HC Deb 25 April 1939 vol 346 cc977-8

I must now refer to some of the components in last year's revenue totals. As the Committee will see on page 3 of the Blue Print, Customs and Excise receipts produced £340,500,000. There were surpluses on spirits, £600,000; tea, £800,000; and sugar, £1,300,000. This last increase was mainly due to the failure of the homegrown beet sugar crop, which resulted in unexpectedly large imports of foreign sugar, on which I get more duty than on the British product. Tobacco was up by £1,100,000, and oil by about £500,000. In the cases of tea, sugar, and tobacco, all of which show substantial increases above the estimate, something is due to forestalling just before the end of the year. Indeed, this forestalling might have reached very substantial proportions had steps not been taken a few weeks ago under statutory powers to limit clearances. On the other hand, beer failed to achieve its forecasted total by £1,400,000, and silk by £700,000, and there were small losses on wine, beef and veal, and key industry goods. The Import Duties Act duties, including what are called in the Treasury, "the old McKenna's," were down by over £5,000,000 and it is here, in these duties, that the difficulties of last year's overseas trade are mainly reflected. The Committee will remember, also, that the reduction in duties provided for by the Trade Agreement with America came into operation from 1st January last.

The Inland Revenue duties last year yielded a total of £520,250,000, which is £16,250,000 short of the estimate. Of this shortage £10,500,000 comes under the head of Death Duties, always an uncertain figure, and one which suffers immediately from a heavy fall in security values. Stamp Duties were also severely affected by prevailing conditions, and it is no surprise that they yielded £3,000,000 less than the estimate. Income Tax last year, at £336,000,000, was £5,250,000 short. I should say, in defence of the estimate, that in the field of trading profits the yield was in very close accord with expectations. Surtax at £62,500,000 exceeded my estimate by £500,000, and was over £5,000,000 more than the previous year's receipts. I feel no doubt that the increased yield of Surtax is materially due to the effectiveness of recent legislation against various devices for avoiding tax. From the National Defence Contribution I estimated last year that we should receive £20,000,000, and the amount that came in was nearly £22,000,000. The smooth working of this tax, National Defence Contribution No. (2), which I proposed two years ago, is a matter of great satisfaction. Business concerns have willingly co-operated with the revenue authorities in agreeing figures for assessment, and it is right that we should acknowledge the readiness of industry in hard times to provide this special contribution towards the cost of National Defence.

Excluding Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue, the other receipts were £66,500,000, or £2,300,000 better than the estimate. Motor vehicle duties yielded £35,600,000 odd against an estimate of £36,000,000. The Post Office brought in on balance £170,000 less than the estimate. I shall have something to say about the Post Office figures in a moment. The revenue from Crown Lands at £1,330,000 equals the estimate, and the receipts from Sundry Loans at £5,700,000 were £500,000 above the estimate. Miscellaneous revenue, estimated at £10,500,000, yielded £12,900,000, a rather surprising increase. The increase is due to the unexpectedly high profit made at the Mint from the minting of silver coin.