§ EXPENDITURE ARISING OUT OF THE WAR
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £2,000,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for general Navy, Army and Air services and supplies in so far as specific provision is not made there for 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; for relief and rehabilitation in areas brought under the control of any of the United Nations; 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.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Dalton)
This might be described as a cleaning-up operation, and I trust the Committee will approve it. When the last Vote of Credit was presented on 8th June last by my predecessor, whom I am very glad to see sitting opposite me at the moment, the sum which he then asked for was £1,750,000,000 and that was calculated to meet expenditure, under the wide terms which you. Major Milner, have read out, covering, of course, not only direct war expenditure, but practically all other needs of the Government—the whole thing—this figure, which my predecessor indicated, of £1,750,000,000, was calculated to tide the Government over the then impending Election and to give an interval until the new House of Commons might assemble and survey the situation as it would have developed as a consequence of the operations of the war. During the last few weeks, the Vote of Credit Expenditure, under the Vote which my predecessor put before the previous Parliament, averaged between £12,500,000 and £13,000,000 a day, of which about £11,000,000 has been in respect of the Fighting and Supply Services, and, at this rate of expenditure the present Vote will be exhausted by the first week in November.
992 I have, therefore, now to ask the Committee to make special provision within the same framework of the Vote of Credit, which I think we must continue and which I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite will acknowledge the Treasury should continue, for the remainder of this financial year. Perhaps I might, at this stage, say that, as from the beginning of the next-financial year, we shall have reverted to the system of Estimates, which will be subject of Parliamentary control and will be subject to stricter Treasury control than my predecessor was able in time of war to enforce and which I cannot, as yet, enforce. The Estimate system will be re-introduced as from April next. Meanwhile, there is no practical alternative, in terms of administration, to continuing the Vote of Credit system for the remaining months of this financial year.
When the last Vote of Credit was granted, the war with Germany had already been brought to a victorious end. The war with Japan was still proceeding, and it was still impossible to estimate with any kind of precision, as the right hon. Gentleman then explained, just what might be required in order to finance the conclusion of the Japanese war, and still less was it possible to estimate with any degree of precision the amount of money that would be required to finance what I may call the war terminals and all the transitional arrangements which are now, of course, a very important element in our total expenditure. The abnormal expenditure arising from the war will go on in gradually slackening amount for years rather than months ahead. We have had war commitments, now in course of being liquidated, following the double victory. We have a process of demobilisation taking place at an accelerated speed, as the Committee has been informed, and all this involves, with its consequential payments of gratuities and so on, very large sums of money.
On Tuesday of next week, I hope to ask the Committee to look at many of these questions in a wider context when I make my Budget Statement, but, meanwhile, I would like to tell the Committee now what I shall also refer to next week in other contexts. I have already asked all the Departments, even though the Estimate system cannot fully be re-introduced until the next financial year, to do their utmost to reduce expenditure in 993 all possible directions under the present financial difficulties, with which we are all familiar, and with a view to speeding up the re-establishment of the export trade as quickly as we can and meeting the most urgent demands under the head of social expenditure. I have urged upon the Departments, and I am confident I shall get a response from them, the need to abbreviate their demands as much as they can.
I am anxious to ask for a sum which will contain a margin of safety. I frankly tell the Committee that I do not expect that we shall have to expend £2,000,000,000 in the remaining period of the financial year. At the same time, I cannot give any estimate as to by how much the expenditure is likely to fall short of this figure. I have, therefore, inserted a safety margin in order that it shall not be necessary for me to come to the Committee again and ask for a further sum. That is why I began by describing this Vote as a final mopping up operation, and I hope the Committee will think it is a reasonable way to proceed, especially when it is borne in mind that all this expenditure will be subject to scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee in due course, so that anything irregular or objectionable can be noted and reported to the House.
There is also a matter which my predecessor has explained on earlier occasions when Votes of Credit were before the Committee and to which I should refer, which constitutes a further element of uncertainty as to the total sum which we shall spend. We must allow a margin for that necessary difference which is bound to arise in the course of our accounting between the amount of expenditure chargeable to this year's account and the amount of cash required to be issued from the Exchequer during the year. The former of these amounts will probably be larger than the other, because, under war conditions, a number of Departments had to keep large working balances in various parts of the world, either in their own hands or in banking accounts, and some of the expenditure chargeable to this year's accounts may be defrayed out of these balances, in which case, it will not, of course, involve the issue of cash from the Exchequer this year. We cannot forecast how much this difference will be, but, since we are com- 994 ing to the end of the Vote of Credit period, there is reason to expect that it may be quite significant in amount.
Putting in a margin for safety, I am asking the Committee to authorise a Vote of Credit for £2,000,000,000 because of the technical points to which I have just referred and economies which I hope I shall persuade the Departments to make even in the course of a few months until the financial year comes to an end. I shall be much disappointed if the actual cash charged to this year's Budget does not fall noticeably short of the total of £4,750,000,000, which is the sum of the £2,000,000,000 I am asking for now and the £2,750,000,000 granted to the late Government at the request of my predecessor. I hope we shall not reach that figure. That is all which, at this stage, I desire to say in commending this Vote to the Committee. It is the final stage of this aspect of our war finance. It has proved, during the war, to be necessary to have this particular procedure, but it is coming to an end when the financial year comes to an end, and I hope the Committee will agree that, in all the circumstances, it is a reasonable sum to ask and that they will duly grant it.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Sir John Anderson (Scottish Universities)
I should like to take this opportunity, the first that I have had, of congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on the very important office to which he has been called, and of wishing him well—I say this in all sincerity—in the discharge of the very heavy responsibilities which will fall upon him. I wish, before I sit down, to say a word about the decision of the Government, which I regard as unfortunate, to have the whole of this amount expected to be required up to the end of the financial year in one lump of £2,000,000,000. It is, if I am not mistaken, the largest Vote ever submitted to this Committee. It is not, I think, necessary for me to emphasise the fact that Vote of Credit procedure is a financial expedient of a quite exceptional character. By common consent, it is a necessary procedure under the conditions of war and when it is necessary for the Government to keep abreast of the developing military situation when everyone is intent on a single purpose—the successful prosecution of the war, which must, on no account, be impeded or prejudiced by financial 995 difficulties. In time of peace, however, when conditions of active warfare have passed away, it requires I think some exceptional justification to proceed by way of a Vote of Credit. The ordinary method, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, is by departmental Estimate, by a procedure which has been developed as a result of experience over long years for the purpose of enabling this House of Commons to discharge as effectively as may be what is probably its most important function, the control of public expenditure.
There are many new Members in this House who may be assumed not to be wholly familiar with House of Commons procedure and with the nature of the financial safeguards which it is customary to apply. I make no apology, therefore, for pointing out that, under ordinary procedure, Estimates are submitted which are considered one by one. Each Estimate is divided into three parts. The first part defines the scope of the Vote—it corresponds in a sense with the long title of a Bill; Part 2 of the Estimate gives under heads and sub-heads, as may be thought convenient, the details of the expenditure; in Part 3 one is accustomed to find any necessary explanations. Now that procedure undoubtedly facilitates effective criticism. All that is lost under Vote of Credit procedure, and we have to rely on other methods for ensuring necessary control. Now, as the right hon. Gentleman anticipated, I do not seek to challenge the decision to take a Vote of Credit on this occasion. I agree with him that to pass suddenly from Vote of Credit Procedure to the ordinary procedure of detailed Estimates would throw an impossible burden on the Departments and the authorities concerned. However, I had hoped to hear on this occasion a little more than has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman about the state of our finances, about the trend of our finances. The right hon. Gentleman no doubt will find a convenient opportunity for going into all that in detail in his Budget Statement next week. Nevertheless, I think he will agree that it is not out of place, when this very large Vote is submitted for the consideration of the Committee, to say just a word about the indications, so far as they are at present available, of the way things are going. 996 In my Budget Statement of 24th April last I ventured, with all necessary cautionary references, to make some forecast of the probable course of events. I pointed out, as it was my duty to do, the difficulty of making any exact Estimates, but I had to do the best I could in the light of the information then available to me. My estimate at that date—at a date when the war in Europe had not yet come to an end—of the amount likely to be required for Votes of Credit, was £4,500,000,000, compared with £5,000,000,000 estimated and I think £5,125,000,000 actually realised in the last completed financial year. Now as the right hon. Gentleman has made clear, this Vote he is submitting will bring the total of Votes of Credit in this financial year up to £4,750,000,000—£250,000,000 more than I estimated on the 24th April last, notwithstanding the fact that the war in Europe had come to an end rather earlier than I could then have anticipated, and the war in the East very much earlier—because I had assumed for the purposes of my financial statement that the war in the East would continue throughout the present financial year. Now it is surely a matter of some concern that the modest expectation which I submitted to the House last April seems likely to be falsified even though, as the right hon. Gentleman has made clear, he is hopeful of effecting some saving on the £2,000,000,000 Vote which he is now submitting.
