HC Deb 25 July 1944 vol 402 cc589-90
52. Sir Waldron Smithers

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the approximate cost to the taxpayers and ratepayers of the existing and prospective commitments for social services; and will he give the comparable figures for 1913 and 1938.

Sir J. Anderson

As the answer is rather long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Sir W. Smithers

As the figures must show an enormous increase, and in view of all the unknown factors, and especially in view of the speech of the Minister of Reconstruction in another place, do the Government think it is right to raise hopes which will not possibly——

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member does not seem to be asking for information; he is asking for an opinion.

Sir W. Smithers

May I finish my question, Mr. Speaker? Do the Government think it right to raise false hopes which must end in bitter disillusion?

Sir J. Anderson

I have no comment to make in view of what Mr. Speaker has just said.

Following its the answer:

The latest available figures of the cost of public social services are those contained in the statement furnished in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) on 16th December, 1943. This statement gave the total expenditure in the financial year 1941 as £520,859,000. As my predecessor explained to my hon. Friend on 22nd June, 1943, figures for 1913 are not available, but the cost of these services in 1910 was £62,817,000 and in 1938, £530,854,000. The last complete return of Public Social Services is that published in November, 1938 (Cmd. 5906), which shows expenditure in the year 1936 and an estimate for 1937. As regards the future, no complete estimate of the cost of prospective commitments in this field is yet possible. The financial memorandum which accompanied the Education Bill contained estimates of the cost of the proposals for educational reform embodied in the Bill. The finance of the proposed National Health Service is dealt with in Appendix E to the White Paper on that subject. The finance of the Government's proposals for social insurance will be dealt with in the forthcoming White Paper. The existing services covered by those proposals include unemployment insurance and assistance, cash benefits under the National Health Insurance Acts, contributory and old age pensions, supplementary pensions, and out-door relief. The remaining major services in this field are housing, for which no estimates of prospective commitments are yet possible, and war pensions, the cost of which will depend upon the future course of the war.