HC Deb 19 April 1932 vol 264 cc1418-9

4.0 p.m.

Coming to the current year I have a preliminary explanation to make. In the present Budget, I am including no receipts for Reparations and Allied War Debts, and I am including no outgoings for our own War Debt payments. In ordinary conditions those items should constitute a self-balancing chapter in our finances. The future position is dependent upon the results of the Lausanne Conference. Various alternative assumptions might have been made, but it seemed to me that the best course was to refrain at this stage from all conjectures and to treat both sides of the account as being in suspense. This procedure will entail a consequent modification of the Fixed Debt Charge, but that does not imply that any fresh decision has been taken as to our policy upon these delicate questions. On the contrary, I adopted the procedure proposed as being the best calculated not to prejudge any of the issues involved, and I am sure that I shall have the assent of the Committee in expressing the view that a discussion at the present time would be inopportune. The general policy of the Government was stated by me to the House on the 2nd February, and that statement continues to represent the Government's views as to the objective at which we should aim. I have similarly decided for the time being to omit any estimates of receipts for those Dominion War Debts, the service of which was suspended until the 1st July at the time of the enunciation of President Hoover's plan. Although these debts stand upon a different footing from those of Inter-Allied War Debts, the two questions are, to a certain extent, inter-connected, and I think it wiser to treat them both as in suspense. Later in the year, when we know the outcome of the deliberations which will begin next June at Lausanne, I shall submit to Parliament whatever proposals may be necessary to give effect to the measures we have agreed upon. In the meantime, however, I must point out that these assumptions deprive me of some £10,000,000 which was included in the forecast of revenue last September, when it was assumed that, after the expiration of the Hoover Moratorium, the previous position of Reparations and Debts would be restored. From the decisions I have just described, it follows that the interest on both the half-yearly payments of the American debt will be excluded from the Fixed Debt Charge, which is consequently reduced from £322,000,000 to £308,500,000. Of course, that includes the provision for Sinking Fund, which remains unchanged at £32,500,000. Northern Ireland Services amount to £6,800,000, and Miscellaneous Services to £3,500,000. The total for Consolidated Fund Services, therefore, comes to £318,800,000.

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