HC Deb 24 April 1928 vol 216 cc873-4

It is now possible to balance the Budget of 1928.. With an expenditure stated on the basis of the new form of accounts, of £727,381,000, and a revenue, including £13,200,000 from the Currency Note Reserve, of £761,083,000, my gross total prospective surplus becomes £33,702,000. From this I take £14,000,000, including the £13,200,000 from the Currency Note Reserve, in order to raise the Sinking Fund to £65,000,000. I take £2,300,000 for the farthing off sugar, £2,100,000 for Income Tax relief in respect of the children's allowances, £600,000 for the cost to the Exchequer of the concessions in respect of Motor Licence Duties, and £200,000 for the payment to Northern Ireland in respect of the Oil Duty; thus disposing of £19,200,000; leaving me a margin of £14,502,000, which is to be carried forward in the Suspensory Fund. To this I add, for greater security, last year's surplus of £4,239,000, snaking the total payment to the Suspensory Fund £18,741,000. This will be used either to meet the ordinary unforeseen contingencies of 1928, or later on to make the payments to the local authorities which are involved in our general plan for relieving industry.

I have usually made on these occasions some reference to the year beyond the one with which we are dealing. Last year I had to expect in 1928 a loss of £32,000,000 from windfalls and expedients which are no longer available. That menace exists no more. Reductions of our expenditure and the revival of our revenue have removed it. Our onward journey is no longer overclouded, and the future finance of this country is freer of difficulty and stringency than in any other Budget which it has been my duty to open. Unless some catastrophe on a great scale, for which I can perceive no cause either at home or abroad should plunge us once more into embarrassment, the yield of Income Tax and Super-tax ought to make a stronger revival in 1929 than I am counting on in the present year. The position will be improved by any results achieved by the continuing that policy of economy in detail which, without impairing our social services or endangering the national defence, has been so helpful to us both in 1927 and 1928. If 1928 should, in the prospect of the relief of productive industry and of possibly somewhat easier monetary con- ditions become a year of slow steady revival of our trade and business—if 1928 should become a year of real advance towards prosperity, in that event the public revenue would immediately reflect the brighter light from the national fortunes. My position in 1929, which is quite uncompromised by this larger scheme, might well be the least unsatisfactory that I have had yet to cope with in my tenure of the Exchequer. Possibly even there might be the means available then of making some further reliefs in taxation for the benefit of all classes.

I am very grateful to the Committee for having allowed me to trench so deeply on their patience and attention. I have had not only to deal with the finance of the year, but also to outline and inaugurate a policy which will absorb the remaining energies of this Parliament, and upon which, before it is completed, the judgment of the electorate will be pronounced. In such a situation controversy is inevitable and it must be faced with vigorous conviction. It is to no light or entirely popular task that His Majesty's Government invite and summon the House of Commons. It is a task that will require exacting labours from all, wherever they may sit, who wish to bear a worthy share in it. Opinions will differ as to whether it will prosper the interests of this party or that, but that these great measures of relief to productive industry and of the modernising of our system of local government are urgent and necessary for the national well-being—of that we are sure; and if they should be carried into law, as we do not doubt they will be, they will win for this present Assembly some honourable distinction among the Parliaments of our time.