§ 3.17 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Dalton)
The financial year which ended nine days ago, on 31st March, was a year of transition from war to peace, and I will begin by resuming some of the figures relating to the past year. First, there is the revenue. The revenue which my predecessor 12 months ago estimated at £3,265 millions came within £20 millions—less than one per cent.—of the target, which I regard, and I think the Committee will agree, as another amazing example of the prophetic precision of my advisers. The actual revenue was£3,284 millions.
So far as the Customs and Excise are concerned, the estimate last April for the yield of these duties was £1,130 millions. The remissions of Purchase Tax which I made in the October Budget reduced this to £1,129 millions, and the receipts have turned out to be millions—£18 millions less than the target. But I am glad to be able to report to the Committee that beer has flowed in very well during the past year. Indeed, beer—well it is called beer, and taxed as such—tobacco and entertainments, have all three established new high records, yielding over £300 millions for beer, over £400 millions for tobacco and over £50 millions for Entertainments Duty. They have not merely beaten the estimates; they have beaten all previous records. Purchase Tax at £118 millions also set up a record, though it fell short of the estimate by £6 millions. A number of the other Customs duties failed to reach the estimates by a relatively small margin. On the other hand, most of the other Excise Duties were very close on the estimates.
1804 Turning to the other great branch of the tax revenue, the Inland Revenue Duties—this last year at £2,043 millions—fell short of the estimate by £22 millions. The Income Tax produced £1,361 millions, which beat the estimate by £11 millions and set up a new high record. Death Duties at £120 millions beat the estimate by £5 millions. Stamp Duties at £25 millions beat the estimate by £6 millions. On the other hand, Surtax at £69 millions fell short of the estimate by £11 millions. That was before I put it up. The Excess Profits Tax and the National Defence Contribution together brought in £466 millions, falling short of the estimate by £34 millions; this was because during the past year the amount of profit coming under charge to these taxes declined considerably. The sale of war stores last year brought in £60 millions. The process of disposal began slowly, as was to be expected, but during the year it quickened considerably. So much for the revenue.
§ LAST YEAR'S EXPENDITURE
§ With regard to the expenditure last year, the actual expenditure was £5,484 millions. This is a saving of £81 millions on last April's estimate of £5,565 millions. The Committee may wish me to analyse for a moment this net saving. On the Vote of Credit which was, of course, the main item on the expenditure side, issues were only £4,410 millions as against an estimate, 12 months ago, of £4,500 millions, and a total amount voted during the year of £4750 millions, which, as I said at the time, contained a margin for caution. In the result, we have spent£340 millions less under the Vote of Credit than the amount voted.
§ The total expenditure on Defence and Supply Departments fell slowly between the ending of the war, first in Europe and then in Japan, and last December. But since the new year, the reduction has been rapid, and, in the last three months, the rate of expenditure by these Departments has fallen by a quarter, as compared with the month of June last year; and has fallen by a quarter, in spite of very heavy terminal expenses during this time. As the speed of release from the Forces and from munitions production has been accelerated, these terminal expenses, in the form of gratuities to men released and compensation for war contracts cancelled, have increased faster than the non-terminal expenditure has 1805 diminished. If we had demobilised more slowly, our total expenditure last year would have been smaller. But that would not have been a wise economy.
§ On the other hand, there are some items of expenditure outside the Vote of Credit which have been above the estimate. There was a supplementary block grant to local authorities of £10millions; a £10 millions loan to Greece, to stabilise the drachma and to get production going in that country; increased provision of millions for civil aviation; and of £6½ millions for education. On the other hand, the debt interest—
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
The right hon. Gentleman is going very quickly. Members like to take the figures down.
§ Mr. Dalton
I am sorry; I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. It will be more interesting later on. The debt interest, on the other hand, was £10millions below the estimate, the first fruits of the cut in short-term rates of interest, for Treasury bills and the like, which I was able to announce last October. Therefore, the realised deficit for last year was £2,200 millions, £100 millions less than the estimate.
Towards financing this deficit, and other capital items, Small Savings provided £658 millions—a very fine total in my view—as against £666 millions in the previous year. The larger tap loans—the National War Bonds and the Savings Bonds—produced no less than £1,290 millions, a larger figure than in any previous year. The flow of subscriptions to these loans was heaviest in the December quarter—hastened by hints dropped as to the probable future movements of interest rates—and the floating debt in that quarter was reduced by £522 millions, mostly in our borrowings from the banks.
§ FLOATING DEBT
§ The net increase in the floating debt over the year was only £371 millions. I think perhaps I might, at this stage, say that I do not regard the present floating debt of nearly £6,500 millions as too large, in relation either to the total of the internal debt, which is £23,000 millions, or to the present scale of our expenditure and revenue, or to our future requirements Since most of the floating debt costs us only one half of one per cent., 1806 I see no pressing reason to replace it by more expensive forms of public borrowing at this stage.
§ PROSPECTS FOR 1946–47
§ So much for the past; now let us face the future. Prospects for the year 1946, on which we have just entered, are less sombre than some scribes have imagined. The estimated expenditure is £3,837 millions, a reduction of £1,728 millions, or 31 per cent., on the estimate for last year. This year's expenditure is made up of three elements: first, the Defence and Supply Departments on which we shall expend £1,667 millions; secondly, the Civil Departments—excluding, for this purpose, the Ministry of Supply, which we class with the Defence Departments—£1,652 millions; thirdly, the Consolidated Fund services, mainly interest on the National Debt, £518 millions.
§ The Civil Departments, other than the Ministry of Supply, will, as I have said, require £1,652 millions. As was shown in the White Paper on the Civil Vote on Account, published some little while ago, these Civil Estimates contain some £886 millions for services which last year were borne on Vote:, of Credit, which as the Committee knows, have now been discontinued and replaced by Departmental Estimates. If we exclude these services, transferred from the one category to the other, the Civil Estimates for this coming year require £766 millions as against £621 millions voted for corresponding services last year. Thus, the true increase this year over last year in the Civil Departments is £145 millions.
§ SOCIAL SERVICES
§ This increase is due to the fulfilment of the pledges that we gave to the electors in relation to our social programme. It signals a swift advance along a broad front of social improvement, each item of which I am prepared to defend on merits. The main items are: first of all,£21 millions more for education. This includes, among other items, £4 millions more for the universities, and for museums, libraries, and art galleries. There will be an increase of £4 millions for school milk and meals. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education recently announced, milk in schools will be free for all children from 1st August next. There will be, this next year, £19 millions more for housing. There will be 1807 £38 millions for the start, next August, of the Family Allowances scheme which was passed under the Coalition Government. There will be £14 millions more for old age and widows' pensions, under the great charter of "Freedom from Want" now being piloted through the Standing Committee by my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance. Under his programme, to which I am sure the Committee will be willing to work, the old people will begin to draw their increased pensions next autumn.
§ DEVELOPMENT AREAS
§ I am also finding £10 millions more for the Development Areas. The battle of the Development Areas is not yet won, but we mean to win it. We mean to wipe. out the evil heritage of mass unemployment in these areas, due to long years of political neglect and private unenterprise. The Distribution of Industry Act, also the product of the Coalition Government, was a good Act. We have powers under it strong enough to bring these prewar distressed areas—industrial Scotland, South Wales, County Durham, the North-East coast and West Cumberland, and the other small areas recently added by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, with their fine people, who, let it never be forgotten, produced some of our bravest fighters in two World Wars—to the same level of full employment and prosperity which it is our aim to maintain throughout the country. If I may be permitted a personal word here, I would say that no task lies nearer to my heart than this. I have studied this topic in pretty close detail for many years. I think I may claim to have done my share, in speaking, writing and agitating on the subject. Now we have the Statute which we inherited from the previous Parliament, and the power, and the will, to use it.
§ One of the first instructions I gave when I became Chancellor of the Exchequer last July, was that, as regards constructive plans for the Development Areas, the Treasury was henceforth to be, no longer a curb, hut a spur. I have told my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and other colleagues cooperating with us in solving this problem, that I will find, and find with a song in my heart, whatever money is necessary to finance useful and practical proposals for developing these areas, and bringing them 1808 to a condition which they never had in the past, a condition of full and efficient and diversified economic activity. I pledge my word that this job shall not fall down for lack of finance.
§ CIVIL AVIATION AND FORESTRY
§ I am finding also £11 million more this year for civil aviation, another great new socialised service that this Government is creating. I am finding £2 million more for the Forestry Commission. I would like to say a word about the Forestry Commission, which had to be called into existence to redress the balance, which had tilted heavily against afforestation in this country. It has a very fine record of work, and money spent through the medium of the Forestry Commission is, I submit, a sound Socialist investment in trees and real estate. The Forestry Commission today is the largest single landowner in England. It owns more than a million acres, and we intend during this Parliament steadily to increase that acreage. I have agreed with my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland that I will place £20 million, over the next five years, at the service of the Commission, which has already brought into being 750,000 acres of State forest and will soon, I hope, rid us from the reproach of having a smaller percentage of our land under trees than any other country in Europe. In this connection, we have to make good not only the ravages of two great wars on our timber reserves, and the beauty of our woodlands, but also the failure, over long periods, of private landowners at large, in spite of some admirable exceptions—but they were exceptions—to take proper care of existing woods and forests, or to plant on a sufficient scale.
§ SERVICE PAY AND ALLOWANCES
§ Finally, on the Defence Votes this year, not in the Civil Estimates, there are some £20 million more for better pay and allowances for officers and other ranks, designed to make life in the Services more attractive, and to remove any inferiority of living standards and of prospects compared with civil life. I have further provided, as part of the £145 million,£10 million this year, for more generous war pensions under the new Royal Warrant.1809
§ All the items in this wide and varied range of increased expenditure have this in common. They will all add, I believe, to the health and welfare of our people. They are all social investments, some in material things and some in human values. They are all expenditures which we cannot afford not to incur in the national interest. They are the first year's instalment of our five year plan for this Parliament. I commend them to the Committee; and I believe that this expenditure will be approved.
