HC Deb 29 October 1919 vol 120 cc746-7

I turn to the question of subsidies. They are the second large item of expenditure of a temporary and extraordinary character. The position in regard to the coal subsidy is necessarily dependent upon the output of coal, but, assuming that that continues satisfactory, the coal subsidy is at an end. In regard to railways, we could do nothing until the Ways and Communications Bill had received the assent of Parliament. We have now taken the steps provided by that Bill— a little more dilatory than I should like, but steps which my right hon. Friend conceded to the wish of the House of Commons—to bring before the Consultative Committee, whom we are obliged, under the Act, to consult, the necessity for a revision of rates on a scale to make the railways self-supporting. The third item, practically a subsidy, n fact, forming a subsidy, is in those Post Office services which are run at a loss. The Postmaster-General is making a careful inquiry into that subject, and he will report in due course to the Finance Committee of the Cabinet for their decision as to what steps it may be necessary to take in order to relieve us of a burden in respect of these services. Then there are the out-of-work donations. As regards discharged Service men, their rights exist for one year after demobilisation. I have heard nobody in the House question the wisdom of that provision. The ordinary civil out-of work donation comes to an end on 24th November. [An HON. MEMBER: "Does unemployment come to an end on 21st November?"] If it is renewed it will be the act of the House, and the responsibility will rest with the House. Finally, there is the bread subsidy. The Government do not feel that it would be wise or that it is practicably possible to terminate that subsidy at once. We look forward to its termination as early as circumstances may permit.