I referred in my Budget speech in some detail to the necessity for a very close watch upon expenditure, and I would like to emphasise that matter again to-day. Economy does not come about of itself; it has to be pursued, continuous pressure is necessary at all vital points, and there must be vigorous drive from the centre. Some of the measures which are taken to prevent extravagance at a time when expenditure is rising may re-emerge actually as obstacles when the time comes for reducing expenditure. For example, it is an ordinary rule in framing establishments that the strength of the higher ranks should be related to the strength of the ranks below. That is a salutary rule when new expenditure is under consideration but, when you are cutting down expenditure, what you must keep in view is that there may be a tendency—I do not say there is always— 997 on the part of those in the higher ranks who have a great deal to do with the effecting of economies, to hesitate to press for the maximum reduction in the strengths of the ranks below because of the repercussion upon the higher ranks. I do not want to put the matter too high, but that is an illustration of the necessity for a very close watch on all these matters by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his advisers who stand outside the ranks of the spending Departments.
I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he had asked the Departments to do everything possible to reduce expenditure. I do not think that goes quite far enough. I do not think it is sufficient to ask the Departments; I think some special machinery is necessary to hold the Departments to their duty to cut down expenditure. Unpopular things have to be done, there must be pressure from outside to make sure that they are done, and are done effectively and in good time, and that is a matter which concerns all of us. The rate at which public expenditure is being incurred has its reflection in the sums that have to be taken by way of taxation, by way of loans from the whole community without distinction of rank or class, and we should not be doing our duty as Members of this House if we did not insist upon the paramount necessity of making a very special and vigorous effort, even at this difficult time, to ensure the maximum of economy. I well know what are the problems that crowd in upon the attention of Ministers to-day—problems at home and abroad, foreign affairs, affairs at home, housing, the state of the coal industry, strikes, problems in connection with India and Palestine, the balance of payments, which is a very difficult problem, the building up of our export trade, not to mention the development of one or two interesting socialist experiments. All these things demand attention from Ministers and I know from experience how difficult it is to compass within the 24 hours all the duties that have to be performed. I am not attacking the right hon. Gentleman, I want to strengthen his hand in this matter, and I hope that he, or perhaps the Financial Secretary if he winds up this Debate, will be able to give us some further assurance.
However, I confess that I regret the decision of the Government to take the 998 whole of this money in one lump. They will get their Vote, of course, but quite apart from the fact—which the right hon. Gentleman did not try to gloss over—that one of his reasons for taking the Vote in this way—not, I think, a very good one—was to avoid having to come back to this House whose duty it is to control expenditure for a further demand, I think that at this particular juncture to take £2,000,000,000, a larger sum, may I repeat, than has been taken on any previous occasion even during the war, is bad psychologically. It tends to create the impression that money is no obstacle. A very different impression must be created in all the Departments, in all the Services, in the minds of all who have anything to do with public administration or public expenditure, and I think the right hon. Gentleman would have made the desired impression on the minds of those people much more effectively if the Vote had been divided and, instead of being put at a higher level than ever before, if smaller sums of, say £500,000,000 at a time had been taken so that this House would have recurring opportunities of examining the position and putting to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues the question that should rightly and properly be put to them in this matter.
Having said that, I hope that we may have from the right hon. Gentleman or his representatives further assurances that he will do everything possible and will have the full support of his colleagues—the heads of the spending Departments—in doing everything possible to bring expenditure down to a more reasonable level at the earliest possible moment. It is no good saying that the Public Accounts Committee will come along. The Public Accounts Committee comes along after the event, and no doubt if there are irregularities the Public Accounts Committee will call attention to them and their report will have some attention, perhaps perfunctory attention, in this House, but it is not a question of irregularities. The Public Accounts Committee has nothing to do with excessive expenditure if it is duly vouched and in accordance with law. It is not the function of the Public Accounts Committee to control the level of expenditure. That, I suggest, is primarily the right hon. Gentleman's function. That is all I have to say on this Vote.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Whittaker (Heywood and Radcliffe)
In rising for the first time to make a speech in this House I sincerely hope and believe that Members of the Committee will extend to me the consideration which has so readily been granted to previous speakers in making their maiden efforts. I was pleased to hear from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor that this Vote of Credit would be the last of its kind, and that we shall soon return to our more normal method of making Estimates. I feel sure that my right hon. Friend will give close scrutiny to every item.
I wish to call attention to several matters with which this Vote is concerned, and to ask that in certain respects we should be liberal in our interpretation of these Estimates. I notice that much of the money will be required for relief and rehabilitation in areas brought under control of the United Nations. When it is considered what we have heard in this House and elsewhere about conditions in European countries and in countries in the Far East, and what was said the other night on the Adjournment about the real danger of starvation in Europe, I would ask the Government not to be cheeseparing in any expenditure connected with bringing relief to countries which have been devastated and ravaged by war. We are taxed to the limit, and we are suffering from many shortages, food and clothing in particular. We appear to have given all that we can, but I believe that when the country begins fully to understand the conditions in Europe, and recognises that there is a likelihood of famine this winter unparalleled in the history of mankind, much consideration will be given to any expenditure we care to make to bring relief to the nations which have come under our control. I would ask the Government not to make that relief subject to any political pressure. After the last war much of the relief that was granted was granted only provided the Governments concerned acquiesced in the political pressure that was brought to bear. I hope that relief will be given understandingly and fairly in all cases.
I would also ask that rehabilitation should be considered as well as relief. In many countries, until we put their industries on a really sound footing, and attend to their agriculture and so make it 1000 possible for them to help themselves, we cannot bring a real sound economic life back to Europe. So I hope that any expenditure required for relief and rehabilitation in areas brought under the control of the United Nations will be interpreted liberally. It will pay us in the long run in any case, because the quicker we can get a real world economy the better it will be financially for us, apart from the moral aspect of the problem. Since the major fighting has finished—we all hope that the sporadic outbursts in various parts of the world will quickly cease—it is to be presumed that expenditure will steadily diminish. I hope the Government will see that any expenditure required for demobilisation, in the matter of the greatest possible comforts being provided for our soldiers in bringing them home and every possible facility being granted for their re-equipment and resettlement in civilian life, will be readily met. I hope we shall be generous to our ex-Service men.
I am particularly pleased to note that one of the items in this Vote is for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community. I am a Lancashire man, and I represent the constituency of Heywood and Radcliffe, which embraces the towns of Ramsbottom and Whitefield. In this great area surrounding Manchester containing many important towns, there is a total population of 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 people. It is a great industrial region; in fact, we regard it as the industrial backbone of the country. During the last war when industry in that area was prosperous things went on well indeed, but when peace came there was complete disruption. The cotton industry in particular suffered to such an extent that it has not yet recovered and requires all the efforts of the Government, particularly the President of the Board of Trade, to put it right. I am glad of the attention which the President of the Board of Trade is giving to Lancashire. This disruption of industry was due to the fact that no real provision was made for an orderly transfer from a war to a peace-time economy. I hope that the Government will see that we have an orderly transfer this time, that industries in Lancashire will be considered very favourably in that connection, so that we shall not suffer, as we did after the last war, from an economic 1001 catastrophe due to switch over from a war to a peace-time economy without proper provision being made beforehand, and without the necessary finances being provided. For that reason, I welcome that item in this Vote of Credit.
I conclude by referring to another matter connected with taxation. In the near future taxation must begin progressively to diminish; we hope that that process will begin in the next few months. We are all agreed about certain reforms of taxation which must be introduced, such as consideration to the lower income groups, the raising of the Income Tax allowances, and the abolition of Purchase Tax. I want to call attention to one aspect of taxation which is having a most pernicious social effect, and that is the very high taxation on certain forms of entertainment, and on tobacco and cigarettes.
§ The Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he must not talk about taxation on a Vote which deals with expenditure only.
§ Mr. Whittaker
The point I wished to make was that many young people are spending a third or a half of their incomes on these things, and it is introducing a social evil which should be combated. However, I will leave that matter, Major Milner. The Chancellor said he hoped there would be a considerable saving, that he had estimated for the maximum amount but that in all probability he would not spend £2,000,000,000. I hope he will give consideration to one or two points which, I presume, will come under the terms of this Vote. I refer to the matter of pensions for parents whose sons have been killed in the war, and to old age pensions. If there is any saving I think some consideration should be given to these two matters.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
May I first ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury if he will convey my apologies to the Chancellor for not being in my place when a Question in my name was called earlier to-day? In regard to this Vote of Credit, as I listened to my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) I hoped he might say something about the Select Committee on National Expenditure. That Committee, which was appointed by this 1002 House and was representative of all parties, sat at various times for four and a half years, and on it were many of my friends who now decorate, with great efficiency, the Government Front Bench. I think it was very great experience for them. That Committee was one of the best means by which Parliament played its part in maintaining some sort of supervision over expenditure. The position today is sufficiently serious without any need to labour it, and surely it is doubly necessary now, when we are to have a large measure of control, to enable the House of Commons, through whatever constitutional means were set up by the foresight of our forbears, on every occasion to assist the Treasury and inform Parliament about expenditure, and point out, in its various Reports what the effect of that expenditure is and whether taxpayers are getting value for their money.