§ DEBT CHARGE
§ As regards the Debt Charge, I put that for this year at £490 million, an increase of £35 million over the cost of interest last year. This includes interest on borrowing to meet the prospective Budget deficit, and also on borrowing under the Miscellaneous Financial Provisions Act of this wear, and the Finance Act of last autumn to cover the exceptional and non-recurrent items of payments for war damage on the one hand, and E.P.T. refunds on the other. Neither of these can be closely estimated as yet; but I am provisionally assuming that war damage will require, this year, between £100 million and £150 million, and E.P.T. refunds something between £150 million and £200 million. Other Consolidated Fund charges, on the existing basis, will cost £28 million.
§ COST-OF-LIVING SUBSIDIES
§ I would like at this stage to say a word on the cost-of-living subsidies. With regard to these, we are spending a formidable total. We are providing, this year, no less than £335 million for cost-of-living subsidies. In my Budget speech last autumn, I announced the decision to hold the present cost of living steady, even if this meant an increase in Exchequer subsidy. I went on to say that, for the next year at least—I was speaking in October —and until further notice, we should seek to hold the index where it then was, and not allow it to vary by more than an insignificant amount. I am sure that has been a wise decision. A stable cost-of-living index is a sheet anchor for us in the stormy and unsettled waters of transition from war to peace. I am sure the smoothness of what has been a gigantic turnover of our industrial machine from war to peace, and the almost complete 1810 absence of industrial disputes in Britain —[Interruption.] The almost complete absence is correct, and if the hon. Gentleman who interrupted will do a hit of foreign travel on business, to try to encourage the export trade, he will find this is so. The almost complete absence of industrial disputes in Britain is largely due to the quiet confidence of our people that they can rely on a firm basis for the cost of living, and for the purchasing power of the money they receive. I intend to continue this policy, with as little departure from it as possible, for the year 1946.
§ But there are two points which I should perhaps make clear, to avoid any misunderstanding hereafter. The first is that, while the main elements making up the cost-of-living index are under close control, there are some which are not. There may be small changes in prices, here and there, which may move the index, from time to time, by a point or two. I cannot guarantee that this sort of variation will not occur, though I shall try to prevent it. Secondly, and more important perhaps, some commodities such as new potatoes, have their "in season "and" off season," and seasonal variations in the index are difficult to avoid. We should, therefore, think of stability in the sense that the index will remain at the present average level over the year, but that, from month to month, there may be some temporary fluctuations up and down.
§ The Committee must appreciate that this policy of price stability is costing a lot of money. These subsidies were running at the rate of £250 million a year before Lend-Lease ended, and in my Budget statement in October I estimated that the ending of Lend-Lease would add at least £50 million a year to the cost. In fact, it has added more than that. As I have said, I now put the cost for 1946£47 at £335 million. This is a very-large figure. It is already nearly three-quarters of the cost of the National Debt, and it may rise still higher. For the cost of imported food is steadily tending upwards, for reasons altogether outside our control. And when, as we hope to do, we are able to import a greater volume of supplies, the cost of the subsidy will rise, by reason of the larger quantities of goods being brought in, in addition to any rise that may be due to the increase in 1811 their unit price. Having said that, I repeat that to hold the cost of living steady in present circumstances is still, in the judgment of His Majesty's Government, wise. But we cannot go on doing this indefinitely, regardless of cost. We shall have to reconsider this matter next year. We might even have to do' so earlier, if the prices of our necessary imports, or home supplies, rose steeply. Subject, however, to this qualification and this warning, I repeat my determination, on behalf of the Government, to hold the cost of living substantially at its present level, for the calendar year 1946.
§ REVENUE, 1946–47
§ I turn to the question of revenue in the coming year, the revenue on the existing basis of taxation. We have a total expenditure of £3,837 million. What revenue shall I have, this year, to meet that expenditure, on the existing basis of taxation? The estimate for Customs and Excise shows a welcome increase over the receipts last year. With the progress of demobilisation, there will be more consumers of dutiable articles in this country, and some of the cigarettes and other goods which used to be sent abroad, for the troops, without paying duty, will now be sold in this country, and will pay duty. This is one of the pleasures—from the point of view of a Chancellor of the Exchequer in his departmental capacity—in more rapid demobilisation. I have felt justified in putting receipts from beer at £312 million this year, from spirits at £77 million, from tobacco at £425 million and from Entertainments Duty at £51 million In addition, I can look forward to a substantial increase in the production of articles subject to Purchase Tax. I have assumed a rise of a little over £50 million compared with the receipts from Purchase Tax last year. At the existing rates of taxation, therefore, Customs and Excise Duties should produce about £1,200 million this year—an increase of £89 million on last year—though this figure might have to be substantially reduced, if unfavourable developments abroad led to reduced imports, and hence reduced Customs re venue.
§ Turning to Inland Revenue, Income Tax last year yielded £1,361 million. I said in my Budget speech in the autumn, that the reductions in Income Tax which I then proposed, would cost the 1812 Exchequer £322 million in a full year—or £315 million after allowing for the slight increase in Surtax—and that they would cost £283 million in the current year. This would leave me with a yield on Income Tax this year of £1,078 million. But, thanks to increasing profits and increasing incomes generally, I expect to do a bit better than this, and to get an additional £67 million from Income Tax this year, giving a total yield of £1,145 million.
§ I am advised by my experts, who calculate these things, that Surtax should produce £80 millions this year, Death Duties £125 millions, Stamp Duties £29 millions, and Miscellaneous Duties £1 million. Excess Profits Tax and National Defence Contribution together yielded £466 millions last year. The reduction in the rate of Excess Profits Tax to 60 per cent., which I proposed in the autumn Budget, will hardly affect the yield this year, and the full cost of that reduction will not be felt until 1947–48. But a further fall must be expected in the profits subject to E.P.T. and repayments on account of deficiencies, which up to date have been small, will increase. I do not, therefore, count on the Excess Profits Tax, together with N. D. C., to produce more than £325 millions this year. This gives a grand total of £1,7o5 millions for the Inland Revenue Duties, a decrease of £338 millions on last year's receipts.
§ Then there is revenue other than the tax revenue to be considered. Motor Vehicles Duties are always put in a class by themselves for purposes of classification, and are an uncertain quantity. I put them at £45 millions for this year. The new form of motor taxation which I proposed in my last Budget, and which was accepted by the Committee and the House, will apply to vehicles first registered after 1st January, 1947. Miscellaneous revenue, I put at £43 millions. This year, and henceforth, it will not include any large amount for war damage contributions and premiums.
§ I would like the Committee to notice the next point. It is one of those which were, naturally, not known to the commentators in the Press, and were partly responsible for their too gloomy estimates of our prospects. There are two substantial items.If non-tax revenue which I shall get this year as legacies of the war. I can only 1813 estimate them in round figures; but I count on getting £150 millions from the sale of surplus war stores, and £50 millions as surplus receipts from the trading activities of various Government Departments, particularly the Raw Materials Department of the Board of Trade. I shall thus get £200 millions of which the Press have had no notice. My total estimated revenue is, therefore, £3,193 millions, or some £91 millions less than that received last year. To put it in another way, this £200 millions which comes from the sale of war stores, and from the trading receipts of the War Departments, nearly cancels out the loss of revenue due to the Income Tax reductions—not quite but it goes a long way towards it.
§ Putting it with still more exactitude, the £200 million from these two items plusthe natural increase in Income Tax due to enlarged incomes—these two together, practically cancel out the loss of revenue this year due to the Income Tax reductions of last autumn. I wish to pursue the point of the sale of war stores. After the last war, there was much criticism of the practice then adopted of treating the sales of war stores as ordinary revene. They are, indeed, terminal revenue, and it may be argued that they should be set against terminal expenditure. I think, however, that is a slightly prosaic view, and I have decided this year to make a certain departure from this rule-of-thumb finance. In view of last year's receipt of £60 million from the sale of war stores, and the prospective receipt of £150 million from the same source this year, I propose to carry £50 million to a separate Fund, with a special purpose, which I will describe to the Committee in due course. Though I do not contemplate that much will actually be spent out of this special Fund this year, it is necessary, for accounting purposes, to add the £50 million to this year's estimated expenditure, under the heading of Consolidated Fund Services.
§ DEFICIT, 1946–47
§ What conclusion do we reach regarding the deficit for the coming year, on the existing basis of taxation? We have an estimated expenditure, including the £50 million carried to the special Fund, of £3,887 million, and a total revenue, on the existing basis of taxation, of £3,193 million. Thus, the prospective deficit for this financial year stands at £694 million. 1814 This is a considerably smaller figure than most of the prophets anticipated. Most of them said it would be £1,000 million, at least; it is, in fact, £694 million. This deficit represents a drop of £1,506 million, or 68 per cent., on the realised deficit of £2,200 million for last year.
§ I think the Committee may be interested in the following figures. In the last full year of war, 1944–45, our expenditure was £6,063 million and our revenue £3,238 million. That is to say, in the last full year of war, out of every £1 of expenditure we met 10s. 8d. out of revenue. We thought that was a good record for a full year of war, and so it was. In 1945–46, the year of transition from war to peace, our expenditure was £5,484 million, and our revenue £3,284 million; so that, last year, out of every £1 of expenditure, we paid 12s. out of revenue. In the year which is now opening, 1946–47, the first full year of peace, expenditure is estimated at £3,887 million, and revenue, on the existing basis of taxation, at £3,193 million; so that, on this basis, we shall pay, this year, out of every £1 of expenditure, 16s. 5d. out of revenue. This, I suggest, is a pretty quick recoil towards a balanced Budget.
