HC Deb 22 April 1913 vol 52 cc262-3

Now I come to the expenditure for last year. The original Estimate of expenditure was £186,885,000. The Supplementary Estimates were unusually heavy. There was a change announced in our naval programme some time in the summer owing to the very serious change in the German Navy plans, and that involved Supplementary Estimates of something near a million. There were about two millions voted in respect of doctors; £500,000 for Uganda. A few other items, in addition, brought up the Supplementary Estimates to £4,671,000, so that instead of having to provide for £186,000,000, as we had anticipated, the Treasury had to find money to meet liabilities amounting to £191,556,000. Let me say a word about the Exchequer balances. The Committee will recollect that last year I called attention to the fact that there were very serious under-spendings at the Admiralty owing, in the main, to labour troubles, and that the programme of naval construction for that year had to a very large extent been postponed; that the liabilities which were incurred, and should in the ordinary course have been met in the year 1911, had been postponed to last year and the present year. These were not savings in the ordinary sense of the term. They were purely postponements of expenditure. The naval programme of construction for last year and for the present year was not induced by a single torpedo boat in consequence of the fact that £1,500,000 had been under-spent in the previous year. It was deferred payment. The liability was there, and would remain. Therefore it was not the kind of surplus that could fairly have been devoted to the payment of debt. It was not the kind of money that would have been devoted in any business concern to the payment of debts. It represented under-spending which had to be met in a subsequent year.

The House of Commons took this view, and they allowed me to set aside a million of that money for the purpose of meeting those under-spendings when they fell due, and that million was added to the Exchequer balances by the Finance Act of last year. There was another £500,000 lent to Uganda for development purposes. That sum was taken out of the realised surplus of last year and added to the Exchequer balances for the purpose of effecting that loan to Uganda. We thus took one and a-half million out altogether and added the sum to the Exchequer balances to meet those two liabilities. Owing to the savings effected in some directions and further under-spendings at the Admiralty, due undoubtedly to the very prosperous condition of the shipbuilding trade, and owing also to the fact that the revenue exceeded the estimate, we were in a position to meet all these liabilities—a million for the Navy, £500,000 for Uganda, £2,000,000 for the doctors, and sundry other additional and supplementary sums—out of current revenue, and we did not deplete the Exchequer balances by a single penny, and the million and a-half is still in those balances. I think that disposes of everything that I thought it was necessary to dwell upon in respect to last year's revenue and expenditure.