My attention has just been called to the fact that the hon. Member for Hey wood and Radcliffe (Mr. Whittaker) was making his maiden speech just now, and I want to apologise to him for overlooking the congratulations which are due to him. His eloquence was so complete and his assurance so praiseworthy, that I forgot for a moment that it was his maiden speech. I would like to congratulate him very much on what he had to say, and to sympathise in having "slipped up" on a point of Order in his first effort in this Chamber. We all know that it is very confusing, but the way in which he accepted the Ruling of the Chair and continued his speech showed his assurance. I believe that he will, as time goes on, make some further very useful contributions to our Debates.
I was endeavouring to say in the early part of my speech, Major Milner, that if the Select Committee on National Expenditure was useful in war-time it is just as useful now. The Reports of that Committee are available to hon Members, and I know there are many who have come to this House for the first time who are very interested in all our Parliamentary procedure. That Committee produced 99 reports during four and a half years. One of the last was the Eleventh Report made in the last Parliament, which gives a summary of all that has been recommended in the past and the procedure of previous Parliaments in giving the House of Commons the means of looking after, 1003 or seeing to, public expenditure. Earlier, the Chancellor and my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities mentioned the Public Accounts Committee. That Committee, constitutionally, is a sort of coroner's court. It carries out the inquest on the corpse, and that is all there is about it. As my right hon. Friend said, sometimes their reports are considered in a somewhat perfunctory manner and we all know how disappointing it is when recommendations which one thinks are ideal are sometimes brusquely swept aside. The Select Committee, on which I served, made recommendations as to the sort of operations that might be carried out for the benefit of the taxpayer and the reduction of taxes. If I may briefly quote from this last Eleventh Report, the words which were unanimously passed by hon. Gentlemen belonging to the Socialist Party, and by our side were:We are deeply convinced of the continuing need of the detailed investigation of current expenditure, not only during the period of transition from war to peace, but also thereafter.I would like to point out that after the last war—I was a Member of this House in 1918—there was set up the Geddes Committee, and what was known as the Geddes Axe. There were many opinions about the Geddes Axe, and it did a lot of rough cutting down, but, on the other hand, I think, it also did a lot of good. I believe the procedure of the Select Committee on National Expenditure going quietly ahead and reviewing the different forms of expenditure in different Departments did nothing but help the Treasury, and although we were at times chided by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and the country for overstepping our terms of reference, we did that for the purpose of assisting the House of Commons to realise and understand where the money was going and why it was being spent. I do feel that at this time of transition when, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, we may be going back to the ordinary estimates procedure for the next financial year—although we have to wait between now and April for that—and with the great deal of work which was suspended when the last Parliament ceased to function and various Reports which still await publication, that this Committee 1004 should be set up again. Therefore it was for many reasons that I regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not immediately say "Of course we cannot get on at all without setting up again the Select Committee on National Expenditure"; nor did my right hon. Friend give us any thanks for all the work we had done over four and a half years in trying to assist him.
There is one other point germane to this discussion: If you are going to help a Department in cutting down it is no good, as the Chancellor said, sending out a chit to the Department saying, "You must not spend so much." It is not the fault of the Department always that money is spent; it is the fault of this House, and we have to make up our minds that the country cannot afford to spend money uselessly. When you have a Watchdog Committee of hon. Members of this House, drawn in proportion to the strength of the parties, it enables the House to look at this expenditure, and when the Estimates come on to be discussed you do not have, what usually occurs, the Estimates used simply for raising one or two matters and not the whole sweep. I believe that it is perfectly true to-day as it was in the recommendation made after the last war, when Lord Samuel, a Member of another place, was Chairman of the then Select Committee on National Expenditure, and this House passed in very strong terms a Resolution saying that the proper supervision of Estimates was necessary to assist the Estimates Committee. The Estimates Committee was set up and many hon. Members served on it. I think its terms of reference rather kept it in and I believe the terms of reference of the last Select Committee on National Expenditure would be more suitable really for assisting this Government to get back from wartime to peace-time expenditure.
Finally, I do feel that it would be in the interests of the Government and the country, at a time when we are in for all sorts of exhilarating and exciting new experiments, if more hon. Members, through the medium of this constitutional machinery, kept in touch with the everyday expenditure of the different Departments. There are certain forms of expenditure—let us be quite frank about it—which are governed very largely by the personal considerations of the gentleman in charge of the Department. They 1005 say, "Why should we reduce if they are not reducing over there?" That is a very difficult thing to deal with, unless you can bring a searchlight to bear on the particular Department. There are to-day many complications remaining from the war—and I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman last week pointing out that the taxpayers of this country are spending every week now £2,500,000 on maintaining and looking after the Forces of our Allies—which involve supervising, and the giving up of a great deal of requisitioned property.
All of us, without exception, have had letters from our constituents asking for the release of such property. Various reasons are given by the Departments as to why it cannot be released. It may be that an official who wants to release it is under the orders of a superior who says you cannot release it. When a Parliamentary Committee is interested, it does make a Department look twice because it has to justify in evidence on oath the reason why this property should not be de-requisitioned. The Financial Secretary and Ministers to-day are far too engrossed to go into details on matters of that kind. I believe that, without interfering at all with the responsibility of the Executive, that is possibly the right way for Members of the House of Commons to play their part in controlling expenditure, in seeing that there is no waste, and in making recommendations to Parliament. By studying the Estimates as they are presented they are able themselves to make a useful contribution when the Estimates come up for consideration.
I suggest that with the present situation in the world none of us can say what will be the position six months hence. Some of us view the future with the very greatest alarm. I go so far as to say that I would not be sure there will never be a fusion of all parties in this House to see us through all the difficulties that face us. We are tired and war-weary and our financial strength is reduced, and, therefore, we cannot possibly allow any wasteful expenditure. I think any means for fighting that ought to be adopted, and any means that a Committee can find to maintain research and development for the Services, to see that they are not reduced below what is necessary. I want to congratulate the Secretary of State for War and the Gov- 1006 ernment on their courage in coming to the House and giving a plain statement of fact. It is no use winning the war and then throwing away everything that is won. The responsibility of the commanders in the field and of their officials, and certainly of the Foreign Office, to-day is such that we ought not to discourage the spending of one penny if it is necessary for the future maintenance of peace. We ought to look most carefully to see that there is no wasteful expenditure. This vast sum of £2,000,000,000, which is a larger sum, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, than has even been asked for before, is surely a sum which makes it the more necessary that a Select Committee on National Expenditure should be set up to assist Parliament in seeing that the money is spent profitably and that there is no waste.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Edwards (Middlesbrough, East)
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has put in a good word for the War Expenditure Committee. I had the honour of serving on that Committee for some years and know what an important job it had. One objection I had concerning the War Expenditure Committee was the manner in which this House treated it. The Reports we made were more like writing the minutes of an archaeological society, because this House never gave a single day to discussing them. It did a magnificent job of work, and work which will be essential in the coming years, but the neglect of the work done by the War Expenditure Committee was simply disgraceful. We sat all those years and produced Reports and never a single day did this House give to discussing them, in spite of the fact that we asked the Government, time after time, to provide a day for discussion. It does very little credit to the Government of the day who refused that opportunity. Nevertheless, the records and the Reports are there, and they will repay study.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day made rather a remarkable statement. I understood him to say that the heads of certain Departments and high officers in the Services deliberately maintained a higher personnel than was necessary, because to use his own terms—and I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer were present to correct me if I am wrong—of the repercussions on high officers. I think he was telling the House that there are 1007 Departments and Services who continued to employ more people in them than necessary for the sake of their own prestige.
§ Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was saying that. I think he was saying that it is a danger which might occur, and which ought to be watched and guarded against by the Treasury as being a rather natural temptation.
§ Mr. Edwards
I have no doubt that what the right hon. Gentleman said to the Committee to-day means exactly what I have said. He would not have made such a statement unless he meant that, at this moment, high officials and high officers are deliberately keeping larger staffs than necessary and wilfully wasting this country's money in order to maintain their own position and their own prestige. That is a disgraceful thing to have to admit to this Committee. When the hon. Gentleman described the Geddes Committee I think he was rather wide of the mark. There was reckless slashing of everyone's salary and expenditure regardless of the facts, and no economy at all. After going on with that slashing, he appointed a super-man to do it at £10,000 a year. He was called a super-man, but I do not know whether he christened himself or whether that honour was thrust upon him.
I hope that when this Government begins to talk about savings and economies they will cut out what I consider one of the most reckless wastages of war-time—this appalling war savings campaign. I had occasion to speak about it during the war from the other side of the House. Yesterday, for the first time, I found myself on a platform advocating war savings—not that I have ever said anything against honest, real savings. I was addressing a big crowd of people, and it was announced that £245,000 had been subscribed already towards the £700,000 which they are aiming to raise in my constituency this week. I congratulated the crowd to which I was speaking on having £245,000 to save. The crowd to whom I spoke had not produced 5d., let alone £245,000. I had hoped that my right hon. Friend would have stopped that hypocrisy of pretending that when banks put money into these savings weeks they are doing some service to the country. 1008 They are doing a great disservice because they increase the rate of interest for which the Chancellor can get other money from 1⅛ per cent. to 2½ per cent. He could have got every penny from the banks, the Prudential and other people who boast of their service to the nation but who have done nothing more than double the cost of the interest he has to pay for the money.
