§ 1. That on and after the second day of June, nineteen hundred and nineteen, in lieu of the existing duty of Customs the following duties of 213 Customs shall until the first day of August, nineteen hundred and twenty, be charged upon all tea imported into Great Britain or Ireland (that is to say):
|upon all other tea shown to be the growth of a British Possession||the pound||0||10|
|upon all other tea||the pound||1||0|
§ And it is declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this Resolution shall have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1913.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
We have had a very full and a very interesting statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in introducing his Budget this afternoon. At the same time, I am bound to confess that, from the point of view of labour, in certain respects the Budget statement is of a very disappointing character, and will leave the right hon. Gentleman and the Government open to a considerable amount of criticism both in this House and in the country. I desire, however, to temper my criticisms with a sincere expression of commiseration for the Chancellor whose unhappy fate it has been to provide the first instalment of the terrific obligations imposed upon us by the extravagance, and in certain respects the incredible folly of our spending departments during the War period. But something more is necessary than a mere expression of sympathy. We require both by criticism and helpful suggestion to assist him in finding a considerable portion of the money that will be needed to meet our obligations by a method more just and more productive than that which he has outlined to the Committee this afternoon. The first point of criticism which I desire to make is with reference to the fact that, notwithstanding that the War is over, the right hon. Gentleman has still found it necessary to budget for, roughly, £1,500,000,000. I am not unmindful of the fact, as he himself stated, that this is an abnormal Budget. It is in certain respects a War Budget. But at the same time I think that, with care, and with the application of business ability by our various Government Departments, the right hon. Gentleman would not require to budget for roundly £1,500,000,000 this year, and the fact that he is budgeting for this large sum creates a very serious position for the industry of the country. Taxation can only come out of the wealth produced by hand and brain, and the whole future of the country depends permanently on the development, to the fullest extent, of our industry, our agriculture, and our trading. The Government 214 should be making extreme efforts to get rid of at the earliest possible moment all sources of excessive expenditure, thereby removing the burden of taxation to a certain extent from the industries of the country.
There are three items, as the Chancellor specially mentioned himself in the course of his statement, namely, the Civil Service and the Army and Navy Estimates, where the total amount required for the ensuing year is, roughly, £1,000,000,000. Surely, if the Chancellor is to keep a watchful eye, there should be substantial opportunities for reduction in these three particular Departments. Many of the offices that have been created were purely for war-time purposes, but evidently there is a tendency, notwithstanding that the War has been finished, and mainly because temporary Government servants may be reluctant to give up lucrative positions, to keep these offices in operation. That is a condition of affairs which neither this House nor the country can tolerate, and the utmost pressure must be exercised both on the Chancellor and on the Government to take immediate and drastic action with a view to reducing expenditure in these directions to a more reasonable figure. The next point of criticism I have to make is to be found in the fact that the Chancellor proposes to meet his excess of expenditure over income by contracting fresh loans and thereby adding still further to our national indebtedness. There may have been reasons for meeting the excessive expenditure during the War by loans, but surely, now that we have reached peace-time, there is no excuse for thus continuing it. The Committee knows that the money is in the country, and there are many of us who believe that the Chancellor would have been well advised to have taken his courage in both hands and to have found the money without the necessity for further additions to the National War Debt. As a matter of fact, there are some of us who believe that the Government ought to have to a much larger extent found the expenditure as they went along during the war-period, and unless the Chancellor is courageous enough to take this line, I fear that it will lead to a considerable amount of dissatisfaction and criticism. There is another point to which I want to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention. It is the one in which he informed the Committee that there is to be a very substantial reduction 215 in the Excess Profits Tax. If I understood him aright, I think he led the Committee to believe practically that at the end of the present financial year there is a likelihood of this tax being abolished altogether. So far as Labour is concerned, they protest strongly against any alteration of this kind being made, particularly at a time when the Chancellor is unable to meet his obligations without adding to the national indebtedness.
A further point with which I wish to deal is one in which the right hon. Gentleman himself evidently takes a considerable amount of pride, namely, the question, of Colonial Preference. It is perfectly true that to a considerable extent he is giving effect to it in a negative way, rather by reducing the existing import duties than by creating new tariffs or adding to the existing tariffs. But, in our opinion, whether it be in the way he has suggested or whether it be accomplished in the positive sense, it is a proposition we look upon with grave concern, for we are strongly of opinion that this is the thin end of the wedge, and that it is the beginning of the setting up of tariff walls in this country. We have been led to believe that the establishment of the League of Nations, which includes a Labour charter, would to a considerable extent break down the tariff walls that have existed between the one country and the other in the past. We have been encouraged to hope, by statements even by members of the Government, that this idea of ours would be realised, but evidently the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and I take it he speaks for the Government in putting forward this new change in the method of dealing with the duties—is not convinced of the efficacy of the idea that what the League of Nations is bringing about will result in the way we have anticipated. My next point is that the Chancellor still seeks to continue the excessive burden of indirect taxation which boars so heavily on the working-class population of this country. As a matter of fact, he makes provision in this Budget for increasing the indirect taxation instead of reducing it.
I am not increasing the charge except in the case of the consumer by bottle or cask.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I am rather looking at what is likely to be the effect of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposal and to what his intentions are. As I view his proposition, he is rather increasing the 216 indirect taxation than lowering it. [HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] He himself has stated that on a certain article so much increase will be put. I believe the effect will be the same on other articles. If those hon. Members who are putting questions to me across the floor will restrain themselves, they will have an opportunity of replying to any statement I am making regarding the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Economists tell us that there is no calamity to a nation so great and of such lasting injury to the well-being of a people as a general lowering of the standard of life of the large majority of the folks who live on weekly wages. We of the Labour party strongly maintain that indirect taxation should be levied on persons whose incomes fall below a reasonable Income Tax standard, say, of £250 per year, only on such articles as may be described as luxuries, with some of which the Chancellor has been dealing in the elaborate statement he has given to the Committee this afternoon. Those are the points of criticism I desire to make regarding the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement.
