set some of his income aside for the essentials of life, the essential insurances, as well as to provide for the things in his home and the extra luxuries. To take a very small part of the increased earnings for this particular purpose does not constitute an immoral or unfair action. All hon. Members want to see earnings at all levels rise—from the £ 7 levels to high up in executive salaries, and so on; but I do not see that if is immoral for some part of those increased earnings to be set aside for the purpose of insurance against ill-health.
Secondly, I believe that it is not a bad thing for the Health Service that some part of the money which goes into that Service should be exempt from the annual Budget balancing and Budget forecasting that emerges from the Treasury on Budget day.
§ Mr. Collick
I should be interested to hear the hon. Member direct his argument to why a man who has been making enormous capital gains in recent years should pay the same amount in this matter as an agricultural worker.
§ Mr. Hornby
The hon. Member is quite wrong in saying "the same amount" of taxation. Of course, in this particular contributory element he pays the same amount and I tried to argue my previous point that some element—not the major element or the whole element—of poll tax—some contribution toward the possibilities of ill-health while in work—represents a fair principle to follow.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
It seems a very good argument to say that at least a percentage of ones' income should be used for the purpose of insurance of one kind or another, but could the hon. Member tell me how people in the lower wage groups, such as agricultural workers, shop assistants, laundry workers—I shall not give a list—who are at present "on their beam ends", whether they like it or not, arrive at the percentage which they can put away in insurance?
I am not quite certain if I follow the particular point. The hon. Member says, "How do they arrive at the percentage"?
§ Mr. Hornby
The hon. Gentleman has made a perfectly fair observation. If they have not got it they cannot put it away, but the principle I am trying to make is that some part—and it is a matter of judgment what is and what is not a fair amount of earnings—should be put away for the prevention of ill-health.
It is certainly attractive to hon. Members opposite to put the full burden of revenue raising on a graduated scale of direct taxation as opposed to indirect taxation, and other taxes. Hon. Members should consider not only the attractions of that in terms of individual justice—which is one point we have always to consider in these matters—but also the effect of doing so on the total earning power of the nation. This is important because if, by pressing the argument of justice, as hon. Members opposite would call it, too far, and thereby damaging the total earning power of the nation, the net result of that action will not be that one has seemed to be just to individuals, but by damaging the total earning power one would have done all of them, and all of us, a grave injustice by reducing our capacity to pay for the type of Health Service and the type of services we need.
Although, in every speech, hon. Members opposite have made it clear that they do not want to see the Health Service reduced, a view which I totally share, a result of their policy, as seen in their attitude towards this Bill, would be to do precisely that.
§ Mr. Hornby
All I was trying to say was that if one presses the weight of direct taxation too hard the result will be, I believe, damaging to the economy as a whole. I do not want to press my side of that argument too hard. I raised it because I suggest that in arguing for total revenue raising from this source the hon. Gentleman opposite pressed his side of the argument too hard.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
I listened very carefully to the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby). I thought that I detected genuine intellectual doubt. I thought I saw the hon. Gentleman genuinely hesitate when the point was pressed from this side that, if it was right that the insured worker should have another 10d. taken from his pay packet each week, it must be right that people who overnight find themselves in possession not of a few shillings extra, but often of vast sums that they have not worked for, should also pay proportionately. The people who find themselves in that position sometimes make the money by capital gains, sometimes by simply owning land. But the point is that they do nothing at all to earn it.
As I understand it, hon. Members opposite think that it is demoralising for anyone to receive something for nothing. They do not like the "soup kitchen mentality". When looking at our national resources and the possibilities of raising revenue, it is common sense to recognise that the people who are really getting something for nothing, and could, without any hardship to themselves, their children, their aged dependants or sick relatives, contribute more to the Exchequer, are precisely those who, in the past ten years in particular, have added many millions to their private resources without paying a comparable share of taxes. I repeat that I thought that the hon. Member for Tonbridge showed genuine doubts about his own case. He did not try too hard, because he knew that he had no answer.
But I have more to say about the soup kitchen mentality and the claim of hon. Members opposite that we are all middle class nowadays. During today's debate I thought with some sadness of war-time memories, of particular occasions when we were all fighting the same enemy. Some of us, incidentally, were fighting before the political fighting ever started. However, there was a period when we were all fighting him and were all subjected to the same dangers. We even submitted, at least to a limited extent, to the same rationing and hardships. There were wonderful moments in these years when we felt that the entire community was rising to a new level of social morality. We were beginning to under- 1482 stand the deep joy of belonging to a family—the sense of family which lies so deeply behind all that is best in religion. It is the sense that we are all one together. It is the impulse that makes us want to get away from the crudity, the vulgarity, and the life-destroying elements which abound in any society when there are ugly class distinctions.
I agree with Bernard Shaw that there is only one thing to do with the poor, and that is to abolish them. I also agree with arguments he advanced at other times when he wrote of the enormous enrichment of life when everyone had the opportunity of selecting friends and of all manner of social opportunities, when life in a thousand different facets is opened up to us without the narrowing and crippling barricades which we inherited from the past. People cannot be blamed for what their ancestors did. But we certainly can be judged by the extent that we try to establish a sense of genuine family among us. One of the gravest indictments against hon. Gentlemen opposite is that they have been revelling in re-establishing snobberies and class distinctions of every kind. They do not hesitate to re-establish them where they can least be justified, in our schools, in our housing projects, and, most contemptible of all, they are now doing so with the sick.
We are discussing this afternoon specifically whether it is right that the wage packet should be lightened by 10d. a week no matter how small the wage may be. I say this with the utmost emphasis. We tell a lie if we pretend that anyone in this community, however poor, is totally exempted from paying for the Health Service. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have said, "If you are on National Assistance, if you are an old-age pensioner or on limited means, if you fall into a certain category of poverty or indigence, we splendid, generous, big brothers and sisters will look after you and you will not have to pay".
That is a lie. It is very important for everyone to understand the truth. The truth is that the poorest old-age pensioner is paying for the Health Service if he buys a pillow to put under his head, or a chair to sit on, or a pair of boots to put on his feet. It is a cheat if hon. Gentlemen opposite say that they make no contribution to the Health Service.
1483 In these days we hear a great plea in many quarters on behalf of the Surtax payer. Surtax payers contribute only about one-third of what Purchase Tax produces. After these debates we shall have to look very carefully at the revenue being raised by Purchase Tax. If the opinion of hon. Members opposite is that below a certain level one should not contribute to the Health Service—I gather that this is their case—we must ask why people, no matter how limited their resources, have to pay 1s. in the £ if they buy a chair and sometimes as much as 10s. in the £ when buying simple items like soap or other equipment needed in private homes and hospitals. Indeed, there is not a bed in a hospital. nor a piece of wallpaper, nor a curtain. on which Purchase Tax has not been paid. Let us stop this nonsense of saying that everything is paid for in this country by the poor rich or, as someone put it the other day from the benches opposite, the rich and the vicious. It simply is not true.
I do not care much for beer. It does not appeal to me. I know that is heresy to many people, but I just do not like beer. In my constituency, however. which is a typical Midlands industrial constituency, men who have been working hard all day gather together in clubs for companionship. They are all paying for the Health Service. They make their contribution to the Exchequer every time they have a glass of beer. The old-age pensioner who likes his smoke cannot fill his pipe even once without contribution to the Exchequer. Indeed, he pays more than Is. 6d. in the £ of Exchequer resources. About 14 per cent, of Exchequer revenue comes from the Tobacco Duty alone. Contributions are made when tobacco and beer are purchased. Hon. Gentlemen opposite can include wine and champagne if they wish, but many more people make their modest contributions by buying cheaper drink. Let them all be included. My case is that it is a lie to pretend that people are not paying according to their means and will not continue to do so, even though not one penny piece is extracted in the form of insurance contribution or a direct charge.
The Chancellor collects less than 10s. in the £ of his revenue from Income 1484 Tax and Surtax. The Chancellor collects a very substantial part of his revenue from indirect taxes particularly Purchase Tax. Purchase Tax can mean nothing at all to people with substantial incomes, but it is a very serious imposition on people living on small incomes.
I hope that we shall win through to a sense of family, instead of having on the part of hon. Members opposite this artful dodging that has as its objective altering the incidence of taxation so that the rich pay less and the poor pay more. Let us have a sense of community instead of, I repeat, the artful dodging which is what is now being resorted to. I ask hon. Members, "Do you really like the ugliness, the vulgarity, the snobbery of a class society? Do you really like to think that you are being good to the poor? Do you like to think"—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is my misfortune that I have again to remind the hon. Lady that she must address the Chair.
§ Miss Lee
I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker, but I feel very strongly, especially when we are considering the needs of sick people in hospitals, that they at least should be treated as one family. We on this side deeply deplore not only all the cheapjack financial tricks that the Government are up to in trying to alter the burden of taxation, but the trends in British society that are taking us away from certain moments in our history when we seemed to be getting nearer to being one family, one people. Hon. Members apposite are once again introducing ugly and unnecessary aspects into our national life.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Bourne-Arton (Darlington)
I have listened with sincere enjoyment to the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) in her most moving advocacy of a social revolution that has already taken place. If I may say so without impertinence, other parts of her speech gave me personal pleasure, because it occurred to me that they were a little wide of the subject of our debate, and that if I, as a much more junior Member, were allowed that same licence I might remain in order.
I warmly welcome the Bill, and I have a constituency reason for doing so. We have waited overlong for our hospitals.
1485 We are reasonable people but as year has followed year—and I hope that I may be forgiven for saying this because it must apply elsewhere—and we have seen deferred these great projects that will mean so much to the people's health and to the efficient and economic running of the Service, so has our hope been deferred. Our hope is deferred as we see the mounting cost of the Service. Therefore, anything that can produce something more on the income side to balance the ever-growing expenditure gives us hope that the day will come sooner when these projects in which so many of us are interested will be brought to fruition.
We have had today an argument, not as to whether the income is necessary but as to where it should come from. The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) favours direct taxation, as does the hon. Member for Cannock—who, indeed, very strongly attacked the principle of indirect taxation so warmly advocated by her right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn). Opinions vary but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr Hornby) asked: is it not beset to have many sources of income?
My own view is that this Bill, in itself, is not enough, nor indeed are the other measures that we discussed a few days ago and will discuss again tomorrow. I do not believe that the income accruing from them will be enough to bring soon enough these real major advances in the National Health Service which is what is important—
§ Mr. Bourne-Arton
I will go on, if I may, to make some humble suggestions.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will have success, in co-operation with the medical profession, in trying to persuade those busy and overworked men, mostly medical practitioners, who so often nowadays are prescribing for the dustbin. I do not criticise the devotion and hard work of the vast run of the medical profession, but they are subject to strong pressures.
There is the pressure of professional curiosity. New and exciting drugs are produced which, in a very limited field, 1486 are life savers when nothing else will avail. Newer and more expensive ways of tackling the same sort of condition are being produced constantly. Professional curiosity must lead to a strong pressure to experiment with these new drugs.
I am sure, though, that our medical practitioners are keener than anyone else that the things that matter should be provided; that hospitals should be built, should be modernised—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is in some difficulty. He must relate what he is saying to this Bill, which deals with increased contributions.
§ Lord Balniel
Is it not a fact, Mr. Speaker, that the Bill has been introduced because of the rising cost of the Health Service? Is it not, therefore, in order to talk about one of the main causes of that rising cost, namely, the drug bill?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member can talk about rising costs, but not of a cause of it in such a degree of detail. It is a matter of degree, and I thought that the hon. Member was going too far.
§ Mr. Bourne-Arton
I would urge that not only in quality but in quantity, what might be called an "Operation Dustbin" might be undertaken for the good of all, and that busy and overworked practitioners might be encouraged to do that extra bit of mental arithmetic which can work out quickly at the bedside a little sum about two pills twice a day for three days and making it a dozen, or whatever it is. If that were more widely done, some of these millions of pounds that are thrown into our dustbins could be saved—
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
The hon. Member has referred to "Operation Dustbin". Was he suggesting that the dustbin would be an appropriate receptacle for the Government's White Papers?
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Bourne-Arton) in all he said because, frankly, I thought a great deal of it was not relevant to this Bill. I want to allude to some remarks 1487 made by the hon Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). He spoke about the people now in the wage range of £ 14 a week being the new middle class. Before I came 'here, as a skilled worker in Birmingham, I was in that range—
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I have listened to this kind of thing all day and I have stood it just about long enough. I am not attributing responsibility for it to my hon. Friend, but some people claim to be correct in their use of terms, and T want now to put the facts on record. The fact is that the average wage in this country is £ 10 8s. a week.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
The average wage in this country is £ 10 8s. The average wage among the most highly skilled section of industry, the engineers, is £ 10 8s. As a result of forty years of pleading by the employers with the trade unions, piecework 'has been accepted. As a result of extra effort which is put in by no one else outside industry, as a result of hard work, working on Sundays and working overtime, the average earnings of workers are £ 14 10s., as the hon. Member says.
§ Mr. Bence
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for that interjection. It was a very useful contribution which has helped me considerably. I wish to point out to title hon. Member for Ormskirk that £ 14 in 1961 which puts a skilled man like myself into what he calls the middle class is worth no more in purchasing power than £ 4 10s. in 1936. In 1936, when I worked as a tool maker in a motor plant in the Midlands, my wife and I never regarded ourselves as middle class for a moment. I say to any working man on £ 14 a week that. if he thinks he is middle class, he should look again at how he has to spin his money out and compare his capacity to do and enjoy things with what the so-called middle classes could do and enjoyed in pre-war years. Any working man who thinks like that is miles out in his reckoning.
Another thing I am sick of hearing in the House of Commons is this. Whenever we have a debate when the Treasury is levying another charge on the workers in some way or other, we always hear these income figures quoted. When they 1488 think of welfare foods, the Government say that wages have gone up to this level and that therefore the workers can pay extra for welfare foods out of their new wages. Again, let us not forget that the real value of £ 14 a week is only equal to £ 4 10s. in 1936.
This charge, the 10d., is to come out of the same wage as well. If all hon. Members opposite succeed in persuading their Government, in regard to all these matters that the workers, because of these so-called high wages, can as individuals pay all these charges, there will be no wages left according to my reckoning. The workers will have to spend more in Purchase Tax, and this is to come out of the same wage It is like a man telling his wife, "I have saved £ 1". She tells the children, "Your father has saved £ 1 ". Then they all want a pound's worth out of it. That is what is happening in the House of Commons. Out of the same wage every Department of State seems to be requiring more and more, and each Department makes its demand without considering that another Department has made its demand in another direction.
This week, the Treasury introduced a Bill to give a subsidy to enable ships to go out to the banks off Newfoundland or wherever it may be to catch cod.
§ Mr. Bence
No, this is a subsidy. It is the taxpayer's money. The Treasury wishes to pay the money out. The trawlers will bring the cod back. The drug industry will get hold of it and turn it into cod liver oil. Then the Treasury will come to the sick people who need it and make them pay for it. So it is the sick people paying extra prescription charges on cod liver oil to pay the subsidy to the owners of the trawlers to catch cod and all the rest of the people who are being codded.
This sort of thing happens time and time again. A Treasury Minister comes to the Dispatch Box and tells us that he is handing out millions of pounds to all sorts of people to do all sorts of things. A little later, we have before us proposals to take millions out of the pockets of the poorest in the country. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) asked, who subsidises whom and who is paying for what?
1489 Then there is this nonsense about taxing the consumers and not the savers. I cannot see a man with three or four children on about £ 8 10s. a week saving anything so that he will not be taxed. His answer straight away is that he will have to pay tax. He cannot get any tax relief because he cannot save a thing. It is all nonsense. Even when it is applied to people with incomes of £ 14 a week, it is still nonsense. In modern society, unless a man wants to be practically destitute he could not avoid tax under any system like that. He would be destitute if he tried to save £ 4 a week out of £ 14. Moreover, out of the same income the Minister of Housing now wants people to pay more rates.
§ Mr. Monslow
My hon. Friend keeps referring to £ 14 a week. Does he know that an express train driver receives no more than 260s. a week, which is £ 13?
§ Mr. Bence
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. That only shows that I am not exaggerating. I am putting a modest case, and I do not want to hit too hard. In the trade union movement we have a reputation for generosity, integrity and honesty, and I do not wish to overstress the case.
One of the principal items in the National Health Service is the cost of drugs and medicines. I should like to know something about Lucozade. What sort of stuff is it? Is it worth the money? I remember a debate long ago in this House when someone raised the question of the specific gravity of beer and its quality. As a result of the exposure of that product, Mr. Jimmy Hudson said that he had been wasting his time all his life protesting against the drinking of alcohol if that was the sort of stuff that people were buying.
I should like to know what Lucozade is. Whenever one goes into a hospital one sees bottles of it about. How much are the hospital authorities paying for it? Who manufactures it? What is in it? Is it a valuable thing? Does anyone know? Does the Financial Secretary know whether it is any good? In half the drugs which are being sent to the doctors, one is pink and one is white. What sort of value have they? sometimes wonder, when I see prescriptions costing 2s., whether that sum 1490 is far greater than the prescription is worth. Does the Treasury know?
If the Treasury is really worried about the cost of the Health Service, why go to the industrial worker without any inquiry into the cost and say, "That is the cost and you must pay"? Apparently, because private enterprise supplies all these things, nobody must say a word. Private enterprise has the power, the Government have the majority, and they can levy the tax on the workers.
Every time we raise these contributions, we increase the cost of industrial production. Let there be no mistake about that. Industries vary in the element of labour cost in their products. I have no doubt that the drug industry can well recover the cost that this extra contribution per worker imposes upon their work. The drug firms are almost in a monopoly position. They have one wonderful customer who makes no inquiries and who is not even prepared to set up a competitive department of his own to check what they are charging. In the shipbuilding and heavy engineering industries in Scotland, however, the wage cost content of the product is very high. In shipbuilding, in the construction of marine turbines and hulls, it is anything between 24 and 30 per cent. I believe that in the construction of big propulsion engines it is above 30 per cent.
Therefore, when the Government put this charge on industry they are putting an unfair burden of cost on those great industries which have a high labour content and a lesser charge on those which have a smaller labour content. [An HON. MEMBER "What about the brewers?"' Yes, and the drug industry, too, and many others, and some of the packed food industries, like Kellogg's. When I see the beautiful boxes and the lovely toys that the children get out of them, I wonder which costs more to produce, the box or the product that it contains. As I say, this is an unjust charge as between different industrial units.
In Germany, Italy and France there is a gradual movement to transfer the cost of the social wage from an individual charge upon industries to a charge upon the Exchequer. This is happening in Italy and in France, and in Germany it has gone a long way. Those countries 1491 have realised that this is a social service enjoyed by the whole of society, a social service determined by the whole of society, and that it should not be a charge upon individual production units.
This is extremely important because in modern engineering costing fractions of pennies can result in the loss of contracts. Small fractions can price a company out of a contract. Any imposition which this House puts upon industrial production units in this way can frustrate our competitive power in world markets. It may be said that it is only a small charge, but the Government have pursued the policy of shifting the charge from the Exchequer, which gets its resources from the whole community, on to the production units.
While other nations are moving the other way and thereby reducing their cost of production, we are facing higher charges. The social wage received by the shipbuilding worker in Germany is higher than that of the shipbuilding worker in Britain, but as a result of the social wage the cost in the German shipyard is lower than the cost to the shipyard in Britain. Any hon. Member can obtain the Common Market figures.
Does not the Financial Secretary regard this as a serious matter? The Common Market is very successful. It is already eating into our markets in our own country and all over the world. The Common Market countries are pursuing a fiscal policy for their industries which is the direct reverse of what the Government here are doing.
§ Mr. Bence
Yes, we are in competition with them. I have said all my life, and nothing will shake me from my belief, that when a social service is devised for workpeople, their wives and their children, the cost of that service should be a charge upon those who draw incomes, and incomes whether from dividends or profits, and not a charge upon the man who is working in the industry and producing the wealth, or upon the managers or the company organising the production. It should not be a charge upon them as an individual company or people working in it. It should be a social charge on the 1492 whole community. If we keep on in the way we are going, with rising costs, and if the Common Market goes on in the direction of making the charge a national, social one and not an individual charge, the gap will become wider and our competitive power will become less.
There is another point on which I want an answer. In two of the technical engineering journals which I take, not only from this country but from elsewhere, a certain trend has been suggested. In pursuing the movement from a Treasury charge to a charge upon labour employed by companies, is it the policy of the Government to force companies to reduce their labour force?
§ Mr. Bence
Seen against the huge Budget total of £ 6,000 million, does anyone suggest that the trivial sum involved is vital either to the National Health Service or to the economy of the country? There are motives behind this. I want to know whether one of those motives is to encourage large institutions, employing large numbers of workpeople, to get rid of some of their labour.
We hear a great deal about British industry and its backwardness. We have had reports of its high costs, which can defeat us in world markets. In all the speeches by the Government, from people like the President of the Board of Trade, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister, they plead with industrialists and workpeople that if we are to hold our own in the world we can do so only by lowering our cost of production. There is some truth in that. I do not believe that this country can hold its own in the world, or, indeed, that we can survive as a great industrial nation, unless we face the fact that a larger percentage of our people must sacrifice a great deal of the traditional rewards of an economy such as ours is and has been. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must force people to do that, and there will have to be greater encouragement to that strata of our society which has traditionally produced the goods, the wealth and the services that have made the country great. There is no doubt of that.
It may be that in the nineteenth century it was possible for our economy to 1493 carry a hundred millionaires with claims upon the products of the nation. It was true that between the wars we could carry a million unemployed and pay them for doing nothing. I always looked upon unemployment pay between the wars as a sop by a capitalist system of society to prevent people from producing more goods and services in a world in which it appeared to owners of capital that there was too much. The dole was a bribe to stop people producing goods and services. We might get that pattern again.
When the Treasury brings in measures like this it should consider what it has been doing in the past and what it is doing now. We get the Treasury now not financing the common people but taxing them with a poll tax to take a little more from them, and with that extra taxation the Treasury is enabling rationalisation of many units of production to be undertaken in order to produce less. This is a topsy-turvy economy that we are living in. We are going on and on piling up the National Debt and increasing taxation and paying millions of pounds to the manufacturers of Lucozade and the drug industry in general. Then the Treasury asks the House to find more and more money for these people without any inquiry into whether we are justified in paying it out.
There is the example also of the Air Estimates, under which we are to pay about £ 600 million to the aircraft industry. I should like to know in the name of fortune what that industry is doing with it. The Treasury seems always extraordinarily willing to pay an awful lot of money to big units of production with very little investigation compared with what happens when they pay 1s. to somebody who is unemployed.
§ Sir E. Boyle
The hon. Member has been addressing the House for some time. Surely discussion of that point would be more appropriate on an occasion when we 1494 are discussing the findings of the Public Accounts Committee or something of that kind. We are discussing the Health Service contribution. I suggest that the hon. Member is going rather wide.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I am bound to say that I was wondering about that from time to time during the speech of the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), but each time when I was on the point of rising to intervene he came back clearly into order. I hope that the hon. Member will try to relate what he is now saying to the Bill that we are discussing.
§ Mr. Bence
I shall do my best, as always, to be on the best of terms with Mr. Deputy-Speaker or Mr. Speaker, but I am not always so particular with Ministers on the Front Bench opposite. I have great respect for the Financial Secretary to the Treasury but he knows as well as I do that the way the present Government are going is completely at variance with the economic interests of the country.
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I have forgotten where I was before the Financial Secretary interrupted.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If I can help the hon. Member at all, we are discussing the National Health Service Contributions Bill.
§ Mr. Bence
Thank you, Sir. I was aware of that, of course.
I believe that I was making the point that I am worried about the fact that in these measures which are brought before the House we seem to be quite willing, and the Treasury seems to be quite willing, without doing any thinking about the matter, to pile on some more taxation, direct or indirect, which adds to the cost of industry. Yet when one is working in industry and the Government come to that industry and ask that it should manufacture machinery for the National Health Service—
§ Mr. Bence
Oh, yes, for instance, weighing machines to weigh babies. They cost money. The Service uses all sorts of instruments. I know that when I was in industry and we had an inquiry from a Government Department we regarded it as glorious. We could 1495 always make a little more out of the contract because it was for a Government Department.
§ Mr. Bence
Yes, as a self-employed person. I have a terrific interest in all this.
Apart from that, I am sick and tired of people in the country and my constituents who shout at me as if I were the Government and as if it were my fault. I tell them, "It is not my fault. It is the fault of that lot over there." When the manager of a company tells me how his weekly bill will be increased as a result of this policy I say to him, "Why don't you write and tell them?" He says, "No, I don't want to fall out with the Government because we get a lot of contracts from them."
The whole economy is going rotten. What sort of society are we building? Nobody believes in working today—only at the working-class level. My hon. Friends on the other side of the House—
§ Mr. Bence
Yes, my friends over there give me a lot of tips on how I can make some money for nothing. They should give the tips to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I would advise the Financial Secretary that if he wants to relieve himself of some of the costs of the National Health Service he should get cracking and make a take-over bid for the drug industry. We on this side of the House will not oppose it. We think that it is a good thing. It would save the Health Service millions of pounds.
§ Dr. Stross
There is really no need to go as far as that. It would be enough if the Financial Secretary established one pilot plant at the cost of a few million pounds so that he could set a pattern.
1496 Then prices would fall. If the hon. Gentleman does not take over the whole of the industry he might take over a small portion of it.
§ Mr. Bence
That is a very interesting suggestion, but we want to watch this. That idea of putting up a pilot plant as a competitor with these big institutions is very useful. I was once sent by a company to a Government shadow factory. It was a sort of pilot plant, but I and others who were sent there worked for the company and in our respective fields we stuck to the pattern of the company that sent us there. We had to or we would have been fired.
If the Government set up a pilot plant and had experts to go into it they probably would find those experts only among the private companies, and I am always frightened of a pilot plant where the personnel is drawn from people who are employed elsewhere. These people do wonderful things but, as they never lose their association with the old company that employed them, we know very well how long they last in a pilot plant. If it was done when Labour was in power, they said, "The Tories will come back and close it down".
§ Mr. Slater
Could not the industries that were taken over also be handed back again as has been the case with steel?
§ Mr. Bence
If I were in charge of this matter I should look at what we are paying the drug companies and find out what they are producing and should say, "We have had enough of this. You are finished. You are being paid too much". In my life as an industrial worker I have known directors who would say, "There are 20,000 working here. The product is too dear. We cannot sell it. You are all fired".
§ Mr. A. Lewis
Does not my hon. Friend understand that the directors and the top people in these big drug companies are Tories and have vested interests, and, therefore, this Government would never do what he is asking? It is Tories who control these companies
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I hope that the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) will remember to address the Chair and try to keep his remarks more closely connected. He is straying very far from the Question.
§ Mr. Bence
This matter of the cost of the National Health Service is very important. It is a frightful situation that the Service is almost entirely dependent upon trade associations covering spectacles, hearing aids, drugs and teeth. The whole country is covered by a network of trade associations, amalgamations and mergers, and it is because of this factor, in the main, I believe, that we have the high cost of the Health Service and the low remuneration to those who work in it. I have heard no one dispute that fact.
Friends of mine who hold shares in drug houses have confirmed to me that it is a very profitable investment. They have done very well. That is why they support the Health Service, for they are afraid that if it failed their shares would go down.
One hon. Member opposite has talked about working people and how they should save for their old-age. He said that they should put aside some of their income to save for insurance and for this and that. I started an endowment policy in 1920. Bless my soul! It is worth coppers to me now. It is not worth the paper it is written on. It is like my poor old post-war credits. The money involved in those credits was a fortune to me during the war, but now it has been whittled away and there is no capital gain on it. If the Treasury would give me two for one I would not mind. The working folk who save their money in the Post Office are not offered two for one.
If he subscribes to the view of some of his hon. Friends that working people should save for these charges, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury should ask himself how working people can put aside money for all the things which he and his hon. Friends want them to save for. Indeed, when the Minister of Housing and Local Government has finished with them I do not know what they will do.
I do not want to keep the House too long. I have given way so many times 1498 so that hon. Members could question me on the propositions I am making.
§ Dr. Stross
I do not think that my hon. Friend should be allowed to sit down without withdrawing his statement that the cost of the Health Service was gross and extravagant. After its first full year, 1949–1950, quite steadily for years, as a percentage of the total productivity of the country, the cost of the Service fell. For the first time this year only has it reached what it was when Sir Stafford Cripps said, "That is enough".
§ Mr. Bence
I admit that when related to national expenditure and income the cost of the Service has fallen. I fully recognise that. Nevertheless, having been brought up in an artisan working-class family to be thrifty and careful with the coppers, when I see money being poured out to these drug houses I must say that the cost is far too high and could be considerably reduced.
I do not want to go out of order, but I have a friend who is a professional optician. Thirty of the most wealthy residents who live around him have their names down—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. Member will appreciate that it is impossible to hear what he is saying if he turns his back on the Chair.
§ Mr. Bence
I know. But these people regard the Government's proposals as being linked together as an attack on the Health Service. It is an attack on the Health Service and on industry, and it is an unfair attack. The Treasury should have gone for the drug houses in trying to reduce costs. It should have tackled private enterprise first.
§ Mr. Bence
I wish that I had worked out the figure before speaking in the debate, but it is obvious that many industries are receiving money from the Treasury, including the motor, cotton. steel, fishing and forestry industries, and the drug houses. Admittedly, the drug houses do not get their money as a gift, but by their power to exploit the National Health Service. They are getting as much money as these other industries, however, and they seem to be getting it legitimately.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
All these big concerns mentioned by my hon. Friend are directed and controlled by very wealthy and prominent Tories. They have made big fat capital gains.
§ Mr. Lewis
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was trying to explain to my hon. Friend that among the reasons why there is to be a bigger charge for these drugs is because the drug companies are interested in making bigger profits at the expense of the Exchequer, and because they are big contributors to Tory funds. As the Tory Party—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. What the hon. Member is now saying confirms me that I was right in stopping him from leading the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), who has the Floor of the House, further astray in his speech.