It is not only the waste in money. It made one ashamed to go through Trafalgar Square, when men were waiting for shells and munitions, to see crowds of hundreds of thousands of people wasting a day there listening to cinema parties, etc., when they should have been going about their work of increasing production. We should now have stopped all that nonsense. I ask whether the present Chancellor cannot consult any of his officials in the Provinces. They are tired to death of it and do not want any more of it. Thanksgiving weeks are the greatest hypocrisy, wasting more time when what is wanted is more production, especially in view of all that was said by the previous Government about the necessity for exports A lot of nonsense is talked about that subject. All we can say about it is that we need enough exports to pay for our essential imports. To pretend that you are better off by exporting more than that is nonsense. I should have thought that the Chancellor would have been busy about production, if he thinks that our policy at the moment should be to get goods produced to send abroad as quickly as we can. I should have said to every man in our Forces who had a job to go to, "Scram, go to your job as quickly as you can." I cannot believe that the men in our Forces will squeal if they have to stay a week or two later because a man in an essential job is to get home a week or two earlier. Let the men who produce houses, and who are key-men in industry, get home as early as possible. Week after week we see men being taken from factories. I can mention three or four even now, factories which are being pressed by the Government to increase production while another Government Department is deliberately taking away their key-men because of their age, without taking any trouble to get their other key-men out of the Forces. Production is being reduced. How can we talk about economy when we do things like that? True economy lies in putting people in the right place. 1009 Our industrial potential has been enormously increased. Utilise that to the best advantage, and this country is better off to-day than when the war began, because to-day our capacity to produce is greater than at the beginning of the war. Why are these Departments fighting one another? Get the men who can produce into the key jobs. Let the Chancellor, if he is concerned about the finances of this country, say to these Departments through the Cabinet, "Let every man who has an essential job get to it as quick as he possibly can." That is not really doing an injustice to anyone else.
I am not sure what the Chancellor, had he been here, would have said about what I am now going to say. I think it is uneconomic to be inequitable in our methods of taxation. At this moment there are some competitive industries now that the war is over, in which each firm is doing the same amount of trade but in which one man will be able to keep the whole of his profits because he was fortunate enough to have a good profit standard, whereas another man has had to work during the war, doing as much work, and not making a penny. A man I know made £32,000 profit last year and paid that sum in Excess Profits Tax. Whatever there may have been to be said for it there is nothing to be said for it now, when competitive industry is required. There are industries in which some firms cannot find the funds for capital equipment while other people, because of their good fortune, are getting all the profits they make. It is not fair, it is inequitable. Some firms happen to have high profit standards for the simple reason that they were trading with the enemy in 1935–36–37.Because they made immense profits with our enemies before the war they were guaranteed all the profits they made in the war, whereas businesses which were just getting on to their feet before the war had not any standard, and could make no profits during the war. It is not a case of the former being more efficient competitors but much more fortunate competitors, while the others have their hands tied behind their backs, because all the money they make has to go to the Chancellor. That is crazy taxation. I hope the Chancellor will pay some attention to the present Excess Profit Tax. I believe that the fairest way to deal with it is to abolish it and to take 1010 the money, as Snowden once said, from the people who have got it.
To return to the very important matter which the hon. Member opposite raised, I hope this House will reconstitute, if not in its old form, the Select Committee on National Expenditure. Having worked on that Committee, one knows that such a committee can do an immense service to this House and the country, and will short-circuit many of the wasteful methods of Government Departments. I can say from first-hand experience that within a day or two we got from heads of Departments facts and figures which we should never have got in months of ordinary routine. Having been in factories and workshops we knew what was going on, and could speak with some authority. I hope that the House will see to it that we proceed to re-appoint something in the nature of that Select Committee in relation to the expenditure of this country.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby(Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
I have a sneaking sympathy with some of the observations made by the hon. Gentleman opposite regarding the national savings movement. There were moments when it savoured of ballyhoo; as when the mayor received a gentleman from the Prudential who took a cheque for £500,000 from his pocket, and was solemnly thanked for it by the Town Council which bordered on the farcical. We have to bear in mind, however, that this ballyhoo did stimulate real genuine savings during the war. Many peoeple of our smaller towns were also deeply impressed when they read of their almost fabulous collective wealth at the end of one of these savings weeks. They had no idea that they were sorich. If the Prudential and the Banks contributed to the feeling which inspired them to achieve ever higher targets, it was surely a good thing. In so far as the ballyhoo of the national savings movement, which was considerable, contributed to the stimulation of general private savings, it served a useful purpose. I am not sure, however, that that purpose has not now been served.
I rise to support most strongly the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) in his advocacy of the revival of a Select Committee on expenditure. I hope His Majesty's Government will take this proposal very seriously, and consider it. If 1011 it was put to a tree vote of this House, I believe it would be carried by an overwhelming majority. So far we have yet to hear a voice raised in opposition. During the next few years the Government will be faced with almost irresistible demands from this House, and the public outside, for expenditure on almost every conceivable thing. We shall not be able to afford it, and I think the Chancellor would be well advised to fortify himself with a non-party, or rather all-party Select Committee of this House to back him up to a very considerable extent. He would find that it did fortify him; and if he paid somewhat more attention to its reports than was paid to those of the Select Committee on National Expenditure by the previous Government, and this House was enabled to debate the reports occasionally, he would also find himself greatly assisted in what may otherwise prove to be the almost impossible task of resisting current expenditure. That is the question with which this House is confronted to-day.
We are considering another Vote of Credit, for £2,000,000,000. We shall pass it in an hour or two, and think no more about it; but it is, on any analysis, a very large sum. We cannot go on in a gay way passing Votes of Credit every time we feel like it. Something has to be done about current expenditure in this country. And the only man who can do it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself. I do not think that my worst enemy has ever accused me of being a Diehard. I am all in favour of constructive capital expenditure; I shall even vote with some enthusiasm for the not very revolutionary Bill to nationalise the Bank of England. But I think we have not yet realised in this country how poor we now are, and how much we have drawn upon our resources during the last five or six years.
I rise really to draw a contrast. I have just come back from a second visit to the United States and Canada, and the contrast between the wealth there and the comparative poverty of this country is really startling. In both the United States and Canada at this moment there is a drive, an impetus, a rate of conversion from a war to a peace economy, which really has to be seen to be believed. They are changing over every hour of the day and of the night too; and 1012 they are changing at such a speed that it is almost impossible to perceive any change of gear at all—and they were geared up to a very high point during the war. The drive is still there. Coming back to this country one cannot fail to notice that the impetus of the war, the drive that we had in the war, has largely gone for the time being; and that for the moment there is very little in its place, or to take its place. With much more need for it, there has been no comparable effort in this country to cut down current expenditure, which was largely for war purposes. And I am quite certain there has been no comparable effort in this country to cut red tape, which seems to be growing as fast and furiously as ever. This country is at present in no condition for the job that lies immediately ahead.
That job, as the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has pointed out, is, of course, production. Our industries are tied up in red tape. If, in addition, you continue to impose upon them a burden of taxation which no economic system can indefinitely survive, and if you add to that the unfairness of that taxation which the hon. Gentleman so graphically described, as applied for example to the Excess Profits Tax, you will never get the impetus to increased production and the rate of conversion that we must have if we are to pull through the next two or three difficult years.
Let me emphasise once again this question of production. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who said that the main purpose of our export trade is to obtain the raw materials and the food essential for our existence; but for that purpose we have to export a great number of goods, and they must be the kind that are needed by foreign countries and at a price which foreign countries are prepared to pay. This means efficiency. It means a greater rate of conversion. It means also that His Majesty's Government have got to create conditions to make possible a far greater production in this country; and I do not think they are doing that at the present time. I have some hopes for next week—not many, after much bitter experience of Budgets during the last 20 years—but unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes down with some very drastic proposals, this country will have a very long and difficult road to go. There 1013 are so many things to be done. I dare say the Financial Secretary will tell us that the reason why the Chancellor was so very cursory in his introduction of this enormous Vote of Credit was because he proposes to make a full statement on the financial situation of the country next week. The gravity of that situation can scarcely be exaggerated, and ought not to be minimised. A terrific task lies ahead. I only hope His Majesty's Government will cope with it with vigour and imagination.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
I am glad to hear both my hon. Friend the Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards) and the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) complain once more about the wastage of money and the ballyhoo of national savings weeks, and I join with them—though, may I make it perfectly clear at once, not for the same reason as the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), who ventilated the same view for an entirely different purpose recently in a public speech which, as I understood it, was merely political publicity.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
It is not the same view as the hon. Gentleman's. I have never suggested that the savings campaign was a racket.