I desire now to pass on to him what I think will be a few helpful suggestions with a view to raising the money necessary to meet the obligations of the country under the present conditions by a more just and productive method than he himself has suggested. May I preface my remarks on this head by warning the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government that Labour will not continue to carry the present excessive burdens, both of direct and indirect taxation on a small income, that will be necessary to enable us to meet our obligations along the lines suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when those who have so flagrantly exploited the national credit and resources by their profiteering activities during the War remain in comparatively undisturbed possession of their unpatriotic gains? Just before the Easter Recess my hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose) pursued some inquiries by means of questions in the House. He was concerned with the difficult problem of trying to trace some of the vanished millions for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now called upon to find security. Questions of this character are not very fruitful of satisfactory results, but my hon. Friend elicited at least valuable information 217 regarding certain items, one of which I now invite the Chancellor of the Exchequer to study. My hon. Friend was able to demonstrate that one great firm of munition contractors, made passing rich by fat contracts, watered its capital to the extent of three times the original value, namely, £1,000,000 to £3,000,000, and in a very short time thereafter the concern changed hands and came into the possession of a second firm at no less a sum than £15,000,000. Our belief is that all these sums in excess of the original £1,000,000 represented excess profits upon which the duty was not levied, and that these manipulations were designed for the purpose of evading the Excess Profits Duty. We claim that this is not an exceptional instance. It is rather typical and illustrates the shameful way in which the necessities of the country were exploited, during the War time. We are strongly of the opinion that by the method I have already nentioned, and by other dark and devious ways, the War munitions contractors have appropriated something amounting to a very large sum of money in excess of the very liberal statutory profits laid down by the War Munitions Act, 1915, and that they have in this way been allowed to tax the nation. In demanding in the name of Labour that the profiteer shall now be called upon to disgorge most, if not all, of these excess profits, we urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to go closely and keenly into this matter, being convinced that if he does so he will get a considerable sum of money that will enable him to meet some of the obligations of which he has been telling us this afternoon and restore the balance of justice as between one section of the citizens of this country and the other, and, at the same time, will strengthen the confidence of his fellow-countrymen both in himself and in the Government he represents.
The next suggestion I would pass on to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his consideration is that we want the Government to develop the productiveness and serviceableness of every part of the public domain. We want a rich and prosperous Exchequer, not a starved and bankrupt one. Let me take one illustration from many. We want the Post Office to develop its profitable business in all directions, and not to stop short in its activities where it enters into competition with bankers, railway companies, carriers, or remittance houses. We want the Government rapidly to develop the super-power stations that 218 are to give electric heat, light and power, and we want them to own and develop the transport services of the country, to own and develop the mining industry. Such essential national services as these should be exploited for the whole of the people, even if this means that there are fewer opportunities for piling up private fortunes. Even if these two sources of Revenue which I have briefly discussed with the Committee and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were exploited to the fullest extent, I do not suggest that they would provide money sufficient to enable the right hon. Gentlemen to meet his obligations. The next suggestion I make to him is that, instead of following the policy he has outlined to-day, he should endeavour to raise part of the necessary money which he requires by a system of graduated Income Tax, beginning after an Income Tax standard of £250 has been exceeded with a small payment of one penny in the £, and going on by well-balanced stages until we reach a very substantial Income Tax in the cases of those whose incomes range from £50,000 to £100,000 and over per year. There is another suggestion which I have had passed on to me by a correspondent, for which I take no personal credit, but which I now give to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as I think it is worth his consideration. My correspondent makes the following suggestion:That every person, firm or company at present liable to pay Income Tax should be compelled to make a return showing their assets on 30th April, 1914, and on 30th April, 1919. The State to take 80 per cent. of any increase over the first £1,000. The amount so taken to be ear-marked for the reduction of the War Debt. Time for payment would be given. This would only take from those who have made money out of the War and there is a fair number of such persons.Even after all these things have been exploited, I believe that the terrific obligations that face the country, and whoever occupies the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer in the future would not be met unless, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has proposed this afternoon, our people are to continue for a few generations to go on carrying an enormous financial burden upon their shoulders. I do not think, knowing the temper of our people as I do, that they are in a mood to continue to carry generation after generation the excessive burden that they will be called upon to bear if we simply follow the lines marked out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon. Notwithstanding 219 the very emphatic statement he has already made on the question of a levy on capital, he would be well-advised to explore thoroughly the possibilities of this suggestion. I need hardly say that it is not specially an invention of the Labour party. It is an expedient to which those who are facing squarely the alarming financial situation ahead of us—bankers, economists, and serious politicians of all kinds—have for some time been considering. It has even had some consideration by the British Exchequer. The Leader of the House, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, gave some consideration to this matter, and, while he objected to imposing a levy on capital during the progress of the War, at the same time said that it was a matter that might have to be seriously considered when the War was over. If the question of a levy on capital is to be considered, I would suggest that it should be done on the same principle as I have Already suggested should be given effect to in regard to Income Tax, namely, that it should begin from a figure that would leave to the possessors of the wealth an income of £250 on their capital, and from that point it could begin at 1 per cent. and, by well-defined stages, go up to a substantial proportion in the cases of the possessors of millions of pounds. If that were done, I very humbly suggest to the Chancellor, it would yield to him a very much larger amount of money than the increase that he has suggested should take place in the course of his speech this afternoon. I know that there are serious objections taken to a suggestion of this kind. The Chancellor has given expression to them. For instance, he discussed the possibility of the putting into operation of a tax of this character and the effect on the selling value of our national securities. He even pointed out that there would be so many securities on the market that there would be no buyers. I think that objection arises from a misunderstanding of the proposal. If this suggestion were given effect to, the tax would be paid in stocks and shares and securities of other kinds, as well as in money. In the second place, it has been said that a levy of this kind would cut down the capital of the country when it is most needed. There, again, I think, there is a misunderstanding. The levy would not cut down the capital; it would merely transfer the title-deeds, or the ownership of it, from the individual to the 220 Government. Again, it is suggested that a levy of this kind is in the nature of a repudiation of our debt. That is not true. The citizens of the country are in any case jointly liable for the State debt. There is no essential difference in asking them to pay off the debt with a portion of the capital, than there is in asking them to pay off the interest of that debt out of their income. The financial situation that faces the people of this country at the present time is a very serious one. So far as the Labour party are concerned they are under no illusion as to the position. They do not believe that our obligations can be met by any fanciful methods, such as the printing of more paper money or the magical provision of universal bank credits or Labour notes, or any other fanciful ideas that we hear given expression to from time to time. Neither do any of the responsible men in the party believe in the repudiation of the National Debt. We believe that our obligations will have to be met by one form or another of taxation on the individual. That taxation we suggest ought to be levied in such a way as to enable it to fall justly and equitably on all sections of our people in accordance with their capacity to bear it. We do not think that the manner outlined by the Chancellor this afternoon fulfils those conditions, and consequently we hope that we will be able before the Finance Bill passes through all its stages to make substantial alterations which will enable us to give fuller expression to the principals of equity and justice than the policy outlined by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Sir S. ROBERTS
