HC Deb 11 April 1927 vol 205 cc94-5

I come first to the reserve of the Road Fund. It amounts to £12,000,000. The income of the Road Fund is increasing by about £3,000,000 a year. Large as have been the liabilities contracted, resolute as have been the efforts to spend the money in useful ways, the coffers of the Road Fund are continually overflowing, and the intake has, in spite of the assistance which I rendered last year, outstripped the programme. There is no doubt whatever that the annual revenue from Motor Licence Duties will be sufficient in each of the coining years, not only of this Parliament but of the next, to carry out every great undertaking entered into, including the London bridges, the programme of main roads and the increased grants to rural authorities made in two successive years, and yet to provide an ever-expanding total for general purposes. The £12,000,000 reserve stands outside all this, and is not required for any of these purposes. For what then is it required? It is the working balance on the Road Fund. Owing to the fact that two-thirds of its revenue is collected in the last quarter of the financial year, while expenditure flows out evenly throughout the whole year, it has hitherto been the practice to carry over a substantial balance to finance the Department until the full flood of its revenue comes in January.

By every rule of sound finance national balances should, as far as possible, be pooled, and the Exchequer, with its immense resources, should act, as it does for every other Department of State, as the universal hanker. This £12,000,000 will play a far more useful part in national economy if it be handed over to the National Debt Commissioners than if it is maintained as a separate reserve behind a particular Department whose revenues are quite sufficient to meet all proximate obligations. The £12,000,000 is, therefore, transferred to the general funds of the State, and the Exchequer will in return assume the responsibility of financing the expenditure of the Road Department in the regular manner throughout the year.


Highway robbery.