HC Deb 19 April 1932 vol 264 cc1423-5

I would ask the Committee to consider for a moment what the position would be if I had to stop there. We have an ordinary expenditure estimated at £766,000,000, and up to the present the revenue which I have available amounts only to £731,275,000. There is a deficit there of £34,725,000. When I recollect the Debates which took place on the Import Duties Bill, not so many weeks ago, in this House, and when I think of all the scorn that was poured out from the benches opposite upon the idea that a 10 per cent. duty was necessary for revenue unless it were for the purpose of reducing the burdens upon the Income Tax payer, and then I consider this tremendous deficit of nearly £35,000,000, I cannot help thinking that the critics look rather foolish to-day. Where on earth, I wonder, could we have found this great sum if we had been debarred from the consideration of Import Duties? The sequel will show that not only were we right in making a revenue tariff the basis of our new proposals, but the actual rate which we fixed upon, the 10 per cent. rate, proves to have been as nearly adapted to our needs as could possibly have been expected from men who had no experience to guide them in exploring an unknown field.

Let me come then to the yield that I expect to get from the new duties during the current year. On the assumption that the Abnormal Importations Duties expire on 19th May, or that they are replaced by other duties on the recommendation of the Tariff Advisory Committee, I am only expecting £250,000 from that source. On the other hand, the Horticultural Products Duties go on until next December, and I am putting down the yield from them at £750,000, so that between the two I get together exactly £1,000,000. The 10 per cent. Revenue Tariff is, of course, of much greater importance. The tariff has only been in operation since 1st March. It is much too soon to say with certainty what its effect is going to be upon the revenue, more especially as there was a considerable amount of forestalment before the duties came into force, and, therefore, in the earlier weeks the amount of the revenue was very much disturbed. In fact, any estimate of the revenue from this tariff must, I think, at the present time be of a highly conjectural character, but after carefully considering the whole matter I have allowed myself to expect from this source a yield during the present year of £27,000,000.

But the general ad valorem duty does not entirely exhaust the sources open to me from the Import Duties. The Committee is aware, I think, that there is in my hands an interim report from the Tariff Advisory Committee which contains certain recommendations as to additional duties. In accordance with the Statutory directions I have consulted the appropriate Departments upon these recommendations, and I hope before the end of the week to make an Order under Section 3 of the Import Duties Act. Hon. Members would, no doubt, now like to know exactly what those recommendations are, but I am sure they will recognise that it is very undesirable to disclose any earlier than is necessary precisely what we are going to do, because the only result of that might be to enable enterprising traders to forestall our intentions. That being so, I propose to ask hon. Members to possess their souls in patience until the recommendations are published later in the week. But for the purpose of this statement I have had to make some estimate of the revenue which is likely to accrue from the Order which I shall presently be making, and, although, here again, in the absence of experience, one's estimate must be somewhat conjectural, I think I am justified in expecting a further £5,000,000 in addition to the amount which I have already estimated to receive from the general ad valorem tariff.

Adding up the various items of Customs and Excise, I arrive at a total of about £297,500,000. If you add to that the figure from Inland Revenue of £427,000,000 and the revenue under other heads of £39,800,000, you get a total of £764,300,000. The position then is this:

Estimated expenditure 766,000,000
Estimated revenue 764,300,000
Prospective deficit £1,700,000

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