I do not wish to pursue the subject which has been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, and which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I think, dealt with very fully in his speech. The Chancellor commenced his speech by asking the sympathy of the House in his difficult position, and the cheers which he received when he sat down will satisfy him, I think, that he had the sympathy of the House. The right hon. Gentleman in his very lucid address instituted a comparison as to the amount of revenue and our contribution towards the expenditure. We are practically the only people who have to a substantial extent been taxing ourselves during the War. I think the people of the country sometimes do not realise the amount which has been raised by taxation. 221 The amount of tax revenue has increased since 1915 by four times, and last year represented 34.4 per cent., or for the four years 1914 to 1918 the percentage was 26.9. The Chancellor for last year estimated it would be 28.3 per cent. Excluding the Excess Profits Duties, direct taxation contributed 67.5 per cent. against 54 per cent. in the year 1913–14. The Customs and Excise revenue has about doubled since the first year of the War, and now amounts to £161,000,000. The Income Tax and Super-tax now total £291,000,000 as against £69,000,000 in 1915. The Leader of the House, when he was making his Budget statement last year said—and perhaps the Financial Secretary will draw the attention of the present Chancellor to the words—Every Chancellor of the Exchequer, I think almost everyone, is inclined to be tempted by the facility with which revenue can be raised by this tax (Income Tax). It is only a case of taking a decision and immense sums come in. I do not think it is right to be too much influenced by that consideration. I think the House of Commons and hon. Members in every quarter of it should take into account seriously what is the effect of an Income Tax on anything like this scale, not only on the individuals who have to pay it, but on the whole trade and industry of this country. I should have been glad if it had been possible to leave it at 5s., but that is impossible, and I propose to increase the rate of Income Tax by 1s. and make it 6s. in the£.I think those are very wise words, and I hope that the Commission which has been appointed to consider this question will take them into consideration. The total Revenue is contributed, as to about 67 per cent., by a small class of the population in Income Tax, excess profits, and estate duties. This class is estimated at about 2 per cent. of the population. In other words, 2 per cent. of the population bears about 67 per cent. of taxation, without counting any consumption of articles indirectly taxed. Is it good for the State that taxes should not be shared by a large majority of the population?
I want to make only two remarks on the present taxes. When the Super Tax was first put on, the point was raised in this House, but it was not so important then when the amount of Income Tax was so small. Now, however, it is an important anomaly. Take an income of £5,000 a year. The Income Tax at 6s. is £1,500, which reduces the individual's income to £3,500, but, instead of charging Super Tax on £3,500, it is charged on the full £5,000, making the Super Tax £287 10s., or £125 more than it ought to be. It is felt to be 222 an injustice, and I hope my hon. Friend (Mr. Baldwin) will make a note of it and see that it is brought before the Income Tax Commission. With regard to the extra penny duty on cheques, the right hon. Gentleman congratulated himself and the Committee that that tax had brought in double—£1,500,000. According to the Report of the London clearings, this extra penny has made little or no reduction in the number of cheques passing. My experience in the country has been the reverse. I happen to be chairman of one of our country banks, and we had an examination of the number of cheques of £5 and under paid during the month of December, 1917, and then we took the same month in 1918, and we found that there was a decrease in the latter year of 12 per cent. at the head office, 13 per cent at one of our large country offices, and over 20 per cent. at an important local branch. My suggestion is that, although the revenue from this tax is satisfactory, it is not satisfactory from the point of view of inflating the currency.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that there has been a very large increase in currency notes from March last year to March this year. They have gone up by no less than £100,000,000, and I see, according to the last record on 23rd April, they were no less than £349,000,000. I do not myself regard these Treasury currency notes with the alarm that some people do. I do not think they are responsible for what is called inflation of prices. I think that the currency notes have been issued to meet the demand. In my view the increases in prices and wages have arisen simply through the operation of the natural law of supply and demand. The War caused a shortage of men for labour, and commodities were also scarce. At the same time the Government commenced to borrow money. What was the natural result? There was more money to pay in wages and less labour to receive the money, and there were less commodities. The law of supply and demand must, of course, operate in conditions like those. We must not blame the Government for the issue of currency notes. These notes are only issued by the Bank of England on demand from the banks, which have to pay value for them.
There is only one more point I want to mention, and that is with regard to borrowing. During the War, fortunately, it has been a habit for all classes of our 223 people to save and invest in Government Loans. It is a very wholesome doctrine, and a great security to the State to have a great majority of its citizens, estimated at 17 millions, holding Government securities. I think it is a safety valve. I know my right hon. Friend is not of the opinion that investment in these securities is not now necessary. We want money largely, not only for winding up the War, but for all the developments, such as housing, transport, pensions, and many other things. My advice to the Chancellor is that he should do all he can to continue this short borrowing, say, for periods of five or ten years. I think he would be well advised to alter the term "War Bonds" to "National Bonds," because we all hope that the War is over, or will be over when peace is signed. These bonds are a security which yield over 5¼ per cent., including premium on redemption. That is a much better thing to invest in than speculative concerns which promise 7 per cent., 8 per cent., or 10 per cent. which have not security of capital. People of smaller means who are able to save money ought to invest in an absolutely first-rate security, and this is one of them, because the individual is perfectly certain of getting his capital back with some premium in addition. As the sale of these War Bonds seems to be falling off, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should make it his business to see if he cannot make them even more attractive, because this borrowing, which has been so very successful, should be continued. The right hon. Gentleman, in his instructive speech, said that, after all, the prosperity and success of this country must depend upon two things—and I am absolutely with him—namely, economy both in Government Departments and in the individual. If these two things are carried out, and if the right hon. Gentleman will put up a stiff back to the Government Departments, and say "No, I will not allow you to spend this money. I will not allow an office to have more officials in it with high salaries than it ought to have"—if he will strengthen himself in that way, I am perfectly certain this Committee will back him up and thank him for his services.