§ Mr. Stokes
No, the Noble Lord has never listened to my speeches for read them with sufficient intelligence. I never thought they were understood by Members of the Tory Party. I propose to illustrate how on two occasions money has been squandered and the people have been deliberately deceived. Recently I was invited to join in a national thanksgiving savings week in my own constituency. I wrote back and said, "Are you assembling to thank God or Mammon?" Whereupon the secretary of the organisation said, "We never introduce religion into our Weeks." I said, "Clearly you are all going to worship at the shrine of the golden calf." And we left it at that. It is time the general public woke up to the way in which the money has been squandered in these idiotic displays. I hope we have seen the last of them. If only for the pupose of correcting a rumour, I would like to tell the story of the celebrated Wings for Victory Week when the 1014 target was fixed at something of the order of £2,000,000. At 10.30 on the first day of the week there was a terrific to-do at the Town Hall. The mayor and corporation were assembled in their robes; there was a guard of honour lining the footway down the steps of the Town Hall to the road. There was a line of trumpeters across the steps blowing a clarion call of welcome. Then a large limousine drove up, and what happened? A little man in a top hat got out carrying a plush cushion. What was on it? The Ark of the Covenant? No—a cheque for a quarter of a million pounds from the Prudential. That is typical of what happens. Targets are always achieved, and if they are not it is because somebody has added up the figures wrongly. I am glad to have had the opportunity of repeating that story, because when the right hon. Gentleman opposite was Chancellor I quoted the wrong figure, and the National Savings movement was very much disturbed about it.
To turn to more serious matters, I was glad that emphasis was laid by both previous speakers to whom I listened on the question of the export drive. I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for East Middlesbrough said, that export does not matter twopence except in so far as it enables you to bring in goodsin exchange. We do not want to indulge in what is wrongly viewed as a favourable balance of trade. Why it is called a favourable balance of trade I have never understood. The pundits say that when you send more goods away from your country than you bringinto it you have a favourable balance. In other words, if you make yourselves poorer you are better off. If you acquire the assets of another country I can see it is favourable to those who acquire them, but unfavourable to the working people of the country. We recognise that there have to be exports. We realise that we do not grow bananas and oranges here and everybody likes them. I join with the hon. Member for East Aberdeen in his plea that more attention should be paid, particularly by the Minister of Labour, to the situation in which we find ourselves to-day because it is very serious indeed.
As an ex-soldier I speak with some feeling in the matter, and I can even say that on the day that peace was declared 1015 at the end of the last war I immediately wrote out my resignation, but it took me six months to get out, and even then they put me on the Reserve. I can understand the feelings of the soldier and his anxiety to get home. In my view, it is absolute insanity to take away the young industrialists from the purely industrial concerns at this moment—people between the ages of 21 and 30. That way absolute disaster lies, and I hope the Minister of Labour will seriously consider the situation. It is no use saying you are going to get the men back from the Forces in time. The trouble is that you are not going to get them back with the experience of the people who have left.
I can see a serious position developing, particularly in the industry in which I am concerned—the heavy or medium heavy engineering industry. I do not speak of the armament firms. I should take the men required for the Forces from the people under 21, and I should scoop the lot in from the armament firms—not whatever their ages may be, but they do not really concern us on the export side at the present time. With regard to firms who have been engaged all through the war in continuing to produce industrial equipment for the purpose of the successful conduct of the war, and who are now required to go on doing so for the purpose of export, I submit it is essential, as the hon. Gentleman who spoke before me said, that their efficiency should be maintained at almost as high a level as it was for war-time purposes. What has happened? I can only speak with authority on figures which I know. Inevitably it must refer to the firms which I have the honour to look after. This is what has happened. Young men—men who have been trained up from the age of 14 until they are now 21 and over—are being taken away to such a degree that instead of our output being maintained at something like war level we shall find in 1946 that we are down to 50 per cent. of what we produced in 1942. That seems to me to be absolutely crazy. I believe that if an explanation were given to the people of what really was required, and above all—though this is not a subject of this Debate—if the men in the Forces were told what the conditions of pay and emoluments are to be in the Forces after the war—and after all, the war is over—you would immedi- 1016 ately get a tremendous number of volunteers, which would ease this position in industry at the present time. I hope the Government policy on this matter will be the subject of very serious consideration, and more than consideration—immediate action—on the part of the Ministers concerned.
There was some talk of the octopus of Government Departments dragging the industrial machine under because of the cost of overheads and the rest of it being so great. I wish to emphasise that every single industry of which I have any knowledge, apart from those which I look after, has been desperately short of staff all through the war. Every Government Department that I have ever been into has been overwhelmed with people who have practically nothing whatever to do. [An Hon. Member: "Nonsense."] It is not nonsense. I can, if necessary, give a good example. There are in Government Departments lots of the lower grade clerical staff with very little on their hands. I do not think the position has changed since there was a change of Government. The fact remains that people are standing about all over the place. There is an aerodrome down in Cornwall where I was the day before yesterday. There are 650 Wrens on the station and there areonly about 100 men. What are the Wrens doing? Why does not the Minister of Labour comb them out or talk to the Navy about it? I can go on with example after example. The important fact is this: If we have to go into this export drive—and everybody knows we have, within reason—it is vitally important that we have the men in the shops and the staff in the offices to make it efficient. That ought to be No. 1 priority so far as man-power is concerned. I now want to turn to a different subject.
§ Mr. A. Edwards
Before my hon. Friend continues, may I remind him that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer made a most important point in his speech today? He warned the Government that they would have to search out economies. He said that Departments were holding on to many more people than they need, and that was one of the extravagant things which the Government would have to watch.
§ Mr. Stokes
I am glad that my hon. Friend has brought my attention to what was said by the late Chancellor—I do not 1017 know if one ought to call him that because he ought to be in his coffin if he is "late"—which I did not hear because, unfortunately, I was unable to be present. I wanted to deal with an entirely different subject which is rather near my heart—
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
Might I ask the hon. Gentleman a question on what he has been saying? He has been telling us that there is a vast surplus in Government Departments. Supposing we did not give the Government quite so much money on this occasion, would he vole against these Estimates?
§ Mr. Stokes
I do not think that that interruption is in Order. I have complete confidence in this Government. I think that the last Government made a mess of it and that the new Government have to clear it up, and I am prepared to give them a little time. What I want to impress upon hon. Members above the Gangway is that there is a mess to be cleared up, and I hope that the Government will go through their organisation with a comb very quickly.
There is something that I want to touch upon which involves expenditure, and it is that I hope that at least part of this £2,000,000,000 will be spent upon really tackling the land question by means of valuation. We are always told that valuation of the land will be very expensive, but I would like to tell hon. Members that, so far as my knowledge goes, valuation would not take very long and that it would certainly not cost more than £1,000,000 to value the land of the whole of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. See what an advantage that would be. We are faced with a terrific drive for housing. Every hon. Member who has sat on a local government council knows that the biggest obstruction standing in the way the whole time is the ever-increasing cost of land and the monopoly control.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but a speech on the question of land control and land values would not be in Order on this Vote.
§ Mr. Stokes
I do not propose to make a speech on land values. I propose to do that on a future occasion, but surely I am entitled to say that a good deal of public money is going to be wasted out of this Vote of £2,000,000,000 unless steps are taken to see to it that robbery is not inflicted upon the community by the ever- 1018 increasing and excessive prices of land. The only way by which we can get round the difficulty is by having a valuation.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I have allowed the hon. Member to finish his point, but he must not develop it.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member can certainly discuss the way in which the money is to be used.
§ Mr. Stokes
Surely I am entitled to illustrate my argument as to the way in which some of this £2,000,000,000 will be wasted unless the right steps are taken by His Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. Stokes
All right, then I shall continue any argument for a sentence or two more. His Majesty's Government are burking this issue which I raise. They are not facing up to it. The biggest obstruction in connection with housing is this very question of the land. How the Government are going to get on with it unless they have a valuation I do not know. If they wish to carry their schemes through, apart from the waste of public money, which will be inevitable, there will be a rise in the value of land, and the next time we come to vote £2,000,000,000 the greater proportion of it will go down the drain in the same way. As you have ruled me out of Order, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, more or less all the time on this subject, I had better draw to a close. I commend this matter to the attention of His Majesty's Government and of the House, and I hope that we shall insist that something must be done to return to the people their rightful belongings, the land values that they themselves have created.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
The temptation to follow the 1019 hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and to take sides on the subject of national savings is very great. I recently made a speech on the subject which secured some attention in the columns of the "Daily Herald" and other newspapers. I do not join with hon. Gentlemen who say that the national savings campaign is a racket. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) has said, the movement has performed very great services during the war, but the question I now ask myself is whether, in peace time, honest Conservatives and honest Liberals ought to be asked to save and lend in order to establish Socialism, and the answer I get is that they ought not to.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I really believe the whole subject is completely out of Order. We are now in Committee of Supply where, I understand, we can discuss only the destination of Government finance and not its source. Therefore I do not want to pursue this matter any further at the present moment, although I hope there will be many other opportunities.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I join with my hon. Friends in welcoming the announcement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Estimates procedure is to be introduced next year. It is just about time it was introduced. Here we have a flimsy piece of paper recording the services upon which this enormous sum of £2,000,000,000 is to be spent over the next six months, and it does not attempt to go into detail at all as to what the destination of this large sum is. The Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon in his speech did not give us any broad categories about the funds which would receive this money, or as to the destination of the expenditure. He seemed to be content to come down here and invite the House to pass this vast sum, a sum surpassing any that the last Government asked for in the war, without adequate examination. That is treating the Committee of Supply with some discourtesy.