§ Nor is this all that can be said about this year's prospective deficit. Both the expenditure and the revenue this year contain large terminal items due to the winding up of the war. These will not recur in future years. The clearest and most definite of these items are the following. On the expenditure side, there is £576 million for the Defence and Supply Departments. Of the total provision which those Departments require this year, £576 million is terminal, and will not recur. Also there is the £50 million —which I have already mentioned—which I am carrying, as a "once for all" operation, to the special Fund. On the revenue side, there is the £200 million, which I have mentioned to the Committee, from the sale of war stores and war trading receipts. If we subtract these terminal items from each side, the prospective deficit is reduced to £268 million this year, and out of every £1 of expenditure, we shall be paying no less than 18s. 4d. from revenue. We may, therefore, claim that, if we allow for these terminal items on both sides of the account, we shall not be very far off a balanced Budget this year.1815
§ This I regard as a most remarkable achievement, to be proclaimed not only in this country, but throughout the world, in countries where too little is known of what we are doing and what we intend to do. It is a great tribute to the practical capacity of the British people, in the management both of their public and of their private affairs, that, in the first year following our victory, after six years of long and exhausting war, and with a Government in power which has deliberately embarked upon a great and costly programme of social betterment, we should so nearly have attained this goal of traditional financial rectitude. In my view that is something to boast about.
§ In 1947–48, and in following years, the choice between having a Budget surplus and a Budget deficit is in our own hands. Throughout the war period, Budget deficits have been inevitable. From now on, as I say, the choice is in our own hands, and will depend predominantly on our own decisions in the field of economic and financial planning. As I said last autumn, we shall aim at balancing the Budget, not year by year, but over a series of years, making our choice each year according to the state and prospects of trade and employment and in the light of the general economic and financial situation. But we shall choose in future. The choice will not be made for us. We shall choose whether to balance the Budget, or whether to incur a deficit, for clearly understood reasons.
§ THE BUDGET DEFICIT AND THE OVERSEAS DEFICIT
§ So much for the prospective Budget deficit. It is not so serious as some have imagined. A much more serious and more anxious problem is presented by another kind of deficit, by the deficit in our overseas balance of payments. For the calendar year 1946, I put this deficit at £750 million. It represents, of course, the excess of our overseas expenditure—mainly on essential imports, but also on the maintenance of troops abroad and other overseas expenditure of a miscellaneous character—over receipts from our exports, visible and invisible.
§ Here, the special and unique character of our contribution to the common war effort has strained us very severely. We put everything into the war effort, and, as a consequence, we are suffering. Not 1816 from any deep or permanent disability—far from it, we are pretty healthy in our essential economic life—but, for the moment, from a strain, due to this extensive and unique contribution we made. This deficit cannot disappear in this year. It will certainly persist in 1947 and perhaps in 1948. Our problem is to find ways and means of bridging the gap, until we have fully recovered our strength, and restored the flow of our export trade—which, at the moment, is moving very well. Exports now are rising more rapidly than some people thought likely. Our good friends and kinsmen in Canada have granted us a credit, which will be a welcome aid while we are bridging this gap. We appreciate deeply the spirit in which that aid is given.
§ ANGLO-AMERICAN LOAN AGREEMENT
§ The proposed Anglo-American Loan Agreement is now before the American Congress; and it would not be proper for me to intervene in that debate. But it is right for me to emphasise now how greatly we need, and how greatly we shall appreciate, the proposed measure of assistance, in order to hasten the time—for this is the purpose of it—when we shall once again pull our full weight in the expansion of world trade, and when it will be no longer necessary to restrict imports as closely and as harshly as was inevitable in time of war. My Budget has been prepared on the assumption that the Agreement will be approved. Some of the figures I have used would need to be amended if it failed. If it did fail, we should at once have to take very vigorous measures to reduce imports, especially those which have to be paid for in American dollars, arid to adapt our economy, and that of other countries which trade with us, to the changed situation. This would mean a substantial loss in revenue, and it might be necessary for me, in that event, to introduce some supplementary financial proposals.
§ THE PROSPECT A FEW YEARS AHEAD
§ If I might return from the Overseas Deficit to the Budget proper, it may interest the Committee if I now look a little further ahead than the current year. I have been asked to do that sometimes in these Debates, and to say something on the probable trends, so far as we can now discern them, over the next few years. The Budget of 1946–47, as I have 1817 explained to the Committee, is not very far from being balanced, if the more obvious terminal elements on both sides of the account are excluded. But there are some items of expenditure which will undoubtedly grow considerably in the next few years.
§ I take, in particular, what I might call the central group of the social services—education, housing, health services, national insurance and family allowances, and war pensions. These are the central group of the social services. They will cost the Exchequer some £500 millions in 1946–7, and this total is likely to rise to some £700 millions in 1948–9, two years hence, and, after that, to go on rising, though at a much slower rate. The movement will be from £500 millions to £700 millions in two years, and then the curve will flatten considerably, so far as we can foresee, but it will still rise, though much more slowly. More than half the increase of £200 millions in these two years is in the health services, and especially in the new arrangements for hospitals, under the bold and constructive National Health Service Bill of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. But, from the point of view of the Treasury, it is necessary to remember that a great part of this increased Exchequer contribution to the health services is, in fact, a transfer from the rates to the taxes, and will have to be offset, in large part at least, by a re-arrangement in the relations between the central and local authorities, by a reduction in the total grants from the Exchequer to local authorities, and by a revision of the Block Grant
§ On the other hand, as an offset to the increase which we shall deliberately incur in regard to social services, there should be some big savings in expenditure over the same period. Unless we should be faced by some serious worsening of international relations, and we hope that will not be the case, we are entitled to anticipate further substantial reductions in defence expenditure. A figure of £500 millions a year in the postwar years used to be taken as a rough, approximate estimate in the war period, when the late Sir 'Kingsley Wood was Chancellor of the Exchequer. In looking forward to the future, he once offered such a figure, in a speculative spirit, to the Committee— 1818 something of the order of £500 millions a year for defence services, in times of peace. We may not be able to get down as low as that for a long time; but, leaving out the terminals altogether, the present expenditure on defence services and supplies is more than twice the figure which Sir Kingsley Wood thought might be proper in times of peace.
§ Furthermore, it is of great value to the national finances if we can not merely reduce expenditure on defence, but reduce the overseas expenditure incurred in connection with defence. In a sense, the soldier in this country costs the Exchequer much less than the soldier overseas, because he represents a less severe pressure upon our balance of payments. In any case, my point is that we are entitled to anticipate, unless some ill befall us, a substantial reduction in defence expenditure, a reduction at least, I hope, as large as, and, perhaps, substantially larger than, the increase in social expenditure.
§ Moreover, we are spending this year no less than £80 millions under the estimate for the Control Office. This is a large figure. It represents, in part, the cost of the British civilian administration in the Western Zone of Germany—the cost not of the military, but of the civil, administration—and, in part, the cost of the food for the Germans in that Zone. This food costs us dollars, from our limited reserves. So far, we are getting disappointingly little in return, and that is a matter which may have to be probed in the House one of these days. I am quite sure that the British taxpayer cannot, and should not, much longer be expected to go on paying, on this scale, what are, in effect, reparations to Germany. Speaking as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I grudge the money.
§ CHEAPER MONEY
§ May I turn to the topic of interest rates? I have frequently declared, since taking office, and I now once more repeat, that the aim of the Government is to cheapen money and to lower rates of interest to the greatest extent that economic and financial conditions, will permit. In my Budget speech last October, I was able to announce a cut in short-term rates. The Treasury bill rate was reduced from one per cent. to one-half of one per cent. and the rate on Treasury deposit receipts from one and one-eighth per cent. to five-eighths 1819 per cent. Thus the cost of the Floating Debt was cut nearly in half. On 27th November, I proposed the repayment of the 2½ per cent. Conversion Loan, 1944–49, and of 2½ per cent. National War Bonds, 1945–47, offering the holders of these Bonds the option of conversion into 1¾ per cent. Exchequer Bonds, 1950. The response was pretty good. It was sufficiently good to reduce, as I told the House on 7th March, the interest on the National Debt by a further L3½ million a year. I might add that, in so far as the offer of conversion was not taken up, the floating debt looked after the balance, and the interest saving was even greater.
§ On 15th December I "turned off the laps "—as the City phrase goes—and stopped the sale of the 2½ per cent. National War Bonds, 1954–56, and the 3 per cent. Savings Bonds, 1965–75. Since then, no new tap loan has been offered.
§ NATIONAL SAVINGS MOVEMENT
§ My path for the future has been made much easier by the splendid tenacity of the National Savings Movement, to which, once more, I desire to pay my tribute. Only last week I was, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), accompanied by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, at a most impressive demonstration at the Albert Hall, where the Movement pledged themselves to find, during this coming year, £520 million of new money in the form of small savings. I regard that as an exceedingly fine figure, having regard to the relaxation which must naturally follow the ending of the war. I told them that I would take them at their word, and write this figure into my Budget estimates. This massive contribution, from a great multitude of patriotic and not over-rich citizens, powerfully fortifies the Treasury and also guards us against the danger of inflation. It is exceedingly desirable that all these hundreds of millions should be saved at this time, instead of being spent.
§ With this reinforcement of our finances by the Savings Movement, I frankly tell the Committee that I shall not need to borrow, from the City of London and the money market, any very large sums of new money this year. This means, I am glad to say, that much new money which otherwise might have been absorbed by Government Loans will now be available to finance other needs, including those 1820 of local authorities, of the great public boards, and of the whole range of private industry. All of these, local authorities, public boards, and private industrialists, will gain, equally with the Treasury, from reductions in rates of interest. It is not sense to pay more for a loan of money than you need.
§ BRITISH GOVERNMENT CREDIT.
§ Since last October, British Government credit, which already was high then, judged by the standards of the City, and measured by the yields on Government stocks, has risen even further. The long-term rate of interest has already fallen below 3 per cent., and it is still tending to fall. It follows from this that the 3 per cent. Defence Bond is no longer an appropriate security, and I intend to discontinue the present series at the end of this month. There are three weeks in which these bonds may still be taken up at 3 per cent.—three precious, fleeting weeks. As from 1st May, there will be a new offer of Defence Bonds, bearing interest at 2½ per cent., but otherwise on the same terms as the present issue. The maximum individual holding of Defence Bonds, of all series taken together, will be raised, from 1st May, from £2,000 to £2,500. Further, since, as I have already told the Committee, my need for new money will be so much less this year than last, I do not propose to issue any new. tap loan at present. I intend, however, to take the first opportunity, on 15th May, to give notice to repay, on 15th August, the 1490 million of the 2½ per cent. National War Bonds, 1946–48. Any terms of replacement will be announced later. I have great faith—and I believe it is justified by facts and events—in the financial strength and resiliency of Britain. I ask Members in all parts of the Committee—for this should be above party, and I am sure it is—to support the Government in our determination to do all we can to register a still further improvement in the national credit.