Sir J. WALTON
I desire to offer my warmest congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham on having assumed the most important 224 position of Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do this because twice over, in the House, in the last eighteen months, I have urged the Leader of the House that no super-man could properly discharge the duties of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a member of the War Cabinet, and Leader of the House of Commons, and I have urged that he should call to his assistance, if possible, my right hon. Friend to resume the duties of Chancellor of the Exchequer. Therefore I take special interest in his first deliverance to-day, and I only regret that he is not in the same happy position that he was in 1905, when he delivered his previous Budget speech. In that year the income and expenditure were just about £150,000,000, and he was able to remit taxation. To-day he has to provide for an expenditure multiplied tenfold—£1,500,000,000. The occasion of the first introduction of the Budget is not one for going into details about the various changes of taxation imposed. In my opinion, that will be better done tomorrow, after those proposals have had more consideration. But to-night we may deal suitably with some of the main questions in the position, financially, that is confronting us. We know that the expenditure for the current year is estimated to be £1,435,000,000, and it was amazing to find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to provide a revenue of £1,201,000,000 this year against that expenditure of £1,435,000,000 and only have a deficit of £233,000,000. That is highly satisfactory.
But I do not consider that the £200,000,000 he put into this £1,201,000,000,to come from the sale of war material, ought to be considered as revenue of the year. I think it rather stands in a different category. However, it does reduce our national indebtedness by £200,000,000, and with £233,000,000 to borrow from this year's expenditure, we come to the next question of the short-dated obligations that are confronting us. These include the £986,000,000 of Treasury Bills—all to be paid in the course of the current year—the provision of £455,000,000, Ways and Means balances, and the payment of Exchequer Bonds to the extent of £247,000,000 which come due very soon. In another place the figures were given about a month ago, and it was there stated that before the end of the current financial year we have short-dated obligations to be met amounting to £1,758,000,000. Since that 225 statement was made, £86,000,000 of Treasury Bills have been taken and £28,000,000 more added to Ways and Means balances. That makes a total of £1,872,000,000 of short-dated balances that are to be met within the current financial year. Add to that the £233,000,000 deficit on the current year that must be raised by borrowing, and what do we find? We find, to me, a very alarming result, namely, that in order to square the accounts up to 31st March next we require to borrow on War Loans, or to find in other ways, £2,100,000,000. That comes upon all our previous borrowings. Fault was found with the Chancellor of the Exchequer for issuing a new series of War Bonds at 5 per cent. That was an absolutely wise proceeding on his part, and for this reason: Now that the War is over and great industrial developments are taking place, industrial firms are offering 6 and 7 per cent. for extra money to undertake those developments. The fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not offer too good terms is shown by the fact that in the twelve weeks in which those new 5 per cent. War Loan Bonds have been on sale only £49,000,000 have been taken up—a little over £4,000,000 a week. That shows that, at any rate, the public does not consider for one moment that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is offering too much. On the face of it it looks an uncommonly good investment. It is a Government security of 5 per cent! But the lender does not get 5 per cent. The Government gives 5 per cent. on the one hand, and, on the other hand, large lenders have compulsorily taken from them 6s. in the form of Income Tax and 4s. in the form of Super-tax, or 10s. in the pound. That, taken in the form of war taxation by the Government, means that they lend money—that the man who has enough money to sport with—lends to the Government and gets 2½ per cent., and no more. I think the sooner the whole nation realises facts of this sort the better, otherwise it may come to be said that the lending of money the Government is turning men into 5 per cent. profiteers. It is doing nothing of the sort.
We have heard a great oration to-night from my hon. Friend the chairman of the Labour party (Mr. Adamson). I do not know whether or not we shall see him in the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Labour Government standing at this Table and working out some of the problems with which he dealt to-night. 226 I was interested in his speech, but, at any rate, in his attack on the Excess Profits Duty he could not be attacking the coal-owners. He knows perfectly well that they have not only paid 80 per cent. in Excess Profits Duty into the Treasury during the last two years, but they have also paid a levy of 15 per cent. more into the Coal Controller's Financial Department. Therefore, anything they have got is a mere 5 per cent. I do not think the colliers ought to grumble, for if the coal-owner gets 5 per cent. extra there is the very substantial increase in wages over pre-war wages that they themselves have got. The miners really have got more in proportion than have the coal-owners. No charge of that sort can be made in regard to Excess Profits Duty, at any rate, against the coal-owners whose interests I am supposed sometimes to advocate in this House. The question to my mind—and I should like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to have dealt with it—is: How are we, between now and March next, going to raise £2,100,000,000 by some longer dated loans? That is a problem of a very serious character. I am sorry my hon. Friend below (Mr. Baldwin) was not here a few moments ago. He is such a keen economist. I will refer to one or two other matters for his especial benefit. I should like information on several points. We have a National Debt now amounting to £7,686,000,000. We owe outside the United Kingdom £1,300,000,000. In round figures £1,000,000,000 are due to the United States of America. I am very anxious about that. What arrangements are the Government making for the discharge of that liability? We have to pay interest on that £1,000,000,000.
What are the arrangements to pay principal as well as interest—because it is a huge amount that we must find to discharge that liability to America? We have also £1,700,000,000 in loans to our Allies and the Dominions. When is any payment coming to our Exchequer either for interest or principal in regard to the £1,700,000,000? We have, therefore, for the time being—I think my hon. Friend may well agree with me in this—to finance not only the £1,300,000,000 we owe outside these Islands, but also the £1,700,000,000 we have lent to our Allies and the Dominions. I assume these amounts are all included in the total, £7,685,000,000, which was stated to-day to be the gross amount of our 227 National Debt. That is so far satisfactory, but I should like to have heard something more on some of these points. Like, however, his predecessor, the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day made no reference to the necessity of full Treasury control being exercised over national expenditure. We know perfectly well that Treasury control lapsed almost altogether during the War. It was admitted that the great spending Departments spent pretty well as they pleased—whether it was the Ministry of Munitions, the War Office, the Admiralty, or the Air Board.