§ Mr. Willis
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Surely it is in order to discuss reasons why these charges are being imposed. As I understand my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), he is arguing that these additional charges are being imposed now because of the high profits made by drug houses. Surely it is in order to suggest ways by which these high charges can be reduced.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The trouble was that other industries were mentioned in addition to those concerned with the manufacture of drugs. That was getting out of order.
§ Mr. Lewis
My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East men- 1500 tioned other industries, such as engineering. He pointed out that they made such things as X-ray equipment and surgical tables, and are thus making big profits from the Health Service. Was that not the point he was trying to explain?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I did not hear X-ray equipment referred to, but I am sure that the hon. Member for Dunbartonshir, East wants to continue his speech on the Bill.
§ Mr. Bence
I mentioned not X-ray equipment, but weighing machines for weighing babies.
The figures of average earnings have been quoted. I represent a Scottish constituency and there are several Scotsmen in the Chamber tonight who will want to enlarge on what I wish to say about this levy of the extra 10d. Unfortunately, the attitude of hon. Members towards earnings, remunerations, and wages is based upon the levels in London and the Midlands. The life they see around them is the life of London and the Midlands and, compared with the salaries and wages in those areas, the 10d. does not seem very much. But in Scotland a man walking out of the factory gate with £ 12 a week is a millionaire. Wages in Scotland are much lower than they are down here and I know many working men to whom 10d. is a lot.
When other things are added to that impost—higher rents, and higher rates and so on—then the burden can be seen in its true perspective. This extra 10d. will be a major burden for many working men of Scotland, unless the Government can suddenly bring down the cost of living or sanction an increase in wages.
§ Mr. Bence
That is true, and many are on short time, working only three days a week, but they will still have to pay the 10d.
I remember the day when 2d. was a lot. I remember the day when I could smoke one fag before nine o'clock and one just before dinner and one just afterwards, and that was my ration for the day.
§ Mr. Bence
I am still here, anyway. People with low incomes and without security do not regard 10d. as being not very much. I am not being facetious and I know many working-class wives in Scotland, who are used to working out their husband's pay to "tanners". They cannot afford an extra 6d. I do not say that that is true of every household, but it is true for many.
The Minister is forcing the pace and, in conjunction with the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and no doubt later with the Secretary of State for Scotland, is pushing up wage costs. I wish that the Government would reconsider their proposals. It may sound over-optimistic to ask them to withdraw the Bill and its principle, but I believe that it is completely faulty.
§ Mrs. Slater
My hon. Friend is talking about this imposition of 10d. and the effect that it will have on the small wage-earner. Does he not agree that to women, particularly to widowed mothers who have homes to keep going, the increase of 8d. will be a major imposition, especially as most women earn less than men do?
§ Mr. Bence
I am worried about another effect which I believe the Bill will have. I believe that these charges will mean that the Health Service will be less used by the people who need it and increasingly used by hypochondriacs as more resources are made available. I believe that the psychological effect of the Bill will be to drive more and more working-class folk away from the Service. Many men who are now working only three days a week will take the view that they cannot afford the heavy burden of 10d. and we may get a greatly increased sickness rate in industry.
For the old-age pensioners and the sick who have to pay 2s. every time they get a prescription, the increase will he not 10d. but 2s. 10d. This is piling it on twice on the lowest income group of the country. How can the Government justify the imposition of this extra 10d. on every working man in industry, irrespective of whether he is working a full week or only three days a week? It is not the case that those working only three 1502 days a week will pay only 5d.—and some men working only three days a week get only £ 3 15s.
There are few hon. Members opposite who have worked for long periods at these wage rates.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
Does not my hon. Friend appreciate that when he and I served our apprenticeships, we worked night shifts, whereas hon. Members opposite serve their apprenticeships in night clubs?
§ Mr. Marsh
Before my hon. Friend rushes his speech to a hurried conclusion, would he say whether he has considered the fact that far more money than is involved by the Bill was given away for each of the nationalised industries which was denationalised? I am thinking particularly of the steel industry, about which he may well wish to say something, and the road transport industry.
§ Mr. Bence
Naturally, the imposition of this charge will be felt in the steel industry. However, I will not go into that now. I will leave it to my hon. Friends to deal with the possible rise in costs in the steel industry, because I believe that the workers in that industry have a national agreement whereby wages are automatically raised when the cost of living rises. I believe that that applies also to the building trades. The workers in many industries will automatically get an increase because this extra 10d. will constitute a higher charge on their wages.
§ Mr. Bence
I did not mention them, but this extra charge is unfair. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning that farm workers will not get their remuneration increased because of the new charge, but I believe that other workers will. I am certain that the workers in the shipyards will have their wages increased. This extra charge will 1503 considerably increase the costs of the shipbuilding industry.
I hope that the Financial Secretary will think again about this Bill. I feel sure that when my hon. Friends have made their contributions, perhaps in more detail than I have done, and have covered a wider field than I have and have finished exploring the dangers of the Bill, we shall vote against the Government, and, I hope, reject the Bill.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
It is customary in this House for a speaker to try to sum up the theme of his predecessor's speech, but I think that the House will be ready to excuse me this seemingly impossible task. I do not know what the object of the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) was in treating the House in this way. If I may say it without sounding pompous, I do not think that it does this assembly any good to have speeches delivered in that manner and in that vein.
§ Mr. Shepherd
It may be that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) has some grievance against the Patronage Secretary.
§ Mr. Shepherd
In my view, that is no reason why there should be this sort of attempt to denigrate the standing of this assembly.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I do not think that I misunderstood what I heard. I do not mind criticism of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench. I merely say that that kind of speech is damaging to the 1504 prestige of this assembly. I hope that we shall not hear speeches of that kind again for a long time.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I have listened to every speech in this debate, and I confess that most of them have been of interest, except, perhaps, the speech of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh), who made a violent attack on the whole social purpose of my party. In a somewhat similar vein, if a little more restrained, and in a more able way, the hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) said much the same.
Before I deal with the issues that really concern us this evening, I should like to put to the House the view that I take of the kind of society and social order we want to see in this community. Many hon. Gentlemen think that we are opposed to the kind of society that has evolved in the post-war era. The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock went so far as to say that we were anxious to encourage a class society. Let me say at once that that is a complete misconception of our purpose.
There is a difference between hon. Gentlemen and ourselves about the kind of society we want to see. We want a more independent and self-reliant society. We want to evolve towards a state of affairs where people pay for the things they can afford to pay for—
§ Mr. Shepherd
—but that in no way diminishes our purpose and intention to see a society where there is complete equality of opportunity, where there is assistance for all those who are in need of it, and where there is a steadily diminishing effect of class.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. With respect, I would like you to indicate the width of this debate. I hope that my hon. Friends who succeed in catching the eye of the Chair will not be limited in the issues which they can raise, because the hon. Gentleman is raising considerations which go far beyond the Bill.
§ Mr. Percy Browne (Torrington)
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) has not been present, as I have, throughout the debate. I assure him that the debate ranged a good deal further on the other side of the House than it did on this side. If I may borrow a phrase from the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), there have been a great many well padded speeches from that side of the House.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I submit to you, on behalf of those of us who have not caught the eye of the Chair, that it ought surely to be in order for us to relate the whole policy of increasing these charges to our attitude to the Welfare State? If it is in order, and if I catch the eye of the Chair, I propose to develop that argument, and I submit that, because of what I have heard during the debate, it would be most unfair on those who wish to speak if we were not now allowed to pursue that argument.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It has been my experience in the last hour that there has been a tendency for the debate to range very wide. But, replying to what was said by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), and further to the speech of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd), I think that it is perfectly in order to base one's consideration of the Bill on the rather wider aspects of it.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I want to content myself in my reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Cannock with those rather limited remarks, although it is a matter which, on other occasions, I hope to deploy at greater length. I want to come directly to the issue before us, which is a Bill to increase certain charges.
I have been somewhat disappointed with the debate in the sense that there has been no search for any departure from what everyone in the House has apparently accepted for the past fifteen years. I wonder whether we ought not to turn our minds to some concepts rather different from those which apparently we now accept. Indeed, my hon. Friend was trying to prove that he was seeking the concept of 1946 and the hon. Gentleman opposite tried to prove to some extent that he was moving away from it.
1506 It is an extraordinary thing that there is this desire on the part of the House slavishly to follow what was established so many years ago, because two very material differences have evolved since 1946. One is that society has become a much more affluent society for a great many people and, secondly, that a Health Service which costs £ 175 million in 1948 is now pushing on to the £ 900 million mark. To suggest that we ought to take it all from millionaires is rather inadequate in view of those changes. It is because—
§ Dr. Stross
I wish to question the figure given by the hon. Gentleman. Did he say that it was 1938 or 1948 that the cost of the Health Service was £ 200 million?
§ Mr. Shepherd
I said 1948.
I want to suggest to the House that these changes make it necessary to consider the matter more seriously than it has been considered up to now. I do not for one moment accept the view that too much money is being spent on health in this country. I take the view that too little is being spent.
It may well be that some of the expenditure is misdirected. I am talking of expenditure on health. If we could get people to eat more sensibly, we should reduce very materially the volume of ill-health. I do not accept for a moment the view that we are spending too much; I accept the view that it may well be we are spending too little.
I am concerned about the methods by which this expenditure is met. It is no use right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite saying, "Get it out of the millionaires," because £ 900 million is a great deal of money. Although some of my hon. Friends may exaggerate the disincentive effect of high direct taxation, nevertheless it is true that in the broad interests of the country it is not desirable to have a high level of direct taxation. Therefore, I do not want to see taxation bearing anything like the proportion which it bears today. I think that the figure of about 80 per cent. of the cost of the National Health Service borne by direct taxation is an entirely faulty concept.
§ Mr. Shepherd
In putting forward this view I am not trying to pretend that the average man is not paying quite substantially in respect of the social services. In fact, the case is even more than the hon. Member for Cannock says.
I imagine, although I have not checked this up for accuracy, that if one were to make an assessment of the total amount of social services received by the ordinary weekly wage earner, and, on the other hand, were to put the total amount of payment in direct and indirect taxation made by the same group of persons, it would be quite plainly shown that the wage-earner was paying as much in direct taxation as he was getting in social benefits.
My assessment would be—it is only an assessment—that he was probably paying considerably more. But, despite that, I must reiterate that to have a high level of direct taxation is, on the whole, damaging to the economy and to the incentive within the economy. If there were a mote intelligent way of dealing with the problem of financing a Health Service, which has gone up from a figure of £ 168 million to £ 900 million—
§ Mr. Shepherd
Yes. £ 168 million; that was an estimated figure, and it has gone up to a figure of nearly £ 900 million, and we ought to try to find some means of doing it. [Interruption.] I have already said that it was an estimated figure of £ 178 million.
May I now direct the attention of the House to the fact that we are almost alone among the nations of the world in dealing with the Health Service in the manner in which we do? It may well be that the rest of the world are a lot of fools and that we are the wise people, though I do not know whether that is really true. Is it really the case that all these other nations in the world have a different method because they do not grasp the problem?
I should like to remind the House of what happens in one or two countries. In Austria, 3.5 per cent. of the earnings comes from the workers and 3.5 per cent. from the employers, and the Government pay nothing to the bill. In Belgium, the workers pay 3.5 per cent. of their earnings and the employers 2.5 per cent. 1508 of the total wage bill and 18 per cent. of the total cost is borne by the State. In Bolivia, the insured person pays 2–5 per cent. of earnings, the employers, 5.5 per cent. and the Government again make very little contribution to the cost of the Health Service.
§ Mr. Shepherd
In France, the insured person pays 6 per cent., the employers 10 per cent. and the Government again pay nothing towards the cost of the Health Service. In Mexico, a very similar situation arises. In the Netherlands, the insured person—[Laughter.] Hon Gentlemen opposite may laugh, but the people in Mexico do have a health service.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I do not really know, but if the hon. Gentleman's thirst for knowledge is so great, he can hie himself off to the Library and get the information.
In the Netherlands, the insured person pays 2.5 per cent. and the employer 4.5 per cent. In New Zealand, the employers pay 7.5 per cent, and the employees also 7.5 per cent. These are examples from many countries of the world to show how a health service is normally financed, and I suggest to the House that, though we might not wish to repeat exactly these particular arrangements, they have a great deal to be said for them.
Since we have been running a Health Service, we have studiously avoided varying very much the percentage contributed by the Government, and we have, in my view, been guilty of keeping the contribution by the employers very much below the level at which it ought to be. Had I the responsibility, I would have no hesitation in these present circumstances in raising the employer's contribution at least to the level of that of the employee. At the moment, we have a figure for male workers over 18 of 2s. 8½d. per week, and the employers are to pay only 7½d. If the employer's contribution had been brought up to the level of that of the employee, we should have had an income of something over £ 100 million to offset—
§ Mr. Herbert Butler (Hackney, Central)
On a number of occasions the hon. Member has made proposals to the House which he knows very well his party will never accept. He now appears to be giving us some information and ideas which I think he knows his own panty will never put into operation. When he says that the employer's contribution should be raised, what detriment would that be to the employer? Surely, he would pass it all on to the consumer, as he does with every other thing.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I cannot help it if the Government do not always accept my ideas. In three, four or five years they usually do and I accept the time lag. The hon. Member was rather naive in that reflection. He was pointing out something I was coming to—what will be the social and economic consequences of transferring some of the charge now being borne upon the revenue and the taxpayer to the cost of production?
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
The hon. Member suggested that my hon. Friend was rather naïve. Is not the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) rather naive when he makes a whole series of comparisons with health services in other countries without saying what those services provide and, when asked what they provide, he says he does not know, but suggests that hon. Members should go to the Library to discover what health services exist in those countries? If he comes to the House to make a speech and prays in aid a whole series of comparisons with other countries, he should inform himself before he does so.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I hope that that intervention did not sound as silly to the hon. Member as it did to me. I have acquainted myself with the health services of some countries, particularly that of France, because it happens to be interesting, but what I am concerned about today is not the kind of health service—the mechanics of the health service—in those countries, but the method by which it is financed.
To return to the point I was making, I said that I wanted to see a larger part of the Health Service cost borne directly by contributions and, in substance, borne more substantially by employers' contributions. It may well be argued that we could finance by contribution some- 1510 thing like two-thirds of the Health Service. I know this would be a fairly substantial step forward. I could not imagine the Government doing it all at once, because it would mean, roughly, about 10s. a week being found. Health Service costs are about 15s. a week in respect of every employed person. I see no basic reason why, in the long term, or the medium long term, there should not, for example, be a worker's contribution of 3s. and an employer's contribution of 7s. a week. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members may say, "Oh", but I shall give reasons why I think this ought to be.
In my view, it is undesirable to charge items which are properly a charge upon industry, upon tax. This charge for the Health Service ought, I believe, to come as directly as possible upon industrial production. An hon. Member said that the reason for this is to encourage people not to employ so many workers as otherwise they would.
§ Mr. Shepherd
Do not get too excited; I shall not give too much away.
It is perfectly true that I should expect this idea, in some measure, to have this effect. I reiterate that to make labour in some senses more expensive is to encourage the kind of industrial development we want. I should not hesitate to increase substantially the employer's contribution, because I know that, on the whole. that would be to the benefit of the industrial health of the country.
§ Mr. Shepherd
May I give an additional reason why I should be pleased to see progress towards two-thirds of the charge being carried by contributions? Within a relatively short time I hope that we shall be associated with the Common Market. If we are to associate with it is perfectly obvious that Common Market countries—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that the hon. Member has reached the limit of what is properly in order on the Bill.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I was not intending to go very far along that line, but I think that it is arguable, surely, that there must be a harmonising of social policies under that arrangement and that this would be consistent with that harmony. I will not pursue that any further, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
On a point of order. I apprehended that this difficulty would arise during the debate. I called your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, some minutes ago, to how wide the debate was getting. You allowed the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) to give an exposition of health services the details of which we were not acquainted with, and he advised us to go into the Library to learn the details. When he began to discuss a harmonious balance of our indigenous economy you ruled the hon. Gentleman out of order. I am bound in say, with great respect to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that we find the Rulings of the Chair rather complexing.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I hope that the hon. Member will not criticise Rulings of the Chair, because that causes difficulties. I heard what the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) was saying about some foreign countries and I understood that he was making comparisons with what is proposed in the Bill, which I thought was fair and in order.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I sum up by saying that on this side of the House we are anxious not only to maintain, but to improve, the Health Service as part of a comprehensive range of social services; but, while we want to encourage the highest possible level of self-improvement and self-reliance, we are determined to take care of those who need our care.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I will not slavishly follow the misconceptions of 1946. We will address our minds more particularly to the problems of financing the social services and endeavour to find better means of trying to shift some of the present enormous burden of direct taxa- 1512 tion to other methods which will have a less disincentive effect upon the community.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
An hon. Member scarcely knows what facet of the problem to select in a debate of this character, which has spread itself so widely. Most people support the contention that there are certain services which should be maintained on a free basis. Self-reliance is all right for those with plenty of the where with all with which to be self-reliant. Certain sections of the community do not have the means with which to be self-reliant. Other sections are a little better off, but it still should not be said that they should be completely self-reliant.
Certain services have been developed in this country, and it is abhorrent to the minds of many sincere people to suggest that we should start charging fees for these services. At one time one had to pay fees in respect of education. It would be a bad job if we had to pay fees again. The Health Service was started with the intention that it would be free, like the education service. It was thought at the time that the Health Service should be devoted to helping the people using the Service.
When it is desired to expand the Service and there is financial difficulty, the question then arises how the expansion should be paid for. It does not matter how the country is conducted. Some things must be paid for by taxation. Other things are paid for individually. Certain services affect the citizens very closely, particularly those who are unfortunate—in this case unfortunate in health, requiring medical services, hospitals, doctors and nurses. What should be our attitude as regards paying for the expansion of such services? Modernisation can be carried out in all kinds of ways, but we are often influenced in our decisions by our individual position.
Some hon. Gentlemen opposite have tried to show that we are comparatively well-off. It has been said that we have improved our position tremendously and that the extra 10d. will be a small imposition if spread over the whole population.
I do not want to talk generalities, because it is always possible to do that 1513 without getting anywhere. It is true that some sections may be very much improved. Indeed some sections within the working-class movement may have improved their lot very much. However, we still have to analyse the extent to which there has been social improvement as a whole. Government publications provide a fairly clear analysis of the position of certain sections. The figures they contain are not ambiguous.
The tax returns show a group of people who have from £ 250 to £ 500 a year. From the point of view of money that is a small section, but in it there are nearly 71 million people—workers, not people. If we include their dependants, it comprises nearly 10 million people. We are given the impression that we are doing so well as a nation that there is scarcely anyone who cannot afford to pay this extra contribution. Of course, it is astonishing what one can do when pressed, but should we press a group of people who are really badly off?
After taxation, those people have an average weekly amount of £ 6 16s. 4d. They then have to pay their insurance contribution of 10s. 7d., which leaves them with an average of £ 6 6s. 9d. to take home. It may be said that in that group there are a few school leavers at one end, and others at the higher end with perhaps £ 9 a week. Nevertheless, when considering these matters we have to take the general position.
Here we have 7½ million workers who take home £ 6 6s. or £ 6 5s. a week. I do not think that, with the present cost of living, any hon. Member would want to live on £ 6 odd, nor would he like his relations to live on it. When one includes wives and children there are about 91 million people in this group—nearly one-fifth of our population. In the face of that, we are told that everything is fairly favourable for the country as a whole, and people who have probably thought these things out say that the working people are now becoming the middle class.
The next group consists of those with from £ 500 to £ 800, and in it there are 8,383,000 people. It represents a large section of the ordinary workers. After taxation, they have an average of £ 11 12s. a week. When they have paid their insurance contribution they have an 1514 average of £ 11 Os. 6d. to take home. What a great "middle class", indeed—with a weekly net income of £ 11. In that "middle class" there are going on for 20 million people, 10 million of whom have to live on an average income of £ 6 6s., and the remainder on an average of about £ 11. That is the "middle class" into which the workers are supposed to be merging—with £ 11 to take home.
When all is said and done, there comes a time to call a halt. We are here dealing with our medical services and with what is a fundamental need for unfortunate people in our country. Surely, we have sufficient conscience and sufficient national morality to say that, although it is a pity that we are hard pressed, we will not put the burden on them.
Those who earn £ 3,000, £ 4,000 or £ 5,000 a year want Income Tax reduced. But who are the people who pay most of the taxation? Is it the middle class, the people with £ 2,000 or £ 5,000 a year? Does the Surtax payer pay the amount of money which really matters to the country which carries the country on? I have not looked closely into the figures, but it is plain from a perusal of the Revenue returns that the people who are paying the substantial and fundamental part of our taxation, that part which really matters to the country, are the ordinary workers. The men making about £ 9 a week are the taxpayers who matter.
Hon. and right hon. Members opposite could almost make one believe, if one did not have other knowledge, that they and their friends individually—in their comparatively small numbers—and not the workers are the ones who are paying the important part of taxation which matters to provide our hospitals and medical services. One would almost imagine from what is said that it was the middle class and the rich who were really keeping the country going with the taxation that they pay.
The section of the population which makes the greatest noise about taxation is not those on small incomes, not the workers. It is certainly not the working class. I do not hear much about taxation from the ordinary workers. A few years ago, they never paid any taxation.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I am very reluctant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I hope that he will, as soon as may be, relate his remarks more closely to the Bill.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Browne (Torrington)
I will not continue the long argument which we have had all day about the political dogmas of the Socialist and Conservative Parties. I have listened to nearly all the debates that we have had on the Health Service during the last ten days. At times, when listening to some hon. Members opposite, I have been reminded of Francis Brett Young's poem in which, speaking of sentimental tunes, he said that they weredripped from the mealy mouths of sickly saxophones.At other times in listening to the speeches from the benches opposite, particularly the one to which I listened this evening which lasted nearly an hour, I have been reminded of the remark made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) when he spoke of the well-padded gentlemen on this side of the House. I think that the same phrase could apply to some of the speeches we hear from them.
The Opposition are absolutely wrong when they say that we are trying to cut back the Health Service. The figures simply do not prove that. I exonerate hon. Members who either have always taken the same line or have changed their minds, because only a fool does not on occasion change his mind. The fact remains, however, that in 1950 hon. Members opposite said that they would put a ceiling on the Health Service. It seems to me to be common sense that if one tries to put a ceiling on the expenditure on a service it means that one does not wish that service to expand. I may be wrong, but that is how it seems to me.
We expanded that service by over twice as much and, in real terms, by 1516 getting on for as much again in the past ten years. The real argument between us is whether the money should come from direct or indirect taxation. Perhaps, however, I can address myself to some particular points on the Health Service in general. To me, one of the difficulties of the past ten days is that we have been taking this matter piecemeal. I should have liked to have taken it as a whole. Various charges are being made by way of contributions, prescription charges, and so on, and their merits argued individually. If one could put them together it would be a great deal easier, but I must attempt to keep within the bounds of order. My short experience of the House is that normally it is the other way round and one has a press of different subjects all on the same day.
§ Dr. Stross
Will the hon. Member, to whom we have been listening carefully, enlighten us by explaining what he means by the phrase that since the Conservative Government came into power the Service has been expanded in real terms by as much again? What did the hon. Member mean?
§ Mr. Browne
I said, "nearly as much again". What I meant was that if an attempt were made to impose a ceiling—which, I agree, did not happen—on the Health Service expenditure of approximately £ 400 million, and if in today's terms the Service is costing nearly £ 900 million, in real terms it is between £ 700 million and £ 800 million.
§ Dr. Stross
The hon. Member must not make these foolish statements. In real terms—that means, in terms of 1949–50 prices—the cost was £ 381 million in that year, the first full year of the Service, and for the last accounting year, I believe, it was £ 501 million. Therefore, it is not as much again.
§ Mr. Browne
I am quite prepared to withdraw if I am wrong. I do not have the figures with me, but will check them in the Library.
If this money has to be raised—and I fully accept that it has to be—I would rather have seen it raised by way of contribution than in the other ways suggested. Taking a purely parochial view, I hope it means that I shall get a hospital in the North Devon area a good deal earlier than seems apparent.
1517 I wonder whether it is really necessary to raise more than the figure of £ 49 million which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is raising by way of the increase in contributions. In the First Schedule to the Bill, to which I am only the second hon. Member today to refer, I find a figure of 2s. 8½d. as the employee's contribution. There are other ways in which my right hon. Friend could have saved money. I calculate that if he were to take id. off the employee's contribution he would find that he was missing £ 2,600,000, but I am certain that if he really attacked the problem of the drug firms he would save a great deal more.
In his opening speech last week on the Motion of censure, the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) paid me a pretty compliment. He said that I was wide awake. But there was a sting in the tail, because he then said that I wished to nationalise the drug firms. What I thought I had said was that I wanted to see a national dispensary for drugs.
I will be perfectly candid and say that in a half-hour speech I may well have said what I was said to have said. I will now make it perfectly clear and say that I would like to see a clinical sieve through which every drug produced by every manufacturer had to go and where it was experimented on and, on its merits, a report was made and sent to doctors so that only that drug was used.
§ Mr. Pavitt
I do not follow that point. because the only way in which drugs can be tested is on people.
§ Mr. Browne
That is perfectly true. As the hon. Member knows, many drug firms send out heir drugs to doctors for field trials and those doctors report upon them. But often when the field trial is being done, another firm produces a similar type of drug, and before that field trial is finished that firm puts its drug on the market because it does not want to miss the profits that are involved. I do not suggest that field trials should not be carried out, but that they could be carried out under some central control rather than by the individual drug firms concerned.
I have also made other calculations and I have discovered that if my right 1518 hon. Friend gave way to certain pressure, which I hope he will not, it would cost another ld. on the contribution. That pressure is that he should give free drugs to private patients. I know that I shall be outside the rules of order if I say more on that subject, but I hope I have made my point.
The Bill raises the contributions by £ 49 million in a full year or approximately four-fifths of the total proposed increases in all the Measures involved. I am certain that we have reached the limit of contributions that we can expect employees to pay. We have heard a great deal in the debate about average earnings and average wages. All I can say is that in my part of the country the average wage is certainly under £ 9 a week.
We now come back to where we started. While I am perfectly convinced that it would be a good thing for people to see what they are paying for and therefore a contribution that is split is better than a blanket contribution, I am convinced that we have now reached just about the level to which we can go. But this Bill at least has the beauty of being perfectly simple and it can be understood by everyone. This is why I suggested earlier that it was a pity that the Minister should have considered it necessary to raise more money than the £ 49 million by other means. There can be only one justification for the other ways by which this money is to be raised, and that was well put by an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer speaking on Monday in another place. He said:The real justification, to my mind, for imposing a charge on the individual to cover part of the cost of prescriptions is if it discourages waste and abuse."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, I3th February, 1961; Vol. 228, c. 638.]
§ Mr. G. Thomas
On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. Member to quote from somebody who is not a member of the Government in a current speech in another place in order that it may be debated here?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) is correct on his point of order. To quote verbatim from a speech made by somebody other than a Minister in another place would be out of order.
§ Mr. Browne
I apologise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) on getting his own back. The ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer said that these charges are justifiable if they mean that there will be less abuse, or no abuse, and if they make a saving of waste. It is only on these grounds that any other increase can be justified.
I am prepared to support my right hon. Friend on this—and I do not say this impertinently—because I believe that these points do apply, but I must say to him that some of the present safeguards which he has suggested are inadequate. That is why I said that the beauty of this Bill is its simplicity. I fear that the various urgings and complicated methods of exemption which he suggests will not be clear to those he means to help. I hope to evolve that argument tomorrow night if I am fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
If the National Health Service is to go on expanding, then undoubtedly these measures are necessary, and I support wholeheartedly what my right hon. Friend is trying to do, but he should reconsider the methods of exemption for helping those in need in certain of the proposals.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward J. Milne (Blyth)
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury gave as his justification for these increases in contributions the fact that during the past ten years, under the rule of this Government, the people had benefited so much that there was nothing wrong in taking this contribution from them.
A factor that has recurred in this debate is the way in which Members opposite have kept repeating—and convincing themselves by repetition—that the National Health Service, introduced by a Labour Government, had their blessing and that they have continued to develop it during these past ten years. Yet it is in the record of this House that they marched into the Division Lobby on three occasions during the passage of the National Health Service Act and voted against it.
During the ten years in which they have been in office various Measures of this kind have been placed on the 1520 Statute Book, undermining the value of the National Health Service and reducing the living standards of the people who they claim are benefiting from their rule.
I am sorry that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is not here at the moment, because we all recollect that he once held an office outside this House and was regarded by many people as the spearhead of the opposition to the National Health Service—so much so, that during that period, according to the Manchester Guardian, the British Medical Association enlisted the aid of an organisation not unknown to Members opposite—the Colin Hurry organisation—in order to test the feelings and the opinions of the people of this country while the Act was going through Parliament.
As a result of the figures produced by that survey, the tactics of the Conservative Party and the British Medical Association underwent a subtle change, and it is the culmination of that subtle change that we are now observing. Instead of a head-on clash with the principles of the Health Service, instead of honestly proclaiming to the people, the wage-earners of Britain, that in principle and philosophy they were opposed to the idea of the Health Service as the Labour Government saw it, they chose to break it up piece by piece, bit by bit.
One hon. Member opposite today referred gloatingly to the fact that hon. Members opposite had won three successive General Elections. We are entitled to ask what were the methods adopted. On each occasion the Government were not honest enough to say the things which have been said by hon. Members opposite today. They did not say that in financing the Health Service they would be prepared to make inroads into the living standards of the people by increasing contributions, as the Bill proposes. They left those proposals until 18 months after the General Election had been won and after the type of propaganda in which they indulged had been successful.
Hon. Members have rightly asked today what was to be given in return for these contributions. Some hon. Members opposite have been able to say that hospitals were to be built in their constituencies, but that is ten years after what 1521 the Financial Secretary to the Treasury described as a Britain sounding like Paradise.
In my part of the country, the mining communities, for instance, in pre-war years guarded themselves against the type of Britain in which they were then living by providing health services for themselves, financed by contributions and able to mitigate the worst effects of the society of those days. With the return of the Labour Government in 1945 and the establishment of a Health Service available to the people who produced the wealth of the community, the mining communities willingly gave up the advantages which they had taken for themselves because of the vision of a Health Service for the whole country.
