HC Deb 09 November 1921 vol 148 cc449-50


Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

4.0 P.M.

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Sir Robert Horne)

This Bill, to which I now ask the House to give a Second Reading, deals for the greater part with certain Votes which have been recently granted by the House in connection with unemployment. The schemes which the Government have proposed require certain moneys to be voted, and these are the moneys which are mainly dealt with in the present Bill. There are those who take the view that the money which has been devoted to these purposes is not sufficient. There are others, on the contrary, who hold the view that the grant of these additional moneys imposes upon the State a strain which its finances at the moment can scarcely bear. We have tried to steer a course dictated alike by humanity and prudence. On the one hand, we desired to relieve distress to the utmost of our power, to provide means of work for people who, through no fault of their own, are out of employment, and to do something to re-start the commerce and trade of our country.

It would, however, be only an aggravation of the evil if we were to spend money unwisely and without regard to the condition of our finances. The money to be expended has to be, found somewhere. If you find it by taxation you only increase the evil of unemployment, because high taxes are one of the causes of unemployment to-day. On the other hand, if you add largely to our present borrowing, which has already assumed very large figures, equally you tend to aggravate the evils of unemployment, because the inevitable result would be to increase the cost of production in this country and to make your goods less saleable to your customers abroad, and accordingly to aggravate the very conditions from which we are suffering. But, as I have said, we have endeavoured to steer in this matter a prudent course, and I think on the whole that the House has approved of the action we have taken.

I have promised, in dealing with these matters, that I would disclose, so far as our information goes, what our financial position may be regarded to be at the present time. I would, however, like to utter this word of warning at the outset. Estimates made in the autumn of the year, although part of the financial year has passed, have not, in practice, been found to be any more accurate, but rather less accurate, than estimates made at the ordinary time of the year. You are apt to be misled by conditions which may be purely adventitious, but which, taken over the whole year, tend to work themselves out. Accordingly, you cannot take the first seven months of this year and say by a proportionate sum what, your income or expenditure will be at the end of the year.