Higgins, Terence (6 of 12).  The History of Parliament Oral History Project

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  • Recording date

    2012-04-27, 2013-07-16, 2013-07-18, 2013-07-23

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, London and House of Lords, London

  • Interviewees

    Higgins, Terence, 1928- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Warren, Jemima, 1982- (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 6: LH elected at the 1964 general election. Talks about campaign and uncertainty that would win. Mentions that his Labour opponent was Anthony Lester. LH won with a majority of 32,500. [00:00:56] Mentions that Anthony Lester subsequently became a Liberal and is a good friend of LH and of LH's wife. Now Lord Lester of Herne Hill. [00:01:29] LH went straight to Front Bench after the election as Opposition Spokesman on Treasury Affairs. [00:01:54] Mentions regularity of all-night Commons sittings. Describes arrangement of business, starting with Questions at 2:30pm and then Standing Committees. [00:02:22] Mentions involvement with first Prices and Incomes Bill and with the first Finance Bill not to be considered solely on the floor of the House. [00:02:36] Led by Keith Joseph on the Prices and Incomes Bill and by Ian Macleod on the Finance Bill. Mentions that doing both Bills meant starting at 2:30pm and continuing through the night until the next morning. Describes having "no top of one's head" by the time of the parliamentary recess. [00:03:21] Talks about gruelling Commons schedule and unlikelihood of its repetition. [00:03:49] Asked about effect on family life. Married at time, but no children. [00:04:04] Describes meeting wife on Upper Committee Corridor and discussion of who would relieve the babysitter. Admits would have been easier if LH and wife not in similar fields. [00:05:03] Mentions working with Patrick Jenkin. Mentions interest in indirect taxation, including purchase tax and selective employment tax. [00:05:30] Mentions numerous debates on those taxes. work to develop the Value Added Tax. Mentions debates on decimalisation. [00:05:44] LH and Patrick Jenkin in favour of a "ten bob unit". Jim Callaghan preferred introduction of the pound and system of decimalisation. [00:06:12] Describes arguments in favour of decimalisation. [00:06:38] Talks about Conservatives' move into government in 1970. LH becomes Minister of State at the Treasury under Ian Macleod as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Patrick Jenkin as Financial Secretary. [00:07:03] Patrick Jenkin responsible for direct taxation (especially Corporation Tax) and LH for indirect taxation (especially VAT). [00:07:23] Talks about work on the implementation of decimalisation. Explains Conservative rationale for pursuing the previous Labour government's plans for a pound system. [00:08:35] Talks about work with officials preparing for Decimal Day. [00:08:45] Describes retention of some of the older coins and LH's campaign to "Save the Sixpence". [00:09:32] Mentions that decimalisation is unusual as a Treasury initiative which has lasted. [00:10:10] Talks about responsibility for introduction of Value Added Tax. Describes speech on VAT at Conservative Party conference. [00:11:28] Describes preparation for the introduction of Value Added Tax. [00:11:47] Mentions help in work on VAT of the Permanent Secretary at Customs and Excise, Sir Ronald Radford. [00:12:02] Describes endless interviews on VAT exemptions and on zero-rating. Describes difference between the two. [00:12:44] Recalls interviews with the London art market and with the London diamond market. Mentions Permanent Secretary's advice on how to deal with the two. [00:13:34] Discusses the agreement reached with the London art market and with the London diamond market and the abolition of the purchase tax. [00:14:01] Notes the longevity of the structure of the VAT. [00:14:24] Recalls that introduction of VAT was revenue-neutral. [00:14:37] Discusses wrongful suggestion that VAT introduced ahead of Britain's entry into Europe. [00:15:03] Discusses importance of zero-rating. [00:16:03] Describes introduction of draft VAT bill into the House and debates on which items to zero-rate. [00:16:24] Describes debate on amendment to zero-rate children's shoes and concession made as result of MP absence from the House. [00:18:01] Mentions advantage of VAT is is difficult to avoid. [00:19:10] Describes being summoned back to the Treasury by the Principal Private Secretary when Ian Macleod found dead. [00:20:13] Mentions Ian Macleod had been unwell and LH's view that IM had been released from hospital too soon. [00:20:24] Describes arrival of undertakers and viewing of IM's body. [00:21:24] Mentions immense loss of IM to the Treasury and to the Conservative government. [00:22:33] Describes appointment of Anthony Barber [AB] as IM's successor as Chancellor of the Exchequer. [00:22:59] Mentions AB's strength as a delegator. [00:23:16] Talks about history's mistaken judgement on AB's record as Chancellor of the Exchequer as a "dash for growth". [00:24:26] Mentions problems with Treasury figures on money supply. [00:24:44] Talks about aims for the economy. [00:25:54] Mentions speeches by Ted Heath on rises in commodity prices and inflationary pressures, and another one which implied a "dash for growth" and which was not cleared by the Treasury. [00:27:54] Mentions miners' inflationary wage demands and Ted Heath's tough stance. [00:28:36] Talks about Ted Heath's decision to call a general election on a platform of "who governs Britain?" [00:29:05] Mentions meeting of the 1922 Committee in which clear Conservative Party also determined to go to the country. [00:30:04] Asked about experience of moving from government to opposition after the 1974 general election. [00:30:24] Talks about 1974 election campaign and electorate's negative attitude to the Heath government. [00:30:38] Talks about experience of the front bench in opposition. [00:32:13] Talks about dealings with Margaret Thatcher during the 1971 public spending round and agreement on cuts to the Education department, including retention of the Open University. [00:35:13] Talks about appointment by Margret Thatcher as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade. [00:36:00] Talks about trips made with the Secretary of State for Trade, including the inaugural British Airways flight to Pakistan and the inaugural flight of Concorde. [00:36:24] Talks about involvement with Concorde as Minister of State at the Treasury and then as Financial Secretary to the Treasury. [00:36:51] Mentions Julian Amery's involvement with the House of Commons car park and with Concorde. Talks about the details of the Concorde agreement with the French. [00:37:42] Describes inaugural Concorde flight to Bahrain. [00:38:50] Talks about discussions with Michael Heseltine on the overspend on Concorde. [00:39:05] Talks about replacement in role as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade by Teddy Taylor because Margaret Thatcher needed an anti-European on the front bench.

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