The communities which produced such schemes now resent these charges which emasculate all the tremendous vision which was ushered into the Britain which followed the Second World War. They also resent them because the people least able to pay are to be asked to bear the heaviest burden.
It is all right for hon. Members opposite today—and this has been the theme of the Minister of Health—that they are as concerned with the Health Service and the health of the people as we are. Of course one can make comparisons. If their statements were true, we would have been witnessing at this moment proposals for improving the National Health Service.
§ Mr. Milne
The hon. Gentleman says that we are-after hon. Members have had to get up and admit that their constituents are still waiting for hospitals to be built. The £49 million to be raised by the Bill must be related to the money made by the drug houses and the finance people, who are crouching behind every proposal to improve conditions in Britain. But for their gains in the course of spending the proceeds of the National Health Service, the £49 million would not be necessary.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) is not here. He was critical of the speech of one of my hon. Friends. He said that it lowered the tone of the debate, but is it lowering the tone of debate for hon. Members on 1522 this side to compare the profits and help given to drug houses and others with the help given to our people?
That is the type of philosophy and the type of argument to consider. This was not a question of a free Health Service; it was not just a question of paying for this or paying for that. This was a vision that came to Britain following the Second World War; a vision of a new type of society in which we took the old Chinese philosophy about health—that one did not pay one's doctor when one was ill; one was expected to pay one's doctor when one was well.
That is not a bad philosophy to introduce into the modern world, but, by the type of Measure that we are facing, and by the type of Measures that we are to have vigorously imposed, that concept has been almost destroyed. In varying and destroying it we are exposing for all time the hollowness and the sham of ten years of Tory rule during which time they have tried to demonstrate that what they were doing was to carry on what was done between 1945 and 1951. Some day, and very soon, the people will return to the outlook of those years and the numbers on the benches opposite will be greatly decreased as a result.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
I listened with interest to the speeches from both sides of the House. They revealed the wide gap of principle which divides us. No one will deny that this is a controversial Measure. No one will be able to deny that it strikes at the very roots of our attitude to the welfare services.
There are two speeches to which I want to refer before I make the points on which I rose to speak. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) is not in his place. I never like speaking about an hon. Member behind his back. The hon. Gentleman began in a very pompous style by lecturing my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) because his speech had been a little longer than usual. My hon. Friend kept the attention of the House for a considerable time and he was dealing with the substance of the Bill. The hon. Member for Cheadle himself made a speech tar below his own standard. He made it perfectly clear that he was comparing 1523 the National Health Service of this country with the health service in Mexico, Bolivia and all those other great countries, as he liked to call them. That was to denigrate the welfare service which is the pride of Britain and, I believe, the envy of the world. I believe that hon. Members opposite, by such speeches as that, do themselves no good and certainly are damaging a great service in this country. I say to the hon. Member for Bideford—
§ Mr. Thomas
Well, it includes Bideford. The hon. Gentleman began in a very rude manner about the speeches made by hon. Members on this side of the House. He should remember that the lower-paid wage earners, who seem to be in the majority in his constituency, are the people for whom we on this side of the House are fighting in particular regarding this Measure. The hon. Member has been a rebel from time to time, and I should have thought that he could choose no better issue on which to be a rebel than an issue touching the pockets of the great majority of the people who work in his constituency.
Sometimes the party opposite claim that they also represent the workers. heard that claim made the other night before the noble Lord came in dressed in that amusing way. I believe that any working man foolish enough to vote Tory at the last election is now going to be made to pay the price. The pity of it is that a lot of innocent people who did not make that choice will also have to pay for the luxury of having the party opposite in power.
I look at the Bill and I ask myself, is it equitable, is it a just Measure? Is it one in harmony with our desire to have a welfare service where the strong give more than the weak, in which the rich are made to pay—if they are not willing to pay—a bigger proportion of the cost of the welfare service than those who are at the bottom of the social scale? I have heard arguments from hon. Members opposite suggesting that people only value what they pay for in the form of contributions of this sort; that, somehow or other, there is a virtue in making poor people pay heavy contributions so that 1524 they may be cared for in time of sickness. It is exactly the same mentality which probably will prompt hon. Members to argue for a contributory scheme to pay for our education services. The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) referred to a hospital which he was expecting in his constituency, and he linked it with these increased charges. Does he expect increased contributions for every village school which comes to his division?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. There is great difficulty in referring to contributions for schools in connection with this Bill.
§ Mr. Browne
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that originally in 1946 when the Health Service was started an insurance contribution was, in fact, made, part of which went to the Health Service? Is not that right?
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Gentleman is right, but only just, because the contribution that was made—and I was in the House at the time and well recall the thrilling debate we had and how we had to fight the party opposite to get the scheme—I remember that the contribution was 4d. It was a very tiny part of the cost, and the late Aneurin Bevan reminded the House that the great burden of the Health Service was to come from the national Exchequer.
§ Mr. Thomas
Not the same proportion. I believe that the entire cost of the Health Service ought to be dealt with as the education service is dealt with. It is just as necessary and vital. I know that there is a little local contribution raised from the rates. Why should it be possible for one Minister to stand at the Box and boast that by 1970 he is going to double the cost of the education service, the overwhelming proportion of which will be paid for by the Exchequer, while the Minister of Health has to come and whine to the House that the cost is going up, as it is bound to go up with a greater population and with the cost of things going up, and that that cost must be borne by an increased contribution from the workers?
§ Mr. Bourne-Arton
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Health Service 1525 should he dealt with in the same way as the education service, with £ 300 million raised out of the rates?
§ Mr. Thomas
What I am saying is that I would much prefer to see the proportion raised. Although I believe that the rating system is grossly unfair, as I have told the House before, I would much prefer to see it raised by some system of taxation of income basis all over the country rather than by the present system.
May I ask why it is that the Defence Estimates are raised from all people on a taxation basis? Why should it be right to raise the Defence Estimates on the Exchequer but, somehow or other, immoral to raise the Health Estimates on the Exchequer?
§ Mr. Thomas
I will give way in a moment. We have all night. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have never known the House so eager to stay up.
No one here will deny that the Defence Estimates go up every year. It has been my privilege to have been here during five Parliaments, and every time I have heard the Budget, the Defence Estimates have been up, except immediately after the war, when for two years they were going down. Ever since then they have been up every year. Would anybody suggest that they should be on a contributory basis? Why should a vital service like the Health Service have to be paid for in this manner, which means that people with under £ 10 a week are having to make a contribution out of proportion to their earnings?
§ Mr. P. Browne
I am very interested in the hon. Gentleman's remarks on Defence. I was wondering whether he was suggesting a graduated contribution from a general to a private?
§ Mr. Thomas
I take that intervention as on a level with a good deal of what we have heard from the other side of the house tonight. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] What I say is that the Government and the Treasury Bench are not being consistent in the policy which they have addressed to the House. If we look at the people who are going to be hit the hardest by this proposal, we shall see that they are the people whose income is so low that even the Chancellor 1526 of the Exchequer says they are too poor to be taxed. They boast at election times—
§ Mr. Kershaw rose—
§ Mr. Kershaw
The hon. Member said, "We have all night". Is he suggesting that the payments for the Health Service should be raised entirely from taxation?
§ Mr. Kershaw
When his party was in power, did he suggest that to Sir Stafford Cripps and the Leader of the Opposition who, of course, is not here now? Did he criticise them?
§ Mr. Thomas
I keep being reminded of how another generation does not know what has gone on in other Parliaments. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw), if he reads the record, will find that I have been perfectly consistent from the beginning. I know that consistency is not the virtue of hon. Members opposite, but it happens to be my virtue on this question. I have been consistent and have been opposed to charges whoever put them on. I have believed that the only fair and reasonable way to finance the National Health Service and to guarantee that it is able to extend and develop is for us all to pay for it through taxation. Then we shall pay according to our income and we shall pay fairly.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
The hon. Member is perfectly justified in his opinions about how this Service should be financed, but could he tell the House, so that we may understand his plea more clearly, how much extra should be raised by taxation?
§ Mr. Thomas
That is a question easily answered. I believe that all that is adequate to the National Health Service should be raised. [HON. MEMBERS: "How much?"] The Minister is there and he can tell hon. Members how much he requires to deal with this Service.
I am sorry to keep coming back to the most junior hon. Member who has spoken, but the hon. Member for Torrington referred to abuses which somehow could be checked by these proposals. What single abuse in the National 1527 Health Service, if any, would be checked by increasing the contribution for the whole of the working population?
§ Mr. Browne
I will tell the hon. Member all about it tomorrow night. I was talking about prescriptions, not contributions.
§ Mr. Thomas
It is unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that it is not possible retrospectively to rule anyone out of order.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not want the debate to get out of order. It is only fair to say that I did feel compelled to rule the hon. Gentleman out of order.
§ Mr. Thomas
Mr. Speaker, it is a great thing when great minds think alike. I believe that the proposal in this Bill undermines that principle which inspired our people in difficult years since the war with the idea that we were one people regardless of our economic standards and that we were willing to bear each other's burdens. More and more we are having the old Tory ideology brought back. More and more we are hearing philosophical arguments that I used to hear as a young man and which I grew to dislike so much. This is the sort of proposal that will help to create two Britains, to widen the gap which exists between the poor and the rich, and to be poor in a society which boasts of its affluence is much harder than to be poor in a community in which the great majority are poor. The people who feel their poverty today are just having another turn of the screw by the Bill.
It is unjust and I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will make it as difficult as possible for this Measure to reach the Statute Book. It is one which overlooks the basic fact that in this country we have sought to develop our welfare services along the line, and on the principle, that we are our brother's keeper. We are making the poor keep the rich; we are making the poor make the contribution in the Bill which will later enable the Chancellor to make concessions to the very wealthy. It is because I believe that he is quite unjusti- 1528 fled in raising money from the working people that I oppose the passage of the Bill tonight.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
It seems to me that the supporters of the Bill on the opposite side may roughly be divided into three different groups. First, there are those who claim that this Measure does not involve any attack on the principles of the Health Service at all. They do not seem to know what are the principles on which the Service was founded. Then there is a group of right hon. and hon. Members on the other side who know perfectly well what they are doing, what attack they are making, and who are doing their best to conceal it Among those I would include the Minister of Health and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The final group are those who do not care what is happening and many of them are not present.
There have been some rather spectacular absentees in that sense, because there are a number of hon. Members on the other side—such as the hon. Members for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) and several other hon. Members—who have made their reputations, such as they are, in the House and country by saying that they are opposed to further increases in taxation being imposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Yet, £ 50 million of extra taxation is being imposed by this Bill and those hon. Members have not shown up at all to reveal any signs of opposition to it.
It is a spectacular revelation that, although the Minister of Health has had the endaour to admit that this is taxation, some hon. Members on that side do not care a fig whether the taxation is falling on the bulk of the population under this poll tax system. They have not any complaints at all and there has not been a single Member on that side who has protested at the extra taxation imposed by this Measure on those grounds.
There have been hon. Members on that side of the House who have said that they are strong supporters of the National Health Service. The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) claimed that he is a supporter of the Service. I must say that he did reveal, 1529 by what he said, that he is not such a strong 'Tory as he looks. He did, at any rate, have the nerve to say that he is in favour of the near-nationalisation of the drug industry, or that he would welcome a move in that direction. He also had the nerve to say that he thought the Government had gone far enough in imposing these extra contributions; and that distinguishes him from other hon. Members on that side.
Many hon. Gentlemen, both in this debate and in the recent debate on the other charges, have said that they are quite prepared to say in the House that there should be two kinds of Health Service. They have said that people should contract out of the Service, or that we should increase enormously the amount raised by contributions to pay for the Service. There have been those hon. Gentlemen opposite who attacked the whole principle of the Health Service without knowing that that was what they were doing.
Although there have been these hypocritical defences of what the Government are doing by the Bill, the Government deserve to be congratulated on one thing. The list of names appearing on the back of the Bill is headed by the Chairman of Ways and Means. I suppose that I had better not say anything about him. Then the following names appear:Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. J. Enoch Powell, Mr. Secretary Maclay, and Sir Edward Boyle.I congratulate the Treasury on this occasion. The Bill was introduced by a representative of the Treasury, and I presume that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will defend it later. So at least, on this occasion, the Treasury has come to the House to do its own dirty work. It did not send the Minister of Health to do it, which is what happened on the previous Measures connected with these proposals.
Everyone knows that these are the proposals of the Treasury for raising more taxation. We should have had a Minister of Health who was prepared to fight the Treasury, but the present Minister of Health refuses to discharge that duty. Everyone knows that the Treasury officials and the Treasury itself have been opposed to the idea of a real Health Service ever since it started. The Service had to be fought for. We would not 1530 have had a National Health Service if we had not had a Minister who was prepared to fight the ideas of the Treasury. The Treasury always resented the idea of the Service being based on these principles. We are not surprised, because there are very few Socialists in the 'Treasury. This is a Socialist Service. [An HON. MEMBER: "How does the hon. Gentleman know that there are very few Socialists in the Treasury?"] I can tell by what they do.
One has only to look at how they behave over the years to tell that there are very few Socialists in the Treasury. They regarded a Health Service and the principles on which it was originally founded as a kind of Poplarism, a system of distributing money, and thought that it would involve waste and extravagance. I am sure that that was what was said in the Treasury when the Service was introduced and in the years afterwards.
When my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition imposed some charges, I do not suppose he experienced much opposition from the Treasury officials. The Treasury has been bitterly opposed lo this kind of Socialist service ever since it was initiated. It was established only because a great Socialist fought for it.
After the Service had been in operation for two or three years, the Treasury went about thinking of devices to try to attack it. It proposed to some of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors that a. Committee should be set up to examine whether the Service was being as extravagant as people claimed. Much the most formidable and exhaustive inquiry that has ever been made into the operation of the Service was the Guillebaud Committee. No one can deny that. Although the Committee reported in 1956, its findings concerned the years 1953 and 1954. The exhaustive examination by the Guillebaud Committee, which was set up purely as result of pressure by the Treasury to examine whether the Service was extravagant, took place after the Service had been in operation for five or six years.
We have had another five or six years since the last Guillebaud Report. If the Treasury was so convinced that it could not afford the sums needed, that the Service was too extravagant, why, instead 1531 of going ahead with this series of proposals for mutilating the Service, did it not set up another Guillebaud Committee? Why not have a full examination of the problem, at least? If they were so determined to have a real Health Service, one would have thought that after another six years, a period similar to the last, we should have had another Guillebaud Committee.
Why did not the Minister of Health ask for that? Or did he ask for such a committee and get turned down? Perhaps he will tell us now whether, when the Treasury was urging that he must make these attacks on the Service, he ever said, "Let us have an examination, first, to see whether it is really required." Did he make any such request? Did he make any fight at all for this Service? Did he make any objection to the Treasury proposals? Judging from his present silence, he made none.
Therefore, despite the fact that the only full and exhaustive inquiry into the Service came to the conclusion that it was not extravagant, and came to the further conclusion that one of the first things to be done in the future was to remove all the charges, the Government are so little careful to protect this great institution that they will not have any inquiry. The only case that the Government have been able to present in this debate rests on the arguments of the Treasury.
The Ministers say, "We cannot afford a Health Service that increases at this rate." That is their first claim. But we cannot discuss that issue properly in this debate because, as a result of the procedure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has adopted, we are not able to compare one form of national expenditure with another. We cannot decide now whether it was really necessary that the Treasury should raise £ 50 million extra in taxation, because we do not know what the rest of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's proposals are.
This mutilating of Health Service is, of course, part of the Chancellor's strategy. It is being done to suit his convenience, and is convenient to the Chancellor that, prior to the Budget, he should raise £ 50 million extra in poll taxation; that he should raise £ 3 million more by the charges on teeth and spectacles, and 1532 raise an additional sum by prescription charges. That means that before he starts on his Budget he has gathered in £ 70 million, or £ 80 million, or more, which enables him, when he comes to his Budget, either to reduce taxation for the purposes he wants, or, at any rate, not to increase it if he has so managed the country's finances that that is what he would otherwise be driven to.
That is very convenient for the Chancellor. It suits him down to the ground. The Minister of Health should have fought him, but he has not fought at all. Everyone knows that the question of how much is spent on the Health Service or on the education service, or the like, is very often a tug-of-war between Government Departments. There has been no tug-of-war in this case—they have both been on the same end of the rope. And it is no good the Minister of Health laughing about it, and thinking that it is a joking matter.
That is why hon. Members on this side feel so bitter. We think that when he was appointed to his present office, whatever his previous views, he should have fought for the Service he was put there to defend. But, of course, he was not put there to defend it, but to mutilate it. He was deliberately put there for that purpose— that is why he holds high office in this Government. He was put there for the purpose of mutilating the Service that he claims to defend, and he is now carrying into effect his opposition to the whole philosophy of the Service that he has shown for the last ten years.
The only other case which has been even faintly advocated by hon. Members opposite during the debate is founded on a completely false argument about the amount paid in contributions in proportion to the national wage level and the ratio of the amount contributed to the Health Service from insurance contributions to the amount coming from general taxation. I shall not go into all the arguments against that, because my hon. Friends have already dealt with it. It is a completely false argument. One of my hon. Friends said earlier that, if that argument were correct, it would mean that every time we have an increase in the national wage level there should be an increase in these impositions. Is that what the Government propose to do? is that their intention? If so, they had 1533 better tell us, because that is the consequence of their own logic.
For the Government's argument that there is one particular form of taxation which must always be kept at the same ratio there is no foundation at all. Indeed, at the very time when the Government have been boasting all through the years that other forms of taxation have been decreased, they are arguing that this form of taxation must be sustained.
The principal argument against the whole case about the ratio which the Government have sought to present lies in the fact that, when the Health Service was introduced, although there was a small element of insurance contribution going towards the cost it was certainly the full intention of Aneurin Bevan when he introduced it, as he made plain and as he always argued, that the whole of the cost could be borne out of taxation. That was the principle on which he argued the case in the House. Anyone who studies those debates must realise that, if there was any insurance contribution in it, it had arisen almost by accident.
The whole argument in the House and the country on which Aneurin Bevan built the Health Service was that the whole cost should be borne by taxation. For hon. Members to go back to what happened in 1946 and 1947, and to talk as if there were some principle established then about the ratio to be paid in insurance contributions, is completely to falsify the facts and the argument on which the Health Service was originally founded.
§ Mr. Woodburn
My recollection is that that element of contribution was considered to be a recompense from insurance towards the Health Service for certain of the duties that the Service was taking over from the Insurance Fund.
§ Mr. Foot
Yes, I think that that was the basis. The principal argument about payment for the Health Service turned on whether it should be borne out of taxation or incorporated with the insurance scheme. Aneurin Bevan's whole case was that it should be completely separated from the insurance scheme and it should be a scheme founded on entirely different principles. When hon. Members argue that the old ratio must for some reason or another be sustained, 1534 they merely reveal once again that they do not understand the principles on which the Service was founded.
Why was Aneurin Bevan so insistent that the Health Service, in contradistinction, perhaps, to some of the other social services, should be paid for out of taxation? It was precisely that he wanted to ensure that the priorities should be argued out of Budget time. He wanted people to be able to compare the amounts spent on health with the amounts spent on education or on defence. He wanted them to be able to do in the open the deed which he wished to be done, that is to say, to meet the community's requirements to look after people who are sick and have the thing stand as the very highest priority. He wanted that not only to be done, but to be seen to be done. He was always opposed to getting into this muddle about charges, prescription charges and insurance contributions. He wanted the thing to be plain to the country.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
It was that very issue on which Mr. Bevan resigned in 1951, and it was the official Labour Party which implemented a policy diametrically opposed to what the hon. Member is now stating.
§ Mr. Foot
There have been many arguments as to whether the charges imposed in 1951 marked a departure from the principles of the Health Service. I think that they did mark a departure from those principles. They were, however, when they were introduced, not introduced as permanent charges. It was said that they were to be temporary.
That is where the Minister of Health comes into it. When those original charges were imposed, the Minister of Health welcomed them because, he said, it was a breach in principle with the old Health Service as originally introduced. The Minister of Health therefore welcomed those charges on grounds of principle, as did his right hon. Friend who is now Colonial Secretary.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am in a difficulty. I have reason to believe that tomorrow we might have an opportunity of discussing charges. The Bill, however, is about an increase in contributions. I appreciate the possible relation between the two, but I hope that the House will bear this in mind.
§ Mr. Foot
Yes, Mr. Speaker. I was led away by the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne), who put the question to me, and I thought that it would be discourteous if I did not reply. [Interruption.] We all make mistakes at times and we must be careful in these things.
Hon. Members opposite should not under-rate how strong is the feeling among all hon. Members on this side on this subject. They should not under-rate the fact that we have heard what hon. Members opposite have said, both about stepping up the insurance contributions and about the charges, although I must not argue about them, and about the general principles which they want to see operating in the Service. During these debates, many hon. Members on the Government side have said openly that they want two Health Services. They have said openly that they want to do away with the whole idea of a universal. comprehensive Health Service. We all know that that is what the Minister of Health has been working for. It is because this is the aim of hon. Members opposite, and because they are seeking to dismantle one of the greatest achievements in social legislation that the country has ever seen, that we feel so angry about it and so bitter.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
The hon. Member has said that hon. Members on this side have expressed support for an independent medical service. Does he not agree that the independent medical service that is working within the steelworks in his own constituency, in Ebbw Vale, provides a first-class contribution to the health of the workers in that concern?
§ Mr. Foot
We are all in favour of an industrial health service that has been built up, worked up and established alongside the Health Service. That is very different from what hon. Members opposite have been arguing for. Throughout these debates, they have argued persistently for opting out of the Health Service or having a Service under which, it is said, there are two forms of treatment.
If hon. Members opposite got their way, there would be those who could afford it, who would be able to buy the best service, and others within the existing or remaining Health Service who 1536 would have to be content with an inferior form of service. That is what hon. Members opposite would work for. It is what many of them have advocated during this debate. Only if the whole Service is comprehensive will there be the best treatment for everybody. That is why we argued in favour of that principle when the Service was originally introduced.
Therefore, in the face of all that the Government are doing, this is what I urge upon my hon. Friends on this side of the House. The Labour Party has already made it clear in numerous declarations that it is in favour of—it is committed to—removing all the charges on the Health Service. I hope that in this debate, it will be made clear from the Front Bench on this side that when we get a Labour Government again their deliberate purpose, aim and commitment will be to remove all the insurance contribution element in sustaining the Service. I do not say that it can all be done in one Budget, but at least there should be a declaration that the aim of the Labour Party is to restore a real National Health Service, not only in the sense of removing all the charges but also of ensuring that it is paid for through taxation
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
Last week I was unfortunate in that I was not able to get answers to some of the questions I put to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I think we all remember that there were specific reasons why he was not able to answer, although I am sure that he was fully prepared to do that last Wednesday. Today, after listening to some of the speeches of hon. Members opposite, I am satisfied that on a subject as important as this hon. Members opposite should take greater care in getting their facts right before they make statements about the Bill or about the Service in general.
The hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd), for example, spoke of the cost of the Service as having mounted enormously, because it was only £ 148 million in 1948. It was only when we interrupted him that he admitted that this was an estimate in 1948 and was in no way connected with the actual cost for that year or for the first full year 1537 of the Service, which we know was £ 381 million in 1949–50.
The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) went so far as to say that the cost of the Service in real terms had doubled. He then said that it had almost doubled since we began in 194950, but the truth is that he had not checked his figures. As I pointed out to him, in real terms, whether one takes the gross cost at 1949–50 prices or whether one takes the cost as a percentage of the national product, there has been no such remarkable rise. Everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) said about the Guillebaud Committee is absolutely correct, and any other similar evidence, for the Minister has provided us with some figures which are fairly up to date. They take us up to 1959–60.
We find that there is no evidence of gross extravagance in every part of the Service. There may well be in the drugs service, and I hope to deal with that later. As a percentage of the national product, when Sir Stafford Cripps was Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was 3.8, and it fell for several years. By 1953–54 it was 3.2 per cent. It crept up gradually, and last year it was 3–6 per cent.—less than it was in the first full year.
The Minister of Health told us last week that in his opinion in 1960–61, for which we have no figures, it has reached the same percentage as it did ten years ago. I heard the Financial Secretary admit tonight that the proportion of the national income devoted to the cost of the Service is no greater now than it was in 1949–50. He added that the gross cost is rising.
Let us consider by how much it is really rising from another point of view.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I also said that it is more difficult for any service to maintain its percentage share of the national income at a time when other services, as a matter of deliberate Government policy, are being expanded. It is fair to remember that.
§ Dr. Stross
We will deal with the philosophic aspects of this a little later—if I do not, some of my hon. Friends will—namely, what is the priority we are 1538 to give to the Service, to the health of the nation, to the care of its men, women and children. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that because we need more electricity we must have a different set of priorities and let the poor die first? I am not at all certain that he means that. Knowing him, I am sure that he does not. Yet he had better not say such things, otherwise he will be understood to mean that.
In 1950, the cost of the service was £ 381 million. If we take into account 1949–50 prices, we find that last year, ten years later, the total gross increase in the cost was £ 120 million— an average of £ 12 million a year increase. Is that such a dreadfully frightening figure? To me it does not seem a gross or extravagant increase, especially when we remember that we on these benches have pleaded year after year to successive Ministers of Health to see if they could economise in a particular direction. Every economy that can be made by the Minister will help the Chancellor of the Exchequer. and will certainly help the taxpayer, if it is an economy made by avoiding waste of some kind.
Waste has been mentioned many times today, and it is important to understand it, but before I deal with it, I must say that I cannot understand the argument sometimes put that the contribution at £ 40 million in the first year—1948—represented 25 per cent. of the cost of the service. It has been admitted tonight by the hon. Member for Cheadle—and it is something we know very well—that that was an imaginary notional figure given by officials who were grossly in error.
The only way to estimate the cost of the Service is to consider its first full year. We have been stressing that today. The cost in the first full year was £ 381 million, so that the £ 40 million which came from contributions was about 101 or 11 per cent. Now it is argued that. as it was 25 per cent. in those days, we must make the total £ 160 million. This is quite wrong. The Financial Secretary must accept that that is how his speech will be received on this point. He says that in the ten years past wages have doubled. But if they have doubled, why quadruple the contributions?
If it is possible to save money, the argument will hold that there is no need 1539 to have these contributions inflicted on the people. I am sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will accept that this impost, this poll tax as it stands, bears more harshly on those who are employed than on those who are self-employed. There is a differentiation in these new impositions.
When the Financial Secretary was speaking, 1 could not help 'thinking that people like ourselves, who are self-employed and whose wives tend not to go out to work, are inclined to get an advantage and will be receiving on behalf of our wives, who get a free Health Service, assistance from the men who have to go out to work. That is not a pleasant thought for me or any other hon. Member. I hope that I am not mistaken, but it seems obvious that this is the case, and I will gladly give way if anyone thinks that I am wrong.
Last week, I said that I believed that all people who sold to the Health Service drugs which were patented had a perfect right to protection. Every civilised country feels that there should be reasonable protection for the holders of patents, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Health mint accept that the giving of patents does not mean giving monopolies. There is a great difference between monopoly on the one hand and a right to what every civilised country offers on the other. I was unable to get an answer on that occasion and—
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not quite know what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) is asking for when he says that he did not get an answer on that occasion, and I am not clear how he can be entitled to get an answer now.
§ Dr. Stross
What is running in my mind is that we are facing an imposition, by way of a poll tax through contributions. If I can satisfy the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his right hon. Friend the Minister that there is a clear way of saving money by the avoidance of waste in the Health Service, he may well change his mind and find that he can cut down this increase, or abolish it altogether.
We do not wish to give monopolies, although we do wish to give people their 1540 rights, but has the Minister noted how badly treated we are in certain directions? For example, does the Minister know that a subsidiary of a great American company established in this country with patents on a certain drug sells that drug in France, also under patent, at half the price which we have to pay? If that is true—and I will send him evidence—does he not agree that there is obviously room for saving and the avoidance of waste? This is a serious matter, because we pay double the amount only because we have a Health Service while in France there is more open competition.
Has the Minister studied Sections 37 to 42, and especially Section 41, of the Patents Act, 1949, dealing with the granting of compulsory licences? If the Chancellor had a fragment of these pharmaceutical services under his control, if he thought that the taxpayer was being exploited, he could grant compulsory licences with great ease.
Only one such case has been attempted in the last ten years, and it went to the House of Lords with costs of between £ 50,000 and £ 100,000, so that that procedure is not very good. The Chancellor should consider these things, although I do not know that I have the right to ask him to answer on such an abstruse problem tonight. Perhaps he was involved in the case and advised on it. It occurred in 1954, and it was British Drug Houses and Parke Davis, and it went—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I have given the hon. Member the utmost licence, but what he is now saying is clearly out of order at this point.
§ Dr. Stross
With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I have done my best to show that these impositions by way of a poll tax are unjustified. They are a much greater proportion of what the population as a whole has to find than was the case for many years. In 1957 the Government began to increase the contribution percentage. Before that it stood at between 10 and 11 per cent. of the gross amount. We now find that it is over 25 per cent.
We are divided on the principle of charging people. All hon. Members are somewhat similar in nature when they are born. They have brains, and skulls, and they look much alike. We 1541 each have about 150 billion transistorised cells in our brains, but we are different in this respect. We are fed different data. We grow up with different feelings and emotions, and some people would say with different prejudices. If one took the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health and pressed the appropriate switch and said, "Now tell me please, Mr. Computor, what sort of a service is best for this country?" he would answer, sincerely and automatically, "A dual service. One for the well-to-do, and a second-rate one for those who are not so well off". He would give that answer because of the data fed to him throughout his life. He believes it, but we hate that idea. We are intellectually, emotionally and spiritually opposed to that concept. We will always fight it.