§ TAX CHANGES—GENERAL
§ Now I come to an interesting topic, namely, consideration of what changes, if any, should be made in taxation. The Committee will have realised, from what I have said earlier, that we must go slow with further tax reliefs this year. Until there are more goods in the shops, the risk of inflation will remain serious. Let 1821 us not blink that fact. I must be careful not to release too great a flow of purchasing power too soon, before there are goods to absorb it. Particularly, in the next few months, we must be cautious as to what further tax reductions we provide. I must remind the Committee, as, of course, they will recall, that the Income Tax concessions made in my October Budget, which are worth, to those who benefit from them, no less than £322 million in a full year, have only just begun to take effect, three days ago.
§ The only counter to inflation is to produce more goods. It is with this object that Ministers, supported, I know, by broad and sober bodies of public opinion among organised workers and employers, and other elements in our community all over the country are now engaged, both in propaganda and in practice, in a campaign to increase production. As I say, the only counter to inflation is to produce more goods, and thus to increase both the national income and the public revenue. It is against this background—the need to stimulate more production, and the need, on the other hand, to hold back purchasing power from too precipitate and premature a release—that we must judge all proposals for further tax reliefs. We must be cautious, but this does not mean that there is nothing that can be done, and I will now unfold to the Committee a series of modest proposals, falling, I believe, within the bounds of prudence.
§ First, as to Customs and Excise. I will begin with a few quite minor proposals, none of which appreciably affects the Revenue. The Finance Bill will, as I promised in my Budget speech last October, provide for the continuance, until the next Schedule A general revaluation, of the rebates of liquor licence duty provided in the Finance Act, 1942. It will also provide, for the first time—and this will be good news for travellers—for the issue of Excise licences for the sale of liquor and tobacco in aircraft. That shows what a socialised service can do. I am assured that there is no danger either to passengers or to pilots, in this change. Theobromine may be known to some Members, but it was not known to me until my attention was drawn to it. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), 1822 my predecessor, will have met it before, but I did not know that it is a drug, made from cocoa residues. I propose to remove the title to drawback of Cocoa Duty on the export of British manufactured theo-bromine. A Clause in the Finance Bill will enable British manufacturers to obtain the drawback when they receive the residues for manufacture, and the drawback on export will thus become unnecessary. I also propose to remove the statutory prohibition on the import of coffee essences, and to substitute an import duty But no import licences will be granted for the present.
§ The existing legislation governing the Key Industry Duties expires this year. These duties were imposed after the first world war to protect manufacturers vital to our war potential. We shall consider, in the light of recent experience and scientific developments, what changes may he necessary in these duties. Meanwhile, I propose that they should be extended in their present form for two years, though we may make some changes before the end of this period
§ The present sugar preference margins expire next August, and I propose to continue them for a further period of two years. We are pledged to give 18 months' notice of any change.
§ PURCHASE TAX
§ Now I come to the Purchase Tax. I must confess that I do not regard this as a temporary tax or as a wartime aberration of one of my Conservative predecessors, to be hastily swept away. On the contrary, my view is that the Purchase Tax has got to stay, and must yield an increasing revenue over the next few years to help to pay the bill for social betterment. Its yield will rise as the production of taxable goods increases. This tax, in present conditions, not only raises revenue but also absorbs, or "mops up," as they say in the Treasury, purchasing power, and so helps to prevent inflation. But, having said these rough words to optimists, I would add that, following the beginning which I made last October, I propose, on a carefully selected range of articles, either to remit the Purchase Tax altogether or to reduce the rate.
§ I first propose one or two minor changes in the machinery of the tax. In the past there has been some tax avoidance in connection with the processing of certain 1823 goods. Experience has revealed certain loopholes through which some goods escape tax altogether, contrary to the intention of the legislation. For example it is possible to buy raw fur skins, which are not subject to tax, and to have them made into a fur coat. But there is no sale of a fur coat as such, and the tax on such coats has, therefore, hitherto been dodged. Again, to take another example, neither a motor manufacturer who sells a chassis only, nor a coach builder who sells a body only, is selling a motor car; and the completed car, therefore, has hitherto escaped tax. I propose to take appropriate steps to close loopholes of this kind. I shall also provide, in the Finance Bill, that visitors to this country from abroad, including officials on leave from India and from the Colonies, may buy a British car for use here, free of Purchase Tax, provided they take it away with them when they leave. Visitors can now bring in a foreign car, free of Customs Duty and free of Purchase Tax; and I therefore propose to remove what I regard as an indefensible discrimination against British cars, and to put them on the same footing.
§ It has been represented to me that the charge of Import Duty and Purchase Tax on legacies of personal effects—I am not now talking of securities, but of personal effects received from abroad—occasions hardship. I propose, therefore, to relieve such objects from these charges. I promised during the discussions on the Autumn Finance Bill, to go carefully through the whole range of articles now subject to Purchase Tax, and to consider how far I could make further concessions. I have done so, and I will now make to the Committee the following proposals. I propose, first, to exempt wholly from the Purchase Tax a number of articles, which I will enumerate in a moment, and, secondly, to reduce the rates of Purchase Tax upon a further list. Full descriptions of these articles will be found in the White Paper which will be available in the Vote Office. I will name them briefly. I propose to remit the Purchase Tax entirely from the following articles. First, pots and pans; more precisely, articles of pottery, china, glassware, plastics or metal hollow-ware used for the preparation or serving of food or drink—a wide class of goods. These are now taxed, in nearly every case, at 16⅔ per cent. I believe that this remission will be popular with housewives, particularly now that there 1824 are more pots and pans in the shops. It might have seemed a mockery to tell people that they would not be taxed on something which they could not buy. Now that these articles are flowing into the shops in larger quantities, I hope this remission will be helpful to many.
§ Next I propose to exempt certain articles now taxed at 33½ per cent., the most important being: kitchen fitments, such as dressers, cupboards, draining boards and so on. This should reduce the cost, and increase the convenience, of setting up house.
§ Mr. Dalton
Stoves were freed in the autumn Budget. I propose to make utility spring mattresses tax free, to encourage healthy slumber. Next, utility woollen blankets. These are a new and welcome venture by my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade. When I was President of the Board of Trade I could never persuade the Wool Control to make utility woollen blankets, but he has done better than I could. We will remit the tax on them. Then come electric kettles; and at the request of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power, firebricks and certain other fuel saving devices, designed to encourage economy in fuel consumption. Next, office machinery—the tax on office machinery, including typewriters and cash registers, has been represented as a tax on business efficiency and modern methods, and this remission will take care of that. Further, I propose to exempt certain items which are of more limited interest but are important to the people concerned—sensitized document base paper, mains operated hand lamps, certain railway lamps and public clocks. Finally, I propose to exempt one item now taxed at zoo per cent., namely, epidiascopes, for the benefit of educationalists. All the articles which I have mentioned will now be completely free from tax.
I next propose reductions in the rate of tax as follow: A reduction from zoo per cent. to 33⅓ per cent. on musical instruments, gramophones, and gramophone records; on photographic requisites and projectors; on hair-waving and hair-drying machines— [Laughter] —in which, perhaps, I should declare that I have no interest; but these are the tools of trade 1825 for hairdressers, including many men and women returning to this honourable and artistic calling from the Forces. Next, we have leather cases for professional use, garden furniture, and, finally, plain wooden walking sticks. It seems to me to be most unfair that these should be taxed more heavily, as they were up to now, than umbrellas.
I propose to reduce the tax from 33⅓ per cent. to 16⅔ per cent. on vacuum flasks and also lawn mowers and garden rollers, for those who are interested in their gardens. All these changes will apply to goods delivered by registered manufacturers and wholesalers to retailers as from tomorrow. Many of these articles are still in short supply. The public should be warned of that, and should realise it. In addition, the clearance of all tax paid stocks will, of course, take a little time. But, as new supplies come forward there should be price adjustments on all goods on which I have announced concessions, whether complete repeal or reduction of the tax. Most of these goods are subject to price control, and our price control is pretty good. It would be an offence for a trader to try to pass on to the purchaser a tax which he had not paid. Therefore, I hope that, after an interval of time for the clearance of tax paid stacks, many of these articles will be both cheaper and more plentiful for our consumers. The total revenue which I shall sacrifice on purchase tax will be about £12,000,000 this year, and £15,250,000 in a full year.
§ ENTERTAINMENTS DUTY
§ Now I turn to Entertainments Duty. As the Committee knows, there are two scales of rates of Entertainments Duty. The lower scale now applies only to the theatres and to a few other live performances, the higher scale applies to all other entertainments. I have received many representations in favour of applying the lower scale to football, cricket and a number of other sports and I have decided that it is right to do so. I propose that the lower scale shall now apply to football, cricket, boxing, tennis, athletics, swimming; in short to all outdoor sports—including the University Boat Race; I could not anticipate that at Question Time—except horse, motor and dog racing. Horse, motor and dog racing will continue, with the cinema, to pay 1826 at the higher rate. Broadly speaking, practically everything else—those I have mentioned and a number of others that I have not mentioned—will come down to the lower level. This reduced scale will be brought into force for all events held on or after 5th May. I should add that the reduced scale will apply also to indoor games such as billiards and chess.
§ I think that these changes will be welcomed in all parts of the Committee. I have proposed that they should be made because I am very anxious to help clubs all over the country, especially the football and cricket clubs, to restore their finances and to improve their facilities, in the interests of their members and of those whom they employ, and in the interests of the general public. I hope that, as a result of this concession, the principal football clubs will be able next season to reduce their usual price of admission from is. 6d. to Is. 3d., and that all other sports clubs and associations, who will gain from the concession, will pass on part of the benefit to the spectators. Part of the benefit will, of course, need to be retained by them, to improve their facilities, which have necessarily been neglected during the war years. This concession will cost £1,000,000 this year, and £1,250,000 in a full year. I believe that it is well worth the money, in the interests of British sport, recreation and physical fitness.
