HC Deb 20 April 1937 vol 322 cc1602-3

If I may take this revenue for 1936–37: the total realised ordinary revenue was £797,289,000, which was a little less than the estimate of £798,381,000, but showed an increase over the previous year of £44,369,000. I had estimated the Inland Revenue at £28,000,000 more than in the preceding year, but it fell short of my estimate by £3,250,000; on the other hand, the Customs and Excise, which I had estimated at £317,500,000, or £14,000,000 more than the previous year, exceeded my estimate by the same amount. Therefore, Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise taken together realised the expectations of the Budget.

The total of Inland Revenue was £429,637,000, which, as I have said, was £3,250,000 less than I had hoped for. The Income Tax, at £257,250,000, fell short of my estimate by £1,750,000, a fact to which I would invite the particular attention of hon. and right hon. Friends of mine who thought last year that I might easily have avoided any further taxation if only I had chosen to be a little more optimistic. The Surtax also is disappointing; it was £3,000,000 less than I had estimated. Death Duties gave me £88,000,000, or £1,000,000 below the estimate; so that, in the case of these three items, Income Tax, Surtax and Death Duties together, my total revenue was short of what I had expected by £5,750,000.

On the other hand, I had the good fortune to be able to set against that disappointment a gain of more than £2,000,000 on Stamp Duties, which amounted to no less than £29,140,000. Taking into consideration the reduction in the Companies' Capital Duty in 1933, that is a record figure, and it is particularly gratifying because the Stamp Duties, being associated with Stock Exchange activities, form a sort of barometer of the activity of the trading world in general. Customs and Excise gave me a total of £320,782,000, or £3,250,000 more than the estimate, and nearly £17,500,000 over the receipts in the previous year. But of that, £3,500,000 must be ascribed to the increase of the Tea Duty which was part of the Budget proposals. The surplus over the estimate was partly due to the new duties on beef and veal, which were imposed in December, and by the end of March had collected a revenue of about £500,000; and it was also increased by forestalment of certain commodities, especially tea, presumably in intelligent anticipation of additional duties to be imposed this afternoon.

On the whole, I consider these results extremely satisfactory. They are the product both of expanding trade and of the increase in the purchasing power of the nation. The latter is demonstrated by the rise of £1,250,000 in the duty on spirits, £1,800,000 under beer, and £2,400,000 under tobacco; and the former by the increase of £2,600,000 from the Oil Duties; while the duties under the Import Duties Act and the Ottawa Agreements Act produced some £35,000,000, or more than £2,500,000 over the receipts of the previous year.

The next item on the Revenue side concerns the Post Office. That great business, under the energetic administration of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General, continues to expand at a remarkable rate, and the gross revenue last year was £2,250,000 more than had been estimated. But, since the establishment of the Post Office Fund and the arrangements for providing for a fixed contribution from the Post Office to the Exchequer, the Treasury does not benefit by that expansion, which moreover was offset by additional expenditure. All the same, this increased business in the Post Office is another significant indication of the general business activity of the country. The net receipt from the Post Office, which is, as the Committee know, based upon the fixed contribution subject to certain adjustments, came to £10,970,000, which is slightly under the estimate of £11,256,000. The remaining items of revenue, totalling together £35,900,000, were within £750,000 of the estimate, and they do not call for any detailed comment.