HC Deb 29 October 1919 vol 120 cc751-2

That leads me to say a few words about the Debt. I hope the House will pardon me if I do that. In my Budget Statement on the 30th April, 1919, I stated that the Floating Debt on the 31st March of the current year was £1,412,000,000, made up of £957,000,000 Treasury Bills, and £455,000,000 Ways and Means Advances. The corresponding figures on the 25th October are—Floating Debt £1,286,000,000, made up of £1,044,000,000 Treasury Bills, and £242,000,000 only Ways and Means Advances. Thus the total Floating Debt has been reduced by about £126,000,000, while the Ways and Means Advances, which are the least desirable form of Floating Debt, are less by £212,000,000.

As regards Currency Notes, the figures of the last available Return at the time of my Budget speech, namely, 23rd April, 1919, were—Notes outstanding £349,000,000: uncovered issues £320,500,000, proportion of cover to total 8.05 per cent. The figures for 22nd October are Notes outstanding £337,000,000: uncovered issues £306,500,000, proportion of cover to total 8.98 per cent. The amount of the uncovered issue has fallen by £15,000,000, and the proportion of cover to total has improved from 8 to 9 per cent. The arrangement, by which Bank of England notes are set aside in any week in which the issue shows an expansion, ensures a gradual improvement in the proportion.

The reduction of £212,000,000 in the Ways and Means Advances is even more satisfactory than appears from the bare statement of the figure. Almost the whole of the reduction has taken place in the amounts borrowed from the Bank of England and other banks which are now reduced to a very moderate total, and are being reduced still further almost daily.

It is common ground that we should fund a further portion of this short-dated liability as early as possible, but such an operation is not feasible under present conditions. Meantime there will be an increase in Treasury Bills, since such further borrowing as is required during the current year and the replacement of maturing Exchequer Bonds must take that form unless the issue of a new loan has in the meantime become possible. I hope that I may obtain the necessary money in the form of Treasury Bills and that fresh recourse to Ways and Means Advances will not be required.