§ While still on this topic, may I say that I shall also fulfil the promise which I made last November, to amend the law relating to entertainments provided for a partly educational purpose by non-profit making bodies. At present, exemption is allowed only if the Commissioners of Customs and Excise are satisfied that, in each particular case, the entertainment has educational value. I propose that in future the test shall be, not the educational merit of a particular play or a particular film, but whether the non-profit making body which provides the entertainment has educational aims and activities.
§ INLAND REVENUE
§ I now turn to the Inland Revenue. I propose to amend the law regarding payments made to charities, under what are known as "seven-year deeds." Under the existing law, those who make such payments escape both Income Tax and Surtax. Thus, if someone who is liable 1827 to Income Tax and Surtax at the highest rate now ruling makes such a payment, nominally for charity, he himself pays only 6d. towards each £of his contribution, and the Revenue finds the remaining 19s. 6d. The number of deeds of this type has been increasing year by year, and it is clear that this state of affairs cannot be allowed to go on. Therefore, I propose, without changing the provisions regarding Income Tax, to disallow these payments for Surtax. This provision will not be retrospective, but will apply to all payments made under any seven-year covenant entered into from today.
§ On the other hand, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has suggested to me that it would be helpful to the progress of technical education, if the existing right to Income Tax relief on contributions by employers towards the current costs of technical colleges were extended to cover capital contributions also. I therefore, propose, in response to her persuasive arguments, to grant an Income Tax allowance in respect of such capital contributions made by an employer to a technical college attended by his own employees. I hope that employers, who are interested—as I am sure many are—in the advancement of technical studies, will respond to this inducement.
§ INCOME TAX
§ As regards Income Tax, the reliefs announced in my autumn Budget came into operation only three days ago. They are very substantial. Every weekly wage earner will become conscious of them this week; he will take home a heavier pay packet. The Committee will recall that the standard rate of Income Tax is being reduced from 10s. to 9s. in the £ the personal allowances are being increased from £80 to £110 a year for a single person, and from £140 to £180 a year for a married couple; the exemption limit is being raised from £110 to £120 a year; and the standard rate of tax is being re-graded, so that this year the first £50 of taxable income will pay only at 3s. in the £ and the next £75 only at 6s. in the £These changes mean that no less than 2,000,000 people are being exempted from Income Tax altogether this year, and that everyone who remains liable will pay substantially less this year than last. I recall these facts to the Committee; but I do not propose to go further now in giving examples of the reliefs given to 1828 particular cases, because full particulars are given, in relation to various incomes, in the White Paper which was issued with the autumn Budget. I will not, therefore, repeat the details now. These tax remissions, only just now coming into operation, will cost the Revenue £283,000,000 this year. Undoubtedly they contain a certain danger of inflation; but they were made deliberately, with the approval of this Committee, in order to provide incentive for, and to remove discouragement from, large numbers of wage earners.
§ There is, perhaps, some exaggeration in the stories told of the check to productive activity due to Income Tax. But we deliberately took a risk last autumn, and we are facing it now. The only answer is: increased productive activity and more output. His Majesty's Government rely on the workers of the country to respond, in increased and sustained effort, to this new stimulus, and to this beginning of the lightening of their heavy war burden. It is a snare to give people more to spend, unless they are also given more on which to spend it. I hope that is going to be accomplished now.
§ Clearly, I cannot do a great deal more by way of further immediate Income Tax relief, but I have one or two more proposals to make to the Committee. First, I propose to exempt the workers' contributions under the National Insurance Bill from Income Tax. The law on this matter is, at present, in a very untidy condition, and one of the purposes I have in mind is to tidy it up. At the moment, these contributions are not exempt from Income Tax, though part of the compulsory contribution relating to widows' and orphans' benefit and to old age pension is given relief as life insurance. My proposal to exempt all workers' contributions to National Insurance from Income Tax will give the contributors a noticeable relief, equivalent, when the contributions reach their maximum under the Bill, to an additional allowance of £11 a year. The employers' contributions are exempt now; they are a trading expense. I should add that the exemption will extend to self-employed persons on the one hand, and householders, who employ domestic servants or gardeners, on the other. My broad intention is to treat all contribu- 1829 tions to the National Insurance Scheme, by whomsoever made, as due deductions for Income Tax purposes. This concession will cost the Revenue £40,000,000 in a full year; it is, therefore, substantial. But the full cost will only be felt when the new and higher rates of contribution become payable. I attach importance to this fact, because my proposal is a relief, but a postponed relief, which does not become fully operative until we have had a chance to pick up production and to avoid inflation.
§ It is a necessary counterpart of this proposal that, apart from lump sum payments, such as death and maternity benefits, all benefits, and not merely some, as now, should be assessed for Income Tax. But I must make it clear that benefits will never, in fact, be reduced by Income Tax, because they are less than the present Income Tax allowances—and even these might, in the future, be increased, and will, in fact, be increased under the provision which I have mentioned as regards contributions. If earnings cease, no further tax is payable under P.A.Y.E. On the contrary, there are tax repayments due and the only effect of assessing the benefit, as I propose to do, will be that the repayment will be some, what less than it would otherwise have been. The effect on the revenue this year is negligible.
§ I have no doubt that the balance of advantage in this arrangement is wholly with the general body of contributors. The proof of that is that it is costing the Revenue such a lot of money to do it. It will not apply either to the benefits or to the contributions under the Industrial Injuries Bill.
§ POSTWAR CREDITS
§ As to the postwar credits the Committee will appreciate, from what I said earlier, why I cannot contemplate as yet any general repayment of those credits. The total mass of them, more than £800 millions, is a great inflationary potential, which we must hold back for the present. Were we to release this flood too soon, it would wash away all our defences against profiteering and inflation. Moreover, we may well need this mass of reserve purchasing power in the next year or two, as an anti-deflationary corrective, should there be any worsening in the prospects of trade and employment. But I think the 1830 time has come when we can make a small beginning in the repayment of the Income Tax postwar credits. I propose that here, following the same sequence of benefits as in the National Insurance Bill, the old warriors, the veterans of industry, shall march in front, and be the first to draw an instalment. This desire was expressed in all parts of the Committee when this matter was debated in October. I have taken that into account in reaching this conclusion.
§ I propose to start with a payment to men over 65 and to women over 60. In order to simplify administration as much as possible, I shall not restrict the payment to old age pensioners, but shall make eligibility dependent on age only. I do this entirely for reasons of administrative simplicity and economy of labour in the Tax Offices. Payments will be made on application—but no one who does not want his credits need apply; he can leave them with me—as from 1st September, and will cover the credits, of those entitled to them, for the three first years of the postwar credit system, that is to say, 1941–42, 1942–43, and 1943–44. Credits for the two following years have not been fully calculated, and cannot be for some time, owing to the very heavy pressure of work in the Inland Revenue Department. Nor do I wish to go too far at this stage in disbursing, even to the old people, the credits that are being held in store. They will get three years' credits on 1st September or soon thereafter. Payments will be made in cash, not, as we intend to make the general rule when we are releasing credits in larger quantities, in the form of deposits in savings banks. But I hope recipients, whenever they reasonably can, will put some or all of the money into Savings Certificates or some other form of national savings. I estimate the sum involved in these payments at £26 millions. This will be found by borrowing—under powers I shall seek in the Finance Bill—because it is of a non-recurrent character.
§ TAXATION OF MARRIED WOMEN
§ There is another class of taxpayer for whom I am anxious to do something now, and that is the married women in industry. It is in the national interest, as the Prime Minister and others have stated, that married women, who can do so, should enter or remain in industry, particularly for the next year or two. I am 1831 told that Income Tax is acting as a deterrent to married women from remaining in or taking up industrial work. The married woman already enjoys a special allowance of £80, in addition to the marriage allowance of £180. I propose to increase this special allowance to £110, the figure at which the single person's allowance now stands. This change gives better results than the separate assessment, which is sometimes suggested. A separate assessment would not help in a great number of these cases; often, indeed, it would increase the tax liability of the married couple. I am satisfied that this is the best way to give assistance, and I hope every married woman will reflect how this concession will affect her personally, and, wherever possible, will respond to the Government's appeal for more volunteers for the production drive. The cost this Tear will be £4 millions and slightly more in a full year.
§ EARNED INCOME ALLOWANCE
§ I have one further proposal in the field of Income Tax to make to the Committee. I can go no further by way of immediate relief; but I am thinking of the situation six months hence, after six months, as I hope, of strenuous effort by all producers, of a steady increase in the output of goods, both for the home market and for export, and of steady decline in the fear of inflation over that period. Six months hence summer will be over. The days will be growing darker and we shall be on the threshold of another winter. I should like to give a further let-up at that time. Therefore, running some risk, consciously running some risk, but putting the hope of incentive above the fear of inflation, I propose to increase the earned income relief allowance of one-tenth to one-eighth, subject to the present maximum of £150 a year. The allowance of one-eighth will apply to the whole of this financial year, but, for the reasons I have indicated, the benefit will not begin to accrue, until October. Until then, the existing P.A.Y.E. tables, calculated on the basis of one-tenth, will continue to be used; but in October new tables will come into use and will automatically adjust the total tax payable to the new basis of one-eighth for the whole year. The cost of this relief will be £30 millions this year and £33 millions in a full year. All those with earned incomes of less than £1,500 a year will benefit, and this change will relieve a further 350,000 people from all 1832 liability to Income Tax. Taking into account, also the exemption of National Insurance contributions from Income Tax and the increase in the allowance for the earnings of married women, I estimate that the total additional number of persons wholly relieved from Income Tax by the changes made in this Budget will be about 500,000 in a full year.
