§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. McKenna)
With the leave of the House, I desire to make a statement as to the result of the subscription to the new War Loan. Since the lists were closed on Saturday, statements have appeared in some newspapers that subscriptions have been received to an amount of between £700,000,000 and £800,000,000.
753 I would like to say at once that such a total as that was neither expected nor desired. It would have created quite an unnecessary disturbance in our business financial arrangements, and, indeed, I will go further and say that had any such amount as £800,000,000 been in view, I should have found it necessary to close the lists.
The actual number of subscribers to the Loan through the Bank of England has been 550,000, and the actual amount subscribed for is £570,000,000. I would like to remind the House that this gigantic total represents new money; it does not include stock to be issued for conversion. I would also like to remind the House that it does not include any subscriptions through the Post Office.
As regards the Post Office, we must not forget that the applications did not close on Saturday, and that consequently the figures up to last Saturday do not by any means include the whole amount of subscriptions. But up to Saturday last, through the Post Office, 547,000 persons had applied for a total sum of £15,000,000.
I regret to say that I am not able to give the House any figures at the present time in regard to the number of vouchers sold. But here, again, as this selling of vouchers is a continuous process, I shall probably be able to give the House a more accurate statement and forecast in two or three weeks' time than it is possible to give now. This huge total of nearly £600,000,000, far and away beyond any amount ever subscribed in the world's history, has been obtained only through the patriotic response of the whole people.
I cannot speak without emotion of the efforts which have been made by every class of the community to scrape together all the resources upon which they could lay their hands in order to subscribe to the Loan. We must not forget that when an application of this kind is made, it can be made only in respect of available resources. We must remember that the markets have been practically closed for the sale of all securities; that thousands of people who were willing to sell securities were unable to sell because there were no buyers; and, consequently, this sum represents actual subscription of everything that is available.
It has been obtained not only by the patriotic response of the whole nation, but by the unanimous assistance of the whole Press, and I wish, on behalf of the House to express our thanks to the efforts which 754 the Press have made to secure the success of this great national effort.
All classes have been equally concerned. The private individual, the trading interests, and the great banks, joint stock and private, all have contributed to this gigantic total, and we owe the nation's thanks to all.
I would like, also, to refer in the most appreciative terms to the work which has been done by the Bank of England. Those who consider what it means to receive in this short space of time applications from 550,000 subscribers—to get work down, to deal with all the variety of applications, and with the gigantic correspondence which they entailed—can understand what the great labours of the Bank of England have been, and how successful they are.
This has been an exhibition, a necessary exhibition, of the unrivalled financial resources of the British Empire. They have been thrown into the scale of this War, and it is a declaration to our Allies, and to our enemies alike, that this United Kingdom will prove faithful to its trust and to the cause of the Allies.