HC Deb 20 April 1937 vol 322 cc1620-1

I am now in a position to strike my final balance. I put the revenue on this basis at £847,950 000. The addition to the standard rate of Income Tax, the new National Defence contribution and the gain from bondwashing I estimate to bring in £15,150,000. My total estimated revenue is thus £863,100,000. The total estimated expenditure is £862,848,000 leaving me with a prospective surplus of £252,000.

I have now completed the sixth financial statement that I have been privileged to make to this Committee. I am well aware that that period of office has been exceeded by several of my predecessors. I believe that the record is held by Mr. Pitt who was Chancellor of the Exchequer for 19 years, over 17 of which were consecutive. But, Sir, since his day, the mortality rate among Ministers has risen considerably and I have to recognise that I have already held this office for an unusually long period. It would be presumptuous in me to expect that I could retain it for many more years. It is, therefore, an appropriate moment to make a very brief examination of the future prospects.

The recurrent theme of my statement to-day has been the pressure of rearmament. Perhaps it is not altogether surprising that some Jeremiahs have expressed doubts as to our ability to carry this vast burden without wilting under the strain. But my first reflection upon that subject is that at least the strain has fallen upon us at a time when our credit is exceptionally high and our revenue is expanding. How much more serious would our condition have been if this great imposition had fallen upon us at a time when our Budget position was at its worst, or if we had weakened our credit and depleted our resources by issuing great loans, or by incurring heavy deficits, in an effort to make our Budget policy serve as an instrument for stimulating economic activity during the time of depression. As it is, we start with a favourable wind, and if there are storms ahead at least there is no visible sign of them as yet.