If one asks the right hon. Gentleman other questions, he will answer differently from the way we would. He believes that people should fend for themselves more than they would have to do under a Socialist Government. He does not believe that the Welfare State is an ideal which is worth pursuing. He will help those who come for charity, all of them, and he will help them as generously as he can. He does not go as far as some of his right hon. Friends who have been known to say, "Treat them mean and keep them keen". He does not do that, but to him charity means everything that is objectionable to us.
1542 We say that people should have these things as of right. Hon. Gentlemen opposite think that there is nothing wrong in leaving it to charity.
§ Lord Balniel
The hon. Gentleman has been urging that the system of contributing towards the Health Service should gradually diminish and dwindle until it is no longer a part of financing the Health Service. Surely there has been a complete change of attitude of mind towards the National Assistance Board as compared with the old poor law. People now pay contributions towards the National Assistance Board and get money as of right instead of as a charity.
§ Dr. Stross
I think that the noble Lord should ask some of his constituents about the National Assistance Board. He would then discover their reactions. In any event, I did not say that I wanted to get rid of the contributions entirely. I said that it stood originally at 10 or 11 per cent. of the total sum, and that it stayed like that through 1957. I also showed by evidence that the cost of the Service had not gone up in terms of the real income of this country; in terms of goods and services.
We can never accept the philosophy that has been expounded from the benches opposite. I hope that we shall soon have an opportunity—and perhaps sooner than some people think of taking this issue to the country and seeing what the people think about it.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I did not want to interrupt my hon. Friend in his speech, but I was watching very carefully your reactions to that part of his speech when he started to talk about the drug industry. I have taken advice about this point, and I am advised that to try to catch your eye in order to speak on the high profiteering of American drug companies would be out of order, but it was my understanding also that it would be in order if one could demonstrate that the Government were indulging in thoroughly bad buying and, therefore, wasting the nation's money. I understand that that would be in order.
May I remind you that, a few days ago, I put a Question to the Minister of Health in which I asked him by what authority hospital management committees could make use of that part of the Patents Act which would enable them to purchase patented drugs as Departments of the Crown. The Minister confirmed that they were so enabled under the Patents Act. Is that sort of argument in order, Mr. Speaker?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is difficult to give a precise answer to the hon. Member, for this reason. I do not think he was in the House earlier tonight when I ruled the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Bourne-Arton) out of order on much the same point.
My conception is that this is a Bill which deals with the increasing of contributions on the card. In so far as it is part of the argument of those who support the increase in contributions that it is required by the increased or mounting cost of the Health Service, it is, I think, proper to draw attention, in general terms, to ways in which that cost might be prevented from rising, thereby avoiding the necessity of the increase in contributions. But I think it is a question of degree at what point the amount of detail entered into in developing the argument takes it out of the course of what is related to the increase in the contributions.
That is why I find it difficult to answer in precise sentences the point which the hon. Member raises with me. I hope 1544 the House will have my instinct about it or will understand what I wish to impart.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must apologise if I made a mistake about it. It is very difficult sometimes. One has one's work to do. One must listen with half an ear and try to do justice and help.
§ Mr. W. Hamilton
Related to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, may I put this matter to you? If one argues that the increased cost is inevitable and that it cannot be saved within the Health Service, would it be in order to explore alternative means of raising the money?
§ Mr. Speaker
Again, I think the answer must be one of degree. If the hon. Member wants to investigate that, I will listen to what he has to urge and see where the line comes.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
When I came into the Chamber tonight, I hoped that I should be taking part in a debate, but it seems that hon. Members opposite have abdicated from the argument. I do not know whether the Government's supporters have run out of excuses at this time of night or whether they have just run out of stamina. I rather suspect that the Patronage Secretary has been busy again. Because we are protected by the procedure on this occasion, he is unable to closure the whole debate, but he has been busy putting the closure on one half of it. We are therefore confronted by the guilty silence of hon. Members opposite. I only wish that some film company would come and make a film of that.
I did have the privilege of listening to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury—the F.S.T. as I understand he is now commonly called. As my hon. and right hon. Friends have pointed out, it is a very revealing fact that we should have opening this debate a Treasury 1545 Minister. It is clear, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) said, that we are tonight discussing a Treasury Bill. What we are discussing tonight is an instalment of the Budget. It is an indication of the attitude which we are now to face from the benches opposite throughout the remainder of their administration. We shall get our Budgets in instalments so that we shall be able to destroy in the public mind any picture of the social and other priorities which the Government will be carrying into effect.
The purpose of this new method of conducting our budgetary debates will be to prevent the people from understanding the new principles of taxation which are now coming into effect. The Financial Secretary was good enough to spell out in explicit detail in his speech tonight the new principles in which the Government believe and which they will increasingly put into operation.
When the National Health Service was being planned, when it was being talked about in the war years, even the Coalition Government's White Paper of 1944 put before us an ideal very different from that to be operated under the financial system that we are being asked to introduce tonight. Make no mistake about it. Tonight, we are making a definite breach in the concept of the National Health Service as visualised even by the Coalition Government during the war. The Coalition Government White Paper said that the purpose of a National Health Service wasto divorce the care of health from questions of personal means or other factors irrelevant to it.The only way of doing that is to finance such a health service out of the general resources of the nation.
It is clear why even the Conservative members of the Coalition Government in 1944 had to put forward that principle and philosophy. We were fighting a war. We were one nation then. We had to be one nation, or we should not have won the war. It was essential to inspire and uplift the troops under fire and their womenfolk working and suffering their anxieties at home by the promise that when the war was over we would break with the old Conservative philosophy and the old Conservative economic principles and move forward 1546 into the new type of world for which we as Socialists had been fighting for so long. That is why, at that time, the Conservative wolf put on the lamb's clothing of Labour philosophy.
Tonight, that whole attitude and principle has been abandoned and changed. A different type of argument is being developed by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on behalf of the Government. First, he told us that the gross cost of the Health Service was rising. He omitted incidentally to point out, as the Observer pointed out the other day, that 70 per cent. of the increase in the cost of the National Health Service under a Conservative Administration has been due to the fall in the value of the £ owing to the Government's total failure to prevent inflation. Therefore, the increasing cost is a sign, not of the social success of the Government, but of their economic failure.
Nor did the Financial Secretary point out that this great new spurt of capital expenditure on the hospital services which the Government are calling in aid to justify the Bill tonight is merely a belated attempt to make up the gap in capital expenditure on the hospital services which occurred as a result of their economy drive during the past few years. This is merely an advance in relation to the stagnation which we have had in the hospital services while the Government have been messing about with the economy and bring it to a sad state.
But, having said that the gross cost of the Health Service was rising, what was the conclusion that the Government spokesman drew from it? He did not say to us, "The gross cost of the Service is rising. We must have cuts in the Service." Even this Government dare not politically sit back and see the Health Service shrink to vanishing point. This is the answer to the hon. Member opposite who interrupted one of my hon. Friends and said, "If you did not get the money in this way, how much taxation would you be prepared to levy in order to get it?"
The assumption behind that argument is that this Measure somehow or other magically reduces the gross cost of the Health Service, but it does nothing of the sort. We are not discussing the gross 1547 cost tonight or expenditure on the Service. We are discussing one simple question: who shall bear the burden of that cost and how shall we distribute the onus of meeting that expenditure? That is why the Financial Secretary then moved on to the main point of his answer—that because that gross cost is rising the Government must fix a limit to what, as he put it, "the general taxpayer can be expected to bear".
I have listened to this argument deployed at various stages in debates on the Health Service in the last few days and I want a simple answer to a simple question: when is a taxpayer not a taxpayer? What is the moral and philosophic difference between a general taxpayer and a contributor? They are both taxpayers. They both contribute towards the cost, which is not in argument tonight, of the Health Service. Indeed, they are all citizens of the country, merely different manifestations of that citizenship. They are all entitled to have the same sort of principles applied to them.
The words of Shylock in the "The Merchant of Venice" came to my mind when I was listening to the debate tonight. I should have thought that the contributors, who out of their pockets are meeting the cost of the Service, might be tempted to paraphrase Shylock and say:Hath not a contributor eyes? Hath not a contributor hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections. passions?. Hurt with the same weapons. subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means?. If you prick us, do we not bleed? … if you poison us. do we not die?and I might add Shylock's ominous words:and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?I ask the Government when we are examining their new philosophy tonight to tell me what in a Conservative's eyes makes one tax good and another tax bad.
§ Mr. C. Osborne
Would the hon. Lady allow me? Could I ask her what is the difference between what this Government is proposing and what the Leader of the Opposition did in 1951—an act which caused the late Aneurin Bevan to leave his Government? What is the difference?
§ Mr. S. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. While you were otherwise engaged just now, did you bear that interruption? The hon. 1548 Member has asked about something which my right hon. Friend did in 1951. The hon. Member has previously been told that what was done in 1951 concerned charges. What we are discussing tonight is contributions.
§ Mr. Speaker
I owe an apology to the House. In order that no injustice should be done, I was, in fact, explaining to my deputy about an alleged monopoly in the drug industry, and so forth. I cannot do more than certain things at once, and I fear that I did not hear that exchange.
§ Mr. Osborne
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, if I put you in any difficulty; but the hon. Lady quotes from Shakespeare of 1603, so surely I am entitled to go back to 1951.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member for Louth was inviting my hon. Friend to deal with an argument relating to charges imposed in 1951 when what we are discussing tonight is increased contributions. What I submit, Mr. Speaker, is that the question was out of order because my hon. Friend could not give an answer and keep within the rules of order.
§ Mr. Speaker
Whether questions are in order or not is something very much in my mind. I think it was an invitation to the hon. Lady which she would be well advised not to accept.
§ Mrs. Castle
It is totally unnecessary for me to accept it, Mr. Speaker, because that point has been thoroughly and effectively answered tonight; and only a few minutes ago my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), who is particularly well qualified to speak on this subject, gave an answer. The fact is that the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) has revealed the total mental muddle in which hon. Members opposite find themselves when he shows that he does not realise what we are discussing tonight is the transfer of taxation from one set of shoulders to another. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale made perfectly clear in his speech, at no stage in the initiation of the National Health Service by Aneurin Bevan was it contemplated that the insurance contribution should play any part in the financing it.
§ Mrs. Castle
It had nothing to do with insurance contributions. If the hon. Member opposite knew his facts better he would not make such interruptions; but the purpose, of course, is merely to distract attention from the main question which I am asking tonight, namely, what in Tory eyes makes one tax good and another tax bad. I defy anybody who has listened to this debate or who has read this Bill with a clear mind to say the answer is anything but that, to a Conservative, a tax is good if it hits the working class hardest. That is the basic philosophic assumption of hon. Members opposite. Let them deny it.
§ Mrs. Castle
He did not resign on the insurance principle. Let the hon. Member go into the Library and look it up.
It was clearly revealed by the Financial Secretary—I took down his most revealing remarks—when he said that ordinary working-class families have advanced their living standards more in the past decade than in any time previously. That was the reason for this tax. Our answer to that is, "What is wrong with that?". What is wrong with ordinary working-class families having steadily advanced their standards during a decade of generally rising national standards? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] I do not deny for a moment that the country's national standards are going up.
The real fight between us is who is to get what share of that rising standard. The whole fight which the Tories have launched is to make sure that ordinary working-class families no longer continue to enjoy their share of the rising national standards. It is the distribution of the cake about which we are arguing. I do not deny that there is a bit more icing on it. Even this inefficient Government could not avoid that in the conditions of the technological age in which we now live. What is wrong with the statement which the Financial Secretary made with such a flourish—that ordinary working-class families have advanced their standards in the past decade? That is the whole purpose of the Welfare State.
The whole purpose of the Welfare State is that it is redistributive. That 1550 is why the Tories hate the Welfare State. That is why they are destroying it—for the simple reason that it is redistributive. They want such a large share of the national cake that their friends will get financial indigestion from their gluttony. The purpose of the Bill is to stop the advance in working-class standards which has been taking place.
That is why those whom the community, sitting in objective assessment of the financial situation of every family, has decided can afford to pay most Income Tax must now be relieved by the fact that those who cannot afford to pay Income Tax will in future pay an increased poll tax. That is the real tax purpose behind the Bill. Even if one is judged by the taxation valuation experts to be too poor to pay Income Tax, in future one must pay an increased poll tax.
This was the second give-away of the Financial Secretary. He put this forward as another argument in favour of the Bill. He said that progressive direct taxation contributed a greater share of the national revenue today than it did in 1951. So it should. I thought that the common aim of all civilised people was to accept the principle that those with the greatest capacity to pay should pay most. It is clear from the Bill that the first aim of the Conservative Administration is to check that process whereby progressive direct taxation contributes more to the national revenue and, having checked it, then to reverse it.
So we are moving into a situation in which the Government operates two types of direct taxation. With the first, the needs of the citizen are taken into account—whether he is a family man and has dependants and legitimate expenses, whether he has a small or large income, and so on. The second type of direct taxation not only ignores those factors, but actually operates on the principle that the greater the need, the heavier the tax should relatively be.
The second new tax principle involved in the Bill was expressed, again, by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury w hen he said, "We are perfectly entitled to increase this poll tax, because average earnings have gone up, therefore the poll tax must go up". But this is the very 1551 opposite principle to that which the Government apply to progressive direct taxation, because the whole purpose of increasing the poll tax is to enable the Government to reduce progressive direct taxation. This is at a time when all incomes in the country have risen. It is not just average working-class earnings which have risen. All incomes have risen. Indeed, the higher we go in the social scale, the bigger the increases which have taken place in incomes.
The Government are saying that the poll tax must rise with earnings, but that progressive direct taxation must fall with the rise in incomes. If it is sound for one type of tax to rise because earnings have risen, then it is sound for all taxes to rise when incomes have risen. Yet here the process is reversed by the Government, for the simple reason that the Government believe that the smaller incomes should shrink and the larger incomes should expand.
Behind the Bill is a deeply rooted philosophical belief held by the Conservative Party that they can run their sort of society only by widening the gap between rich and poor. They believe in widening the gap between rich and poor by using these new principles of taxation and these new types of assessment which they are applying to the taxes which we have to pay.
This principle of widening the gap is being linked with, of all things, the operation of the National Health Service. Yet if anything is true, it is that, relatively speaking, the middle class of this country have done better out of the National Health Service than has any other section of the community. Mr. Francis Boyd put the matter well in the Guardian in a vivid piece of writing yesterday, in which he wrote:It is an illusion to suppose that a handful of middle and upper-class taxpayers keep the poor people in drugs or in school places.Yet the Bill is based on a principle that the less-well-to-do sections of the community are to pay an increased tax in order to meet the cost of hospital beds used by and the prescriptions obtained by middle-class patients. No one can deny this about the cost of the National Health Service. Any doctor will agree that it is the middle-class patient who 1552 goes into his surgery and demands the latest and most expensive prescriptions and drugs.
§ Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip-Northwood)
I am interested in the hon. Lady's argument. Let us take a typical working-class lorry driver, with a wife and two children, who is earning, say, £ 800 to £ 1,000 a year. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is enough."] One of them who towed me home the other night told me that he was making £ 1,200 a year. Taking a working-class fellow with a wife and two children on those terms, what would the hon. Lady say that he would on the average probably have to pay extra in a year because of these charges? That is where one has to look and where the real hardship lies.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
Would it not be true to say that if a lorry driver were earning £ 1,000 a year he must be breaking the law by working hours he ought not to be working?
§ Mrs. Castle
Let us allow the hon. Gentleman opposite such mythical illustrations if they make him feel better.
Such a question and other questions from hon. Gentlemen opposite reveal that they have not begun to grasp what the Bill means. It does not make any difference from this point of view what the man is paying in increased contributions. The point is that money has to be found. Clearly, the lorry driver should pay his share, but the point is the form in which he should pay his share—in a modern form of taxation which all objective tax experts agree is the only just and sensible form of taxation, one which is related to a careful assessment of need and ability to pay, or a poll tax. The £ 20-a-week lorry driver, if he exists, might be unfairly benefiting under this legislation; it might be that he ought to be paying more in Income Tax rather than the increased contribution under the Bill. The point is that we are judging between the relative merits of a poll tax or progressive, scientific taxation.
§ Mr. John C. Bidgood (Bury and Radcliffe)
The hon. Lady has made great play about the middle class. Will she explain to the House what she means by "middle class"?
§ Mrs. Castle
I will leave the hon. Gentleman to clutch that sense of 1553 superiority to his own bosom. Such social concepts as these are used by hon. Gentlemen opposite when it suits their purpose to imply that one section of the community, the middle class, is somehow or another financing the extravagances of the working class under the National Health Service. The middle class has enormously benefited from the Service. I am jolly glad it has. They are some of the people it was introduced to help. We do not want them to be in the position of the middle class in the United States, under whose system of society even the middle class can be ruined and made bankrupt by illness.
My hon. Friends and I stand for "one nation, one community", not for these sectional differences, which is the opposite of the principle behind the Service. The principle behind the Service is that we do not stop to think of the class to which a sick person belongs. We do not care whether the person is a duke, a duchess or a dustman. We believe that the Service knits us all together in a community of interest, and that it is of great interest to the community that when any of its citizens fall ill and need the best expert help, they should be able to get it and be brought back into economic circulation and relieved of their anxieties. I am willing to pay my share towards that for any section of the community.
But this is our concept: it is not the concept of the Tory Party. It is they who try to set one class against another. It is they who all the time are subdividing and pigeon-holing the community. It is they who ask: "I wonder if Mr. Jones is getting 2d. more than Mr. Smith in the next street "even though Mr. Smith may get 2d. more than Mr. Jones next week. They are the ones who appeal to our worst instincts by asking:" Do you think the man down the road is getting something you are not." It is that kind of petty division of our national entity which will ruin the ability of this country to tackle its post-war problems.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite know perfectly well that if we had tried to fight and win the war on that mentality we would have been defeated. It was national solidarity which brought us through the war, and that is why it was 1554 no accident that in 1944 the Coalition Government paid lip-service to the great unifying principle of the National Health Service. It is only on this unified basis that we can narrow the differences between rich and poor and provide a common foundation on which we can all meet our responsibilities as citizens.
It is this great principle which we are fighting for tonight, and against the introduction of a new principle, one which the Government would not have dared to introduce during the war. [HON. MEMBERS: Or during the election.] Yes, but they know or hope and believe they have sufficiently corrupted the national conscience as a result of their insidious introduction of the principles of selfishness to turn us once more into a morally primitive society. They are doing this at the very moment when the United States is beginning to discover a social conscience which this Government is trying to stifle. So we face the possibility that we shall be not only outstripped by the United States in economic capacity but in social standards as well if this Government are allowed to remain in office. The issue tonight is this fundamental principle of the sort of society we want to build.
§ 11.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
I follow the speeches of my hon. Friends with a good deal of diffidence for, with their differing personalities, they have presented such a complete case. We have heard three speeches which were an absolute and complete antithesis of the speech of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. He was trying to blur over the edges and to say that there was no difference between the two sides of the House, and that we differ in degree, but not in principle. But what has happened in the debate is that the gap between the order lines, has become a huge chasm, to show quite clearly vast and fundamental differences of approach, thought and philosophy about this Bill.
We have before us one of a series of Measures designed to make vital and fundamental changes in the basis of our Health Service. I loathe and detest the lot. I am rising tonight to speak on one section of those Measures and to protest against this poll tax of 1s.—10d. for the worker—that is to be imposed.
1555 My hon. Friends have said that it is fair that this debate should be piloted by the Treasury. This is the dead hand of the Treasury at work, and, like many of my hon. Friends, I deplore the fact that the Minister of Health, instead of fighting for his Department, seems only too willing to fall in with the idea of this imposition of £ 50 million falling mainly on working people.
Perhaps some hon. Gentlemen have been surprised at the strength of feeling on this side of the House. They would be even more surprised if they knew the strength of feeling in the country on this issue. Last Thursday, in the middle of our debate. I received a green card and then met some of my constituents with 200 signatures from workers in my area protesting against this poll tax. I understand that more are to be presented to me tomorrow.
Workers in industry are concerned about this attack on what the Financial Secretary so rightly called fringe benefits. Once one starts to impose a weekly contribution, it has an immediate effect on the pay packets of the workers and they naturally feel extremely aggrieved. There has been a complete lack of understanding by hon. Gentlemen of the way in which the ordinary worker views this kind of thing. There is nobody who is more generous than the man in the workshop. If somebody suffers some misfortune, the hat goes round within five minutes. If somebody leaves, someone goes round with a list for subscriptions. But in the midst of an affluent society the Government have come round with the begging bowl for 10d. a week, and the workers naturally resent this. Most of my hon. Friends have already expressed some measure of that resentment. There is a vital difference of principle between the two sides of the House.
The Government are trying to raise £ 50 million. One of the reasons given for raising that money is that for the first time in history a Conservative Minister has been converted to the principle of planning. He wants to institute planning in one-third of the Health Service. His hospital planning capital programme will cost an extra £ 5 million a year for the next ten years. By the Bill he will raise £ 50 million in the first year. That is enough to cover the total 1556 sum required. Will he make sure that next year some is remitted? Will he rescind this poll tax? I rather suspect that once the charge is imposed there will be only one direction in which it will move—upwards, and ever upwards.
During the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), one hon. Gentleman raised a point about the incidence of this tax on different sections of the community. May I look at it from the point of view of one section of the community—the general practitioners—and consider it in relation to their incomes? Under the Bill they fall into the category of self-employed persons. They will pay seven guineas a year, which is more or less equivalent to what they pay to the British Medical Association by way of subscriptions.
It has been said that the average income in industry is £ 14 10s., but in fact the average wage is about £ 10 or £ 11, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke on Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) pointed out. The worker has to find a sum of £ 2 3s. 4d. annually from it.
What does the general practitioner pay it from? Before the Pilkington award, the average general practitioner had a net income of £ 2,485, and the Pilkington award raises that. His gross income is about £ 3,700 or £ 3,800, because the difference between his net and gross pays for his car, for his gardener, if he wants some flowers in his waiting room, for part of his laundry—the white coat he wears—and so on. There is a vast difference in the way this poll tax falls on the one section of the community and on the other. I should be the last to belittle or deride the work of the general practitioner. I do not for a moment suggest that he does not earn every penny he receives, but why should there be this discrepancy between the man earning £ 50 a week and the man earning £ 10 a week?
Hon. Members opposite have talked a good deal about the need to extend the hospital part of the Health Service. I was interested to see the recent figures of the amount spent in the last three years. I put a Question to the Minister about it. We find that we are under-spending on our Estimates. The figures for 1958, 1959 and 1960 show that expenditure was £ 17 million, £ 19 million 1557 and £ 20 million, and yet we have heard a lot from hon. Gentlemen on the other side about £ 50 million a year for hospital planning.
I submit that the amount is out of all proportion to the tasks in hand. The Bill is being introduced not because there is an urgent or sudden need for Health Service expenditure to be reduced or for contributions to be raised. It is an ideological approach. Why is it that, when the Government or the Treasury look round for some money, the first thing that they do is to attack the Health Service?
Hon. Members opposite have spoken of their philosophy in looking forward to a society of sturdy independence. It is notable that Tory philosophy always seems to relate itself to some kind of cash nexus, and they believe for some reason or other that it makes a man far more sturdy if he has to pay an extra 1s. as a poll tax contribution. The sturdy independence falls heavily on the old. The old-age pensioners have to be sturdily independent through the whole winter while their promised extra 7s. 6d. comes just before the municipal elections next month.
I join with hon. Members opposite who urge that we should explain to our constituents that the old and people who are in need can recover expenses under the National Health Service by going to the National Assistance Board. But the pride of ordinary people on the borderline is sufficient to deter them. This is a poll tax which will lead to continual discontent. There will be a continuous campaign in industry and in areas like my own where there are many factories. I am already being subjected to a barrage of letters about it.
The hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) said that, in spite of what they were doing, the Tories had a social philosophy and they did care. What it all boiled down to was that, if someone was absolutely dropping at the wayside, they, rather like the squire giving out jelly to the poor man at the gate, would step in to help. That is the approach.
When, however, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn said, it comes to taking the attitude that when people in the community are suffering, are in distress, have any anxiety or are sick, those 1558 who are well should be prepared to contribute, it seems that hon. Members opposite have no perception of anything of this kind. They look forward to a grand free-for-all, to the law of the jungle, with the idea that those at the bottom end of the scale may receive charity to save them from the worst consequences of the policies that are put forward.
Throughout the debate, a great deal has been said about the inception of the Service. What a glorious adventure it was. We started out into the unknown only three years after the war without any knowledge of the results that would accrue from it and after the bitter opposition of the British Medical Association, led by its then secretary. We reached the situation when we faced the costs based on the Spens Report, which looked back to find what were the doctors' earnings in 1939. We were having a big flow-back from the Armed Forces. The whole economic situation was in a gigantic state of flux.
It was during that period that the foundation was laid for this marvellous Service. During that period, we were able to go forward with this great Service in spite of all the difficulties. The hon. Member for Cheadle gave us his concept of the health services in Mexico and France. I assure him that our Health Service, for which these increased contributions are now being asked, is second to none in the whole world,
The hon. Member for Carlisle (Dr. D. Johnson) sought to lead us into pastures new by comparing the National Health Service with the Australian and New Zealand services. The only assumption I can make is that he will oppose the Bill, because he prefers those systems. From my knowledge of the services in those countries and of general practitioners I have met who have worked there, I assure the hon. Member that no G.P. who has worked under our Health Service and under the Australian service has any doubt where the consideration for the patient is highest and where a doctor is able to give the greatest quality of clinical service and do what he calls "good medicine."
I was surprised that the hon. Member for Carlisle somehow sought to get in a side swipe at teen-agers. The teen-agers in industry will be asked, irrespective of age, to contribute according to the 1559 scale specified in the First Schedule to the Bill. They will pay their contribution as much as anybody else. The hon. Member was less than fair to these youngsters, who have an important part to play in the community.
I have said that the Minister of Health is a late convert to planning. I have been conscious of this, because in my constituency I have an important bastion of the Federation of British Industries. One powerful gentleman, Sir Hugh Beaver, who was chairman of Guinness's in my area, has recently come out strongly in favour of planning. If this form continues, I suspect that in the same way as throughout this debate hon. Members opposite have almost claimed credit for introducing a service to which they were opposed tooth and nail, in five years' time Harold Wilson's four-year plan will be claimed as a Tory invention.
To ascertain how much hon. Members on the Government appreciate the Health Service, I have looked through the record and find that since 1951 they have had 52 commissions, working parties and reports. It will surprise hon. Members to know how many times the House has condescended to discuss these reports. Since 1951, apart from Adjournment debates, there have been only sixteen debates in the House on the National Health Service, the service which hon. Members opposite claim they are anxious to sustain and improve. We have had four Supply, six Supplementary Estimate and six Ways and Means debates on the Health Service since 1951.
Is this the kind of record that gives us confidence that the Minister will only do this temporarily in order to build greater and better things? As has been demonstrated from the Front Bench opposite, this Bill has nothing to do with health or the Health Service. It is a sheer Treasury manoeuvre and a means of taxation. A good deal of the debate has concerned itself with that problem.
I remind the Financial Secretary when he gives us enormous figures and tries to frighten us with noughts that we are all grown men. That remark is not original. I take it from Professor Jewkes who made it when a Treasury official was trying to tell the Royal Commission on the Remuneration of Doctors and 1560 Dentists how we should have an economic crisis if the doctors and dentists pressed their claim. Professor Jewkes put matters in perspective, just as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, did tonight with the national figures which he quoted.
We on this side of the House see this matter in perspective. We say that if it is worthwhile increasing our production and making it such that it will compete with that of the Continent and if it is worthwhile making sure that people are kept at work, it is worth having a National Health Service which is worthy of that intention. I submit that the Financial Secretary in his speech was pleading for some kind of redeployment. He said that because we were attempting to give children in rural areas the right kind of schools which would bring them up to the standards already available in towns, this should be paid for in some way by means of this Bill. I could not follow that argument.
In 1951, one of the first things done by the Tory Government was to issue Circular 301, which cut the school building programme. We see a constant erosion of the social services by Tory Governments. We feel this matter deeply. We are not exaggerating the present attack. We realise that a considerable amount of the Health Service structure will still remain, but we fear that the rats are gnawing at its foundations.
Brigadier Terence Clark (Portsmouth, West)
On a point of order. Are we not allowed to have a word said from this side of the House?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
I did not see any hon. Member stand up on that side of the House. Mr. Ellis Smith.
§ 11.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
The Bill is a further instalment of the Government's deliberate policy of discouraging production and discouraging exports, putting further burdens on the shoulders of the working class and repudiating promises made by all political parties, promises for which we all fought with our very lives in the last war I have lived to see for the second time in my life the 1561 day when our people have poured out their blood and given their lives and their treasure to save this land and now for the second time we are seeing a Government repudiate the promises made while all that was going on.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
On a point of order. Would you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, ask hon. Members who stand at the Bar or who ought to be in the bar to be quiet?
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Further to that point of order. It is very difficult when those who are not in the House are carrying on conversations which can be heard by those who are in the House.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I have now made four definite statements, and I shall proceed to provide the evidence of the accuracy of those statements. This National Health Service, which when it was introduced had the admiration of the whole world—of the Soviet Union, China, America, India, and so on—grew out of the war years. We all thought that from the promises of those years we should co-operate together and make this service something better, as we went along, than it was when it was first introduced.
Those of us who belong to the class which built up our party, and who have never got away from what we were taught by some friends who were tutors in the educational organisations, and who conducted classes at the trade union conferences, remember some of the ideas given to us. Those ideas are now being put forward on the benches. I am very pleased to see that, as a result of the traditional classic policy of the Conservatives in attacking the working class, this party is again beginning to unite so that it can present a united front to the people of this country.
If we really do that, and really believe in what we are saying, then I have sufficient confidence in our people to say that it is only a matter of time before they will return us in overwhelming numbers with instructions to carry out our duty; and that is to make this service again what it was intended 1562 to be and to what the people are entitled. This service was based on the Beveridge Report, published in 1943. On behalf of our party, and in spite of some people who were vacillating and quibbling over it, our party seized the idea with both hands; and in spite of the fact that we were involved in the war—
§ Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to raise with you a point of order which arises from the sitting of a Committee upstairs. This Committee has been sitting since 10.30 a.m. on the Post Office Bill. At six minutes past one o'clock, this Committee purported to pass a resolution that it should meet again at four o'clock this afternoon. The Committee has, in fact, sat since four o'clock, apart from a short break for dinner.
