HC Deb 22 April 1913 vol 52 cc258-9

In spite of all these difficulties and obstacles we never had such trade in this country. The forecast which I made was a difficult one. It was difficult, in the first instance, to forecast the length of the strike, and still more difficult to predict what damage would be inflicted on trade by the strike. The estimate of my advisers was that the strike would prejudicially affect the Customs and Excise revenue to the extent of £800,000. It had already injured that revenue to the extent of £200,000 before the commencement of the last financial year. The actual loss is now estimated at £550,000. The revenue sustained another loss last year owing to the holding back of clearances of tea, sugar, and tobacco, in anticipation of some probable changes for the better which might be introduced in the financial proposals of the year. That was a very remarkable opinion, having regard to the enormous expenditure which everyone must have foreseen the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be confronted with in the coming year. It is very odd that when I had a realised surplus of £6,500,000 to dispose of, the holding back of these dutiable commodities only came to £70,000; but when I had no realised surplus and the expenditure had gone up by millions, those engaged in these trades came to the conclusion that this was the time to reduce taxation, and held back clearances to an enormous extent. The revenue sustained a loss of £430,000 in consequence of this holding back. But the loss of 1912 is the gain of 1913. The Estimates for Customs and Excise were very accurate when one takes into account the difficulty of making a forecast owing to these exceptional circumstances, apart from the fact that you are dealing with huge sums of money and there are all kinds of things to interfere with the flow of trade and the calculations of the Exchequer.