HC Deb 20 April 1937 vol 322 cc1612-3

Now I have disposed of all the minor items in the Finance Bill with which I need trouble the Committee, and I can return to my deficit. I must say that last year when I had to impose fresh taxation to the tune of £15,000,000, almost exactly the same sum as is found in the deficit with which I am confronted to-day, I did expect and hope that I should be spared the unwelcomed task of having to impose new burdens on the taxpayer in 1937. The fact that I have to make fresh calls now, in spite of the relief which is afforded to the Budget by the Defence Loans Act, is really the measure of the amount by which we have been able to accelerate our Defence programme. I cannot help thinking that the taxpayer, although he may groan and grumble at the fresh demands which are being made upon him, will find some consolation in the thought that his additional contributions represent an ever quickening approach to the goal of safety.

However distressing the need for new taxation may be, I cannot think it has come altogether as a surprise to the country. I am confirmed in that view by the unusually large number of suggestions which have been offered to me by correspondents with a view to assisting me to find new and hitherto untapped sources of revenue. I have had some of these suggestions collated and arranged in alphabetical order, for convenience, and I think the Committee might like to hear some of them in order that they may judge of the embarrassing opulence of the choice put before me. It has been suggested to me that I should tax or put increased taxes upon:

I am sure the Committee must admire the variety and ingenuity of these suggestions, but a very careful examination of the letters in which they have been embodied has revealed that there is one feature common to them all. They are all directed to practices and indulgences which are not shared in by their authors. To adopt a well-known couplet, they seek to Compound for things they are inclined to By damning those they have no mind to. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot employ a criterion of that kind. He has to consider, first, the amount of revenue which any particular tax is capable of producing. He has to set against that the cost of its collection, and although he can never leave out of his account the social, moral or economic effects of any proposal which he may make, he cannot allow personal taste and personal prejudices to govern his procedure. Therefore, while I am most grateful to all my correspondents for putting their ideas before me, after carefully considering them and applying to them the tests which experience has shown to be necessary, I am reluctantly obliged to say that none of them is of any use to me, and I shall have to look elsewhere for my missing revenue.

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