At the same time, this debate has been going on, a debate which is of vital concern to all of us. I represent a constituency which you know very well, Mr. Speaker, where the electorate comprises 50,000 hard-working Tyne-siders. They are strongly opposed to the increase in the Health Service charges, but those people are disfranchised. Hon. Members who are serving on the Committee upstairs are trying to do twice their normal work. They cannot be there and in this Chamber at the same time. [Laughter.] If hon. Members opposite think that is funny, I would remind them that it is their Postmaster-General who denies us the right of being here to discuss this vital matter of the Health Service charges. If they think that is a laughing matter, we jolly well do not.
I should like to raise two points. First, the validity of this Motion which was purported to have been passed at six minutes past one o'clock. I will explain that in more detail. The Closure was moved at two minutes to one.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is quite clear that I am powerless in this Chair to help the hon. Member about something which happened in Committee. In that sense I cannot help him.
§ Mr. Short
I agree that this is similar to the incident which occurred last week, but this is a Committee, which was supposed to end its sitting at one 1563 o'clock, passing a Motion at six minutes past one.
Secondly, what redress have we against the Government when they force us to be away from this debate today? Incidentally, my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) is a member of that Committee, but he cannot be upstairs to give us his assistance because he has to be here to assist the Opposition from the Front Bench. I look to you, Mr. Speaker, as the protector of back benches and the rights of hon. Members, and ask for your protection. We ask you now to give some direction to this Committee to adjourn in order to allow hon. Members to be present in this debate.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am very sorry. I will think about all the hon. Member has said in due course, but as at present advised I do not know how in the course of this debate I can 'help him about something which has happened or is alleged to have happened in Committee.
§ Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
Further to that point of order. With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I think this is a matter which affects the proceedings in the Chamber. My constituents are deeply concerned about the matter being discussed here, as I am, and I have been down to the Chamber several times to see whether I could catch your eye, but I have always found several hon. Members on their feet and I have had to return to the Committee. I have been informed that during my absence from the Chamber a Minister gave an answer to a question of mine and intimated that he thought that I should have been here.
I do not see how one can split oneself into two parts in order to be present here, as one wants, and in the Committee upstairs. There are several other hon. Members upstairs who want to know what they can do. We have been forced to return to the Committee this afternoon because the Postmaster-General saw fit to fix the time of the Committee's meeting at the same time as the House was sitting. On behalf of all hon. Members in that Committee, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether there is not some way in which we can be protected against that type of action by the Government.
§ Mr. Speaker
I will consider with great care what hon. Members are submitting, but my impression at the moment is that I can do nothing here in the Chair of the House which can assist them about proceedings in Committee at the moment.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
Further to that point of order. Is it not the case that the action of the Government in going on with this Committee is affecting the debate under you in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, because there are hon. Members who are deprived of the opportunity of coming here either to speak or to listen to the debate? Does not that have the effect that unless you take some action, Members are being kept from the Chamber at this moment in this debate over which you are presiding? I therefore respectfully suggest that you have a direct concern in the matter.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
Further to that point of order. We suffered the other night, and a matter was referred to you later on, through the absence of the Leader of the House. I see the Leader of the House again hovering behind the Chair, and it may be that there will again be grave disorder which the right hon. Gentleman will be unable to quell. Standing Orders allow Chairmen of Committees very little power, and it is very difficult to know what a Chairman of a Committee upstairs can do if there is any trouble or disorder. I am sure that you will address your mind to that, Mr. Speaker, because a most unfortunate situation may arise. It is ridiculous that the Committee upstairs should be compelled to go on dealing with what is a rather routine Bill, touching no matters of direct party controversy, when hon. Members are thus debarred from being in their places here. I ask you. Sir, to try to protect the minority. If I may address the Government Front Bench, they will get themselves in a mess again—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. One thing the hon. Member cannot do is to address the Government Front Bench at this moment, although no doubt they heard him.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have been trying to refer to the authority available to me while receiving the advice of hon. 1565 Members. I am afraid that I still adhere to the opinion that there is nothing that I can do here and now in the Chair to assist hon. Members in this situation. That does not mean that I have not great personal sympathy with hon. Members in their being bifurcated or trifurcated, or whatever the right term is to describe their misfortune, but I do not think that it lies in my power here and now to help them.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
Further to that point of order. Is it in order to ask for leave to report Progress on the ground that we should ask the Leader of the House to come into the Chamber and assist us? He could advise the Minister in charge of the Committee that the Committee should adjourn. I understand that the Leader of the House is at the back of your Chair, Mr. Speaker, or just outside the door. If he were to come into the Chamber we could ask him to listen to our submissions and, having listened to them, to assist us in our difficulty. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear."] Now that the Leader of the House has entered the Chamber, may I ask leave to report Progress in order to seek his help and guidance on this very important point which has been raised by several hon. Members in his absence? He is not aware of the position—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member addressed a point of order to me. I should point out that there appears to be a fundamental objection to seeking to report Progress when we are not in Committee.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
On a point of order. I have heard through mysterious ways of what is going on. Hearing that there was anxiety because the Committee was sitting, I have made contact with the Committee to see whether it need continue its labours. We are discussing a most important subject in the House—a subject of great humanity—and if hon. Members' attention to their duties is being distracted by the fact that the Committee is sitting, it is a pity. It would also be a pity to interrupt the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), which he was making and which we want him to go on making. I cannot give a definite answer because my messenger has not yet, 1566 I think, reached the Committee, but I should like to feel that the Committee could reach an agreement to finish its duties next Wednesday, and if that were so, I think it would be reasonable that we should ask it to adjourn and to continue with the debate later.
Mr. Speaker, this think is entirely ex gratia. I do not see that constitutionally I have any power in the matter. It is simply that I have tried to exert my influence.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
I am sure that we are all delighted to see the Leader of the House and hope that he will stay. I agree with him that this is a very important debate, and I am sure that we ought all to be listening to it.
I was a little disappointed in the last remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, however. As I understood it, he thought it was quite wrong that there should be a Standing Committee sitting and that he had sent a messenger up to inquire, and he certainly gave us the impression that there was more or less an instruction that the Committee should adjourn immediately. But, at the end of his remarks, he said that this was subject to the Committee concluding its business by next Wednesday.
In other words, this is a sort of threat to the Opposition in the Committee, a few brave men carrying on under conditions of great difficulty, which is, I am sure, quite the wrong way of handling this matter. Threats of that kind can only put the members of the Committee in an even more difficult position, because, obviously they would not want to give way to threats. I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his attitude and recognise that it is quite wrong that there should be hon. Members of the House speaking in a Committee upstairs when they ought to be down here. I hope he will send another messenger to the Committee with clearer instructions.
§ Mr. Butler
If I may still rise to that point of order, there was no question of a threat. This is entirely an ex gratia intervention because constitutionally there is no objection to there being two bodies of the House, one sitting upstairs and one downstairs, and I do not want to start a new constitutional innovation by 1567 saying that it is impossible for the Committee to sit upstairs. I hope that it may care to terminate its labours at a not too distant date, but I cannot enforce that. So there is no threat whatever involved in my remarks, and I will leave my messenger to perform his benign duty and hope that the House will continue with this important Bill.
§ Sir B. Janner
Perhaps I may be allowed to say, as one of those concerned, that I have been down here on a number of occasions. Indeed, I have been described as being like a pendulum, swinging from one place to another. I do not know whether the Leader of the House appreciates the difficulty we are in. He is now saying that he has sent a messenger—my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) is right—with a half-baked message to tell the Committee that if it agrees to finish the proceedings—
§ Mr. Butler
I did not wish to give that impression. There was no mandatory instruction in my approach to the benign messenger whom I appointed. It was simply a pious hope that the end of the Committee's labours might be in sight, in the same way that I hope that the end of our labours might one day be in sight. I honestly ask the House to accept my intervention in the spirit in which I made it because, as Mr. Speaker would agree, it is not constitutionally impossible for a Committee to sit while the House is sitting. I am simply trying to meet the mood of the House, which wishes to concentrate on this Bill. It would be unreasonable if the spirit in which I make this intervention were not appreciated and if the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) were not allowed to proceed.
§ Mr. Short
As the hon. Member who raised this matter, perhaps I may say that I am not quite sure what the Leader of the House means. I am not sure whether he means anything at all, but I will undertake to come and report to you, Mr. Speaker, before midnight whether or not the Committee has adjourned. I would tell the Leader of the House that the cause of this trouble is precisely the same as the cause of the trouble in the House last week—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am afraid that in two ex gratia interventions and otherwise we are liable to become disordered. I take the hon. Gentleman's point, and I am obliged to him. I think we should not further interrupt this debate.
§ Sir B. Janner
With greatest respect, may I make one point, Mr. Speaker? As I understand it, this is an ex gratia concession. I am obliged for it. May I take it that I may now go up to the Committee and tell hon. Members—
§ Mr. Speaker
No. Our discussions will become completely disorderly unless we remember where we are. I invited the hon. Gentleman to rise to a point of order. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) also desires to rise.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Would it be in order for the Leader of the House to tell us when his messenger comes back what the result has been?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am under this duty. I have to protect hon. Gentlemen addressing the House in the debate who are considerably interrupted at this moment. I will consider in due course, when an opportunity arises, whether any ex gratia intervention might be deemed to be in order, although it is out of order.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
This has worked out all right for me, because the Leader of the House who is now leaving the Chamber is better informed on my point than anyone else. He has several duties to perform and, therefore, we do not complain.
The point I was making was that the National Health Service, which won the admiration of the whole world when it was introduced, was based on the Beveridge Report. When the Report was introduced in the House all political parties agreed to co-operate in its implementation. General Alexander informed us in late 1944 that the Beveridge Report had made a greater impact on the Forces than any other single thing done during the war. He reported that it lifted up the morale of the troops just when it was needed. We in this House tried to be worthy of the troops. In 1948, when that giant of the working classes, the late Aneurin Bevan, implemented the Report, every hon. Gentleman and every 1569 individual member of the trade union Co-operative and Labour movement was proud of the work done here. Slowly but surely we have seen it undermined until now we are presented with a Bill of this character. When I was very young there were two songs sung.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
The chorus of one of them went something like this:If health was a thing that money could buy The rich would live and the poor would die.The people have come away from that and taught us that the National Health Service is a thing to be built upon and improved, and not undermined as is being done today.
The chorus of the other song went like this:Rattle his hones over the stones;He's only a pauper whom nobody owns.Because of our efforts in two world wars we thought that we were gradually getting away from that kind of thing. It is because of the sacrifices of our people that we have saved our land in two world wars. The promises made during those wars have gradually been repudiated, and this is another instalment in the process.
I made the point earlier that the Government were discouraging production and exports. Does any right hon. or hon. Gentleman disagree with that? I repeat, if we can have some order—
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I repeat that this is a further instalment in the process of discouraging production and exports. I say that because these additional charges are being made on the employers and on the workers in industry. The overhead charges being imposed on productive industries are becoming so heavy that they are having a greater detrimental effect than any other factor.
Throughout the world, especially in the industrial centres, the tendency is to put the financial burdens of the country on the Exchequer so that everyone shares the burden and it does not fall only on the industrial workers. The Government are constantly increasing not only the charges to be paid by the working people 1570 for whom we speak, but the overhead charges of the employers in the productive industries. This seriously affects the costs of production and prevents us holding our own to the extent that we would like to do in the markets of the world. This Bill is another instalment in the process of discouraging production, as is the White Paper on Housing that was presented yesterday.
Organised employers in this country have spent forty years pleading with the trade unions to accept all kinds of payment by results schemes, motion studies, micro-motion studies, and so on. Slowly but surely the trade unions have accepted the employers' proposals. The employers continually gave undertakings that the sky would be the limit and that no regard would be paid to the wages earned, provided they were obtained by greater efforts. Those of us who saw the anti-trade union television programmes presented by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway), who is sitting there with his finger in his mouth [Laughter]—let us be as serious as we can. There is no doubt at all that that programme on the television irritated thousands of people engaged in the export trades. I only mention the matter—this is a slight digression, Mr. Speaker—because it came back to my mind as I saw the hon. Gentleman sitting there with his finger in his mouth.
§ Mr. Christopher Chataway (Lewisham, North)
I am trying to conceal the fact that my mouth is agape at the arguments the hon. Gentleman is advancing. I never thought that in the House of Commons one would hear an hon. Member seriously advancing the argument that industry is being handicapped because a burden is being unfairly put upon it for financing the National Health Service. His argument is so extraordinary that the hon. Member can hardly upbraid me for showing some astonishment.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
As a matter of courtesy, I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, and I am glad that I did because he has now provided the House with further evidence of the rightness of what I was saying about his television programme. He should try to make himself more familiar with what takes 1571 place in industry, because that programme showed clearly that he knows very little about it.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I hope I have convinced all present that these further impositions on industry are seriously affecting the costs of production. Does everyone accept that now? All right. We can now proceed to provide evidence to show that they are also discouraging production.
When I look back to the time when I was working for my living—[Laughter.] I worked too hard, and I worked too fast. As anyone who knows anything will understand, when a person accepts responsibility for acting in a representative capacity in a great industry in this country, he must do his best in order to retain the confidence and respect of his fellows. As I look back to that time, I realise that I was one of many who worked like that because we were working to earn our living and we knew also that we had to hold our own in keen world competition. We cannot forget those days. We bear on our backs to this day marks of the lashes we suffered then, and we are determined to be worthy of those times and of the people in them.
The employers constantly said, "Increase output. Give your best. We will see that this does not affect you adversely in any way." We have lived to see the day when those employers' undertakings are prevented from fulfilment by the Government of the day. The charges to be imposed by this Bill and the further charges which will arise from yesterday's White Paper, which was introduced by the most reactionary Minister of Housing in my time in the House, will discourage production because they mean that the harder people work, the bigger rent they will have to pay and the bigger contributions they will have to bear. That applies to charges of this kind.
Hon. and right hon. Members who are closely acquainted with those who accept positions of responsibility in industry need not accept what I am saying. Let them ask their friends in 1572 industry at the week-end what they think about these increased charges. I have so much confidence in those who manage matters of this kind in industry that I have no hesitation in believing what they will say.
I remember that when the Scheme was introduced in 1948, almost every right hon. and hon. Member of the House looked on it with pride. Although hon. Members opposite voted against the Scheme on Third Reading, if one got them privately in the Lobby as individuals most of them were bound to admit that it was a great step in the right direction and that they looked on it with a certain amount of pride.
Today, we are seeing the grounds for that pride undermined. Throughout the world, a message will be broadcast that the Scheme which most people of the world admired is now being undermined by the carrying out of the traditional, classic Conservative policy of putting increased burdens upon the people of the country.
§ 12.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
The more I listen to this debate, the more I recollect some of the words spoken by the late Mr. Aneurin Bevan during those long Committee days in the 1946/47 Session, when I had the opportunity of observing his work closely since I was then a junior Whip and perforce acted as some sort of assistant to him during those long sittings.
I well remember that one of the points made by Mr. Bevan was that we were trying to replace the traditional patronage which had been exercised by people, who usually elected hon. Members opposite, in the formulation of the then somewhat primitive health services before the National Health Service came into effect. I remember him saying that the time was past when the Health Service in the provinces could be controlled by those "ladies bountiful" who exercised far too much influence in the operation of such schemes as there were.
I also remember him saying to the Committee, in the face of very strong Conservative opposition to the Service which lasted for days in that Committee, that in mediaeval times when the great religious orders maintained hospices throughout Europe, they did not charge and those services were available for 1573 everyone, and that it was the Tories who were then—and are now trying to put back the clock by having a quality of service which was worse, commensurate with medical knowledge, than it was then. Listening to this debate, I am firmly of the view that hon. Members opposite, in their heart of hearts, are thoroughly antagonistic to a medical service which gives equality of treatment to people irrespective of the ability to pay.
Tonight, however, I charge the Government with adopting thoroughly bad business methods in the way they conduct the Service. They are trying to raise money, they say, to pay for increased costs; and but for these increased costs, they would have to raise further money in the form of this impost. Let us examine that. I am trying to observe Mr. Speaker's earlier Ruling that whereas I cannot challenge and criticise the profiteering of American drug companies—I must declare a rather remote interest in this matter, but I know a little about the industry—nevertheless I think that it is well in order, in view of Mr. Speaker's Ruling, to suggest to the Ministry that it could affect many economies in the Service which would obviate the necessity for imposing charges and increased contributions.
Let me give the Minister, who I do not think is very interested in this sort of argument, one or two cases which he might look into. Why are the servants of the National Health Service allowed by the rules of the Service, with the tacit agreement of his Ministry, to be suborned by industrial commercial representatives who contact dispensers and matrons to try and force on the Service expensive goods, not just drugs, which can be more profitably purchased by the purchasing committees of the Service? There are thousands of cases where the normal supplies machinery is by-passed and costs are imposed on the Service which are quite unnecessary. The Ministry are also, presumably by directive, allowing the Controller of Supplies of the Department to adopt a thoroughly soft attitude towards foreign drug companies.
I do not know the reason. I should have thought that the duty was to see that economies are effected, but that apparently is not the Government's 1574 policy. The association of the British pharmaceutical industry lays itself open seriously to criticism and to the suspicion that it is not representative of British industry only but representative of subordinate companies of foreign companies. It is a great pity, because the British pharmaceutical industry has much of which to be proud.
My third point refers to a Parliamentary Question which I put to the Minister on 30th January about Section 46 of the 1949 Patents Act. Why is it that last October there began to appear in contracts issued through the National Health Service a new clause the effect of which was not to allow the Service to take advantage of that Section 46? The Section enables Government Departments to contract with suppliers who will not have taken into consideration either royalty payments or patented processes so that Government Departments can purchase much more economically than any other sort of purchaser who has to observe patent rights. The Minister's reply was that he was advised that the hospital management committees of the Service—who are purchasing committees in single hospital form, in group form or in regional form—were services of the Crown. If that is so, why has advantage not been taken of that Act?
The Minister says that he has to raise increased taxation of £ 50 million. I say that if proper advantage were taken of legislation to protect the economy, substantial economies could be effected.
This is an important point, though the Minister did not know about it until I put the Question to him. What kind of administrative action has been taken to try to put this provision into force? In view of the unnecessary hardship to which my constituents are being subjected, is my request a case of asking to much when one sees the waste as a result of these business practices on the part of a Government which pride themselves on being representative of business? One cannot but help feeling that this Government shares the same characteristic to that which was very obvious in the Eisenhower administration in the United States. It was said, and is said, of that administration that the big business "people in it could 1575 not dissociate themselves from their private interests, and I do not think that hon. Members opposite can dissociate themselves from their own selfish business interests which work to the detriment of the National Health Service.
§ 12.20 a.m.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
I rise to oppose this Bill for, perhaps, the best possible reason which I think any hon. Member could advance. I oppose it simply because I am quite convinced that the vast majority of my constituents in Lancashire will be bitterly opposed to this new tax and will be greatly disillusioned when they compare the present policy of this Government with the confessions at the general election about 18 months ago. At that time, on every hoarding in my constituency, and at every street corner, and from every platform which was erected, there was blazoned the Conservative cry, "You have never had it so good and do not let the Labour Party mess about with it."
I am very glad to see the right hon. and learned Chancellor sitting behind the Dispatch Box. This is the time of the year when the Chancellor traditionally goes into purdah; when he cannot be asked any awkward questions—[Interruption.] Well, that is a matter of opinion. I am merely trying to be courteous and put my points courteously. The Chancellor knows that, ordinarily, he would disarm any inquisitive person who approached him with any awkward question; or one of his understudies would tell us blandly that the Chancellor could not anticipate his Budget statement. This is the time of the year when he could not "be got at"; at least, not on any matter concerning the Budget. In the narrow sense, he cannot reveal any of those dark and terrible secrets which will be closeted in that little box which he brings out at the beginning of April. Everything is a dead secret, and we have come to accept that situation.
We have our little fun and games, and all hon. Members—and not the least the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) who is the most inquisitive of all. I notice that he is not with us at the moment. The referee may have discharged him. However, this is the period of the year when the Chancellor just cannot say anything in answer to awkward 1576 questions. I have said that we have come to accept that situation, and it may be a good thing for the country because, since having flitted around the chancelleries of Europe, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has now taken charge of the "kitty." He is in charge of the Treasury, and he cannot disclose anything to the House. It would not be in the national interest for him to do so.
It comes back to the fact that it is a good thing that the country should know that, at a stated time in the year, it will hear what its liabilities are; its assets, and its commitments for the future. The Chancellor should be in a position to make a reasonable judgment about what reliefs can be given, or what new taxes may be necessary for the purposes of the State.
I charge the Government with action which amounts to bringing in a supplementary Budget without disclosing the state of the account at the time the demand is made. Constitutionally, this is an objectionable procedure. We are all good democrats and we accept that the Government have a majority, but they cannot be permitted to use that majority to steamroller through anything they like. If in his secret talks with various interests the Chancellor has given any hint of a concession, he will be able to fortify his Budget by imposing a tax of this kind, amounting to £ 50 million, in order to make available money to be distributed for purposes to which the House might later object. In the name of my constituents, I protest that this is neither honest nor prudent finance. It strikes at the root of our financial arrangements.
The Preamble to the Bill is couched in traditional terms. It says:We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects"—as indeed we are; we have all sincerely taken the oath of allegiance at that Box, or we would not be on the payroll of the House—the Commons of the United Kingdom in Parliament assembled, towards providing such sums as may be required for the national health service in England and Wales, and in Scotland, have freely and voluntarily resolved to give and grant unto Your Majesty the increased contributions hereinafter mentioned …Not many hon. Members on this side of the House will subscribe to terminology of that sort. I express no disrespect 1577 to the occupant of the Throne who is the titular head of the realm, but to label me as "freely and voluntarily" resolving to give these increases is something to which I strongly object.
I shall be able to table Amendments later. There is still a long way to go, yet. The night is young. There will presumably be a Committee stage when it will be in order to table Amendments. We will then be able to object to any words in the text of the Bill. We are entitled to express our objections if we can find suitable words and I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite, especially the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that there is no lack of ability on this side of the House to find suitable words to oppose a Bill like this.
We are here tonight constitutionally to express our opposition to a Bill which completely offends progressive opinion, which holds that the further we get away from a free health service, the further we get away from the principles which were in the minds of its authors. especially Lord Beveridge when he laid the foundations of our social services as they have developed since the war.
The Minister of Health does not seem greatly interested in these proceedings. After all, he is very tired. He had a thick night last Tuesday and I hope that he will get a few more before the Bill is through. I make no profession of being unruly or wanting to get out of order, but I can tell hon. Members that I am here to object to the Bill because the thousands of my constituents in Lancashire would wish me to object.
It is not so much the amount involved. It is commonplace for hon. Members opposite to condemn us as visionaries who raise a fuss about nothing. They use the old argument about the servant's baby—" It's only a little one," or, as the lawyers say, de minimis—too small to be worth bothering about. But these charges, small in themselves, hit the wage packet hard when they are aggregated.
The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance has now left the Chamber. I spent a very interesting time in his company about twelve months ago when we discussed the National Insurance Bill, which in many ways is linked with this 1578 Bill. I hope that I am in order in showing the House how it is linked with this Bill.
The Bill which the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance introduced imposed serious additional charges which become operative in the second week in April. It imposed a graduated contribution of 5s. ld. a week on a man earning £ 15 a week. In addition, he will have to pay an increase of Is. 5d. in respect of the higher pensions for old-age pensioners, which have not yet been paid. If we then add a further 10d. a week imposed by this Bill, it means that when this Bill becomes operative a man earning £ 15 a week—which in these days is a very modest wage for a man with family commitments— will be called on to pay a weekly contribution of 15s. 8d., which is between 5 per cent. and 6 per cent. of his total wages.
I have been a great supporter in the House and elsewhere of the voluntary principle of insuring people for a pension. I have been active in the pensions movement in this country in promoting the establishment of superannuation for workers throughout industry. I have been personally concerned in many of these schemes and I know that many of them, which apply to two-thirds of the working population, involve contributions of between 5 and 6 per cent. of a man's wages for an industrial pensions scheme. In other words, two-thirds of the working population pay a contribution which I will place at a minimum of 5 per cent. for their works superannuation scheme, and when this Bill becomes operative they will pay a further 5 per cent. towards the Government's scheme, making 10 to 11 per cent. of their wages every week, before they start paying their P.A.Y.E., their trade union contribution and the other things which have to be paid for out of the pay packet.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been a serious student of many of these questions throughout his life. He has given some attention to economics [Laughter]—which can be a qualification for a Chancellor of the Exchequer. I give him credit for having studied these questions. Unfortunately, he has not given me much evidence in the House that he has studied them, but I hope 1579 that when he has been at the Treasury long enough he will make some serious speeches on economic affairs. We will always give him a little help from this side of the House, where we have some good economists. I am not dealing with Boyle's law tonight, because that was exploded long ago. I remember the Financial Secretary propounding a most abstruse, and indeed a unique, theory.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. My recollection of all forms of Boyle's law may be a little rusty, but I cannot relate them to this Bill.
§ Mr. Price
I crave your pardon, Mr. Speaker. I was carried away a little by seeing the Financial Secretary on the Front Bench. I thought that he was such a good target with his rotund and genial figure that I could not help referring to him. We like his constituents to know that he is in the House. The other Boyle's law deals with physics and not economics, and I should be out of order in referring to it.
There is a law in economics known as the law of diminishing returns. The Chancellor knows what I mean. People will buy a certain number of a commodity at a certain price, but if the price is raised higher and higher, they will buy fewer and fewer. This is directly related to something which was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith). If I followed his argument correctly, he was saying that the effect of the Bill and the resentment that it would generate among the working population were such that it might have an adverse or disastrous effect upon industrial production and the export industry. This is a serious point that can be argued.
Do not let hon. Members imagine that this is a roundabout that only the Government can turn. They are not the only people who can begin to spin the inflationary spiral in their own direction. This will be a discouragement to people who are trying to bring sense into industry, tring to get a cohesive force into industry. I have always done my best to achieve that, and I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South has, too. But when such pieces of class legislation are forced upon millions of people who object to them, 1580 they have a most depressing effect on production and discourage people who are trying to do their best.
There are occasions in the House when some of us becomes a little—I will not say "agitated"—warm about things which strike deeply at the differences between the two parties. There are some cynics who say that there is very little difference between a moderate Labour Member, perhaps like myself, and some liberal-minded Tory who has come to the House by a different route. It is quite untrue. This sort of thing represents a deep division between us. There is a philosophic approach to the problems of society which hon. Gentlemen opposite do not even appreciate—perhaps not all of them, but most of them.
I remember the conditions prevailing in my native county of Lancashire when I was a boy. We are all thankful that they are no longer with us. But hon. Gentlemen opposite do not appreciate that those conditions were not swept away merely by our wishing for that to happen and making platitudinous speeches on Sunday afternoons or at election times. The improved standards of life in the country are the direct product of struggle, of courage, of tenacity and of sacrifice by millions who have gone before us.
I make no apology for expressing that simple faith, because it coincides with my own experience of life, my experience in my younger days when most working class families could not afford a doctor at all. When someone was sick, they used to send for the doctor; and there were many good family doctors who would give treatment whether they got paid or not. They would have a collector going round every week for Is. or 6d., and the collector often went away with nothing because there was nothing in the house with which to pay him.
An hon. Member opposite whom I do not know referred rather cynically to wagon drivers, lorry drivers or transport workers getting £ 1,000 a year. This proves to me better than all the recent argument and debate that some hon. Gentlemen opposite—not all of them—do not really know what life is about—
§ Mr. Price
I must ask the hon. Gentleman to forgive me on this occasion. I do not want to be unreasonable with the House and take too much time. However, I must say that, while I shall try diligently to keep in order, if I am interrupted I shall not be particular how long I speak. As long as I am in order and talk reasonably sensibly I am entitled to continue. For hon. Members opposite to twit me about conditions of working-class life which I have seen at close quarters is something that I will not tolerate.
Our people will resent this Measure most bitterly, not only because of the professions made to the country at the 1959 election—" Never had it so good— don't let Labour ruin it "; "the Socialist spendthrifts will wreck the finances of the country," and the like. One thing I can say with absolute sincerity. I have fought many elections, and I have always won, but I have never won under false pretences. I have never promised any man who voted for me—or against me—anything that I did not think the country could afford or could carry out.
I charge this Government with having returned to power on the pretence, at the last election and previous ones, that it was Socialist spendthrift tactics, when in power years ago, of wasting the national resources that set the country back. You have charged us with being imprudent. of having no business sense. You have charged us with being unable to conduct the finances of a chip shop, let alone a country. But it is not true, and you know it—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must require the hon. Gentleman to address his observations to the Chair, and also to the Bill.
§ Mr. Price
I will try to do that, Mr. Speaker.
1582 Before I was deflected by the hon. Gentleman's interruption, I had been about to observe that this happens to be a sort of neutral year politically, and it is only between elections that the Conservative Party does things like this. They have stuck bills all over my constituency, which may not be directly linked with the Bill but which will have a significance in the minds of those who read them; enormous bills that are posted up in conditions in which the Representation of the People Act and the need to return political expenses to the registrar are avoided—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am in difficulty in understanding how this relates to the Bill. I am assisted in my difficulty by noticing that the hon. Member himself seemed to be in doubt about it.
§ Mr. Price
I agree with you, Mr. Speaker. If a matter is doubtful it is, perhaps better to leave it alone. I will leave it alone with this final word, and then have done with it. Those posters say: "Conservatives care." The question that my constituents will ask after reading the Bill and this debate and realising what the Bill means, will be: "Care for what? Do they care for us—or for themselves?"