Our financial system in this country rests upon the doctrine that the interests of the taxpayer in limiting expenditure should not be left to the Minister at the head of a spending Department, but should be in the special charge of another independent Minister, namely, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, working through his own Department, the Treasury. I ask my hon. Friend (Mr. Baldwin), When does the Treasury propose to resume full and proper control of the expenditure of this country? There was a statement in the "Times" newspaper of yesterday in regard to Air Board contracts. I should like to have my hon. Friend's attention to this point. We are told in this statement there were certain contracts made by the War Office in connection with the construction of aerodromes. The Air Board took them over. Those contracts were on a percentage of profit on the cost to the contractor. The Air Board took them over and immediately procéeded to give the contractors a higher price. The increase amounted to £66,000, because, they say, the contractors were not taking a proper interest in the work they were carrying out. The Treasury very properly made very strong comments upon this waste of public money. But this waste was only brought under their notice by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and applied to the year 1917–18. It was, therefore, too late to retrieve the loss. The Committee on National Expenditure very strongly recommended that not only should we have the benefit of the supervision of all expenditure by the Public Accounts Committee which, after all, only deals with irretrievable waste—because it is always a year or two after the waste has taken place that it is brought to the notice of the House, but that Estimates Committees should be appointed to go through the Estimates before they are laid before 228 the House in order, if possible, to effect economies in the Estimates. I should like to know from my hon. Friend why the Estimates Committees recommended by the Committee on National Expenditure have not been appointed. My right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) has undertaken the Chairmanship of the National Expenditure Committee, and I presume that that will to some extent take the place of the Estimates Committees that have not been appointed. But we want every possible assistance if we are to get economy exercised in the expenditure of the country.
In this statement in the "Times"—I dare say hon. Members have seen it—I find that the Treasury write a strong remonstrance, and it is stated that both the Admiralty and the Air Board on their own initiative, without any sanction from the Treasury, had extended an award of a 12½ per cent. bonus to work done in Ireland which it was not intended to apply.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Sir J. WALTON
I knew I should have that query, but I am not criticising the 12½ per cent. being extended to Ireland; I am merely stating what the communication says. I think it should be given to Ireland quite as well as to any other part of the country.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Not at all—Ireland should not be treated the same as other parts of the Kingdom!
The hon. Baronet is diverging on to the expenditure of the year. We are in Committee of Ways and Means, to consider the raising of taxes. The discussion of expenditure is not in order now.
Sir J. WALTON
Am I not in order, Mr. Whitley, in urging Treasury supervision and control over expenditure?
§ 7.0 p.m.
Sir J. WALTON
I am sorry, but this case happened to be in the paper yesterday. It was such a very cogent one that I had forgotten that I must not refer to specific instances. I may, perhaps, however, be allowed to urge that greater measures should be taken to restore Treasury control over national expenditure, and to save the enormous waste which is taking place.
229 There is another question I should like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We have had no definite information as to whether any payment whatsoever has been received from the German Government, either as payment for food supplies or towards the expenses of the Army of Occupation. The taxpayers of this country are being subjected to an enormous burden of taxation through the wicked and unprovoked aggression of Germany on the rest of Europe. I hold a very strong view that the British Government should use every possible effort to extract, as early as possible, large payments from Germany for the relief of the British taxpayer, and towards this huge debt of £7,685,000,000. The Germans, when they thought the tide of victory was with them, openly declared that they would make England pay £10,000,000,000, and lay her under tribute for a generation. I think it would be a very good thing to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer what prospect there is of early payments from Germany. Perhaps it is premature to ask him to tell us the amounts of those payments, but so far as we know no money, either for reparation or any other purpose, has yet been received from that country. The question of the increase of taxation is certainly a serious one. In 1914, the pre-war taxation of this country was £3 10s. per head of the population; now it is nearly £17 per head. That certainly shows the necessity for very great vigilance and for a making vastly greater efforts to prevent the waste of public money. I wish to put a question with regard to what I think I am almost right in regarding as unconstitutional taxation which has been given effect to recently.
We passed a Coal Control Bill through this House, and when it was being passed it was agreed that no money should be taken from the taxpayers in connection with that measure without a Financial Resolution first being introduced into the House and a Bill being passed to sanction it. But how was this evaded? The Coal Controller instructed the collieries to charge the consumers throughout the country half-a-crown more per ton for coal. This realised £25,000,000, about £20,000,000 of which went to the Treasury and about £4,000,000 into the coffers of the Coal Controller. That was outside the Budget and the purview of Parliament, and was done without the sanction of Parliament. I should like to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he 230 is not inclined with me to regard that as unconstitutional taxation. There was a distinct understanding, and an agreement, embodied in the Coal Control Bill, that this should not be done in connection with that Bill. I bring this forward because I think the Chancellor should consider it and should protect the taxpayers of this country from similar evasive methods of increasing the demands upon them, for, seeing that the Treasury got nearly £20,000,000 of this money, this was only another method of taxation. Lastly, I would refer to the estimate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to what the expenditure will be in a normal year after all war expenditure has ceased. He estimated it at £766,000,000. He admitted that it was very difficult to make an estimate, for instance, of what we should spend on the Army and the Navy and the Air Service, which he put down at £110,000,000. I am afraid that our Army, Navy, and Air Service, after the War is completely over, will cost us a good deal more than £110,000,000, and I shall be thankful if, in my lifetime, we see a Budget under a total of £900,000,000 or £1,000,000,000. What about the £100,000,000 lost in working the railways under Government control? I do not see that provided for in the Budget. This loss has to be paid by the taxpayers of the country, and the same thing will apply in other directions, unless Government interference and control are put an end to pretty speedily. If, as a nation, we are to have economic recovery and industrial prosperity, they will only be obtained by the earliest cessation of all Government interference and control. This is doing great harm and is hindering our economic recovery at a time when the financial position is such that it is only to be met by increased production and trade. I am perfectly certain, however, that the Chancellor realises, quite as strongly as I do, the necessity for this, and that we may count on his assistance, and the assistance of the Financial Secretary, in reducing national expenditure and in saving waste—for instance, in the great public Departments, where the staffs could probably be reduced by one-half to-morrow with advantage, and in several other directions.
