HC Deb 24 April 1928 vol 216 cc823-4

I have had to face during the last 12 months nearly £26,000,000 of short-falls of revenue or of additional expense—£3,000,000 for Shanghai, £2,500,000 of ordinary Supplementaries, £2,000,000 additional cost of Treasury Bills, £6,000,000 additional interest on Savings Certificates presented for encashment, £3,000,000 loss on Excess Profits Duty, which has indeed actually yielded a minus quantity, and £1,000,000 upon Corporation Profits Tax, £3,000,000 short-fall of the Betting Duty, which many hon. Members no doubt expected, and, last, but by no means least, nearly £5,000,000 failure in the revenue from beer. The fact that the Budget of 1927 should have survived all these blows and actually yielded more than double the surplus forecasted is a striking proof of its internal stability.

This achievement is due to three causes: First, to the increase above the estimate of the Death Duties, which have yielded £9,500,000 more than I budgeted for. That arises largely from the abnormal yield from the greatest estates falling into charge. Secondly, we have had £4,500,000 of windfalls like repayments from Kenya and Palestine. These two heads, Death Duties and Miscellaneous Revenue, together counter- balance about half of my misfortunes. But the Budget would not have balanced and we should have had a deficit, however explainable or excusable, for the third time running, and but for another and still more potent cause. Immediately after the Budget of last year was announced, the Government began an intensive economy campaign in all Departments in order, in the first place, to pay for Shanghai, for which no provision had avowedly been made. This process of having a continuous economy campaign throughout the year instead of a single battle over the annual Estimates has proved most salutary. Upwards of £10,500,000 has actually been saved by the Departments or clawed back from them by the Treasury, from Estimates which had already undergone their annual scrutiny and from moneys which had actually been voted by Parliament.

Therefore, I submit and I contend that it is not entirely, or even mainly, good luck, but hard work and ceaseless scraping, which have produced the modest but not unwelcome surplus of about £4,250,000. I should like to express my acknowledgments to all my colleagues, without whose goodwill and energetic co-operation these savings could not have been secured. Encouraged by that success, I propose to repeat the process in the present year and never to let it be supposed again that once the Estimates of the year have been settled that is the end of the business and that there is nothing left to do but to spend the money. On the contrary, I hope the obligation to save money wherever possible in every detail of administration and in every period of the year will be accepted as an abiding and perennial rule in our affairs.