HC Deb 22 April 1913 vol 52 cc277-8

5.0 P.M.

Now I come to the Post Office. There is hardly a Department of the revenue which is more sensitive to the fluctuations of trade than the Post Office. This year we estimate that the postal services will yield £21,125,000, as against £20,300,000 received last year, an increase of £825,000 on last year's produce. The telegraph service we put at £3,150,000, an increase of £50,000 on last year. The telephone service we expect to produce £6,350,000, an increase of £575,000—total from the Post Office, £30,625,000. Crown Lands we put at the same as last year, £530,000. Suez Canal Shares and Sundry Loans, £1,370,000, a drop of £49,000 on last year's receipts. This in no way betokens any lapse in the productivity of these investments, but merely an alteration in the way of paying dividends, which brought in a certain extra amount last year. When I come to Miscellaneous Revenue, I would strike a much more dismal note, for here I am expecting a serious drop. During the years following the Coronation there had been an enormous increase in the demand for new silver coinage, and the profits of the revenue had swollen far beyond the normal yield. This demand we do not expect to keep up this year, and we are confronted with a very considerable loss in this respect. We are also faced with another loss, which is attributable to arrangements which have been made for a local silver currency in East and West Africa. Up to the present a very large profit has been made out of the selling by the Mint of silver coinage, not merely for money purposes, but for the purposes of adornment in Africa. I believe silver coins are exceedingly popular in social circles on the East and West Coasts of Africa. The West African Colonies for a long time have been pressing for an alteration in the arrangement as to the supply of silver coinage. A Committee was appointed to look into the matter, and reported in August of last year in favour of the institution of a local silver currency, and this recommendation has been adopted. This will mean a drop of probably £300,000 in the revenue this year.

The loss, however, is not without compensation. Experts have viewed this coining of silver for Africa with a good deal of apprehension, because at some time or other they will have to be replaced, and replaced at a very serious loss. When we are parting with what for the moment is rather a profitable business, we are also parting with a growing and a rather threatening liability. Though for the moment we are losing money by it, I think, on the whole, it is a good bargain for this country. I can, therefore, only estimate for this year, under the head of Miscellaneous Revenue, for £2,300,000, instead of £2,925,000 which I received last year. The receipts from the Mint profits instead of being £1,200,000, which they were last year, are this year £600,000. I have still another £815,000 to make up in order to meet the demand for this year's expenditure. I have already pointed out to the Committee that to the extent of £1,000,000 the expenditure of this year is attributable to the postponing of expenditure on the Navy from previous years. The expenditure which is properly attributable to this year, instead of being £195,000,000, is really £194,000,000; the other £1,000,000 was practically incurred last year, but will not be spent until the present year. The Committee will recollect that I drew attention to the fact that £1,000,000 has been set aside from Exchequer balances for the purpose of meeting these under-spendings. I propose this year to appropriate the money for that purpose. That brings the total revenue up to £195,825,000, as against an expenditure of £195,640,000, which leaves me with a balance on the right side of £185,000.