§ Mr. JESSON
I confess I was deeply interested in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon. I also confess that I was very much bewildered by the enormous figures which he dealt 231 with. Like a good many others, during the War I was deeply interested and concerned by the steady piling up of the load of debt on to the back of the nation, and I wondered, not so much about the load of debt itself, as about the way in which it was going to be repaid, together with the obligations which we were incurring during the War. I realised that unless we could find some other method of repaying this gigantic sum of money than by the pre-war methods of taxation it would mean that those boys who had done all the fighting in winning the War, and had made all the sacrifices, would be heavily taxed when they came home again on purpose to pay for the War. That, to my mind, is an almost impossible position, and, like others, I have tried to think out whether it would not be possible to find some other means of meeting this gigantic load of debt and at the same time of relieving taxation very considerably. With all humility, I desire to make certain suggestions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on these lines. In doing so, I do not propose to deal with any chimerical or Utopian scheme. My proposal is to call attention to certain facts already in existence, and to draw certain deductions from those facts. We are all agreed that the only way in which we can pay this load of debt and meet our obligations honourably is by increasing our annual production of wealth.
What do we mean by an increase in the annual production of wealth? I am gong to deal with this, not as a financier or as a business expert, but as I conceive the man in the street would deal with it. What the average man in the street, when you speak to him about an increase in the production of wealth, means is this: "We require more food, more clothes, more houses; we require insurance against sickness and unemployment; we require a pension of 20s. a week at 60 years of age." In addition to all that, what the man in the street also requires is more holidays, and a reduction in the hours of labour, so as to enjoy some of the good things of life, and also means of recreation, education, and leisure, and travel, and all that kind of thing. I think that would be considered a fair charter for the average man in the street. It is obvious that we cannot enjoy food that has not been produced, neither can we wear clothes that have not been made, nor live 232 in houses that have not been built. Above all that, it is impossible to enjoy all those things in greater abundance and at the same time to reduce the hours of labour and to make provision for old age unless we get an absolute free use of all kinds of labour-saving machinery. I think that is a fair statement of the position. It also means that before we can get an increase in production we have to have a better understanding between capital and labour, and a more friendly point of view. In pre-war days, and I speak as a trade union official, the position between employers and employés was something like this. The employing class tried to get as much labour out of the workers as they possibly could, and to give in return as little wage as possible. To my mind that was a fallacy, for the reason that the wages that the working classes received in pre-war days, and which only averaged about 25s. a week, were not sufficient to enable them to buy back the produce of their own labour. The result was that we had disorganisation and unemployment. That has got to be got rid of. There are even employers to-day who have not realised that their employés are not only workers but potential customers to the tradesmen they supply and to themselves, and that customers who have little or no money to spend are not much good as customers. Therefore we must have an alteration in that. On the other hand, the working classes were compelled to combine because employers in competition with each other were struggling to produce for the cheapest market, and the workers had to combine in their trade unions, not only to protect their own interests, but also to improve their conditions of life. They had no interest in producing anything more than they could possibly help. In other words, they restricted output because there was no inducement to make extra profit for the employers. That was bad also for production. In addition to that the working classes generally had a great antipathy to the introduction of too much labour-saving machinery, and for the very good reason that under the old conditions of pre-war days the introduction of labour-saving machinery generally ended in the discharge of a good many of the employés, and therefore they feared that too much labour-saving machinery would bring about unemployment, either for themselves or their fellow workers. Therefore, there was 233 great antipathy to that. That, again, was bad for increased production. That, I hope, has been got rid of for all time.
I am very pleased to know from the statement that you, Sir, made the other night, that there are no fewer than fifty Whitley Councils now established, covering as many industries, and I also understand from you, Sir, that there were twenty-five others in course of formation. That was very great news to me and to my colleagues who were with me on that particular occasion. We thought that was one of the most hopeful signs of the times. What do these Whitley Councils consist of, and what is their object? They consist of an equal number of employers and employés and the object is to try to bring about a better understanding between the workers and the employers. Further than that, they are to agree upon what the rates of wages and the conditions of employment are to be in these various industries. From that point of view they are very useful institutions. When they have arrived at what the rates of wages and the conditions of employment are to be in a given industry it is suggested that they shall be imposed upon the whole of the industry. Further than that, one of the objects of the Whitley industrial council, in which I am interested, is to try to get the various industries properly organised, and to this end all the workers are advised to join their trade unions and all the employers their associations. That is going on at present, and remarkable progress is being made in that direction.
This brings us to a very important point, because when you get the employers all organised we get this position. Almost every day we see the employing classes closing up their ranks on purpose to eliminate the more wasteful forms of competition amongst themselves. Scarcely a day passes but we hear or read of huge amalgamations in different industries taking place, running into millions of money. They are evidently learning the lesson that competition is one of the most wasteful forms of production, and therefore they are closing up their ranks. What we are leading up to is this. We are going to have each industry thoroughly organised, with the workers on one side and the employers on the other. In other words, we are going to have in each industry under the Whitley industrial councils so organised that it is going to be in a position to exploit the consumer. I do 234 not think there can be any doubt about that. The question arises would they exploit the consumer if they were in that position? Obviously they would. We are told, on no less an authority than the late Sir W. S. Gilbert, that this is a very wicked world and that virtue is triumphant only in theatrical performances. There is a good deal in that. The opportunity for exploiting the public will be greater than these huge combines could resist, and that would mean that the Government would have to step in on purpose to protect the consumer. I think there is nothing far fetched in a deduction of that kind.
I come now to the speculative part of my proposal, as to how the Government could be assisted in raising the money to pay for this debt that the War has left upon our shoulders. If the Government stepped in to protect the consumer my suggestion is that it should pull its full strength; in other words, that it should assist those industries that it steps in to protect the consumer from. That is a very easy and a very natural thing for the Government to do. There are such things as research, foreign markets, raw material, and many other things of that kind which the Government could do to assist production which those trades could not possibly do for themselves. I understand that before the War Germany had a system of trading which is practically unique from the organisation point of view. I am told that the manufacturers of Germany who imported raw material and made it up into finished commodities were not allowed to import their raw material individually. That all had to import it through a Government Department which sent one buyer out into the markets of the world to purchase these raw materials instead of a thousand different competing travellers, distributing them amongst the manufacturers and charging a percentage upon the amount imported. That is a very useful suggestion which would be well applied to the industries of this country when they have been organised under the Whitley industrial councils. If the Government thought it necessary to step in to assist industries in this way they should take a share of the increase in production. In doing that we could well define the line of demarcation between what the Government should do to assist industry, just as we define now in the Whitley councils the line of demarcation between the employers and the employés. I think that is 235 quite feasible and there is nothing Utopian in such a proposal. If the Government accepted it, I think we should be well out of our difficulty with regard to finding the ways and means of paying our way for the future.