We have had a Socialist Government in office now for three months. Surely they 1020 are capable of printing and producing a paper recording in more detail on what these sums are to be spent. There is surely some half-way house between the elaborate peace-time Estimates which are presented to the House and this miserable bit of paper with "£2,000,000,000"printed on it. I join with my hon. Friends in hoping that the Select Committee on National Expenditure will be set up with the least possible delay, in order that it should act as a check upon any tendency there might be in this Government to treat the House of Commons in a cavalier way in matters of finance. I hope the Select Committee will be set up as soon as possible. That is practically all I have to say on this occasion, but I would invite the Financial Secretary to go one step further than the Chancellor of the Exchequer did this afternoon and be much more explicit with the Committee as to how this money is to be used during the next six months.
§ Mr. Hale
Would the hon. Member inform us quite definitely whether he is opposed to the National Savings Campaign for the time being and also whether this money is not in respect of commitments already entered into by Governments of which the Noble Lord was a Member? How does he suggest money should be raised? Does he suggest that it might all be raised by direct taxation?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
First of all I was not a member of the late Government. Secondly, I should propose that the amount of money raised by the National Savings Campaign for peacetime purposes ought to be agreed between the parties. Otherwise the National Savings Movement will be the subject of political attack from both sides of the House.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
I want to support the plea which was made by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) for the re-establishment of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. That plea was supported from both sides of the Committee, and if the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) did not refer to the matter it may have been only because, in the whole of his speech, not one word was upon the subject before the Committee.
§ Mr. Stokes
Is the hon. Member suggesting that what I was saying was not 1021 germane to the expenditure of public money?
§ Mr. Keeling
I certainly was. At the recent General Election the country pronounced for the continuance and extension of controls, and, rightly or wrongly, this House yesterday decided to give the Government power to fasten these controls upon the country by Regulation and Order for another five years. Surely the more we do that, the more we ought to exercise supervision by means of some such body as that Select Committee. Giving the Government power to control means, in effect, giving the Civil Service power to control. I am sure that the more we do that the more the country will expect us to supervise the Civil Service. We can supervise the Civil Service in other ways, such as by Question and Debate, but there is no more powerful way of exercising the right of this House to control the Civil Service than by means of this Select Committee on Expenditure, which, all through the war, summoned civil servants before it, visited, if need be, Government establishments, reported to the House, and required Government Departments to reply in writing to the recommendations in its reports. I suggest that we ought to press the Government very hard, if they need any pressing, to re-establish the Select Committee on National Expenditure.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Bolton)
I rise with a tremendous amount of trepidation to talk about high finance. I have been more used to domestic finance, but there is just as much ingenuity required to make the dole feed six children and two adults, as to make the finances of this House give to the nation the things the nation demands. The question always is, how much money does it take to give the nation, our customers, the things that they need? That is a matter which requires deep consideration. I am all for the establishment of the Select Committee and, for once in a way, although I abhor their politics, I commend the advice of some hon. Members opposite, especially the suggestion of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) that back benchers need to learn the way this House works in regard to its finances. Even though we dislike our opponents and their politics, much is to be gained from their experience, and I am prepared to take 1022 advice even from them if something can accrue to the nation's benefit as a result The financial experts speak in terms of £2,000,000,000 in the same way as my wife and I talk about a "tenner" or five pounds a week. But the same principle should be applied—what is required of us, how shall we spend this money, and how shall we get it?
That brings me to the suggestion that war savings are a lot of ballyhoo. I do not agree. I agree that the handing over of a cheque of £250,000 for and on behalf of the Prudential is one thing, but that to get the average working man and his wife and children to come into the small savings movement is an entirely different thing. I happened to be the chairman in my works of a war savings group. I come from a trade which some people say is highly paid, and I say frankly that many of our men have been in the habit for many years of wasting money. Now, however, I have men come to me, as one did last week-end, and ask, "What are you doing about Thanksgiving Week?" I replied, "I am hoping you will do the same as in Salute the Soldier Week." This man then said, "My old woman and I are happy to-day because we have now got something in the bank that we did not have before." I know that many of these men would have wasted their money if it were not for small savings. Some Members on these benches may say, "You cannot spend money at the present time." I agree, but you can waste a lot if you so desire.
I am not going to sit on this back bench and listen without reply to Members of my own party decrying the good work that has been done by voluntary workers in war savings groups up and down the country. It is beyond my reasoning to understand how men with long Parliamentary experience can say, "We want to have the financial resources of the nation within our grasp to do what we will with," and, at the same time, encourage people not to save. It seems grossly unfair. The Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) said, as I notice he has said in the Press, that he objected to saving for Socialism. Some of us have willingly saved and slaved for Conservatism for many years, and if hon. Members opposite have the patriotic zeal and enthusiasm which I believe many 1023 of them have, they should at least do that which they expect other people to do. Never ask the other fellow to do what you are not prepared to do yourself. If the Noble Lord has at heart the interests of this great nation, the less publicity he gives the views he has expressed the better for all concerned.
We are faced with grave issues. The nation is going to demand tremendous things from this new Government, but there is not such a thing as ' "something for nothing." It is true that manna fell from Heaven, but I do not think it will fall again. Therefore, it behoves every one of us on these benches to see that our customers, the people who sent us here, have the best possible form of administration and the best type of committees set up to see that not one penny piece of public money is wasted. There is talk about a huge bureaucracy. If there are in the different Departments more people than we need, let them be weeded out. I never in my life received a penny except on a production basis. If I did not produce the goods I was called upon to make of the proper quality, I did not receive anything. If people, irrespective of rank and position, do not merit their jobs in the public service, they ought to get out. The Geddes axe was referred to. I remember something about the Geddes axe. There was some slashing done. I pride myself on being a good amateur gardener, and I know something of pruning. It is one thing to prune and slash a tree, but another thing to prune properly so that the tree will produce better another year. If you prune incorrectly the tree will produce nothing. A good deal of pruning was done by the Geddes axe, with the result that there are many trees which will never produce anything again.
Therefore, as a humble back bencher speaking on high finance for the first time, I agree with the suggestion that the best possible Committee should be set up so that men like myself, here for the first time, can have an opportunity of studying carefully the national finances and seeing that we apply the same principles that we apply at estimates time on our local authorities. There we spend as much time considering whether to purchase spades at 7s. 6d. each as on considering the purchase of land for £50,000. We have no 1024 money in this country to waste. The question of production has been mentioned, and a valuable contribution could be made by our men in industry. They should refuse to follow the example shown by Members of the Opposition of acting on the principle of "something for nothing." The principle should be inculcated into their minds that they can only take out of the common pool what they put into it. As Socialists, we ask that more should be taken of the surplus that arises from the work of men at their common tasks in the interests of the country at large, and not, as in the past, in the interests of the few. This Select Committee will receive every support. It would be grossly wrong to allow it to be suggested that the party of which I have the honour to be a member is against savings from the point of view expressed by certain Members.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
There are at least two or three things which made the speech of the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. J. Jones) one of high standard and commonsense and one which must be helpful if it is carried out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He emphasised the value of the savings by the whole community. If you save and establish your position and feel a little more secure, it does not matter whether you are a Cabinet Minister or the humblest artisan, it means that you are developing and improving yourself and your work at the same time. The hon. Member referred to pruning. In common with him, I have a certain amount of knowledge of gardening, and I can assure the Committee that unless you prune at the right time and in the right way little good will be done. Both that and the savings argument are strong arguments in support of what the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer said earlier in the day. That applies also to the other argument of the hon. Gentleman on the question of waste. During the Debate and at Question time we have had from various parts of the Committee evidence of a superfluity of men in Government Departments and other places who might be better used.
What is the position of the Government in this matter? During the war the Government used to ask for £1,000,000,000. They said that it was an immense sum, representing nearly the 1025 whole of the pre-war Budget, but that it was only fair and right that the representatives of the people should have their say about it from time to time. To-day, however, as was pointed out by the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, there are great problems coining before us in the next few months and great changes in conditions, and yet the Government are asking for £2,000,000,000, which is double what the Government ever asked during the war. The Government say, "You must allow us to carry on with that double amount and we will not come before the House and ask again." That seems to me a curious position. I hear rumours of trouble here and there. Indeed, I notice that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not here and that there is no Minister of Cabinet rank on the Front Bench. Yet we are discussing one of the greatest issues of the day. I have some considerable knowledge of the House, and never, as far as I know, has a large sum been discussed in Committee without a responsible Minister being present. Certain doubts have been expressed by supporters of the Government as to whether we should give them this money, and yet no leading member of the Government is present to deal with their criticisms. Is the reason that the Government this time dare not ask for a reasonable amount? Are they trying to get all the money they can get into the "kitty" at one time? Are they trying to slip it through on a day after a day of excitement in the hope that it will have escaped our notice and that the Press will take no notice of it? Are the Government so afraid of the mutiny outside? Is that why leading Members of the Government are not here?