§ The effect of the reliefs in the autumn Budget, together with the adjustments of the earned income relief, to which I have just referred, will be that this year, in the case of earned incomes—looking at the whole year—no single person with less than £2 8s. a week will pay any Income Tax; no married couple without children with less than £3 19s. a week—it is worth while getting married; no couple with one child with less than £5 is. a week, no couple with three children with less than £7 5s. a week, and no couple with five children with less than £9 9s. a week. I give three further examples, hoping that I shall illustrate the point, without wearying the Committee with excessive statistics. A single person earning £300 a year will, this year, pay only £42 7s. 6d. as against £66 2s. 6d. last year. A married couple, without children, having an earned income of £400 will pay only £50 5s. this year as compared with £81 2s. 6d. last year. And a married couple with two children and an earned income of £600 a year will pay only £84 this year as against £121 2S. 6d. last year. Next year allowing, in addition, for the exemption of the National Insurance contributions, these reliefs will be even larger.
§ EXCESS PROFITS TAX AND NATIONAL DEFENCE CONTRIBUTION
So much for Income Tax. I now turn to E.P.T. and N. D. C. Last Autumn I proposed a reduction in the rate of E.P.T. to 6o per cent. as from 1st January this year, and I made provision for the early repayment of the 20 per cent. E.P.T. postwar refund, in order to assist industry to reconvert and reequip itself. The Committee will be glad to know that these refunds, amounting to about £250 million altogether after deduction of Tax, are already being paid to the industrialists entitled to them. Since the autumn I have been considering the future of these taxes. I said then the
E.P.T. at the rate of 100 per cent. is the perfect tax for a short war "—
and I believe that still—
but as the war period lengthens and, still more, as we enter upon the postwar period, this tax works against incentive and against efficiency."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd October, 1945; Vol. 414, C. 1897.]
even when the rate is less than 100 per cent., as it is now. Further reflection has not weakened my opinion on this matter. I now propose to repeal E.P.T. altogether as from 31st December next.
§ This repeal will cost me nothing this year, because we shall still be collecting tax at too per cent. on the profits of 1945. It will cost very little next year, because we shall be collecting at 60 per cent. on the profits of 1946. It will cost me more, perhaps £150 million gross, in 1948–49, when we shall be collecting nothing except arrears from earlier years. This estimate takes into account the fact that the yield from E.P.T. would, in any case, be running down during these years, with the gradual cessation of profits due to war contracts. Further, as the Committee understands, for every £1 I lose through the reduction of the rate or total repeal, I get 10s. back in Income Tax and Surtax; and the net cost, in 1948–49, of repeal will not, therefore, exceed £75 millions. This repeal has been asked for by industry. I hope, therefore, that it will stimulate private enterprise to put its best foot forward, and to go flat out on an expansionist course.
§ Turning to N. D. C., I propose to retain that at the present rate, but to change its name from National Defence Contribution, which is no longer very apposite, to the "Profits Tax." E.P.T. will disappear, and N. D. C. will in future be known as the Profits Tax. It is a flat tax of is. in the £on all profits prior to distribution. With the termination of E.P.T. it should bring me in about £50millions a year. It is not open to the strong objections that can be urged against E.P.T.
§ As I propose that E.P.T. shall come to an end this year, I am including in the Finance Bill appropriate provisions dealing with terminal losses—allowance for deferred repairs and renewals, post-E. P. T. expenditure on the rehabilitation of industry to a peacetime footing, and falls in stock values. I propose also to fix the date at which the provisions relating to exceptional depreciation are to come into operation.1834
§ I have carefully considered whether, while repealing E.P.T., I should either increase N. D. C. or introduce some new tax on profits or on excess dividends. Upon this I have not yet reached a final decision. Nor is it necessary for me to do so this year in order to replace lost revenue. Even if I were to decide to make good, by a new tax on profits, the whole of the loss from the repeal of E.P.T., it would not be necessary for me to make legislative provision until next year's Budget, for the reasons I have been explaining to the Committee. I shall continue, during the coming year, to study this and other possibilities of new taxes, of which a great variety has been suggested to me. Human intelligence is most inventive with regard to new taxes.
§ I shall be guided in my decision next year, as to whether or not to impose such a tax, by a number of considerations—by the general budgetary and financial situation to a large extent, and, to some extent, by the conduct of private enterprise in the meantime. I can assure the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) that I shall be so guided. Last autumn, I expressed the view that postwar development should come before increased dividends, and I invited industry to plough back increased profits rather than to distribute them to shareholders. The response to this invitation has been patchy. Many of the most efficient and up to date concerns have responded very well; but others have shown a tendency to chuck money about among the shareholders, rather than to strengthen their reserves and improve their equipment. Therefore, it would be premature for me to decide now whether or not, next year, it would be in the general interest to introduce a new tax, designed to check these, as I think, unfortunate practices.
§ DEATH DUTIES
§ I have also been giving some consideration to the Death Duties. I have been having a good look in particular at the Estate Duty, which, as the Committee knows, is by far the most important of the Death Duties, bringing in some 90 per cent. of the total Death Duty revenue. The Estate Duty was first introduced by Sir William Harcourt, that most gifted and attractive Victorian Radical, in his historic Budget of 1894. His scale started at one per cent. on estates between £100 1835 and £500. This part of the scale, it is extraordinary to relate, indeed, the whole scale up to £5,000, has remained unchanged from that day to this. Sir William Harcourt's scale rose to a maximum of 8 per cent. on estates over £1000,000 The history of the Estate Duty since then has been one of continuous increase. The rates of duty were increased by Mr. Asquith in 1907, by Mr. Lloyd George in 1909 and again in 1914, by Sir Austen Chamberlain in 1919, by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in 1925, by Mr. Philip Snowden in 1930, by Sir John Simon in 1939, and by Sir Kingsley Wood in 1940. All these successive increases have brought the scale up to a maximum of 65 per cent. on estates over £2,000,000. The most notable of them was that imposed by Sir Austen Chamberlain in 1919, in the first postwar Budget after the last great war, the opposite number to this one. Sir Austen Chamberlain increased the Estate Duty substantially on the larger estates and on estates over £2 million he doubled it by increasing it from 20 per cent. to 40 per cent.
All these illustrious predecessors of mine, whenever they have touched Estate Duty, have touched it only to increase it. None of them has ever reduced it. I propose to break with this long tradition as regards the smaller estates, but faithfully to follow it as regards the larger. A moderate inheritance is a reasonable provision for the widow and dependants of the deceased. We should seek to assure this possibility for all. An immoderate inheritance, on the other hand, seems to me to serve no good social purpose, and looks unseemly in these modern days. It is leading a man into very great temptation to dangle before him the prospect, while he waits for a dead man's shoes, of an enormous unearned increment of his fortune. Unless that man has an unusually strong character, he will be tempted to become lazy and thriftless, unambitious and unenterprising. Was it no', H. G. Wells who once said:
No energetic directive people can be deeply in love with inheritance. It is a fatty degeneration of property.
§ In the light of these observations which, I tope, will win general acceptance, I propose to raise the exemption limit for Estate Duty from £100 to £2,000. No 1836 estate of less than £2,000 will pay Estate Duty any more. I further propose to regrade the duty so that all estates from £2,000 to £7,500 are partly relieved; estates from £7,500 to £12,500 pay as at present; and estates above £12,500 pay more than at present, on a scale rising gently up to a maximum of 75 per cent., as against the present 65 per cent., on estates of £2,000,000 and over. The results of this regrading are very remarkable. The total number of people who die each year is about 600,000. Of these, only about 200,000. —one in three—leave property which even now is subject to Estate Duty. As a result of the changes which I am proposing, 150,000 out of the 200,000 estates now liable—75 per cent. of the whole—will be entirely relieved. This change, taken alone, will cost the Revenue only £2 millions, out of a total yield from the Estate Duty of over £100 millions. To repeat—of the 200,000 estates now liable, 150,000 will be wholly free. Of the 50,000 which will still be liable, more than 30,000 will have their liability reduced, and the charge on rather less than 7,000 more will remain unaltered. The increased duty will apply only to about 10,000 estates, or 5 per cent. of the whole number.
§ Mr. Dalton
On the other hand, the total amount of capital now becoming liable to duty each year is about £680 millions. Of this suns, only some £94 millions—about 14 per cent. of the total—falls in the range of estates which, henceforward, will be wholly exempt from duty. But no less than £396 millions—nearly 60 per cent. of the total—belongs to those estates which will pay a higher duty. An estate of £2,000,000, having paid Estate Duty on the new scale of 75 per cent., would still leave £500,000 to the fortunate heirs of the deceased. They should be able to keep out of harm's way on that.
These changes in the Estate Duty will operate from tomorrow. Taken together, they will give an additional yield, from the duty thus remodelled, of £15 million this year and £22 millions in a full year.
I propose also to extend the period in which gifts inter vivosare liable to duty from three years, with one year for chari- 1837 ties, to five years, with two years for charities. In my first Budget speech, last October, I said that I regarded it as' part of the mission of this Government, and of the great Parliamentary majority which sustains it, representing an awakened and war-scarred generation, to close, from both ends, the gap which separates the standard of living of the great mass of our fellow citizens from that of a small privileged minority. I think that this rearrangement of the Death Duties is in harmony with that idea.
§ 1946–47 OUT-TURN
§ What is the final effect of these changes in taxation upon the balance sheet for 1946–47? The concessions on Purchase Tax and Entertainments Duty will cost about £113,000,000 this year. The in- creases in the earned income relief and the special allowance for the earnings of married women will cost a further £34,000.000. To offset this total of £47,000,000, there will be some £15,000,000 of additional revenue from the Estate Duty. There is thus a net loss of revenue of £32,000,000. The total revenue should, therefore, amount to £3,161,000,000, as against an expenditure estimated at £3,887,000,000. The deficit will thus he about £726,000,000. But, if we subtract from each side the terminal items which I have mentioned earlier, the deficit is reduced to only £300,000,000; and, on that basis, we shall still be paying—after these tax remissions and adjustments—out of every £1 of expenditure not less than 18s. 2d. from revenue. I regret that it has been necessary to speak in this degree of detail; but I thought it would be the wish of the Committee that these figures should be deployed at full length, for this first full year of the postwar period.