When you have your Whitley councils established you have still to deal with the question of making it worth the workers while to increase production from his point of view. Obviously, it would be foolish to expect that the worker is going to become enthusiastic at the idea of producing so as to make more profit for the employing classes. It will not come off. What I suggest is that the worker should be guaranteed a share of the extra produce accruing, and that could be done in this way. The first charge upon the cost of production should be a proper rate of pay for the workers, from the managing director downwards. The second charge should be the ordinary establishment charges which every industry has to bear and which need no explanation from me. The third would be a fair rate of interest for those who have put up the money which has made the business possible, and after that I would suggest that all extra produce should be divided between the State, to assist the finances of the country, the worker, who should have an extra bonus for extra production, and also the shareholder as an inducement to enterprise. That I do not think is an unreasonable proposal. If we get that position it will solve our financial problem altogether, because it will enable us at least to treble production.
I want to quote figures showing the possibility of trebling production from the point of view of getting the State, the employing classes and the workers to co-operate and to work together instead of pulling against each other as they did in pre-war days. These figures are taken from a book called "Eclipse or Empire." I regard it as one of the most remarkable books published during the War. It gives a list of figures showing the average production in America and in this country in a selected number of industries I only want to deal with one industry. I take the boot and shoe industry of America and this country and compare them. In this country the machinery used per 1,000 persons employed was only 172 horse-power as against 487 horse-power in America. One of the results of that is this: The 236 average production per head of the people employed in the industry in this country was only £171, as against £516 in America. That is more than three to one, and that practically applies on an average to nearly all the industries in America and this country. I suggest that we could at least equal that. If we did, it would mean this: Our annual production of wealth in pre-war days, according to different estimates that I have read, worked out at something like £2,300,000,000 per annum. I have a leaflet which the London Municipal Society has sent me—I do not know why. They state that the average production of wealth before the War was £2,500,000,000 per annum. Therefore, my estimate is not an exaggeration. If we can treble that, it means £6,900,000,000. In other words, it is an increase of £4,600,000,000 per annum. If the Government only took as its share one-third of that sum they would have no less than £1,500,000,000. These are figures that I am not responsible for. I am simply trying to draw a deduction from these figures. First of all, we want an increase in the production of wealth in order to pay our way, and I have shown how that can be done. I submit that if we have increased production to the same level as in America we can increase our production by no less that £4,600,000,000. If the Government only take one-third of that for their assistance to industry, they will be out of their financial difficulty, altogether irrespective of what money can be raised by other forms of taxation.
I agree that our present form of taxation hampers and paralyses trade. The Excess Profits Duty is a case in point. That does discourage production. Our present form of taxation has a tendency to depress industry and cause unemployment. Take the question of housing. We tax houses on 50 per cent. of their rentable value, and the result is that people live in two or three rooms instead of four, five, or six rooms. That is not only bad for the health of the people, but it is also bad for the builders. You come to the same thing in nearly every industry which is taxed in this particular way. My suggestion is that whatever we tax we depress. I admit that it is one thing to increase production and another thing to find a market for the increased production. That brings me to the question as to what we are going to do with regard to our foreign markets. Here, again, we are up against a problem in which new conditions have been brought 237 in as a result of the War. We have, as the result of the War and the setting up of Whitley Councils, practically wiped out the old form of competition so far as the wages of the working class are concerned. That is a revolution in itself. But I submit that we have to go a step further, having regard to the fact that we are not a self-supporting nation. We have to try to achieve that object, and, so far as that is concerned, I think it is necessary to extend still further the policy that has been initiated this afternoon by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to Imperial Preference. I am a very keen believer in that, because I do not think there is anything that we require that cannot be found within the four corners of the British Empire. I believe that if we can create trading within the Empire and extend it afterwards to our Allies as laid down in the peace proposals, we are going to get well out of our financial difficulties and to solve the unemployment problem as well. I apologise to the Committee for dealing with these matters at length, and I only want to say further, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has it in his own hands now to assist the nation to get rid of its financial difficulties by aiding the trade and commerce of this country on the lines I have suggested.
§ Mr. ARTHUR MICHAEL SAMUEL
I listened with very great interest to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I was rather surprised at the way in which he avoided treading on the thin ice of the question of a sinking fund. I was much more surprised that when he came to the question of the increased Death Duties he did not then attach to this large contribution which is to be laid upon the capital fund of the country, by means of increased Estate Duties, some small form of sinking fund. I reinforce my view that such a small sinking fund should be attached to what is undoubtedly a depletion of the capital fund, capital money, which will be spent as revenue, not only on moral grounds, as an example to the country that it should be economical, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed the wish that it should be, but also on the grounds that it would, by its percussions and repercussions, certainly have advantageous effects otherwise. There were many discussions in this House in the time of Pitt as to whether it was wise to borrow money for the purpose of using it for sinking fund, 238 but in those days capital money was not being used for revenue, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer now proposes to use it. He proposes to take money for current expenditure from a capital fund in the form of Death Duty upon the capital fund of this country. I pass away from the details of the discussions about sinking funds which took place in the period of the Napoleonic Wars or after the wars of the French Revolution and suggest to this Committee the beneficial effect that a small sinking fund would have on War Loan values.