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)
The reason why Ministers are not here is that one has just gone to get a cup of tea and will return in a few minutes, and the others are at most important functions. No insult is intended to the Committee. When I reply I have to make an apology from the Chancellor, who hopes to get back as soon as he can.
§ Mr. Williams
We are, therefore, to take it that a cup of tea for a Minister and functions for other Ministers are more important that the whole of the taxpayers of the country. I am sure that the Financial Secretary will make an adequate reply, and, from my long friend- 1026 ship with him, I hope he will have the best of luck. In all probability, he will make as good a reply as the Minister would. That is not the point, however. The point is that there have been complaints from the Government side as well as from this side, and yet we have not a leading representative of the Government on the Front Bench. The chief Patronage Secretary has just come in, and I do not know whether he can help us in any way. I am sure that it must be with a sense of real shock that new Members opposite see the way in which the Committee is being treated on such an important matter. Hon. Members come here with a feeling of great respect for our great traditions—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he has much experience of the conduct and rules of debate, and I must ask him to get back to the Vote of Credit.
§ Mr. Williams
Yes, but the Motion mentionsservices essential to the life of the community,and I venture to think that this House and this Committee form one of the essential services. After what has been said in various parts of the Committee I hope that we shall not have any repetition for a long time of the granting to the Government of enormous sums such as this under Supplementary Estimates.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)
I desire first to express to the Committee the very deep regret of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he has not been able, owing to an important engagement, to remain throughout the whole of this Debate. I think there will be general agreement in all quarters of the Committee that we have had this afternoon a good discussion which has covered the ground fairly completely. If certain points were made over and over again, that only shows that they were in the minds of various Members, and it lightens my task of reply considerably. The ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) opened this Debate and made two or three principal points. He said quite correctly that this is a very large Vote of Credit, the largest the Committee has ever been asked to 1027 agree to. That, of course, is true, but it is only just true. Since the last one that he himself presented to this House was for £1,750,000,000 and it went through in exactly seven minutes. We are asking, for reasons which I shall shortly give, for the round sum of £2,000,000,000, and that, we frankly admit, is no small amount. At the same time I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the speech he made at the beginning of the Debate, did give very clear and concise reasons why the Government needed this Vote at this particular time.
The ex-Chancellor asked for an assurance that the need for economy was not only understood by the present Government, but that they were, so far as possible, putting it into effect. I can give the assurance on behalf of my right hon. Friend. As he indicated in his opening speech, we realise as well as everyone else the great need that there is at the present moment for the utmost economy, but it must be combined with efficiency, and we must meet our obligations. The right hon. Gentleman, the ex-Chancellor, said that he agreed that it was impossible yet to pass from the procedure by Vote of Credit to the normal and proper method of Estimates. It is impossible to pass from Votes of Credit to the Estimates because at the moment we are still in the same financial year. For this reason it could not be done at the present time. The financial year is, as someone said of peace, indivisible, and as the present financial year was begun by a Vote of Credit—there have been two Votes of Credit during the year—it is essential that it should finish in the same way.
The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities said that earlier in the year, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he made an estimate of the total expenditure required for the year—the war against Germany then being finished and the war against Japan still to be won—of £4,500,000,000. He very properly wants to know why we are asking for £2,000,000,000, which will bring the Estimate for the current year up to £200,000,000 more than he budgeted for when the war against Japan was still to be won. The short answer to that is twofold: firstly, the £4,500,000,000 was a guess; it could not be anything else. 1028 When there is a war on you cannot possibly indicate with any degree of certainty how much you are going to spend. That being so, although the right hon. Gentleman made his guess of £4,500,000,000 it does not mean that the present Government have been extremely extravagant because it is now asking for another £200,000,000.
§ Mr. Hall
Two hundred millions. The ex-Chancellor thought he would need in the current financial year a total sum of £4,500,000,000. We are now asking for £2,000,000,000 which, with the Votes of Credit already granted, will bring our total sum up to £4,750,000,000. That is £200,000,000 to £250,000,000 more than the ex-Chancellor had in mind. That sum in excess of the ex-Chancellor's estimate is largely a margin for contingencies, and we hope that it will not be needed or spent. It arises amongst other things from the balances which have to be kept in various parts of the world in case of need by various Government agencies.
It may very properly be asked why, now that the war against Japan has fortunately come to an end, there is not large and immediate reduction in the Government's demand. I think that the right hon. Gentleman himself asked that question, and the short answer is that, although the war against Japan has been won, commitments still continue, and not only does it take time to free ourselves from the manifold commitments incurred, but there are new demands which arise simply and solely because the war has fortunately come to end. Men are coming back from the Forces, gratuities and other payments are being or will be paid to the men who are being released from the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Therefore it is not true that because the war is over we can rapidly reduce our expenditure. The hon. Member for Heywood and Radcliffe (Mr. Whittaker) who made, if I may say so, a very excellent maiden speech, referred to the large sum which the Government had to find to meet their share of the resettlement in Europe. It is true that during the remainder of this financial year we have large commitments in that direction and the Government have this in mind when they ask the Committee for the sum which we are now considering. 1029 The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) asked that a Select Committee on National Expenditure should be resurrected, and I think it was he who went on to say that the Estimates Committee should also be set up once more. The Government has under consideration the question of the setting up of a Select Committee on National Expediture, and it is hoped that an announcement will be made at a very early date. As hon. Members know, the old Estimates Committee which functioned before the war came to an end when the war fell upon the world, and it is likewise being considered whether that Committee, which like the Select Committee did excellent work, should be reconstituted.
The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards) had some rather strong things to say about the Savings Campaigns. Every Member is entitled to his view, but I think that the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Jack Jones) answered for me the remarks of the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough. It is true that some of the money which has figured so prominently in some of the Savings Campaigns would have come in whether those campaigns had been held or not, but the effect of the campaigns has undoubtedly been to help the small saver to make up his mind. During the Savings Campaigns we have had during the war, no less a sum than £10,000,000,000 has been saved, and for my part I am delighted to think that nearly half of that has come from the small saver. It has not only been of immense value to the Government of the day in helping to bridge the gap between expenditure and taxation but it has helped the country, and will still help the country, to avoid inflation in the months to come. It is perfectly true that we should have had the weapons, the aeroplanes, the guns and all the rest whether those Savings Campaigns had been carried through or not, but it is also true that our task has been made easier—the task of the Government of that time was made easier—because those campaigns were held and because people were willing to work to get others, particularly the small people, to see the need for saving.
§ Mr. A. Edwards
If the hon. Gentleman is referring to my speech, I am sure he will not wish to do me any injustice. I have never, throughout the war, said one word against small savings. What I 1030 have objected to is that, coupled with those small savings—which are genuine—have been the other 50 per cent., large savings coming from the banks and other institutions. Has not that more than doubled the cost to the country? Would it not have been easier to get the small savings by telling the people the facts instead of a lot of untruths?
§ Mr. Hall
I do not know what my hon. Friend said in the speeches he made during any campaign, if he made any speeches, but I have helped in every campaign in my Division, and I can assure my hon. Friend that I told no lies at any time. There is an excellent case for these Campaigns. I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the excellent results of these Campaigns show that they have been well worth while.
§ Mr. Stokes
The Financial Secretary says that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, but does he not think that a pudding which costs only 1¼ per cent. is better than a pudding which costs 2¼ per cent.?
§ Mr. Hall
I am very anxious not to get into a discussion as to what the rate of interest on Government borrowing should be. It is true to say that the Government of the day have borrowed money a good deal cheaper than the Government borrowed money during the last war, and it may well be that one of the reasons the Government have borrowed at a much cheaper rate this time is that there have been savings Campaigns and we have been more alive to the difficulties that might have arisen if there had not been those Campaigns and if other measures had not been taken.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Middlesbrough was on safer ground when he spoke of the need for an export drive. He said that the release scheme should be abrogated, or at any rate changed in some respects, in order that many men could be brought out of the Services out of their turn and so get the wheels of industry turning. I think I would be out of Order if I were to discuss at any length the question of the release of men in order to help in the drive for exports, but the experience I have had in my Division goes to show that the men want to stick to the present scheme. Those who are out in the Far West do not want those who are at home to come out of 1031 the Services purely in order to see them go into factories and workshops, ostensibly to help in the export drive, but, as they think, to do their own kith and kin serving overseas out of the jobs which they should have directly they come back. Our desire to assist exports is as great as that of anyone else, but we have to watch these things and see that the men now in the Forces do not suffer as a result of our keenness and enthusiasm to get this country back on the export map.
