Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,250,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1944, for general Navy, Army and Air services and supplies in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament; for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of the war; for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community; and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in the ordinary grants of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of war,
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Anderson)
As I am sure many hon. Members are eager to come to the other 884 Business which is to occupy the House today, I propose to be very brief in dealing with this matter. In his Budget speech in April last my predecessor estimated that we should require £4,900,000,000 for Votes of Credit during the financial year. It is early in the year to speak with any confidence, but so long as conditions remain generally as they are at present there is no reason to expect that the out-turn of the year will differ materially from the estimate. So far three Votes of £1,000,000,000 each have been granted, and on Saturday last about £211,000,000 out of the last Vote remained unspent. During the last eight weeks the average daily rate of all Vote of Credit expenditure has been about £13,250,000, of which £11,000,000 has been spent on the Fighting and Supply Services, and £2,250,000 on miscellaneous war services. The expenditure on the Fighting and Supply Services has thus remained steady at £11,000,000 a day during the last six months. It would, of course, now have been higher but for the assistance we are receiving from Canada on Lend-Lease terms. Expenditure on miscellaneous war services has fluctuated during the year, but, as was explained on the occasion of the last Vote, such fluctuations are to be expected. At the current rates of expenditure the balance of the existing Vote will last until about the middle of November.
I now ask the Committee for a further Vote of £1,250,000,000, a figure which, as the Committee knows, is higher than the amount usually asked for on previous occasions. The increase, however, signifies no new departure, and, from what I have just said, the Committee will see that it does not imply any alteration of the total Budget estimate of the year. The change is due solely to considerations arising out of the Parliamentary timetable. If the new Vote were for £1,000,000,000, I should be confronted with one of two difficulties. At the present rate of expenditure, the Vote would be exhausted very near the time when Parliament re-assembles after the Christmas Recess, and, therefore, some inconvenience would be caused to the Committee if the Vote should happen to run out earlier than was expected. I should either have to face that risk or, in order to avoid it, ask for the next Vote—the last of the year—before the Christmas Recess, when it would be very difficult to estimate 885 with any accuracy our requirements up to the end of the financial year. In the circumstances, I felt that the Committee would not be unwilling on this occasion to agree to a Vote of £1,250,000,000, which would carry us on until about the middle of February.
At the moment our war expenditure does not present any special features which call for comment. Despite its continued high level, I am sure that the Committee will wish to grant whatever is necessary to carry the war on to a successful conclusion as soon as possible. For my part I am confident that we shall continue to the end to finance it on those same sound lines which have contributed so much to the strength and success of our military effort.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
I am quite aware that it is the wish of hon. Members to proceed at the earliest moment to the Business with which we are all waiting to deal. In those circumstances, and in view of the fact that we shall have an opportunity on the Report stage of this Resolution for a Debate on the financial aspects which the Chancellor has very clearly set out for us, I do not propose to say anything now.
§ Mr. Lewis (Colchester)
I rise to express the hope that the Chancellor will take advantage of the fact that he has a seat in the War Cabinet to impress constantly upon his colleagues the desirability of devoting these sums of money as exclusively as possible to purposes calculated to end the war quickly. I hope that he will set his face against portions of this money being used for other purposes, merely because, in different circumstances, money has been spent on those purposes before. To give one example, I personally do not believe that the war would be prolonged by a single day if the Ministry of Economic Warfare was entirely abolished. I hope that the Chancellor will insist on the money being spent on purposes really calculated to bring the war to close. He has a great responsibility in this regard, because under present conditions the House of Commons is not able to exercise any effective control over the expenditure of money, and we have to rely entirely on him. He has a lone hand in the Government. I hope that he will realise that he has the sympathy of this House in endeavouring to ensure that these vast sums are really spent on the 886 purposes for which they are intended, the effective prosecution of the war and the bringing of it to a quick conclusion.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,250,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1944, for general Navy, Army and Air services and supplies in so far as specific provision is not made therefore by Parliament; for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of the war; for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community; and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in the ordinary Grants of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of war.
§ Resolution to be reported upon the next Sitting Day; Committee to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.