If there is one thing we require to do in this country, and for two reasons, it is to get down the price of money. In the first place, so that the War Loans or floating debt may be refunded or continued at a less rate of interest and that the taxpayer may be called upon to pay less money for interest from taxation for that purpose, and secondly, that if you can by borrowing money in Treasury Bills, say at 3½ per cent., re-invest that to yield 5 per cent or 5¼ per cent. in War Loan, you are not putting the country to any expense in by so doing, introducing a sinking fund for moral reasons, while at the same time elevating the market price of War Loan, thereby cheapening the value of money in this country by raising the capital value of the bell-wether among investments. I cannot impress too much on this Committee my view, that the need of this country is cheap money, not only for the purpose of manufacturers, with whom I identify myself, to assist them to extend trade and employment, but for the purpose of converting the great 5 per cent. War Loan, when it comes due in 1929, to a lower rate of interest. There is another reason why we need cheap money in this country, towards which, I think, we might be helped by operation of a sinking fund, which would by its repercussion increase the market value of War Loans and thereby reduce the loan able value or interest on money in this country, it is that the cheaper money is here, the better we shall be able to lend money abroad, and I do not think that America will be able to lend money to her own investors as cheaply as we shall be able to do. The cheaper we are able to lend money or finance foreign bills the better we shall be able to stimulate our export trade. By lending money cheaply, as we have done in the past, we have built up our great export position. For that purpose I do suggest, with great humility to the Chancellor 239 of the Exchequer, that now that he is taking a large slice of revenue from a capital fund by means of Estate Duty the time has come to ignore what was called heresy in the time of Pitt by borrowing money to repay capital debt, and that now the War is over, a sinking fund proposition should be again considered. There are many disadvantages and advantages in such a policy, too numerous to discuss now, but on balance the policy will prove beneficial to our nett financial position.
In accordance with the usual practice that we should make progress with the Resolutions, I think we might get the necessary Resolutions now so that we might have a discussion at 8.15 on another subject. I have already undertaken to keep over until to-morrow the Resolutions dealing with the general amendment of the law which will enable a general discussion to be resumed to-morrow. I know my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson) desires to move an Amendment with respect to the Income Tax, and I will agree to keep over the Income Tax Resolution. I hope we may bring the discussion on the other Resolution to an early end this evening, and take up the subject afresh to-morrow.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am sure that those who act with me are very desirous to do everything they can to facilitate business, and also so far as we can lighten the labours of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who certainly has gone through a very arduous experience to-day. But one of the real difficulties facing us at the moment is the question of Preference which is involved in Resolutions Numbers 1, 2 and 9. There is the 3rd Resolution, or at any rate one of them, which on the face of it carries nothing to which one could object. It carries on existing duties, but it is an integral part of the system of Preference which it is proposed to set up. We have had no opportunity, except by the courtesy of the Chair for one moment, to put the House to a Division, but at the same time we must save our position, and I say at once that so far as we are concerned we are root and branch opposed to this proposal, and I hope to say so to-morrow. We are really most anxious not to inconvenience the Chancellor of the Exchequer or to put the House to an unnecessary Division, but if we allow these Resolutions to go by with 240 the ordinary challenge without forcing a Division, I want to make it perfectly clear that our position is in no way prejudiced, and I hope if we are fortunate enough to catch the eye of the Chairman to-morrow to give one or two reasons for our position. If that is clearly understood so far as we are concerned, we shall let the Resolutions go with the usual challenge.
Of course, I do not want to commit my right hon. Friend and those associated with him to any proposition to which they do not agree. I think it would be very unusual on the first night to challenge on the Resolutions, the propositions which have been sketched in the Budget Statement. The right hon. Gentleman will have his opportunity, and more than one, of challenging the principle of Preference, in principle or any of its forms, and when that time comes I shall be very happy to meet him on that ground.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I should like to know when the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to bring on the Resolution regarding the Petrol Duty. I suggest that instead of merely consulting the Minister of Transport, seeing that he is proposing a new form of taxation on motor cars instead of by Petrol Duty, he should consider the desirability of appointing a small Committee, as he has done on one or two other questions of taxation. I do suggest that the trade interests know far more about the question of motor traffic than the Minister of Transport, who is a railway man pure and simple—I say that without any disrespect—and they would be able to help the Chancellor of the Exchequer to evolve a system of taxation which would raise the same amount of money on a fair basis.
I do not want to commit myself to the appointment of a Committee at the moment, but I have said that before I make any proposition there must be an opportunity of consulting all the interests concerned, and I am anxious to have that consultation and co-operation.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
When does my right hon. Friend propose to get rid of the Petrol Control Department?
§ Colonel GRETTON
Those who are interested, I presume, will have an opportunity 241 of discussing the Beer and Spirit Duties during the Debate to-morrow. No one in the Committee except the Government and the Chairman has seen these Resolutions, unless by courtesy of the officials at the Table a copy has been shown. I would suggest that a copy of these Resolutions should be placed in the Vote Office on these occasions after the Chancellor has made his statement, so that Members should not be asked to vote blindly on a number of complicated Resolutions, full of technical phraseology which it is impossible to understand when read out at the Table, and there is no further opportunity of studying them.
One point in the discussion which has taken place concerns the Chair, and I had better make myself quite clear about it. According to our custom, whatever Resolution or Resolutions are carried over to to-morrow's discussion, the one that comes first will be the one that will form the peg on which the whole of the Resolutions, the whole Budget Statement, can be discussed. Suppose Income Tax is the Resolution which is left over until to-morrow, on that hon. Members will not be confined to Income Tax, but can go over the whole field The result will be that, as the other Resolutions will be printed in the Votes to-morrow, their actual form will be in hon. Members' hands.
On a point of Order. If an Amendment is moved to the Income Tax Resolution, that Amendment, I suppose, would have to be moved at the end of the general discussion?
That is the exact reason why I thought it only right to intervene. If I allowed an Amendment to a Resolution to come at the beginning I should be defeating the usual desire of the House to take a general discussion, but, of course, the Resolutions are open to relevant Amendments when, the general discussion has had a reasonable course.
It would be open to my hon. Friend later in the evening to move an Amendment. It is quite clear, I think, that we must have the Income Tax Resolution to-morrow. We cannot carry the discussion over to-morrow.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I must press the point, which I ventured to raise, that we 242 should be furnished with copies of these Resolutions before the House is asked to pass them. It is quite impossible to understand long technical phraseology when read out from the Chair.
It has never been the custom to treat the first night of the Budget as a suitable occasion for discussing the proposals in detail. On the first night the discussion has always been of a most general character. If my hon. Friend's idea is that the first night of the Budget should be converted from a general discussion into a discussion of the detailed proposals of the different Resolutions, then I think, as at present advised, that it would not be for the general convenience or an improvement on our present practice; but I do not want to prejudge the suggestion of my hon. Friend.
§ Question put, and agreed to.