The Minister of Health seems to have come back to life. He is showing signs of animation—I think that he has been having a nap. I do not blame him for that— he has an arduous task— but, after all, he has not been pressed into service to bring in this legislation. He has been in no-man's-land for some time. The right hon. Gentleman was not in this Administration until he was dragged back to do just this; to take on an unpleasant task and foist the Bill on the country with intellectual elegance and, perhaps, a little philosophy thrown in.
Let me say this to the Minister of Health. Having heard many of his— I shall not say performances, but speeches in this House on a variety of topics, I have always given him credit for a good deal of intellectual honesty. He has sometimes taken an unpopular line, even against his own benches, when he was in the wilderness. In this case, however, I do not think that he has been pressed into service. This Measure accords with his own mentality. He seems to enjoy suffering. The only pleasure left in his life seems to be to inflict suffering.
1583 As I am an amateur student of psychology, although I have no professional expertise, I am very interested in the psychology of the Minister of Health. He often sits there brooding, looking rather miserable and serious. When he gets to the Box, he looks even more serious. I understand that he is a Greek scholar. I sometimes wonder if he has ever read Plutarch or Aristophanes or any of the other great works which one would expect a Greek scholar to read.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not wish to vaunt any knowledge of Aristophanes, but I find him far from increased contributions to the National Health Service.
§ Mr. Price
I am obliged, Mr. Speaker. I will leave the matter there, though it was a valid point, because the right hon. Gentleman is reputed to be a Greek scholar. Perhaps it would have been more intelligible to the country if the Bill had been printed in Greek.
I apologise for having detained the House for longer than I should have done at this time of night. It is not the fault or wish of the Opposition that we have to engage in all-night sittings. We regard it as our duty as elected Labour Members of Parliament to protest as democratically and constitutionally as we are entitled to against a Measure which flies against all the canons of proper taxation, which seeks to obtain money by means of a poll tax—the Minister agreed that it is a poll tax—which flies against the principles of equity, and inflicts upon the poorer sections of the community a new burden disproportionate to their ability to pay. We shall go on with our protests in every legitimate way until we have finally convinced the country that the Government must not be allowed to rule the country with policies like this.
§ 12.42 a.m.
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
I am very glad to have caught your eye at last, Mr. Speaker. I have tried for a long time to put up some opposition to the Official Opposition, but I do not think that anyone on this side wants to speak except myself. I feel that I must say a few words tonight.
I listened to the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) make his electioneering speech, which was three and a half years too early. I hope that 1584 he will regret everything he said before the next election. My hon. Friends regret as much as hon. Members opposite that it has been necessary to increase the Health Service charges. Nevertheless, something had to be done. The health charges rose every year. Labour Ministers used to say that the health charges could not rise above a certain level. They have gone on rising. Something had to be done. I have no objection to what has been done, but I call on my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to look most carefully into the effect of the increased charges on old-age pensioners, people on small fixed incomes, and others who are unable to bear these rather heavy charges. The day the increased charges were announced I received a letter from a constituent of mine.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
On a point of order. I believe that it was when you were in the Chair earlier, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you advised us that, as the Bill did not deal with the health charges as such, we should not be in order in debating them today. If we are allowed to debate them, I trust that you will allow us to continue to develop the point being made by the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I have just taken the Chair, as the House will have seen. I imagine that the hon. and gallant Member will soon relate what he is saying to the Bill we are debating.
§ Brigadier Clarke
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you are absolutely right in what you say. I am more than surprised that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) should try to suppress free speech.
Some of the things I am saying tonight might annoy my Chief Whip. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he"?] I have not done it for that purpose, but if I happen to think exactly the same as some hon. Members opposite on certain points, I am ruddy well going to say what I think.
In conclusion—[Interruption]—I do not want to keep the House up for three hours talking nonsense, as happened the other night—I merely suggest to the Minister of Health that he has another look into the charges for old-age pensioners, service pensioners, and people on fixed incomes.
§ 12.47 a.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) referred to the attacks on the working class contained in this Bill. When she did so I noticed the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, who is, I notice, now in her place—I hope I can have her attention—sniggering and saying: "What? Just another 10d. a week?"
This revealed to me more than anything else the truth of what my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) said that Members opposite just do not understand the problems of the ordinary working people. There are people on £ 8, £ 9, and £ 10 a week in every constituency represented by Members on this side of the House and in many constituencies represented on the benches opposite. They will bitterly resent this increase. and will not know how to pay this 10d. the Parliamentary Secretary was sniggering about.
It is, however, in line with the horrible speech she made some years ago about old-age pensioners mismanaging their affairs, and how the resultant poverty was due to mismanagement and to putting their money on horses. That is the kind of attitude shown by her and her right hon. and hon. Friends.
We are not so much objecting to this Bill in isolation. We are objecting to the principles and philosophy behind it and what is coming after it, because this is not a new development in the Tory Party. The Minister of Health was associated for a number of years with Mr. Angus Maude, who was a Member of this House. They wrote one or two books together, I believe.
Mr. Maude has since scuttled to Australia because the Tory Government was not going in the right direction, as he saw it. As long ago as 12th January 1958, Mr. Maude wrote an article in the Sunday Express. The context was the resignation of the now Minister of Health, the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) and the now Minister of Aviation on the grounds that they wanted to keep Budget expenditure down to tie previous year's level. This 1586 is what Mr. Angus Maude wrote in the Sunday Express at that time:Does it not strike you as a little odd that it should be Tory leaders who are holding out so manfully for the last 1 per cent, of the social services? … I hope that we might go further and breed a generation that actually preferred to pay (directly or through insurance schemes) for its own medical care and the education of its children, because of the freedom of choice this alone can bring. But we shall never do this if our only object is to build an ever-larger and more burdensome structure of compulsory State services.The present Lord Hailsham was writing, shouting, screaming and ringing bells at about the same time and this was what he was saying: The now defunct Star was making comments about his remarks. Probably the Star disappeared because it was making remarks like this about Tory Ministers. On 16th January, 1958, it headed an article with the words, "Hands Off, Hailsham," and it said:Beware, The attack on the Welfare State, despite all the guff surrounding the Thorneycroft resignation, is still on. Subsequently, with lawyer's questions, Lord Hailsham slips in the pruning knife.'How many of the things we need ought to be provided by a prudent man out of his own weekly wage packet? ' he cries, 'How many by the taxation of his fellow citizens? ' And he goes on to query, stone by stone, the foundations of the Welfare State.This is back to 19th century thinking with a vengeance. Beveridge might never have been born. The social revolution of 1945 might never have happened.Beware. He seems to suggest we have to choose between free bandages and sewerage, pensions and roads, schooling and sickness pay.That is not the choice at all. The choice is between a full and efficient Welfare State and Government Departments, notably those dealing with the Services where, on Mr. Thornycroft's own admission, economies can be made.Beware. Hailsham tolls this hypocritical Government's bell. Welfare State, it tolls for thee.That just about sums up our attitude. Lord Hailsham is in line with his predecessors. His dad was saying the same in 1929 and 1931 when we had Labour Governments trying to increase the school leaving age from 14 to 15. The Lord Hailsham then in the House of Lords based his argument on the view of the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations and said:the colossal expenditure on social services is far greater than this country can afford.In 1929, Lord Hailsham. In 1959, Lord Hailsham. In 1961, the same kind of Tory Government.
§ Brigadier Clarke
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is the hon. Gentleman entitled to refer to what Hailsham's dad said?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I was paying attention to the hon. Member's speech. I think that he was entitled to refer to it within the rules of order.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I am strengthened in my arguments and in my fears by what the Bow Group of the Tory Party has been advocating. The Bow Group consists of the young Tories who form the progressive section of the Tory Party, and the following passage appeared in The Guardian:The Bow Group has celebrated its fifteenth anniversary by publishing a collection of ten essays devoted to matters of principle rather than of practice.It quotes Mr. Godfrey Hodgson, who argues that the education service, among others, is going to expand and is going to cost a lot more money and therefore it ought to be done:not by cutting expenditure on defence or social services,—he seems to think that education is not a social service—
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have studied this Bill with the greatest care [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Nabarro
I cannot put a point of order while this cacophony is going on. I have read the Bill with the greatest care and I can find no reference in it to education. Is it in order on this Bill to discuss the theories of the Bow Group in relation to possible education charges?
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it not deeply disrespectful to the House and to the Chair for an hon. Member to insist on keeping his hands in his pockets while addressing the Chair?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that I had better deal with the first point of order. Certainly education is not dealt with in this Bill, and certainly to make more than a passing reference to it 1588 would be out of order. I took it that the hon. Member for Fife, West, was in fact making only a passing reference to education.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Before the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) rose to put his point of order, he was not listening to the speech of my hon. Friend. He was fast asleep.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for protecting me from the wiles of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).
§ Mr. Hamilton
The hon. Gentleman's interruptions are delaying the proceedings. We are anxious that this Bill should get a full examination, if not by hon. Gentlemen, then by us.
I was about to pass from the principle adduced by Mr. Godfrey Hodgson, that we ought now to begin thinking about paying fees for the education at all levels of our children. More than that, it is said that we ought also to introduce the principle of paying for all the milk and welfare foods which are obtained by our school children.
I am further fortified in my fear by an article written by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) in the Evening News. The hon. Member for Uxbridge is extremely vocal with his pen but singularly inarticulate in this House. He has been a Member for nearly eighteen months, but he has made, I think, only one ten-minute speech. He lays about him in the Evening News. This is what the hon. Member says:Now this is where I come back to Mr. Powell. He proposes to limit the bill by putting up the contributions and by making people pay more out of their own pockets for using the service.Is this unfair? You can argue, of course, that it is. But look at the alternative. We could scrap all charges and contributions, supply an unlimited free-of-cost service to everybody, and pay for it entirely out of the taxes. Suppose we did that.1589Then taxes would mount to the point where two things would occur. The working population would have less and less incentive to work (since nobody does work unless it is financially worth his while). Secondly, the cost of production would make it impossible to sell our goods overseas. The Health Service would then collapse, along with the British economic structure. We cannot go on supplying universal social services free of cost—to people who can afford to pay for them as well as to people who can't.The same kind of arguments have been used by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway), who is more famous for his running than for his politics. He, too, has been singularly inarticulate during these debates, but he has been propounding his views in Crossbow. He has been arguing on exactly the same lines, that we ought to have these things free only if we prove that we cannot afford to pay for them.
I might accept the view that economies cannot be found within the Service. Let us accept that view for a moment. We must find the money somewhere. I put Questions down to certain Ministers during the past week, and 1 find ample scope for finding the money elsewhere. The Minister of Agriculture informed me that the subsidies to farmers in the United Kingdom amount to £ 251 million.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If the hon. Member pursues this course of argument, he will be led far away from the Second Reading of the Bill we are discussing.
§ Mr. Hamilton
You have let me down, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. On two occasions, you have defended me nobly, and on the most important point of all you are about to try to stop me. T was about to say that, if the Minister wants his £ 50 million, then he knows where he can look for it. All it would mean is that he would take one-fifth from the farmers. There are many farmers sitting on the benches opposite. If they argue that this will cause hardship, I reply, "Accept your own principle. Set up a National Assistance Board for farmers, and appoint me as chairman". That is the way to finance this scheme. If hon. Members opposite accept the principle of paying out public money only to people who can prove their need for it, let them look to their own people. Let them look to the farmers. A good many of them are sitting opposite.
§ Mr. J. A. Stodart (Edinburgh, East)
Has the hon. Gentleman looked at the expression of deep dismay upon the face of his hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie)?
§ Mr. Hamilton
I gave my hon. Friend warning of what I intended to say, and he said, "The best of luck".
The Bow Group is now saying that farming subsidies ought to be examined as a means of financing some of these things. Maybe we could get together on this issue. I want to say this finally—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."]—we want to proceed with the business, I think. The Tory Party remind me very much of that nasty little bug, the woodworm. We all know what it does. It makes a little hole and gets into the structure and nobody notices it until the whole darned thing collapses. That is what they are doing with the social services. The political woodworms are at work and we have to get the political "Rentoki". I live in London and I see those posters saying "Tories care". I should like to organise a campaign to tear them down—and if they want to know what to do with the posters, I will tell them.
§ 1.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
This is a vital debate on an issue of principle. I was grateful for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price). He spoke with sincerity and brought out some of the things for which we stand. I was glad that he pointed out the absurdity of the verbiage in the Preamble to the Bill and I agree with him entirely. I am not one of the citizens who have:… freely and voluntarily resolved to give and grant unto Your Majesty the increased contributions …It is time we got rid of that kind of archaic language. It has nothing to do with the kind of life we live in the twentieth century. It has no more to do with the life we lead than has the hon. Member who talked about the lorry driver and his earnings a moment ago, and who said that a lorry driver could quite easily earn £ 1,000 or more and could quite easily afford this extra 10d.
§ Mr. Crowder
We want to hear the hon. Gentleman, but it would be helpful if he got the facts right. All I did was to inquire how much a lorry driver would have to pay over a year if he had a wife and two children and if he was earning something like £ 800 to £ 1,000 a year. Needless to say, I was not given an answer. Hon. Members opposite have not even taken the trouble to go into cases of hardship. That is one of the things which troubles me about their speeches. They do not go into the facts and figures of cases of hardship, and their arguments fall to the ground with every speech they make.
§ Mr. Davies
I do not object to anyone interrupting me. I think it is fair in the cut and thrust of debate. But I hope that the hon. Gentleman will look at HANSARD tomorrow. I heard him clearly. I know of lorry drivers in Newport who are earning more than £ 1,000, but they are not typical. They are working at the steel works and killing themselves. Some work nearly twenty-two hours a day. The Newport authority— [Interruption.]—hon. Members do not keep up with social events. There is a huge steelworks in construction there. At the moment, it is a goldmine for lorry drivers and owners who are prepared to exploit men working twenty hours a day, and road deaths are—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I am afraid that the hon. Member has been led astray by the interruption.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Crowder) should realise that a driver or anybody who is off sick, when these charges will be applied, would be earning nothing.
§ Mr. Crowder
It was only an inquiry. I simply asked a question. I have not had an answer and I do not expect one.
§ Mr. Davies
Do not let us be drawn out of order on this issue. We know what drivers earn who work an ordinary week, not those who are exploited.
I want to ask one or two questions about the Bill. We are told by paragraph 3 of the Explanatory and Financial 1592 Memorandum, which refers to Clause 1 (3) and the Second Schedule, that the Billtransfers from the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, to the Treasury, the power in Section 3 (7) of the National Health Service Contributions Act, 1957, to make special provision with respect to masters and members of the crews of foreign-going ships.Accordingly, I referred to Section 7 of the 1957 Act to see what it states and what is its effect.
§ Mr. Davies
Never so muddled as the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who, with his gasconading attitude, is making a complete fool of himself.
By Section 3 (7) of the National Health Service Contributions Act, 1957,The Minister of Health and the Secretary of State may jointly make regulations specifying a class of masters or members of the crews of foreign-going ships (as defined by the regulations) and either—Until the Bill was drafted, that power was in the hands of the Minister of Health. This is very subtle, but it is typical of the philosophy now entering into the Government as it is run by the Conservative Party. That power is now to be transferred to the Treasury. In other words, instead of the Good Samaritan attitude of the Minister of Health, thinking of the sick, the aged and the injured and the crews at sea, we are told that this power will no longer be left in the hands of the Minister of Health and that these people will go direct into the hands of the Treasury to be dealt with. Why? We had presented to us in the Vote Office today a Vote on Account to which the Minister referred when he 1593 opened the debate. Before I refer to it further, may I ask one or two elementary questions? First, what is the purpose of a Vote on Account?
and different provision may be made by regulations under this subsection in respect of different classes of persons.
- (a) excepting employers from liability to pay national health service contributions in respect of persons of that class, or
- (b) reducing, to such extent as may be specified in the regulations, the rates of national health service contributions payable by employers in respect of persons of that class;
§ Mr. Davies
The pomposity of the hon. Member for Kidderminster is absolutely amazing. The Conservative Party one day may do the hon. Member the honour of making him the Speaker.
§ Mr. Thomas Swain (Derbyshire, North-East)
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has had them in other people's long enough.
§ Mr. Nabarro
On a point of order. Your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, ruled that it was out of order to make a reference to a charge.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It comes back to a decision of which the House is well aware, that reference to various subjects is quite in order provided that the hon. Member comes back to the Bill.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
May I seek your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? Whilst it may not be strictly a point of order, will you advise the House whether it is not rather discourteous to the Chair for an hon. Member consistently to stand up with his hands in his pockets whilst addressing you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? Would it not be at least more courteous for hon. Members to stand without having their hands in their pockets?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Whatever the opinion of hon. Members may be, I believe that it is a fact that no Ruling has been given by the Chair on that subject.
§ Mr. Davies
The fifth item in the Vote on Account required for 1961–62 shows that that £188½, million is required for the National Health Service, the balance to complete being another £345.4 million. But the footnote—and this is where I claim to be in order— says:Of this sum £ 20,000 is dependent upon the passage into law of the National Health Service (Contributions) Bill now before Parliament.If the hon. Member for Kidderminster had done his homework instead of passing a lot of ignorant remarks, he would have known that there is, in today's Parliamentary papers, a reference to this very Bill. I know how far I can talk about the Vote on Account.
Just before the close of the financial year it is customary for us to have a White Paper.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Member will address the Chair, because I do not want to miss a single word of what he says.
§ Mr. Davies
It is customary for us to have this White Paper in order to enable a Department to carry on from the beginning of the new year until the Appropriation Act goes through Parliament, and I consider it the bounden duty of those of us who sit on this side of the House to do absolutely everything we can legitimately do, by using the procedure of the House, to prevent the Government from getting its business done in this case.
I say that because this particular piece of legislation is the most dire example of class legislation I have known since I have been an hon. Member of the House. There are many hon. Members on the other side who know in their heart of hearts—-[An HON. MEMBER:" They have none."] Oh, yes, they have. They know in their heart of hearts that they regret the introduction of this Bill very much. If they had as much courage as some of us on this side of the House try to have—and it is not always an easy thing—then, when the vote is taken on this Bill, they would demonstrate that they are men and not mere puppets in 1595 the hands of the Chief Whip. I beg of them, if they have an ordinary conscience, to abstain if they do not go into the lobbies with us tonight.
When we vote tonight, or tomorrow, let them do that. I have here a document entitled "All the Answers—"[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"]—I warn hon. Gentlemen not to be so sure about their "Hear, hears," because they have been caught by me before when they have said that. The Conservative Party turned out this junk at the General Election—and it was junk—and they should have been ashamed of it. We read of what they would do with the National Health Service, and how they would control it, and make it a better service. Here is the little blue book they produced about contributions, with a picture of a chemist's bottle and aspirins on it. Let me say that they will need aspirins before we have finished with them, because they will not get into power at the next election.
At the last General Election, throughout my constituency—an agricultural constituency, in which I have had six or seven different opposing candidates in the last sixteen years—this was the argument they used. They said:Can we allow so big a proportion of this public expenditure to go in chemist's prescriptions? What about the 453,000 people waiting to enter hospital? What about the urgent waiting list of 7,000 mental defectives"?Those were the figures for 1957, but they are bigger now. That document was written in 1957 when hon. Members opposite were saying "Conservatives care" and "Don't let Labour ruin it," yet they have obliterated the purpose of the Health Service.
Hon. Members opposite then asked what they were to do about it. As usual—[Interruption]—if the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) will cease chewing and finish his arid, arrogant, medieval, feudalistic attitude towards this side of the House, I will deign to look upon his gracious lounging figure.
The election pledge of hon. Members opposite—[Interruption.]—I will make up my mind in my own time and make my own speech in my own time; I am as capable of making up my mind as anyone and once I have made a decision, 1596 I do not run away from it. Hon. Members opposite said:We pledge ourselves to ensure that the pensioners continue to share the good things which a steadily expanding economy will bring.But the value of the £ note is worth less than it was then. When hon. Members opposite make gibes about the £ 400 million ceiling which we imposed on the Health Service, it must be remembered that that represented more money per head of the population and had a greater value than the present figure.
In my constituency there are many farmers with farms of 20 acres, or so. They have not benefited from the legislation designed to help small farmers, but, as self-employed persons, they will have to pay increased contributions, although many of them are making only £ 5 16s. a week. Unlike hon. Members opposite, I take the trouble to find out how my constituents live. Farmers with farms of 20 acres or less are to be wiped off the map of Britain by hon. Members opposite and by the Bow Group.
There are textile workers in my constituency whose wages are nowhere near the £ 10-a-week mark. If people earned only their basic rate of pay, our economy would not be so mighty good and fine.
Where can we find this money? We have been told that if we were in power we should waste money. Burke said,the greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse of it.I accuse the Tory Party of having abused it by imposing these increased contributions. The money could have been found. Since 1958 the Tory Government have wasted £ 1,000 million of the taxpayers' money, £ 20 for each person in this country, on useless defence projects.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. Member is embarking on a line of argument which leads him far from the Bill.
§ Mr. Davies
If we had had a Bill by which the contributions were made by the Ministry of Defence instead of the lowest income groups, then with the money which has been wasted we could have built 75 hospitals, each with 600 beds, 300 new schools and two new huge motorways to keep death off the road.
1597 The Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, at its conference in Torquay in April, 1960, examined the Health Service scheme, and it was stated there that illness has its repercussions on the entire family. It was pointed out that when considering the sickness in the family and the contributions made at the end of each week for such things as rent and health benefits, we must remember that if the bread-winner, the mainstay, of the family is ill, it can affect the whole family. Illness can lead to a feeling of insecurity which can have a bad effect on the nation. That feeling of insecurity is increased because the Tories have tampered with the health service. Sick people will be afraid to use it because of the cost. Because of the increased contribution, they will have 10d. less to spend on essential foods.
Why have the Government introduced the Bill now? They think that they are in the doldrums of public opinion but that by the next election the increase in the contributions will have been forgotten. [HON. MEMBERS: "It will."] I hope my hon. Friends note the cynicism of the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South and how the Tories deceive the public. They hope that it will be forgotten. I gather that I am wrong and that the remark was made by the hon. Member for Kidderminster—
§ Mr. Davies
This is a piece of taxation which should have been in the Budget. A United States senator made some interesting comments when discussing taxation. He said that the marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by the Governments. Some of the burdens of taxation are unnecessarily laid upon them, and I claim that this increased contribution is an unnecessary taxation which will bear most heavily upon the weakest section of the community at a time when the money could have been found much more easily if 1598 we had not had so much muddled government.
I will now give way to the hon. Member for Kidderminster. I had intended to when I finished my point.
§ Mr. Nabarro
At that moment I was meditating on the words which the hon. Member for Leek was employing in his argument. The fact is that I did not intervene, although the hon. Gentleman attributed the intervention to me.
§ Mr. Davies
We are being asked to approve an increase in contribution at a time when direct taxation is being imposed upon the weakest group. Yet the Ministry of Health, which is promoting the Bill, has not put its house in order. We have the example of the hospital which it bought at Tring; it could have been used, but the Ministry decided that it was shabby and that it did not want it. I hope that the hon. Member who represents the area will tell the full story sometime. There was also the hospital at Sevenoaks which was auctioned; the Ministry lost thousands of pounds there. Yet it brings in a Bill asking for increased contributions to make up losses caused by the Government's muddle.
Consequently, my hon. Friends and I feel it our bounden duty to do our utmost by every legitimate means to prevent the Government from getting the Bill. I urge some hon. Members opposite, even if they have not the courage to vote against the Bill, at least to keep alive the honour of the party which they consider a great party, the Conservative Party, by not going into the Lobby like sheep. They are being driven into it by some hard-faced men who are merely helping their own interests. [Interruption.] Yes, they are a hard-faced Government, drunk with power. The Rent Act is a typical example. as are also the fiddling with land and the recent White Paper dealing with housing. All these things bear most on the poorest strata of society.
I urge some of the men and women on the Government benches not to support this kind of legislation, which is a disgrace to British democracy at the 1599 moment when we are supposed to have a Government which is trying to build a democratic and just social system. The public are now discovering that they were tricked by the promises of the Government at the General Election as they have never been tricked by any Government in the last fifty years. I tell hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent the farming fraternity that they were tricked more than anybody else in Britain by the Conservative Party.
§ 1.30 a.m.
§ Mr. John Baird (Wolverhampton, North-East)
My hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) appealed to men and women Members opposite not to vote. They could not, of course, be anything else but men and women, but after listening to the debate and observing how silent and emasculated they are, I consider that they are men and women without hearts. Apart from a speech by the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke), there has not been a single contribution from that side for the last four hours. The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of the suffering of the old people and the sick. While he spoke, his hon. Friends were saying "Hear, hear"; they were sharing his grief for the old people and the sick, but theirs were crocodile tears.
Apart from that one speech, there have been no contributions from the other side, but I remember that when we have discussed other National Health Service Measures they have not been so silent. Is it that tonight hon. Members are quiet because they are afraid to speak, or is it because they want to go home? I do not care which it is, but their attitude brings this House into disrepute. We cannot possibly have a democratic assembly when one side remains silent for most of the evening.
These charges will cost the people—and especially the poor people—some £ 50 million. Nobody on the other side has told us how that money will be spent, and we should not leave this House until we know that. Hon. Members laugh because they will get some of it—a large proportion, more than likely—by way of reduced Surtax—
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member opposite to refer to an hon. Member by his name?
§ Mr. Nabarro
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. What I said was said sotto voce. What I meant to ask in normal tones was where was the leader of the Leicestershire miners.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am not sure what the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) means by "sotto voce". It is undoubtedly out of order to refer to an hon. Member by name.
§ Mr. Nabarro
May I withdraw what I said sotto voce, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and substitute, "The hon. Member for Bosworth, happily now known as the leader of the Leicestershire miners"?
§ Mr. Baird
I do not know whether I heard the same word as you did, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I thought the hon. Gentleman said "sotty."
When I entered the House in 1945 1 was one of the first members of my party's health committee. Between 1945 and 1947 we created the skeleton of the Health Service. I also took part in all stages of the National Health Service Bill, when we put flesh on the skeleton. We built a very fine Service. I supported the late right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale when some of us opposed our own Government when they imposed charges. It is true that the charges were only temporary, but I and others said that it would be the thin edge of the wedge and would give the Tories an excuse for imposing further charges. I can claim that I have been consistent throughout my fifteen and a half years in Parliament in supporting a free Health Service.
I am not surprised that the Treasury has controlled the debate tonight. It is a Treasury Measure. The Minister of Health is not the Minister of Health. He is the stooge of the Treasury. He is the other burgess for Wolverhampton with myself. I have had to pay close attention 1601 to his speeches and writings over the years. Having studied them very closely, I have formed the opinion that he has never been a believer in the National Health Service as we believe in it. He has always believed in a poll tax or, as I prefer to call it and as most ordinary people call it, a means test. This insurance charge is a means test.
The right hon. Gentleman has always defended increased insurance charges. He has always advocated that the social services should be paid for by an insurance levy. The whole reason for the present increases is that hon. Members opposite want to impose a two-tier system in medicine. They have always advocated this. We heard them do so in 1946 and 1947, when the National Health Service Act was going through the House, and when the various amending Acts have been under consideration.
I am old enough to remember the days of the old insurance system, when the doctors had two doors—the front door for the private patients and the side door for the panel patients. Now we are going rapidly back to that kind of thing under this Government.
Of course the cost of the Service has gone up quite considerably, and we had an inquiry into why it was going up. Is it not time for a Royal Commission to inquire into how much money we have saved by having a better Health Service? Is it not time that we started to look at the other side of the balance sheet? It is true that the Service is costing a lot in money, but how much in labour hours are we saving because our people—the children too—are much healthier than in the past?
I believe that there are many ways in which we could save money in the Health Service. I believe that we made some mistakes. One of them was in not tackling the problem of proprietary medicines. The busy doctor gets circulars every day advocating this, that, and the other, and is tempted to try them, and they very often cost five or six times more than they need. We were wrong—[An HON. MEMBER: "You are always wrong."]—I think we were wrong in paying dentists on a scale of fees instead of having a salaried system.
§ Mr. Baird
I shall declare my interest. When we introduced a scale of fees it encouraged the dental surgeon to do a lot more than he needed to do.
We were wrong in encouraging "spivs" among the consultants by setting up far too many part-time consultants under the National Health Service Act. I believe that our major mistake—and here I answer the hon. Member who interjected just now—was in not having a full-time salaried service. This was the one matter on which I disagreed with Aneurin Bevan. I believe that it was the only solution. At that time the young men, the doctors and dentists—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but it would be better if he could bring his remarks rather closer to the Bill which we are now discussing.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Surely my hon. Friend is trying to point out how necessary economies can be made in order to avoid these charges. If he cannot point out a thing like that, what purpose is there in having the Second Reading?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I appreciate that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Baird) is addressing himself to the subject of health, but I thought that the time had come when he should devote his speech more closely to the Bill.
§ Mr. Baird
I was simply trying to point out that there were other ways of saving money which would make it unnecessary to impose these charges. I shall not detain the House much longer on this point. I believed then, and I still believe, that the only solution is a fully salaried Service and the sooner we get that the better.
I declare my interest. I worked in the Health Service from the day it was set up. I worked in a constituency which has one of the biggest Tory majorities in the country. At that time most of my colleagues stayed out of the Service and I could not understand why my practice was growing so fast until I found that all the Tories in the constituency were coming to me because they wanted the National Health Service. I warn hon. Members opposite 1603 that if they impose these charges and increase these contributions they will find much opposition among their own natural supporters.
Apart from being a worker in the National Health Service, I have been a patient under it. I have been seriously ill for the last two years and I have been in hospital three times. Knowing what the health service was like before the war, I can say that the National Health Service has revolutionised medicine. It is not the old system that it used to be. It is modern, efficient and more sympathetic than ever it was before the war. I remember that we built a huge hospital in Birmingham, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, before the war. It was a voluntary hospital with 700 or 800 beds. When it was built there was finance for only about 200 beds and the rest remained closed. That kind of thing does not happen today.
I end by saying this, which perhaps is the whole kernel of the matter. What is the basis of these charges? We are to give less and less to the patients and charge them more and more. We are to take more money from them and give them less. That is the basis of Tory philosophy. I hope that when the next election comes we shall make this our slogan: the Tories believe in taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich.