§ NATIONAL LAND FUND
§ Finally, I have a word to say about the land, and about the special fund to which I have already referred. In 1909, 37 years ago, David Lloyd George introduced a famous Budget. Liberals in those days sang the "Land Song "—" God gave the land to the people." I think that the right hon. Member for Woodford used to sing that song.1838
§ Mr. Dalton
Then I hope for the right hon. Gentleman's full support in the proposals I am about to make. The strains of that song have long since died away. But much land has passed, since then, from private into public ownership and 't is the declared policy of the Labour Party that much more should so pass, and that the principle of the public ownership of land should be progressively applied. There remains on the Statute Book one Section of the famous Finance Act of the late David Lloyd George which is of present day interest and importance in this connection. Section 56 of the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910—I will not trouble the Committee with its wording—provides that, when the Executors and the Commissioners of Inland Revenue agree, Death Duties may be paid by the handing over of land instead of cash.
There was never much follow-through of that Section during the years that followed. It has remained almost sterile upon the Statute Book. It has never been used as was originally intended, even although this mode of payment might often have been a great convenience to Executors, no less than to the State. Indeed, only twice in 36 years, in two quite trivial cases, has this Section been the means of bringing two small pieces of land into the hands of public authorities. One instance was when the Somerset County Council took over some land and school houses valued at £2,300, and the other was when four houses in London, valued at £5,000, were taken over by the Post Office. That is playing the fool with a great idea.
§ Mr. Dalton
Those arc the only two cases so far on record—though I regret to acid that, in 1930, the late Philip Snowden missed a great opportunity, when, in connection with the estate of the Duke of Montrose, he was offered Loch Lomond for the nation, and refused it. I regretted the refusal, as I told him at the time.
I propose that, from now on, muck more use should be made of this power to accept land in payment of Death Duties. Even as the law stands, much can be done. I have instructed the Inland Revenue to keep a constant watch for suitable instances, and to suggest this possibility to executors, particularly where 1839 landowners are embarrassed by the burden of their estates in relation to their liabilities.
Further, to fortify this provision, I propose, as I indicated earlier in my speech, to carry £50 millions in this coining year—due to the sale of war stores—to a special Fund, to be called the National Land Fund. It will be available for a variety of purposes, all designed to increase the National Estate.
I do not expect that this Fund will all be spent for some years to come. It will be a convenient reserve against any operations which it may seem to be in the public interest to undertake. Any balance in the Fund will be lent to the Treasury at a suitable rate of interest.
We shall use this Fund in various ways. In some cases, where payment of Death Duties is made in land, it may be in the public interest that that land should be transferred to some non-profit making body, which may not have the money with which to purchase it. The National Trust may be such a body, or the Youth Hostels Association. There are other examples. In such cases the National Laud Fund would be used to reimburse, wholly or in part, the Inland Revenue.
The necessary provision, up to this point, will be made in the Finance Bill. But I do not intend to stop there. In consultation with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Town and Country Planning, I have Inert considering future possibilities, including the creation of National Parks and the acquisition for the public of stretches of coast and tracts of open country. Legislation will be required for these further advances, and for using the Fund, in other selected cases, to cover the cost of acquisition, whether voluntary or compulsory, of land which, in our view, should be publicly owned.
The Fund might well be used to help such bodies as the National Trust, the Youth Hostels Association, the Ramblers' Associations and many other such societies, whose purpose is not to make profit, but to open the country to the people and to facilitate recreation, open air sport, and physical fitness. We regard all these bodies as friends of the public interest, as good supports of the commonwealth, and we desire to help them. We 1840 propose, following upon the announcement I have made today, to take counsel with them in due course.
There is still wonderful beauty to be found in Britain. Much of it has been spoiled and ruined beyond repair; but we still have a great wealth and variety of natural scenery in this land. The best that remains should surely become the heritage, not of a few private owners, but of all our people, and, above all, of the young and the fit, who shall find increased opportunities of health and happiness, companionship and recreation, in beautiful places. There is still a wonderful, incomparable beauty in Brita[...] in the sunshine on the hills, the mist adrift across the moors, the wind on the downs, the deep peace of the woodlands the wash of the waves against the white, unconquerable cliffs which Hitler never scaled. There are beauty and history in all these places. It is surely fitting, in this proud moment of our history, when we are celebrating victory and deliverance from overwhelming evils and horrors, that we should make through this fund a thankoffering for victory, and a war memorial which, in the judgment of many, is better than any work of art in stone or bronze. I should like to think that through this Fund we shall dedicate some of the loveliest parts of this land to the memory of those who died in order that we might live in freedom, those who for our sake went down to the dark river, those for whom already "the trumpets have sounded on the other side." Thus let this land of ours be dedicated to the memory of our dead, and to the use and enjoyment of the living for ever.
§ The Chairman
It is now my duty to propose the Budget Resolutions to the Committee. As right hon. and hon. Members will have received a copy of the Resolutions, I assume that it will be for the general convenience of the Committee if I put them in summary form.
§ Hon. Members: Agreed.
§ 1 CONTINUANCE OF PART I OF TILE. SAFE GUARDING OF INDUSTRIES ACT, I921. (CUSTOMS)
§ "That the duties of customs chargeable under the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921, for a period expiring on the nineteenth 1841 day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-six, shall continue to be chargeable for a further period of two years from the said day."
§ 2. COFFEE AND CHICORY EXTRACTS, ETC. (CUSTOMS)
" That customs duties shall be charged on preparations consisting of or including extracts, essences or other concentrations of coffee or chicory imported into the United Kingdom at the following rates, that is to say—
preparations not being Empire products —the lb. (dry weight)—9d.
preparations being Empire products—the lb. (dry weight)—7½d.,
or, where the preparation contains, as a part or ingredient thereof, any article which is liable to customs duty apart from this Resolution, with the duty aforesaid or with the duty chargeable in accordance with the Schedule to the Customs Tariff Act, 1876. whichever is the higher.'
§ 3. COCOA DRAWBACK—THEOBROMINE (CUSTOMS)
§ " That drawback under subsection (2) of section two of the Finance Act, 1911 (which provides for a drawback on goods manufactured or prepared from cocoa) shall not be paid in respect of theobromine.'
§ 4. ENTERTAINMENTS DUTY—GAMES AND SPORTS. ETC. (EXCISE)
§ " That as respects payments for admission to entertainments held on or after the fifth day of May, nineteen hundred and forty-six. in subsection (3) of section one of the Finance Act, 1935 (which provides for reduced rates of entertainments duty in the case of stage plays and certain other entertainments) for the words ' a circus or a travelling show ' there shall be substituted the words ' a circus, a travelling show, a menagerie or any game or sport other than the racing or trial of speed of animals, vehicles, vessels or aircraft.'
§ 5. ENTERTAINMENTS—EDUCATIONAL ENTERTAINMENTS (EXCISE)
§ " That in lieu of the exemption from entertainments duty of entertainments provided for partly educational purposes by a society, institution or committee not conducted or established for profit, there shall be an exemption of entertainments which consist of a stage play, a ballet, a performance of music, the exhibition of a cinematograph film, a lecture, a recitation, an exhibition of artistic work or an industrial exhibi- 1842 tion, being entertainments provided by a society. institution or committee which is not conducted or established for profit and the aims. objects and activities of which are partly educational.
§ 6. PASSENGER AIRCRAFT LICENCES (EXCISE)
§ " That an excise duty of one pound shall be charged on licences, to be taken out annually by the owner of a passenger aircraft or his agent, authorising the sale of intoxicating liquor to passengers in the aircraft."
§ 7. PURCHASE TAX (EXEMPTIONS AND REDUCTIONS OF RATES)
- (a) purchase tax shall cease to be chargeable in respect of goods of the classes specified in Part I of the Table set out at the end of this Resolution: and
- (b) purchase tax shall become chargeable at the reduced rate and at the basic rate in respect of goods of the classes specified respectively in Parts II and III of the said Table, not being in any case goods of the classes specified in the third column of the Seventh Schedule to the Finance (No. 2) Act. 1940, or in Part I of the said Table.''
§ PART I
§ Classes of Goods Becoming Exempt
§ Upholstered mattresses with interior springs to which the mark shown in the Third Schedule to the Apparel and Textiles Order, 1942, is applied in a manner consistent with any requirements as to the manner of application thereof imposed by or under that Order or the Limitation of Supplies (Cloth and Apparel) Order, 1941, and having effect in relation to such goods.
§ The following articles of a kind used in the preparation or serving of food or drink (but not including goldsmiths' and silversmiths' wares):—
- 1. Articles of china, porcelain, earthenware. stoneware or other potteryware.
- 2. Glassware, not being cut glass.
- 3. Hollow-ware of iron or steel (whether enamelled or not), aluminium. magnesium. copper or brass.
- 4. Articles of celluloid, bakelite or other plastic material derived from cellulose, casein, papier mache or synthetic resin.
§ Cupboards, dressers, draining boards and similar articles designed for use in kitchens.1843
§ Electric kettles and other cooking utensils incorporating heating elements (but not including goldsmiths' and silversmiths' wares).
§ Thermal insulation covers designed for domestic water systems.
§ Portable lamps of the following descriptions:—
- 1. Hand lamps designed for operation from electric mains.
- 2. Head, side and tail lamps designed for use on railways.
- 3. Signal gantry lamps.
§ Accessories for domestic stoves, grates, ranges and fireplaces, of the following descriptions:—
- 1. Fire bricks and similar articles designed for use as fuel economisers.
- 2. Trivets and similar articles.
§ Sensitised document base paper, transparent tracing paper base and tracing cloth.
§ clocks designed for use as public clocks with dials not less than two feet in diameter or with dials having a diagonal measurement of two feet six inches or more.
§ Typewriters, dictaphones, calculating machines and other office machinery. Cash registers.
§ PART II
§ Classes of Goods Becoming Chargeable at Reduced Rate
§ Vacuum flasks and vacuum jars, being flasks and jars of a kind used for domestic purposes (but not including goldsmiths' and silversmiths' wares)
§ Lawn mowers and garden rollers.
