HC Deb 04 May 1914 vol 62 cc58-9

I now come to the forecast, for the present year, of the expenditure. The expenditure is up, as compared with the actual expenditure of last year, by £8,492,000. The Navy is responsible for £2,717,000, and the Army for £539,000; and a number of items like mental deficiency—


Hear, hear!


Which my hon. Friend did his very best to stop; grants for tuberculosis to the local authorities, insurance, and the very substantial increase in the wages of the postal servants are responsible for the rest. As to revenue, it is very difficult—more difficult than usual, I think—to form anything like an accurate forecast. It depends, of course, upon trade prospects, and I have never found greater difficulty in forming a judgment as to what is likely to happen in the trade and industry of this country and of the world during the coming year. I have been watching it at the Board of Trade and in my present office for eight years, and I think the conditions are more baffling than usual. I have consulted a very large number of business men in all the leading centres of industry in this country, and the impression which their replies give me is that in certain branches of industry there will be slackness, while in other branches they expect to be busier than ever—some expect to be quiet, and others expect a definite set-back; but, on the whole, after consulting the best authorities that were available, I find a definite belief that there is no serious break in the weather, and that the trade harvest this year will still be a good average crop. It would not be safe to anticipate a continuation for the present year of the trade boom of last year; but I believe that the depression will be a shallow one and will not last long; and, therefore, it would be equally fallacious to base the Budget upon anything in the nature of a general collapse in trade.

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