§ 1.58 a.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
It is rather remarkable that hon. Members who occupy the Government benches come into the debate and 3.30 p.m. and go out into the Lobbies at 9 p.m. and say how unfair it is that they have not been called to speak in the debate. How frustrating it is that they have to spend so many weary hours listening with never an opportunity to display their knowledge to the assembled hon. Members. They have had that opportunity now for six hours and have had every facility to give their reasons, which they did not give during the General Election, why they support this Bill. None of them is attempting to get up to defend the Bill. They leave that to the poor, miserable Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
He may not be the hon. Member's right hon. and learned Friend, but he is left to take this burden of defending this, the first of his unwanted children.
I love this House as much as any hon. Member, but I say frankly that Bills of this character are bringing this House into disrepute and, what is more important. bringing democracy into disrepute, and making a lot of people cynical about the honesty and integrity of the men and women who come here.
We are only sixteen or seventeen months removed from the last General Election. It is a reflection on the honesty and integrity of hon. Members opposite that they did not at the General Election tell their constituents that, if they were returned, they would impose this added burden of £ 49 million upon them. I say that there was not a single Conservative candidate throughout the election who made a speech indicating that, if he were returned, he would advocate a Measure like this, or, at any rate, that he would be drilled by the Patronage Secretary into the Lobby in support of such a Measure.
I really cannot understand the attitude of hon. Members opposite on this issue. We are spending £ 1,670 million to defend ourselves—from what? From Communism; from the menace of Communism. A bill for £ 1,670 million will go through without a single Member opposite batting an eyelid. That expenditure will be voted to protect ourselves from the danger of Communism. What are we doing now? The Service that we are debating is a service to defend our people from cancer, 'flu, fever—all the killer diseases. No one would think that we should have a poll tax to raise £ 1,670 million for defence. If we tried to, we should get it through. So I do not think that, to protect people's health, we should set about raising the necessary revenue in this unfair, discriminating manner.
I put it to the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), because he is one who is concerned about expenditure, including expenditure on subsidies. I ask him, why not raise farming subsidies by this method? Let us put on a poll tax to raise farming subsidies. Let us see whether hon. Members opposite will get away with 1605 it in the agricultural constituencies then. Let us do it for every one of the services for which public lolly has to be provided.
§ Mr. Speaker
I doubt whether the hon. Member would be in order in suggesting other methods of attaining the end intended by this Bill in the manner which he is now doing.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
That is what I am trying to do. Why not raise this money in the same way as we raise money for defence, for farming subsidies, for retired Army officers, for doctors. I am only suggesting that that would be fair and would place the burden upon the shoulders best able to bear it. That is what we should do in financing any service which we look upon as being in the national interest. We all agree that that is the method for financing defence. I say that it should be the method for financing the defence of our people against the dangers of sickness and disease.
They do not suggest a poll tax to raise the £ 1,670 million for defence, because they know that they would not get the money if they did. They do not try to get even a proportion of that money by the method suggested in the Bill. The money for defence is raised by general taxation, and that is the principle which should be adopted for raising the money required by the Bill.
All those who have brought in the Bill are Surtax payers.
One at a time. We have plenty of time. If the hon. Gentleman wants to speak, I am sure that Mr. Speaker will call him. We shall be glad to hear his contribution. The hon. Gentleman sits there muttering instead of rising to his feet and making a speech.
Let me read the Bill to prove that I am correct. It bears out the truth and wisdom of what I said. All those who have brought in the Bill are Surtax payers. I understand that one pays Sur- 1606 tax if one's salary is over £ 2,000. The Chairman of Ways and Means gets over £ 2,000. I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not renounced any part of his salary, and therefore he gets above £ 5,000. The Minister of Health has not renounced any part of his salary as a contribution towards the cost of the Health Service, and therefore he is in the Surtax class. The Financial Secretary. who is not paid on the grandiose scale that I have mentioned, is nevertheless in the Surtax class.
Mr. Ferny hough
I will leave Scottish hon. Members to deal with the right hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) says that everyone is being treated alike. I will give him an illustration. My daughter, aged 17, is a nurse. After deductions by the hospital, she receives £ 2 a week. She will have to pay as much as any Surtax payer of her age, although her income is considerably smaller.
§ Mr. Gower
The hon. Gentleman is objecting to the fact that money for defence and other purposes is raised by general taxation. He is also objecting to some of the cost of the Health Service being raised by contributions. Was not he a supporter of the Government which decided the principle that money for defence should come from general taxation, but that some of the money for the Health Service should come from contributions?
§ Mr. Fernyhough
The difference between 1951 and 1961, is that what was done in the former year was done with regret by those who then occupied the benches opposite—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—oh, yes. Not only did they do it with regret, but they said that it was a temporary Measure, and the vast majority of speeches made against that Measure came from the benches behind them, not from the benches opposite. Of course, hon. and right hon. Members opposite would not criticise a Measure 1607 of that kind, because they are in broad sympathy with placing a burden on the shoulders of those least able to bear it and relieving those who have the least right to be relieved. In any case, what happened in 1951 can never justify what this Government are doing in 1961, in the affluent society, in the days when we "have never had it so good".
We are all concerned to make such economies in the Service as are possible. We do not want the total expenditure on the Health Service to be any greater than necessary to give the best possible service. The Minister can tell us how much it costs per bed per week to keep a patient in the various kinds of civilian hospitals. The tragedy is that we cannot find out how much it costs to run the military hospitals. The Minister concerned says that the information is not available. What right have hon. and right hon. Members opposite to support this Bill when they know nothing of the extravagance which takes place in the military hospitals? If we interlinked the two, we could, perhaps, save more for the taxpayer than the Bill could possibly raise. The Service Ministers are not worried about costs in military hospitals because hon. and right hon. Members opposite never question costs of that kind. We might well, by the integration of the two hospital services, save more than this Minister will get from his mean and miserable Bill, so that there would be no need for it at all.
This Bill reminds me very much of 1931. Older Members present will remember the famous Will Dyson cartoon at the time of some temporary economic difficulties when there had to be equality of sacrifice. The man with £ 5,000 was on the top rung of the ladder, and the unemployed man was on the bottom rung. The equality lay in the fact that each-man went down one rung of the ladder, but the man on the bottom rung went under if he stepped down any further.
This poll tax will be the same for hundreds of thousands, even millions, of workers on £ 8 or £ 10 a week as it will be for the man with £ 100,000 a year. Let hon. Members opposite try to defend to some of their fair-minded constituents the imposition upon farm workers, dis- 1608 tributive workers, road sweepers and people of that kind a poll tax which is as heavy upon them as upon the Surtax payer. I am asking whether they will exaplain this to their constituents, in the same clear and illustrative language that I am trying to employ. If they do what kind of answer will they get?
If more money is needed, it is indefensible that the Chancellor should try to raise £ 50 million by this means and yet not declare that in his forthcoming Budget he has no intention of distributing a similar amount by way of relief to hard-pressed Supertax payers. We ought to know whether the extra £ 50 million is to be spent on the Health Service or whether it may be used to relieve the Supertax payer in response to the mounting pressure of those hon. Members who sit behind the Chancellor.
We must warn hon. Members opposite that the workers of this country are law abiding and peaceful people, but they will remain so only if they believe that they are having a fair deal. If the idea gets abroad that Parliament is being used to harm them financially and socially, they will begin to lose faith in this institution and consider using the only other power available to them—their industrial power. That will not be a happy situation. If the workers ever lose their trust in this place and believe that their future can be safeguarded only by the use of the strength of their own right arms, that will not be a healthy situation.
If fears are rising, hon. Members opposite are to blame, because they did not tell the people before the General Election that they intended to do these things. They deliberately misled and deceived the people and they must not be amazed if ordinary men, who believe that the majority of people are honest and genuine, react when they realise that they have been the victims of a great hoax. We know that this Bill would never have become law had it formed part of the election programme of hon. Members opposite. That is why it is a mean and contemptible Bill. That is why they are mean and contemptible people, because they misled, deceived and cheated. Whatever else the British worker may have forgotten in the past, he will not readily forget this. When 1609 the time comes for him to make a political judgment again, that will be an unhappy day for the hon. Members opposite.
§ 2.20 a.m.
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
I oppose these increased contributions. I believe them to be iniquitous and inhuman and indicative of the philosophy of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Reference has been made to the 1951 period. I should like to say a word about that, quite dispassionately. I was one of those who opposed the 1951 prescription charge. I refer to it only because there has been so much reference to it by way of questions from the benches opposite. Let us examine the circumstances of that time and the circumstances of today. They are in no way comparable. In 1951, we were engaged in the Korean war. Our economic problems were such that the situation was exceedingly difficult. Those of us who opposed the charge felt that with a £ 4,000 million Budget, it was wrong to deduct £ 13 million from the well-being of our people.
There is, however, a reasonable answer for what happened in 1951. As has been made abundantly clear from this side of the House, it was a temporary measure in extenuating circumstances. I believe that it was a mistake even to have done it in those circumstances.
Having expressed that viewpoint, I should like to say a word concerning the present situation. We are supposed to be living in an affluent society. T am reminded of the story of Robin Hood. He robbed the rich to give to the poor. Looking at their every action in recent weeks and at prospective legislation. I would say that the Government are intent to rob the poor in every conceivable way to give to the rich.
My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) directed attention to the action that might be taken by the industrial mass of the country. and there is much in what he said. I have received from my constituency. which is heavily industrialised, innumerable resolutions suggesting that on this issue, my party should declare a national strike on May Day. [An HON. MEMBER: "Have a go."] An hon. Member 1610 opposite tells me to "Have a go". He had better wait for what I am about to say.
Many of us on this side have a sense of responsibility. Before I came to the House of Commons, I was an industrial officer. It would be as well if hon. and right hon. Members opposite took a lesson in how to develop human relations in industry. As industrial officers, those of us who have been associated with the great trade union and Labour movement have always taken the view that we had an obligation to the organisations which we represented and to the nation to pursue the role of endeavouring to establish better industrial human relations.
This poll tax which the Government are imposing is a deliberate attempt still further to depress the standard of wages and to reduce the purchasing power of the masses. I predict that, whatever savings the Government are likely to effect, whether £ 50 million or £ 70 million, within a few months they will have a series of salary and wage demands that will negate what they are likely to achieve by the methods they are now adopting.
In speaking of the aged, the sick and the needy, I hope that I may be pardoned for making a personal reference. Unfortunately, for the major part of my life my late wife was a chronic diabetic. I paid throughout those years approximately 8s. a week for prescriptions. I make no complaint. My economic circumstances made it possible for me to pay, but in my moments of quiet reflection I often thought of the lower-income groups who were unable to meet such obligations. The architect of this great National Health Service was animated with the one desire that we should extend to all the best that medical science and knowledge can give. As a result of the parsimonious attitude of the present Government, who have preferred to exploit the sick, the aged and the needy, some of these people, as a result of not being able to meet their commitments because of lack of finance, have gone to the Great Beyond.
We hear charges that we on this side of the House are practising the doctrine of class warfare. I deny that. It is a false charge against the British trade union movement, which is the most responsible body in the world and has 1611 made its contribution to the stabilisation of the British economy from time to time. But I charge hon. and right hon. Members opposite that they practise class warfare every day. They are practising it with a vengeance in these iniquitous measures. They will meet the resentment of all my hon. Friends during every phase of the passage of the Bill through the House.
I confidently make the clarion call to my own Front Bench by saying that I hope that the battle will not remain here in the House, but that every one of us will go into the highways and byways and that we shall have mass demonstrations of our solidarity in showing how we intend to fight this Measure which is designed to oppress the sick, the aged and needy.
§ 2.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
I beg to move, That the debate be now adjourned.
I think that this is a convenient moment for us to ask the Government what are their intentions. It is now 2.30 a.m., and a large number of my right hon. and hon. Friends wish to speak in this important debate. Furthermore, looking across at the Government benches, and especially at the Front Bench, it would seem that the Leader of the House, and the Chancellor—not to speak of the Minister of Health—are looking extremely tired. If we carry on for much longer I rather doubt whether they will be able to reply to the important points which have been made from this side of the House. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite may well feel that it would be more suitable to continue this debate in the day-time, refreshed, when we could all tackle our task with even greater vigour than we are at present doing.
Perhaps they will accept this Motion so that we might all go home—that is, those of us who can get home—and go to sleep. We could then return to our discussion on another occasion. Perhaps the right hon. Leader of the House would like to consider what I have said.
§ 2.32 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
Speaking for the Government. I must say that we cannot accept this Motion.
1612 We are debating the Second Reading of a serious Measure, which has been discussed perfectly seriously throughout the evening in speeches sometimes of passionate sincerity. Most of the speeches have been full of content and hon. and right hon. Members have applied themselves to the Measure which is one which the Government regard as being in the national interest. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor has yet to reply, and no doubt there will be a summing up speech from the Opposition Front Bench.
It is our intention that we should proceed and obtain completion of our business. It is our object to obtain the Second Reading of the Bill It would be quite apart from all tradition if we abandoned discussion in the middle of our proceedings, and I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that neither I, nor my right hon. Friends are over-tired. We have, I hope, behaved with patience and have listened with sincerity to the points which have been made. It is an old device which the right hon. Gentleman has used by saying that we are tired. We are not in the least tired and, as I have said, our object is to obtain the Second Reading of this important Bill. I put it quite sincerely to the right hon. Gentleman that we are unable to accept his Motion.
§ 2.34 a.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said more than once in his short speech that he and his right hon. Friends were not tired. But, surely there is no reason why they should be. After all, what have they been doing to make them tired?
§ Mr. Silverman
Judging from that intervention, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has obviously spent all the recent hours fast asleep and dreaming that he was listening to me; because this is the first time, apart from a very short intervention, that I have opened my mouth.
What I was trying to say was that the Leader of the House said earlier in his short contribution that this was a very important debate. What debate? I have been here many, many hours and I have 1613 heard a number of speeches; but, as I understand the English language, a debate is a question of issues between two sides—issues argued out between one side and another. It is not a debate when all the speeches are made from the one side. What sort of a "debate" is that? I could have understood the right hon. Gentleman's refusal to accept the Motion if there had been a keen debate going on about this important Bill.
If they felt as strongly about it as we do, if they had as much faith in the justice of their case as we have in the justice of ours, then indeed the debate would be worth while and indeed the debate ought to continue. But the case against the Bill has been demonstrated to conviction in speech after speech through many hours without any reply whatever being vouchsafed from the other side. What a mockery of language it is to talk, as the right hon. Gentleman did, about this important debate, this "important debate" to which we have not had a single word contributed by hon. Members opposite from beginning to end, this "important debate" on this "important Bill" in which they profess to believe and of which they are so ashamed that they can think of nothing in its defence!
If ever there were a case for bringing the proceedings to an end, this is the case. If they cannot think of any argument in support of their Bill at this time of night, let them go home, let them go to bed, let them think about it, let them sleep on it and let them come back and tell us what they have thought of in the meantime to say in reply to any of the arguments. For the Leader of the House solemnly to get up at half-past two in the morning and talk with his tongue in his cheek about an important Bill and an important debate when he and his right hon. Friends and hon. Friend have sat silent, and not always in the Chamber, making no contribution of any kind, is an abdication by the Government.
This is a Bill which has been very fiercely attacked. My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) talked about a contemptible Bill about contemptible people—
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not arguing whether my hon. Friend was right or wrong. He made his speech. All I am saying is that if, after this long-continued silence, the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends having nothing more to say and nothing better to offer than they have offered so far, then, indeed, they are contemptible and they ought to accept my right hon. Friend's Motion.
§ 2.37 a.m.
§ Mr. R. L Mellish (Bermondsey)
At half-past ten this morning, as the Leader of the House knows, many hon. Members will be engaged on the important work of trying to get through Government business which has had Second Readings.
§ Mr. Mellish
I can speak only for the Bill in which I am interested the Licensing Bill. With that Bill, the right hon. Gentleman has followed the pattern which he has followed on other Bills. He has promoted the Second Reading and then never attended the Committee meetings. The Licensing Bill is important and I want to attend the Standing Committee dealing with it.
It is all right for the Leader of the House. for he will not be there. He has never attended a single meeting of the Committee. I think that basically he is rather lazy in these matters.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The diligence or idleness of the Leader of the House cannot arise on this Question.
§ Mr. Mellish
With great respect to you and the Leader of the House, Mr. Speaker—[HON. MEMBERS: "With-draw."]—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) does not give way, the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Mellish
My argument, and I hope that it is fair, is that hon. Members have a reasonable job to do in Committee upstairs to consider Bills on behalf of the Government and on behalf of their own 1615 parties. If the Home Secretary wants his Bill to go through Committee upstairs, he should accept my right hon. Friend's Motion. Until what time does he wish this debate to continue? How can the Licensing Bill, a monumental Government Measure, be adequately discussed by hon. Members who have been up all night? On the Bill before the House, we have not been properly treated by the Government. There have been no speeches from the Government side of the House, and there has been no debate and no argument.
You objected, Mr. Speaker, to my suggestion that the Leader of the House was not giving enough attention to Bills in Committee. If this were an isolated incident, one important Measure on which he had not attended a single Committee meeting, it might be different, but—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. With respect, the hon. Member did not understand what I said. I said that I could not see how it could be in order on this Question to discuss the activities or inactivity of the Leader of the House in relation to some other Bill in Standing Committee.
§ Mr. Mellish
Some of us, who are trying to do the job for which we were elected, find it difficult when he is in his present frame of mind. He does not care how long this debate lasts. It can go on as far as he is concerned, because he need not worry; he has not the duties in Standing Committee which some other hon. Members have. He does not bother about the Committee stages of important Bills which he has promoted as Home Secretary. He is one of the few Cabinet Ministers who do not attend Committee meetings.
If he had to be in Committee at 10.30 a.m., he would be one of the first to agree to this Motion and the debate would be adjourned in order that he could do what I want to do—rest for a few hours and then attend the Committee stage of the Licensing Bill. But not this Home Secretary; he does not care what happens upstairs because he does not believe in Committee work. He intends to see that all the hours which are available are available to him alone. He should accept the Motion and help those hon. Members who are doing 1616 the job for which they were elected. This present debate has been one-sided—indeed, there has been no debate. I support my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in his Motion.
§ 2.43 a.m.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)
I hope that the Leader of the House will accept the Motion. We have been discussing the Bill for some time but there are still many points which need to be made about it and many hon. Members who hope, Mr. Speaker, to catch your eye and participate in the debate.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), I have a Standing Committee— dealing with the Rating and Valuation Bill—to attend at 10.30 a.m. I want to be able to give careful attention to the rather complicated provisions of that Bill. We are coming to matters affecting the valuation of water undertakings, which is an exceedingly complicated subject, and we must have time beforehand to look at the material before us. It is not merely a question of being in the Standing Committee at 10.30 a.m. We must look at the material beforehand and prepare Amendments.
What is the urgency about giving this Bill a Second Reading? It is not intended to be brought into operation until June. It is a fairly simple Measure. Alterations are being made in the National Insurance contributions in April, but this Measure is not intended to come into operation until June. I cannot see what difference it will make to the Government's programme if there is a delay of 48 hours in the Bill being given a Second Reading— always assuming that it is given a Second Reading. I am sure that we should have a better and more serious debate and hear something from hon. Members opposite if we adjourned now, went home to bed and returned refreshed for the struggle at a better hour on a day in the future.
§ 2.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
There is no reason why the Leader of the House and the Government should not accede to the Motion. There is a great difference from a physical point of view between the burden suffered by the Government and that suffered by my hon. Friends. The 1617 Government Front Bench has been bare for most of the evening. While we have had to sit here endeavouring to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been able to go out and obtain sustenance. They are sitting there smiling, no doubt having had good meals, while we have bad to starve. In common decency and justice, that is a reason which should appeal to the Leader of the House, and I hope that he will now accede to the Motion.
§ 2.46 a.m.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
Looking at the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), who is obviously so short of sustenance that he is now a skeleton, makes me think back some hours on this debate. I was in the House in the early hours of this debate when we were debating this very important subject, and the Opposition benches were then empty. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh), who made a very penetrating speech, spoke to empty benches, and he knows that interest on the Opposition side on this very important matter at a time when hon. Members normally show their interest in a debate of this sort was very much absent. The situation became more and more acute as the hour got later and later or earlier and earlier in the morning.
It is obvious, and I think the public should know it, that this is nothing else but a filibuster. If hon. Members opposite were so interested in this matter they would have listened to the arguments cogently put from both sides of the House yesterday between four and ten o'clock, but they were conspicuous by their absence. I am sure that the British public, who are by no means insensible to the activities of filibuster in this House and elsewhere, will be more seized of the irresponsibility of Her Majesty's Opposition in their present actions than they have been for a very long time.
§ 2.48 a.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
The House is entitled to a much fuller explanation than we have yet had from the Leader of the House about how he wishes the House to conduct its business.
The Leader of the House acknowledged just now that this is a serious matter on which my right hon. and hon. 1618 Friends hold very deep convictions. He acknowledged that a great many very important speeches had been made and recognised that a great many of my hon. Friends still wish to make contributions to the debate. He has had a good deal of experience of conducting the affairs of the House. Only a few days ago he was gracious enough to acknowledge, and apologise for, the mistakes made last week. The Bill originates from the Motion carried in Committee of Ways and Means when the debate was so unfortunately curtailed as a result of the intervention of the Chief Whip. It is partly because the discussion in Committee of Ways and Means was so unfortunately curtailed that the debate tonight has taken as long as it has.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) has pointed out, five Standing Committees are due to sit at 10.30 this morning. Does the Leader of the House consider that the best way of conducting the business of the House is to keep one Standing Committee—as has happened today—sitting until after midnight, to keep the House sitting until we do not know how late this morning, and then to expect five Standing Committees of this House to be manned at 10.30 this morning?
The Leader of the House realises the importance of the subject. He knows that several hon. Members wish to speak and that, therefore, if the debate is not now adjourned as my right hon. Friend has suggested, practically the whole House—and it is packed—will be detained for several hours longer. Does he seriously expect Government business to be conducted efficiently on that basis? Is that the way in which the right hon. Gentleman expects the Bills before those five Standing Committees—business for which he is primarily responsible—to be dealt with later this morning?
The Bill on which I am engaged in Standing Committee is the same as that which interests my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey—the Licensing Bill. The Home Secretary himself has said that that Measure needed a great deal of amendment and revision, and he invited the Committee to put down Amendments for consideration. We have already had four sittings—the one later this morning will be the fifth. The Home 1619 Secretary has not been there; he has delegated responsibility to the Minister of State for the Home Department. As a result of the Second Reading debate and of Amendments that we have put down, the Minister of State has himself put down a large number of Amendments.
All this is serious Government business which the right hon. Gentleman is presumably expecting us to deal with in those conditions. He said only the other day that he is conscious that in this matter he has a responsibility to the whole House and to every Member of the House. We are, therefore, entitled to know whether he thinks that this is the best way of proceeding. I hope that, on reflection, he will realise that unless he studies the convenience of hon. Members on this side he will not get the results he desires, either in connection with the passage of this Bill or of the Bills now before Standing Committees.
He is well aware from previous experience that unless he has the cooperation of hon. Members on both sides, Government business can be held up indefinitely—
§ Mr. Mellish
If my hon. Friend will allow me to intervene, does he not agree that it would be a very good thing, in view of the reaction of the Government, if some of us on this side of the House decided to go on with the discussion of this Bill as long as practicable, so that some of the Standing Committees due to sit later this morning never meet at all?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am obliged to my hon. Friend.
I was about to remind the right hon. Gentleman of an occasion when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he thought he could expedite matters by having a long sitting. The only result of his then refusing to comply with the wishes of the Opposition was that, far from expediting public business, he postponed it.
The Leader of the House and all hon. Members opposite, including newcomers to the House, should be aware that there are many opportunities open to hon. Members on this side, unless there is full co-operation from the Government, to prolong—not by obstruction, but by the ordinary proper Parliamentary 1620 methods—the discussion of public business. In the long run, that will be harmful to the Government and will not redound to the credit of the House. I ask the Leader of the House to reconsider his decision and, as a result of what my right hon. and hon. Friends have said, to comply with the request that the debate should now be adjourned.
§ 2.56 a.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
This is the moment when the House should adjourn, because I am convinced that the Leader of the House does not wish to give the country the impression that the Government are determined to force the Measure through ruthlessly without any regard for democratic processes. I am sure that many hon. Members have the utmost sympathy for the Leader of the House. I have. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why"] I will explain why. I know that this afternoon he has to reply to the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) on a most important issue.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is extremely important and interesting, but I am not quite sure how I relate it to the Question now before the House.
§ Mr. Swingler
I merely wish to point out, Mr. Speaker, that we understand the difficulties of the Leader of the House in handling this Motion because, as he admitted when expressing his regret to the House in Monday's debate, he is constantly caught up in a very difficult vortex of circumstances because of his many responsibilities, which will include the very important speech he has to make this afternoon. He no doubt also has his mind on the Bill introduced yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell).
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The debate must be confined to the Question whether or not the debate be now adjourned. I must ask the hon. Member to address himself to the Question.
§ Mr. Swingler
In that case I will merely say this, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that the Leader of the House has not been able to follow the course of this debate in detail. He may not be seized of the seriousness of the debate and of the extent of the opposition to 1621 the Measure amongst my hon. Friends and amongst the people. There are still large numbers of hon. Members on this side who wish to speak and wish the debate to be conducted in a proper manner as a debate. That means that they hope that some hon. Members opposite will rise and attempt to justify the introduction of the Measure and the imposition of this taxation.
It cannot be said that there is any urgency about the passage of the Measure. Yesterday the Government published a White Paper showing that in other Departments they propose a fairly substantial increase of expenditure of many tens of millions of pounds. It is obvious that the Government are not in urgent need of the revenue from this impostition. As many of my hon. Friends have said, the matter could more properly be considered in our debates on the Budget.
We, therefore, appeal to the Leader of the House, in view of the events of last week and the debates earlier this week, to allow more time for reflection upon this Measure, in the light of the representations that have been made and of the vigorous opposition to the Measure that is obvious in the country. He cannot make out any case for urgency, and should allow Members to attend to those matters that are urgent, and about which their constituents are making immediate demands, by deferring consideration of this Bill.
§ 3.0 a.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
The House will agree that the reply we had from the Leader of the House was both perfunctory and unsatisfactory. That in itself is a significant sign of a reason for adjourning this debate, because every political commentator who writes about the right hon. Gentleman has always one thing at least to say—that his finger is on the political pulse, that he knows what people are thinking, and that he knows the right moment at which to balance himself delicately on the see-saw in order to be sure of getting off on the right side.
Today, however, this instinct has failed him, because if one thing is clear it is that Government supporters want to go home. [Interruption.] I am unable to tell from those animal cries whether 1622 they want to go home or not, but it has been demonstrated beyond peradventure that they have no stomach for debate.
I do not remember that the hon. Member was here, as I was, for the first 7½ hours of this debate. If he was here he will have heard an equal number of speeches from both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am ready to agree that Government supporters started off in the full flush of enthusiasm until they were overcome by the weight of argument put by my hon. Friends. The last speech made from the benches opposite in defence of this Bill was five hours ago.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Perhaps my hon. Friend is being a little unfair to hon. Members opposite. It cannot be so much that they have no stomachs for debate, but, to parody one of the most famous incidents and speeches in our House, may it not he that they have no tongues to speak except as the Chief Patronage Secretary might direct them?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I do not think I would be in order if I went over the events of the last few days. In any case. let us be fair. The Patronage Secretary. with a latent sense of decency, has retired from the scene. If he had not done so, I might have invited him to make another speech, although perhaps that is too much to hope for at the present time.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
I hope that my hon. Friend will reply to the charge made by the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Bourne-Arton) that he has not attended the debate, and explain that for several hours he has been in consultation on very important colonial matters in the House but not in the Chamber. It is very unfair—
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
I am much obliged to you for your protection, Mr. Speaker. It was very improper for the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) to say that there is nothing else for hon. Members doing their duty in this House to do than to sit on these 1623 benches, and that the benches are full hour after hour. The benches are full for the first two speeches in a debate, but there are Committees which sit upstairs. I spent two and a half hours doing my duty on a Committee upstairs. Will my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) explain to the hon. Member for Ormskirk that we would appreciate his joining in discussions in this House and not complaining that we are not doing our duty? [Interruption.] I am used to noisy interruptions. At six o'clock on a Thursday evening—
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
May I finish this sentence? At six o'clock every Thursday evening the benches opposite are completely empty.
§ Sir D. Glover
The hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) made a personal attack on me.
§ Mr. Speaker
Not even the fact that it was a personal attack makes it a point of order. Mr. Callaghan.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I wonder if I might be allowed to intervene in the debate for a moment? [An HON. MEMBER: "Frightened? "] I am not frightened of the hon. Member, whoever else I might be frightened of. What is quite clear [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way,"]—I have given way for the last five minutes. Let me get one sentence in. I must say, in reference to what was said about our being present or absent from the Chamber, that it is undoubtedly the case that because of the deep divisions in the Government and in the party opposite over the question of Northern Rhodesia, many of us on these benches have had our attendance interrupted to see people who will have their livelihood and fortunes affected by what is happening there. We can all account for where we have been and what we have been doing.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I shall give way to the hon. Member in a moment. Much as I appreciate his desire to help the Patronage Secretary, I am sure that the Leader of the House appreciates it more. I think that the hon. Member will find in the morning that he will have many medals for all the assistance he is giving the Government Front Bench at the moment. I want to support one thing he said. He said he thought it very important that the British people should know what is going on. So do we. That is why we suggest that the debate should be adjourned.
The hon. Gentleman knows that none of the speeches being made at this hour—or made by one side of the House—is likely to be reported. There is much more prospect of the British people knowing what is going on if we have these speeches made in the full light of day when the Press will report them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] Then it will be shown what a dumb lot of sheep are sitting on the benches opposite. They have no arguments, they have no tongues, they have no case. They are pure Lobby fodder in the worst sense of the word.