My hon. Friend also referred to the Excess Profits Tax. I am sure he will not want me to go into that question this evening. It is a matter with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer possibly will deal in his Budget Speech next week. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) also had some fairly hard things to say about the Savings Campaigns, but he thought they had their good side and apparently agrees with me that they did help the small saver to realise what he should do. But the hon. Member thought that the purpose of the Savings Campaigns had now gone. The Government cannot possibly take that view. On the contrary, the need for running these campaigns is greater than ever it was. Now that the war is over and the soldiers are coming back and getting their gratuities, and other people have money which they saved during the war and now want to spend, it is necessary that people should be helped to see that it is their duty to hold on a little longer until more consumers' goods are in the shops.
§ Mr. Boothby
I did not say that the purpose of saving had gone. I said that I thought the Savings Campaigns as carried on during the war could now serve no useful purpose.
§ Mr. Hall
I do not want to labour the matter, although every hon. Member who has spoken has dealt with it. I think the point which the hon. Member made was that the need for the campaigns had gone. My point is that the need for the campaigns still exists. Many small savers, unless they have the urge of the publicity given by these campaigns, will not save at the rate at which they otherwise would. The hon. Member who follows these things as closely as anyone else, will have noticed that during the last week there has been a phenomenal rise in the amount saved 1032 by small savers, and undoubtedly that can be attributed very largely, if not entirely, to the campaign now proceeding.
The Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) spoke of the White Paper as a single flimsy sheet. He must have forgotten that there has been published another Paper which is a fairly substantial document, gives an enormous amount of information, and shows how the amounts which the Government need are made up. He will find that he has in that document, except for the expenditure on the Army, Navy and Air Force and other Supply Services which for security reasons have to be treated in bulk, a very great deal more information than he imagines he has.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
The information in the other document deals with a sum of £12,000,000 only.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
What is the document to which the Financial Secretary is referring? It is a little difficult to follow his arguments.
§ Mr. Hogg
May we have a further explanation of this? We are being asked to vote an increase of £2,000,000,000 on the annual expenditure. [Hon. Members: "No."] As I understood my Noble Friend the Member for South Dorset, his point was that we have not been given any adequate explanation of where the money is going. The Financial Secretary is telling us where the total expenditure is going in No. 6 of the Explanatory Notes issued 1033 about national expenditure. My Noble Friend was interested in the allocation of the £2,000,000,000 we are now asked to vote.
§ Mr. Hall
The short answer is that the total for the year, as estimated by the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, was £4,500,000,000. We have here set forth, some of it in detail but, as far as the Fighting Services are concerned, in global figures, sums amounting to £4,000,000,000, so that there is a deficiency of £500,000,000 on the ex-Chancellor's figures. The late Government and the present Government have already received, through two Votes of Credit, sums amounting to £2,750,000,000 in the aggregate. We are now asking for another £2,000,000,000. Those two amounts added together will give £4,750,000,000, and £4,000,000,000 is accounted for in the document.
The only amount not accounted for is the £750,000,000, and, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer briefly indicated and as I also have indicated, this money is needed by the Government to continue the Services of the Crown for the remainder of the financial year, including paymnets of gratuities to soldiers and others who are coming back. I hope that with that brief explanation the Committee will now give us the Vote of Credit and let us get on to the Estimates.
§ Mr. Charles Williams
May I ask the Financial Secretary whether the considerable sum we are now being asked to vote includes any possibility of an increase in old-age pensions?
§ Mr. Hall
I could not forestall the proposals of the Government for legislation, even if that were in Order. The hon. Gentleman must wait and see what the Government have to propose in that connection. I would refer him to the King's Speech, which foreshadows pretty considerable increases in various social services, and for my part I should not be surprised if part of it were to go on old-age pensions.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
I hope the Financial Secretary will not resent what I have to say in my very few remarks, because he has always been very popular on both sides, and we appreciate his courtesy and brevity to-day. What I 1034 want to say is that in the 10 years I have been a Member of Parliament I cannot remember an occasion when so much money was asked for and when the Chancellor did not or could not wait for the rest of the Debate, and when the President of the Board of Trade went out to have a cup of tea, leaving no senior Minister of Cabinet rank on the Front Bench. Last night when the whole fiscal policy of this country was being sentenced to five years with no rights of appeal, again there was—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member is not in Order in going over the Debate that took place last night.
§ Mr. Baxter
Then I will make only one point. Yesterday the Patronage Secretary had an enormous personal success in the corpse-like obedience of hon. Members supporting the Government.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member is now out of Order. The matter to which he is referring does not come on the Estimates.
§ Mr. Baxter
I will privately communicate what I was going to say to the Patronage Secretary. As the President of the Board of Trade is here, I want to say a word about exports which in the end are a means of raising revenue and of raising the standard of life in this country so that the Government will not have to ask for these immense sums. We hear very much about developing exports. I would say there is a companion policy, and it is the development of home trade. Unless our manufacturers can have a great home market and a high purchasing power in this country they cannot produce goods for sale at a competitive price abroad.
The Government are very wrong in concentrating so much upon export instead of learning from the example of America, which makes exports possible by her immense home trade. I know it is not popular with the party opposite to mention America very much in regard to financial business. It is a little bit like waving a bull at a red flag. The sheer materialistic achievement of the United States' industrial system, I am sure the President of the Board of Trade will agree, is based upon an immense home market, and if the Government persist in their policy of scarcity at home—[Interrup- 1035 tion.] If the word "persists" does not cover five years, I will choose some other word. We have been told by the Government that we cannot expect any decided improvement in two years, and not very likely in five years. If that policy is continued and the home market value is not realised we shall have the Chancellor of the Exchequer, unless he has some other engagement, coming down and asking us for another £2,000,000 and then going on to where he had to go.
§ Mr. Baxter
I am aware of what the Colonies have done, but I am not now in a position to answer that question.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I should like to join the last speaker in saying how glad we are to see the Minister on the Front Bench and I would add my congratulations to the President of the Board of Trade on having had what must be one of the longest cups of tea in history. I hope he had not to wait as long for his cup of tea as the country is having to wait for the products for which his Department is responsible. But I must say this, that it is wrong for the House to be treated even with unintentional discourtesy by the Government. We are not now at war but are suffering all the full rigours and horrors of peace, and it is not right that, when vast sums are being voted in these times, there should not be a Minister of Cabinet rank on the Front Bench. The Financial Secretary, who is deservedly popular and respected in this House, made a most consoling speech. I refer to the bearing of what he said upon the attitude of Members of this House during Thanksgiving Weeks. I have not spoken at any Thanksgiving Week yet, but I understand that I am going to do so. I certainly had a doubt in my mind whether I could conscientiously recommend my constituents to invest in Government bonds when the safety of those investments depended upon whether the successive Governments of 1036 the country pursued an honest financial policy. It was not my desire to torpedo or sabotage a great national movement, but I had my doubts. However, having listened to the Financial Secretary, I can have no further doubt that the present Government will make an effort to follow an honest, orthodox and traditional financial policy. There was reason for my anxiety apart from ill-judged remarks by the Lord Privy Seal about pounds, shillings and pence being meaningless symbols. We on this side cannot forget that during the Election all sorts of golden promises were dangled in front of the nation and the electors. For example, we were told that the Means Test will be abolished. [An Hon. Member: "So it will."] It has not been abolished yet.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I cannot see how we can discuss that subject on this Vote of Credit.
§ Mr. Nicholson
We have been discussing Thanksgiving Weeks and consideration of the honesty of the Government's financial policy is very necessary in considering whether I can recommend my constituents to invest their savings during these Thanksgiving Weeks. I have my own conscience to consider, and I was not going to recommend my constituents to invest in anything which might be unsafe. The difficulties which the present Government have laid up for themselves by their election promises—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Member is quite out of Order now. He cannot on these Estimates discuss either election promises or Government financial policy.
§ Mr. Hogg
On a point of Order, surely it is permissible to discuss the manner in which the £2,000,000,000 we are now voting is supposed to be spent. As the only indication we have had so far of any importance is the Election promises of the present Government, how can we have an intelligent discussion of the matter without having reference to those promises?
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
Further to that point of Order, was it not in Order to refer to the whole question of savings campaigns and saving generally, seeing that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury dealt with it at length in his speech 1037 and that several candidates of the Labour Party at the recent General Election had derided the whole idea of saving.
§ Mr. Nicholson
The maintenance of the purchasing power of the £ is a matter of vital importance. I will not prolong my remarks if I am out of Order. But the fact that the pound is going to continue to be worth its six or seven shillings is a matter of importance, and I for one am sure that we on this side of the Committee will give every support to the Government in maintaining a sound financial policy, and also extend our commiseration to them in the difficulties they will have with their own back benchers when it comes to the question of keeping their Election promises.
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £2,000,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, 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; for relief and rehabilitation in areas brought under the control of any of the United Nations; 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.