HC Deb 14 April 1930 vol 237 cc2669-70

I have already mentioned the cost this year of the de-rating scheme. The Committee will be aware that the nex taxation imposed in connection with this scheme began about 18 months before the expenditure and that my predecessor therefore was enabled to set up what was called the Rating Relief Suspensory Fund. This Fund was intended to meet the excess of the cost of the de-rating scheme in later years over the yield of the Petrol Duty. This excess in the present year I put at £16,000,000 and, with the aid of that sum, the prospective deficit is reduced to £26,264,000. But I should like the Committee to be perfectly clear as to the true nature of this Suspensory Fund. There is no cash in the Fund that has not already been borrowed in reduction of the Floating Debt to the market. The money can now only be found by allowing the debt to rise by a corresponding amount. The Fund was merely a device for making later Budgets look better. The deficit of £42,264,000 in 1930 is just as real as if the Fund had never existed. We shall be meeting current expenditure to the extent of £16,000,000 by increased borrowing from the public on the excuse that we had surpluses of that amount in the past, and in any case the accumulated Suspensory Fund is little more than adequate to cover the deficit on the first full year's working of the scheme. In 1931 only £4,000,000 will be available, and of course nothing in later years. I am not criticising the position, but only recording the fact that this consideration is obviously of the most serious importance. Although we can treat the deficiency for this year as £26,264,000 by using £16,000,000 from the Suspensory Fund, that relief will drop to £4,000,000 next year, and to nil thereafter. The only comfort, and it is a small one, is that the increase in the commitment next year fits in with the fact that new taxation, which I am afraid is unavoidable, does not give its full yield in the year in which it is first imposed. I am departing from the policy of recent years which has been acted on the precept of postponing the evil day. My proposals this year will be framed in such a way that whatever the revenue they yield this year, they will yield greater sums in 1931 and later years in order to meet this legacy of indebtedness. I shall thus, without adding anything this year to taxation for the de-rating scheme, make prospective provision for meeting its cost when the Suspensory Fund is exhausted, without any addition to taxation for this. purpose in future years.