There is another reason for adjourning this debate. It is this. Even hon. Gentlemen opposite, with their thick and insensitive skins, must have realised by now the degree of indignation which this Bill and these charges are causing in the country. If indeed they have not had any representations on this subject, it can only be because their constituents have given up the Conservative Party as the repository of any sort of decency or justice.
§ Mr. Speaker
Again, I ask the hon. Member to confine his observations to the Question before the House.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Yes, Mr. Speaker, and this is very much the Question before the House, for the point I want to put to the Leader of the House is, that he is getting into these difficulties, in which, as I have been reminded and the House has been reminded before, some 200 Members of the House—and that is a very considerable proportion of the House—will be required in Standing Committees at 10.30 this morning, because he is overloading us with business at the present time.
1625 There are, obviously, occasions when the pressure of Government business is such that he must take up the time of the House and make serious inroads into the occupations of hon. Members attending here, but I put it to the Leader of the House that one of the reasons he is in these difficulties is that this Bill was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech. It was not part of the Government's legislative programme. Bills which are in Committee upstairs were so mentioned and are part of that programme. Everybody expected them, and the Chief Patronage Secretary was able to make his arrangements accordingly.
Why has this Bill suddenly appeared when it was not thought fit, not thought worthy, to be mentioned in the Queen's Speech? I think many of us know that the reason lies, of course, in the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What he has said, quite clearly, having assumed his office—
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think the origins of the Bill, whatever they may be, can assist the House on this Question, which is whether or no the debate should now be adjourned.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I think, Mr. Speaker. that if we were to examine the origins a little more closely we should then begin to see why the debate should be adjourned, and as far as I am concerned it need never be resumed. The origins of the Bill are quite simple. The origins are that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget did not propose to take all the unpopularity which ought to be equally shared out on the Treasury Bench. That is the reason for the Bill.
What I am saying is that it would be far better if this had been considered in the regular way. I ask the Leader of the House to do that now. If this had formed part of the Budget, and if we had been able to take it as such, the situation would have been different. The only reason we are here at this time is that the Bill was brought in on a Ways and Means Resolution. Otherwise the debate would have been automatically terminated at ten o'clock last night. But no. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not want it that way. He wanted to make sure that the Minister of Health 1626 got his full meed of popularity through being able to introduce these charges himself.
Well, he has done it and he has succeeded, but I say to the Leader of the House that in so succeeding he is endangering his own programme of Government business. If he had been master of the political touch we all know he possesses he would have realised that, in allowing the Chancellor to do it this way, in order to dodge some of the blows which are now falling on the head of the Minister of Health, he would get himself into difficulties with his Parliamentary timetable.
I hope that we will hear from the Leader of the House again. I think that all hon. Members will give him permission to speak again—certainly we on this side will. I should not ask for another speech from the Patronage Secretary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is the Prime Minister? ".] I am sure that even the Patronage Secretary's followers would not welcome another speech from him, remembering the consequences that flowed from his last speech. It is far better that the Patronage Secretary should remain seen but unheard, and I have a feeling that it will be a long time before we hear another speech from him.
I ask the Leader of the House to consider this matter again. He should agree to adjourn the debate so that he can consider the volume of protest that has come from this side of the House, which has not been answered since ten o'clock last night; so that he can consult the convenience of those 200 hon. Members who will sit on Standing Committees at ten-thirty this morning to discharge the business that was in the Queen's Speech and which is part of the Government's programme; and so that those who sit on the Government benches, looking—if I may use the phrase that was uttered many years ago by the hon. Member for Southgate (Sir B. Baxter)—like a bunch of faded daffodils, may go home and get their beauty sleep and come back looking a little refreshed tomorrow.
We think that we ought to test the opinion of the House on this Question. If hon. Gentlemen follow their own views they will vote with us, bin, being 1627 just so much Lobby fodder, I expect they will follow the Patronage Secretary.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
rose in his place, and claimed to move, That the Question be now put:—
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—1628
§ The House divided: Ayes 266; Noes 196.1631
|Division No. 49.]||AYES||[3.17 a.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Errington, Sir Eric||Lilley, F. J. P.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Farr, John||Lindsay, Martin|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Fell, Anthony||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Finlay, Graeme||Litohfield, Capt. John|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Fisher, Nigel||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Balniel, Lord||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Longbottom, Charles|
|Barber, Anthony||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Freeth, Denzil||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Barter, John||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Batsford, Brian||Gammans, Lady||MacArthur, Ian|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Gardner, Edward||McLaren, Martin|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||George, J. C. (Pollok)||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Gibson-Watt, David||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)||Glover, Sir Douglas||Maolean,Sir Fitzroy (Bute&N.Ayrs.)|
|Bidgood, John C.||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||MacLeod, John(Ross & Cromarty)|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Goodhart, Philip||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Goodhew, Victor||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Gower, Raymond||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Bossom, Clive||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.||Maginnis, John E.|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Green, Alan||Maitland, Sir John|
|Box, Donald||Gresham Cooke, R.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Crimston, Sir Robert||Marten, Neil|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)|
|Braine, Bernard||Gurden, Harold||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)|
|Brewis, John||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mawby, Ray|
|Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Co1.SirWallter||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Brooman-White, R.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Mills, Stratton|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Bryan, Paul||Hastings, Stephen||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Bollard, Denys||Hay, John||Morgan, William|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hendry, Forbes||Nabarro, Gerald|
|Butler, Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Hiley, Joseph||Heave, Alrey|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Nicholls, Sir Harmer|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hinchinghrooke, Viscount||Noble, Michael|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Oakshott, Sir Hendrle|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hobson, John||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian|
|Chataway, Christopher||Holland, Philip||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hollingworth, John||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Horrtby, R. P.||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Partridge, C.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Peel, John|
|Cole, Norman||Hughes-Young, Michael||Percival, Ian|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Peyton, John|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Iremonger, T. L.||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Cordle, John||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pilkington, Sir Richard|
|Corfield, F. V.||Jackson, John||Pitman, I. J.|
|Costain, A. P.||Jennings, J. C.||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Coulson, J. M.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Pott, Percivall|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Critchley, Julian||Joseph, Sir Keith||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John|
|Cunningham, Knox||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kershaw, Anthony||Ramsden, James|
|Deedes, W. F.||Kimball, Marcus||Rawlinson, Peter|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Kirk, Peter||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Kitson, Timothy||Rees, Hugh|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lagden, Godfrey||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|du Cann, Edward||Lambton, Viscount||Renton, David|
|Duncan, Sir James||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Duthie, Sir William||Langford-Holt, J.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Leather, E. H. C.||Rippon, Geoffrey|
|Elliott,R.W.(N'wc'stle-upon.Tyne,N.)||Leavey, J. A.||Roots, William|
|Emily, Peter||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Russell, Ronald||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)||Watts, James|
|Seymour, Leslie||Teeling, William||Webster, David|
|Sharples, Richard||Temple, John M||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Shaw, M.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Whitelaw, William|
|Shepherd, William||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn||Thomas, Peter (Conway)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Smithers, Peter||Thorntono-Kemsley, Sir Colin||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Spearman, Sir Alexander||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Stanley, Hon. Richard||Turner, Colin||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Stevens, Geoffrey||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Tweedsmuir, Lady||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Stodart, J. A.||van Straubenzee, W. R||Woollam, John|
|Storey, Sir Samuel||Vane, W. M. F.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Studholme, Sir Henry||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)||Vickers, Miss Joan||Mr. Edward Wakefield and|
|Talbot, John E.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)||Colonel J. H. Harrison.|
|Tapsell, Peter||Wall, Patrick|
|Abse, Leo||Greenwood, Anthony||Morris, John|
|Ainsley, William||Grey, Charles||Mulley, Frederick|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Neal, Harold|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Awbery, Stan||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Oram, A. E.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Baird, John||Hannan, William||Owen, Will|
|Beaney, Alan||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Padley, W. E.|
|Bence, Cyril (Dunhartonshire, E.)||Hayman, F. H.||Paget, R. T.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Blyton, William||Holman, Percy||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Boardman, H.||Houghton, Douglas||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)||Howell, Charles A.||Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Hoy, James H.||PavItt, Laurence|
|Bowles, Frank||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Peart, Frederick|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pentland, Norman|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hunter, A. E.||Prentice, R. E.|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Janner, Sir Barnett||Probert, Arthur|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Proctor, W. T.|
|Callaghan, James||Jeger, George||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Castle. Mrs. Barbara||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Rankin, John|
|Chetwynd, George||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Cliffe, Michael||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Roberts, Coronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Collick, Percy||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Corbel, Mrs. Freda||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Ross, William|
|Cronin, John||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Short, Edward|
|Crosland, Anthony||Kelley, Richard||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Kenyon, Clifford||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Darling, George||King, Dr. Horace||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lawson, George||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Ledger, Ron||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Small, William|
|Deer, George||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Snow, Julian|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dempsey, James||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Diamond, John||Loughlin, Charles||Steele, Thomas|
|Dodds, Norman||Mahon, Dr. J. Dickson||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||McCann, John||Stones, William|
|Driberg, Tom||MacColl, James||Strauss, Rt. Hn. C. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Edelman, Maurice||McInnes, James||Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Swain, Thomas|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mackie, John||Swingler, Stephen|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Sylvester, George|
|Finch, Harold||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Fitch, Alan||Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfiekl, E.)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Manuel, A. C.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Mop, Charles||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Fortran, J. C.||Marsh, Richard||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mason, Roy||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Mayhew, Christopher||Thornton, Ernest|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mellish, R. J.||Timmons, John|
|George,LadyMeganLloyd(C'rm'rth'n)||Mendelson, J. J.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Ginsburg, David||Millan, Bruce||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Milne, Edward J.||Warbey, William|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mitchison, G. R.||Weitzman, David|
|Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)||Woof, Robert|
|White, Mrs. Eirene||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Whitlock, William||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Wilkins, W. A.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Willey, Frederick||Winterbottom, R. E.||TEELERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Williams, D. J. (Neath)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.||Mr. Redhead and Mr. Irving.|
§ Question put accordingly, That the debate be now adjourned: —
§ The House proceeded to a Division—
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I desire to put to you a point which, instead of taking it with hilarity, hon. Members should take as a serious point. The point is this. I want to submit, very respectfully, that Mr. Speaker ought not to accept this proposal, that it is completely—
§ very respectfully, that Mr. Speaker ought not to accept this proposal.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I submit that it is completely out of harmony with Parliamentary practice. There are twenty hon. Members on our side of the House who still desire to take part in the debate—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is putting a point to me with complete respect and sincerity but, with due respect to him, it is quite misconceived. The House having decided that the Question should be put, I have to put it, and I have done so.
§ The House divided: Ayes 196; Noes 266.1633
|Pearl, Frederick||Snow, Julian||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Pentland, Norman||Sorensen, R. W.||Warbey, William|
|Prentice, R E.||Spriggs, Leslie||Weitzman, David|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Steele, Thomas||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Probert, Arthur||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Proctor, W. T.||Stones, William||Whitlock, William|
|Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Strauss, Rt. Hn, G. R. (Vauxhall)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Rankin, John||Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Reynolds, G. W.||Swain, Thomas||Williams, D. J. (Heath)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Swingler, Stephen||Williams, Li. (Abertillery)|
|Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Sylvester, George||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||Symonds, J. B.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Ross, William||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Short, Edward||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Winterhottom, R. E.|
|Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Woof, Robert|
|Sketfington, Arthur||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Thornton, Ernest||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Small, William||Timmons, John||Mr. Redhead and Mr.Irvirg.|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Division No. 50.]||AYES||[3.27 a.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||King, Dr. Horace|
|Ainsley, William||Fernyhough, E.||Lawson, George|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Finch, Harold||Ledger, Ron|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Fitch, Alan||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Awbery, Stan||Fletcher, Eric||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Baird, John||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Beaney, Alan||Forman, J. C.||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)|
|Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Blackburn, F.||Galpern, Sir Myer||Mahon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Blyton, William||George,LadyMeganLioyd(C'rm'rth'n)||McCann, John|
|Boardman, H.||Ginsburg, David||MacColl, James|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||McInnes, James|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Gourley, Harry||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Bowles, Frank||Greenwood, Anthony||Mackie, John|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Grey, Charles||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Lianelly)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Manuel, A. C.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mapp, Charles|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hannan, William||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Callaghan, James||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Marsh, Richard|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Hayman, F. H.||Mason, Roy|
|Chetwynd, George||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Clilte, Michael||Holman, Percy||Mellish, R. J.|
|Collick, Percy||Houghton, Douglas||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Howell, Charles A.||Milian, Bruce|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hoy, James H.||Milne, Edward J.|
|Cronin, John||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Crosland, Anthony||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Monslow, Walter|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Morris, John|
|Darling, George||Hunter, A. E.||Motley, Frederick|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Neal, Harold|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Janner, Sir Barnett||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Orem, A. E.|
|Deer, George||Jager, George||Oswald, Thomas|
|Ae Freitas, Geoffrey||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Owen, Will|
|Delargy, Hugh||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Padley, W. E.|
|Dempsey, James||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Paget, R. T.|
|Diamond, John||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Dodds, Norman||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Driberg, Tom||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Kelley, Richard||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Kenyon, Clifford||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||de Ferranti, Basil||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Drayson, G. B.||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||du Cann, Edward||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Ouncan, Sir James||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Balniel, Lord||Duthie, Sir William||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.|
|Barber, Anthony||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Barlow, Sir John||Elliott, R. W (N 'wc'stle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Barter, John||Emery, Peter||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Botsford, Brian||Errington, Sir Eric||Kimball, Marcus|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Farr, John||Kirk, Peter|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Fell, Anthony||Kitson, Timothy|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Finlay, Graeme||Lagden, Godfrey|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)||Fisher, Nigel||Lambton, Viscount|
|Bidgood, John C.||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Freeth, Denzil||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Leavey, J. A.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Gammons, Lady||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Bossom, Clive||Gardner. Edward||Lilley, F. J. P.|
|Bourne-Arton, A||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lindsay, Martin|
|Box, Donald||Gibson-Watt, David||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Glover, Sir Douglas||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Brains, Bernard||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Longbottom, Charles|
|Brewis, John||Goodhart, Philip||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.SirWalter||Goodhew, Victor||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Gower, Raymond||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Brooman-White, R.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.||MacArthur, Ian|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Green, Alan||McLaren, Martin|
|Bryan, Paul||Gresham Cooke, R.||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Bullard, Denys||Crimston, Sir Robert||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Maclean,Sir Fitzroy(Bute & N. Ayrs.)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Gurden, Harold||McLean, Nell (Inverness)|
|Butler, Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Maginnis, John E.|
|Chataway, Christopher||Hastings, Stephen||Maitland, Sir John|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hay, John||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Marten, Neil|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hendry, Forbes||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth. W.)||Miley, Joseph||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Mawby, Ray|
|Cole, Norman||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hobson, John||Mills, Stratton|
|Cordle, John||Holland, Philip||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hollingworth, John||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Costain, A. P.||Hornby, R. P.||Morgan, William|
|Coulson, J. M.||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Nabarro, Gerald|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Heave, Airey|
|Critchley, Julian||Hughes-Young, Michael||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Crosthwalte-Eyre, Cot. O. E.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Noble, Michael|
|Crowder, F. P.||Iremonger, T. L.||Oakshott, Sir Hendrle|
|Cunningham, Knox||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Jackson, John||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Jennings, J. C.||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Deedes, W. F.|
|Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Russell, Ronald||Turner, Colin|
|Partridge, E.||Scott-Hopkins, James||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Seymour, Leslie||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Peel, John||Sharpies, Richard||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Percival, Ian||Shaw, M.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Peyton, John||Shepherd, William||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Pllkington, Sir Richard||Skeet, T. H. H.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Pitman, I. J.||Smithers, Peter||Wall, Patrick|
|Pitt, Miss Edith||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Pott, Percivall||Stanley, Hon. Richard||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Stevens, Geoffrey||Watts, James|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Webster, David|
|prior, J. M. L.||Stodart, J. A,||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Storey, Sir Samuel||Whltelaw, William|
|Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Studholme, Sir Henry||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Quennefl, Miss J. M.||Talbot, John E.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Ramsden, James||Tapsell, Peter||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Rawlinson, Peter||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wolrige-Cordon, Patrick|
|Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Rees, Hugh||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Teeling, William||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Renton, David||Temple, John M.||Woollam, John|
|Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Worsley. Marcus|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Rlppon, Geoffrey||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Roots, William||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin||Mr. Edward Wakefield and|
|Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)||Colonel J. H. Harrison.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ 3.33 a.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
Suggestions were made in the course of the recent proceedings that the Government were not very ready to make a reply. I have been waiting to reply to the debate for quite a long time—
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
On a point of order. I have been trying for some time, along with several of my hon. Friends. to take part in the debate. Can you give us some guidance, Mr. Speaker? Judging from his opening remarks, the Chancellor of the Exchequer presumes that he is closing the debate and that it is not proposed to carry it on. May I ask whether the Closure will be applied by the Chancellor?
§ Mr. Speaker
All that has happened so far is that I called the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he rose. I have no observation to make about anything else that the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) has said.
§ Mr. Short
Further to that point of order. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not a point of order."] Of course it is. The Chair decides. You will recollect, Mr. Speaker, that the House has just passed by a very large majority a Motion not to adjourn the debate. In these circumstances, we regard it as inconceivable that the Chair should accept a Closure Motion after the Chancellor's speech.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have not the slightest intention of making any declaration whatsoever now on the subject of the Closure.
§ Mr. Manuel
Further to that point of order. I think that what I have to say is a valuable point of substance. Many hon. Members have been getting up, not recently but during the whole course of the debate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer who is now having the opportunity to address the House never got up once during that period. I think that hon. Members who have been rising and who have deprived themselves of food should have an opportunity to speak before we hear the Chancellor, who has chosen his time to speak to the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to indicate what is his point of order I will try to answer him. I have not been able to hear it.
§ Mr. Manuel
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, if you did not get my point. It was that many hon. Members on this side of the House have been getting up repeatedly during the last seven hours, in order to make their own contributions about something on which they have the very strongest feelings. They have not, so far, been able to catch your eye and I thought that possibly they could have been called before the Chancellor who has made no attempt, during those seven hours, to address the House.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
Is it not customary on Second Reading that, before a Minister replies, there shall have been a Front Bench speaker from the other side of the House?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite have tried to harry and provoke the Government. I make no comment on that, because it is a duty of the Opposition, but I will now try to reply without answering the many provocative remarks by hon. Members opposite to the effect that it is only they who care about poverty and suffering. I am not going to get involved in that. What I will try to do is to deal with the Second Reading of the Bill.
When the Government's proposals where introduced they were described by the Opposition as an attack on the National Health Service. That allegation has been repeated since, both during yesterday's debate and during this morning. Repeatedly, that charge has been made against us. I say that it cannot be substantiated, and I will give three reasons why that is so. Anybody who gave any intelligent consideration at all to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health must have realised that his account of the expected development of the Service and the expected scope of the cost, will say—they must say—that he has been most unfairly attacked. I say that he has been most unwisely attacked, because time will show what he will have succeeded in doing to develop the Service.
The second reason I believe that this attack cannot be substantiated is because of the figures of the cost of the service. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has spoken of this fine Service, the envy of the world ". 1 agree with him. Let us look at the cost. In 1949–50, it was £ 421 million; in 1958–59, it was £ 687 million; in 1960–61, it cost £ 829 million, and the prospective cost for the next financial year is £ 850 million. Of course—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
Order. If the Minister does not give way, hon. Members must resume their seats.
§ Mr. Manuel
There has been a rule during this debate that we must relate our arguments to what is in the Bill. I submit that the Chancellor is going very wide here, and I put it to the Chair that Rulings should not be different for Ministers than they are for backbenchers.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, frequently ruled that this debate was a very narrow one and that it was confined entirely to discussion of the contributions. Now the Chancellor of the Exchequer has begun his oration by dealing not with the contributions, but with something else. In my respectful submission he is out of order and it would be unfair to grant him privileges which were not accorded to hon. Members on this side of the House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
In my experience in the Chair, the debate has been rather wide and certainly nothing that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said has been out of order.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen
On a point of order. Is it in order that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should use his speech to sing a paean of praise for the Minister of Health?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I have spent many hours listening to other speakers without interrupting them. Perhaps I may be 1639 allowed to put interruption.
The point was made that the figures I gave had no regard to the change in the value of money. I will make that adjustment. The 1949–50 figure in present terms would be £ 650 million, but in fact the expenditure is to be £ 850 million. That is a measure of expansion of the Service.
The third reason why the charge cannot be substantiated is that since—
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
On a point of order. Since the right hon. and learned Gentleman is being allowed a great deal more latitude than other hon. Members have been allowed, as I think is not contested, are we to take it that future speakers from this side of the House will be permitted to reply to the very tendentious figures now being given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman?
§ Mr. Lloyd
The figures which I have given, far from being tendentious, are the actual out-turn figures of expenditure on the Health Service.
The third reason why this accusation cannot be substantiated is that since 1954 the proportion of the gross national product taken has been steadily increasing—from 3.3 per cent. in 1954 to about 4 per cent. in 1960, and that shows that over the last six years—
§ Mr. deputy-Speaker
Order. If the Minister does not give way, the hon. Member must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain why, when he was talking about the total increase, in money terms, in what has been spent on the National Health Service, he compared 1950 with 1959, but when he was speaking about the proportion of the national income he took 1954 as his base year? Will he give the figure for 1950 compared with 1959?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not give way, the hon. Member must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The point which I am making is that over the last six years the figure has been slowly increasing, and nobody can dispute that. Faced with that situation, could I, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, have followed the lead of Sir Stafford Cripps? In 1950, after four and a half years of office, before the Korean War and after devalution, he took his decision. He said:It is clear that it is not possible in existing circumstances to permit any overall increase in the expenditure on the Health Services. Any expansion in one part of the Service must in future be met by economies or, if necessary, by contraction in others. In exercising this essential control over total expenditure, regard will of course be had to priorities."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 18th April, 1950; Vol. 474, c. 59–60.]That principle of a ceiling upon National Health Service expenditure was confirmed by the Leader of the Opposition in the following year.
Sir Stafford Cripps talked about "existing circumstances," and I say that, having regard to existing circumstances, having regard to international uncertainties, having regard to the danger of excessive pressure of demand at home 1641 leading to inflation, nevertheless, I do not think that it would be right to take the same line as Sir Stafford Cripps.
§ Mr. Mellish
On a point of order. The House became very excited the other night. While I accept that if the Minister does not give way, no other hon. Member can have the Floor, ought you not, Sir, as Deputy-Speaker, at this stage to point out to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the House will slowly lose its temper and that you will get into a lot of trouble unless he follows the normal custom of the House? My hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) is known as one of the most courteous Members of the House, and would it not be better if the right hon. and learned Gentleman followed the lead which he sets? It is about time that the right hon. and learned Gentleman understood that he ought to give way in debate.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is not a point of order. Any hon. Member who is speaking decides whether he will give way or not. I hope that the debate will continue to be conducted with decorum.
§ Mr. Lloyd
What is much clearer is that the Opposition are much more afraid to hear the case against them.
As I was saying, it might have been more popular to have taken the same course as Sir Stafford Cripps, and it might have been easier, but we prefer to let the development of the Service continue. Therefore, the real question today is how this increased expenditure should be met. It is a question of proportion rather than of principle. It has nothing to do with naked class legislation ", as it was described. It is a matter of trying to hold the right balance between the position of the citizens as taxpayers, as contributors and as recipients of the benefits of the Service.
1642 Of course the health stamp is a poll tax. I do not dispute that for a moment. But I believe that this principle of a poll tax for certain contributions to the National Health Service was accepted in 1946.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Lord Beveridge, in his speech in another place giving qualified support to our proposals, made this quite clear. He made it quite clear that the fixing of the contribution was the responsibility of the Labour Government. In 1948–49 when the Labour Government were planning the cost of the Service for the first year the contribution was planned at £ 40 million out of £ 174 million.
§ Miss Lee
I do not ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to divulge any improper information, but will he turn to the chapter on the National Health Service by Aneurin Bevan, in "In Place of Fear"? He will find that on page 75 the statement is clearly made:What was to be its financial relationship with National insurance? Should not the Health Service be on an insurance basis? I decided against this.On page 79 it is clearly stated:The means of collecting the revenues for the Health Service are already in the possession of most modern states, and that is the normal system of taxation.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Perhaps I might just finish, and I will then give way to the right hon. Gentleman.
It was not just the first year. In the second year, 1949–50, the Labour Government planned that the general body of taxpayers should bear 723 per cent. of the cost. That was the figure in the Estimates for the second year of the Service.
§ Mr. G. Brown
I dealt with all this the other day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The right hon. and learned Gentleman just slipped in the words "a planned percentage of 23". Has he any evidence for that? I pointed out the other day that I had been through the Beveridge Report, the Government Actuary's Report and the original debates, and there is absolutely no evidence for that at all. In fact, in the first year the percentage turned out to be much less than 10, and it never was anything like 23 at any stage.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly): rose—
§ Mr. Lloyd
I will give way in a moment. I must be allowed to get in an occasional sentence. The Opposition may wriggle as they like, but they cannot get away from the fact that in the Explanatory Memorandum the contribution was £ 40 million, which is 23 per cent., and in the Estimates for the following year the amount to be provided by the Exchequer was 72.3 per cent.
§ Mr. Griffiths
It was I who had the privilege of introducing the National Insurance Measure in 1945, in which, of the original contribution of 4s. 11d. for the employed contributor, 81-d. was allocated to the National Health Service—
§ Mr. Griffiths
Yes, but I am coming to the point made by the Chancellor. It remained at the same level of contribution from the introduction of the Act in 1946 right through to the end and, indeed, was left at the same rate by the Conservative Government which came in 1951. Therefore, the contribution was never equal to the percentage that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been mentioning.
My second point is that the National Insurance Bill was brought before this House and was passed before the Health Service Act, and the Labour Government 1644 decided thereafter that they would not increase the contribution beyond that level, but that any amount beyond that level would be met by taxation.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I do not think that what the right hon. Gentleman says affects my point at all—[Interruption]—We are being accused of an attack on the standard of living of the people—[Interruption]—because we say that next year the contribution to be borne by the Exchequer shall be 70.7 per cent.—because we planned that. The Opposition planned that it should be 72.3 per cent.—a difference of 1.6 per cent. or 1.7 per cent.
We are accused of this great attack upon standards of living because we say 17.4 per cent. for the stamp, and charges, 5.9 per cent., coming to 23.3 per cent. In the first Explanatory Memorandum the contribution was planned at 23 per cent. Therefore, I say that this is not a question of principle at all, because the Opposition, on their awn figures [Interruption.]
We are told. of course, that what we are proposing to do will cause hardship to a number of people. We have been told that there are 7 million incomes below £ 10 a week. Those figures related, in fact, to 1958–59; since then, there has been a substantial improvement. Of those 7 million incomes, 5½ million are those of single people, and many, no doubt, are those of juveniles. They also include many who are retired, and many who, for other reasons, do not pay these contributions—people who are part-time workers or casual workers.
We have to go back, as I was asked to do many times, to the facts of the situation, to the absolute terms, and I think that there are certain very remarkable suggestions to which we should pay attention—The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) always has a lot to say—perhaps he will allow me to say a few words in my turn, without commenting while sitting. In 1949 there were 2.4 million people with incomes of between £ 500 and £ 1,000 after tax. In 1959 there were 11:1 million. That is a tremendous change in income pattern.
The hon. Member for Southampton, lichen (Dr. King) spoke of the burden upon Income Tax and Surtax payers and the figures produced as a result of those 1645 taxes. In 1951–52 Income Tax and Surtax payers produced 43 per cent. of the total revenue. In 1959–60 they produced 44–5 per cent. In other words, so far from shirking part of their burden, they are bearing a greater burden. Even making the adjustment for the health stamp, the proportion is greater today than before.
We come back to the basic fact that the contribution in 1948 was 8½d., as the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said. Today it is 2s. 8½d. It has risen by 2s. a week. During that time average weekly earnings have risen from £ 6 14s. to nearly £ 15. Against the background of such an increase in average weekly earnings I cannot believe that this is a great hardship.
We have been told many times today that percentages are not the factors to which we should pay account and that we must have regard to absolute terms. It is 2s. a week against an increase of £ 8 a week. I defend the Bill as a reasonable apportionment rightly stated at the time of the Vote on Account.
The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) went a little wider than the Bill towards the end of his speech. He accused us of a stealthy, piecemeal attack upon the social services. He said that we were chipping away and trying to dismantle the Welfare State. The answer lies in the facts and figures. This year the combined Votes for which my right hon. Friends the Ministers of Housing and Local Government, Education, Pensions and National Insurance, and Health are responsible are expected to total over £ 2,025 million. In 1951–52 similar Vote expenditure totalled £ 1,100 million. We are continuing that policy. For the current year we estimate that we shall spend £ 140 million more than last year. Next year we estimate that we shall spend a further £ 100 million. Allegations about the emasculation of the Service, when it has been practically doubled between 1951–52 and 1959 60—
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
On a point of order. I am not 1646 able to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech. I want to hear it. He is announcing great increases in expenditure. I cannot follow this. I cannot hear because of the cheers of hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am sure that the lion. Member will have much pleasure in reading what I have said in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The figures I have given are not a record of parsimony, of attack, or of dismantling. These are vast sums, and if they are not found, then the services will suffer.
I shall not be drawn now into a discussion of taxation and financial policy, except to say that Members opposite seem so often to forget that the Welfare State depends on the productive efforts of our trade and industry—[Interruption.]—and, therefore, it is absolutely right that these proposals should be seen against the background of the Vote on Account. They represent a fair balance—one that is necessary if the interests of the National Health Service itself are not to be impaired—and I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I thought that the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) was about to make a speech.
§ Mr. Wilson
I was asking a question before the Chancellor sat down. I was on my feet before he resumed contact with the Treasury Bench. Would he now answer the question he did not have the courtesy to give way to answer before? He said that, in existing circumstances, he was proposing these increases, and referred to 1951. Does he recall that in 1951 it was made clear that the increases were purely temporary?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I hope that the House will allow the debate to be conducted more quietly.