§ PART III
§ >Classes of Goods Becoming Chargeable at Basic Rate
§ Walking sticks and canes, being sticks and canes which, except for the ferrules, are wholly of wood.
§ Hair waving and hair drying machines. Garden furniture (but not including garden ornaments).
§ Trunks, bags, wallets, jewel cases, pouches, purses, suitcases and similar receptacles, being articles of leather, hide or skin, designed for use solely for the purposes of any trade, profession, employment or vocation and unsuitable for use for other purposes.
§ Photographic cameras.
§ Photographic enlargers.
§ Projectors for sub-standard film or for slides.
§ Lenses and other parts of, and accessories to, such cameras, enlargers or projectors as are mentioned in this Part of this Table.
§ Unexposed sensitised photographic paper, cloth, plates and film.
§ Musical instruments, including gramophones, player pianos and other similar instruments, and accessories to, and parts of, musical instruments.
§ Gramophone records. Player piano records. Radio gramophones.1844
§ 8. PURCHASE TAx—PROCESSORS
§ " That as from such date as may be specified by any Act of the present Session relating to Finance (not being a date earlier than the passing of this Resolution)—
- (a) purchase tax shall be charged where any process is applied to, or so as to produce, chargeable goods of a class specified by or under any such Act;
- (b) all persons who, in the course of or for the purposes of their business, apply any process to, or so as to produce, any such goods shall he included among the persons who are, under the enactments relating to purchase tax, required to be registered;
- (c) the said enactments shall have effect subject to such adaptations and modifications connected with the matters aforesaid as may be provided for by any such Act.
§ 9. INCOME TAX—MARRIED WOMEN'S
§ " That subsection (2) of section eighteen of the Finance Act, 1920 (which, as amended by subsequent enactments, provides, in the case of married persons, for an allowance in respect of wives' earned income of an amount equal to nine-tenths of that earned income or an allowance of eighty pounds, whichever is the less) shall have effect as if the words "seven-eighths" were substituted for the words "nine-tenths" and the words "one hundred and ten pounds were substituted for the words" eighty pounds ".
§ 10. INCOME TAX—BENEFIT AND FAMILY ALLOWANCES
§ " That income tax shall be charged on benefit under any Act of the present Session relating to National Insurance or any Act amending any such Act, and on family allowances payable under the Family Allowances Act, 1945, or any Act amending that Act."
§ II. SURTAX ON SETTLED INCOME
§ " That where income arising during the lifetime of the settlor is by virtue or in consequence of a settlement made on or after the tenth clay of April, nineteen hundred and forty-six, payable to or applicable for the benefit of any person other than the settlor, it shall, unless it is income from property of which the settlor has divested himself absolutely by the settlement, be treated for surtax purposes as income of the settlor; but this shall not apply to any income if the income is payable to an individual for his own use or is applicable for the benefit, of an individual named in the settlement, and the individual to Whom it is payable or [or whose benefit it is applicable is neither in the service of the settlor nor accustomed to act as the sottlor's solicitor or agent.''1845
§ 12. EXCESS PROFITS TAX—TERMINAL PROVISIONS
§ "That it is expedient to make provision as to the extent to which matters arising during any accounting period falling wholly or partly after such date as may be fixed by any Act of the present Session relating to Finance for the termination of excess profits tax can be taken into account for the purposes of excess profits tax."
§ 13. NATIONAL DEFENCE CONTRIBUTION—EFFECT OF TERMINATION OF EXCESS PROFITS TAX
§ " That Section nineteen of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1939 (which fixes the relation of Excess Profits Tax to the National Defence Contribution) shall not apply to the National Defence Contribution for any accounting period or part of an accounting period falling after such date as may be fixed by any Act of the present Session relating to Finance for the termination of Excess Profits Tax, and that amendments consequential on the termination of Excess Profits Tax shall be made in the enactments relating to the assessment and collection of the National Defence Contribution."
§ 14. RATES OF ESTATE DUTY
§ " That in the case of persons dying on or after the tenth day of April, nineteen hundred and forty-six, the scale of rates set out in the Table below shall be substituted for the scale of rates set out in the Sixth Schedule to the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1940, as the scale of rates of estate duty."
|Principal Value of Estate.||Rate per cent. of Duty.|
|£2,000 and not exceeding||3,000||1|
|3,000 and not exceeding||5,000||2|
|5,000 and not exceeding||7,500||3|
|7,500 and not exceeding||10,000||4|
|10,000 and not exceeding||12,500||6|
|12,500 and not exceeding||15,000||8|
|15,000 and not exceeding||20,000||10|
|20,000 and not exceeding||25,000||12|
|25,000 and not exceeding||30,000||14|
|30,000 and not exceeding||35,000||16|
|35,000 and not exceeding||40,000||18|
|40.000 and not exceeding||45,000||20|
|45,000 and not exceeding||50,000||22|
|50,000 and not exceeding||60,000||24|
|60,000 and not exceeding||75,000||27|
|75,000 and not exceeding||100,000||30|
|100,000 and not exceeding||150,000||35|
|150,000 and not exceeding||200,000||40|
|200,000 and not exceeding||250,000||45|
|250,000 and not exceeding||300,000||50|
|300,000 and not exceeding||500,000||55|
|500,000 and not exceeding||750,000||60|
|750,000 and not exceeding||1,000,000||65|
|1,000,000 and not exceeding||2,000,000||70|
|2,000,000 and not exceeding||75|
§ 15. ESTATE DUTY—GUTS inter vivos,ETC.
§ " That, in the case of persons dying on or after the tenth day of April, nineteen hundred and forty-six, periods of five years and two years before the death shall be substituted for the periods of three years and one year before the death which are material for Estate Duty purposes in relation to gifts inter vivosand in certain other circumstances."
§ 16. STAMPS—UNIT TRUSTS
- (a) the enactments imposing Stamp Duty shall, with such modifications as may be specified in any Act of the present Session relating to Finance, have effect as if units or other shares in property subject to unit trust schemes were stock, releases or reissues of such units (including issues of fresh units where other units have been released) were transfers, and hearer certificates in respect of such units were stock certificates to bearer, and where, whether before or after the passing of this Resolution, such bearer certificates as aforesaid have been issued before the passing of the said Act, Stamp Duty shall be charged in respect thereof when they are assigned, transferred or in any manner negotiated:
- (b) Stamp Duty shall be charged under the heading "Settlement" on the trust deed or other similar instrument of a unit trust whatever the nature of the property which becomes subject to the trusts and by reference to the amount or value of all such property, and shall be so charged as often as any property becomes subject to the trusts as if, on each occasion, a new deed or other instrument were executed in relation to the new property.''—[Mr. Dalton.]
§ 17. AMENDMENT OF LAW
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient to amend the law with respect to the National Debt and the public revenue, and to make further provision in connection with finance."—[Mr. Dalton.]
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
The right hon. Gentleman's severest critic would not deny that he is a master of lucid and forceful exposition, and certainly this afternoon, in the manner in which he has presented this Budget, which must in itself have been a considerable physical strain, he has well lived up to and, indeed, has fortified that reputation. As to the manner of the right hon. Gentleman's exposition, we on this side have no complaint whatever to make, but as to the nature of that which he we shall from time to time, perhaps, have a few observations to 1847 make. not all of them of a laudatory character. As he knows, in accordance with the memorable traditions of this Committee, this valuable copy of the Resolutions has only just reached our hands, arid, therefore, what I have to say wilt have to be of a relatively cursory character, although I hope it will not he entirely inappropriate.
First, about the past year, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to congratulate himself that he has spent £81 million less than his predecessor had budgeted for—I hope that I have got the figure right. That achievement is, perhaps, not quite so remarkable as the right hon. Gentleman made it seem, for his predecessor's figures were for a period of total war, and I am sorry to say that there are one or two other instances in his statement where similar forgetfulness took place May I remind the Committee that in the year 1939, which was the last financial year before the war, the Government of the day introduced a Budget with a figure of £1,000 million, and that the present Prime Minister described it as colossal? Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and we make allowance for his difficulties—says that he has done better than some sections of the Press forecast, which is quite true, but he has presented us with a figure almost exactly four times as large as the expenditure of 1930. I mention that because I know that the right hon. Gentleman himself would agree that the gravity of the burden which we still have to bear must not be overlooked, merely because some financial newspapers thought it was going to be even worse than, in fact, it will be. The amount this year of £3,800 million is still nearly four times as much as the Budget put forward in preparation for war. I think that the right hon. Gentleman would also agree that the burden of taxation borne by all sections of people throughout the war has been staggering, and is, so far as I know, without precedent in this country, and, indeed, without a complete parallel in any other country, including our Allies who fought by our side. I do not think that that would be disputed, and it is in the light of that fact that we have to look at the tax remissions which the right hon. Gentleman has made today.
Nor, I think, would he deny that even the present burden cannot be 1848 continued indefinitely and that further remissions must be made. It is in that spirit—not in any carping one, I hope—that I look at the gap with which the right hon Gentleman has presented us today
I think that there is a wide measure of agreement nowadays that the sanctity which used to be attached to the 365 clays no longer applies, in the sense that it is not just the financial year but a period of years at which we look. But, none the less, I am grateful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for giving us this picture—for which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) asked—over a period of years. This picture remains a very serious one in the sense of the burden which the taxpayers of this country will be called upon to bear in relation to the burden which in the years before the war was then thought to he very heavy by everyone, including the present Prime Minister. I am not denying that much of the legislation and the benefits which will come from it arose from the preparations made during the lifetime of the Coalition Government. But it is the duty of the Committee, in the light of the fuller information which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given us about the years ahead, to try to see what our financial position is going to be, and what the burdens are going to be which our people will be called upon to carry. I emphasise that, because if the gap over a period of years cannot be narrowed and the Budget cannot be balanced, the only result will be inflation, as I know the right hon. Gentleman himself will not deny.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of the cost-of-living subsidy and of the Government's intention to retain it. I was not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman issued a warning about the cost of that subsidy He will remember that the right hon Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) told him last autumn that he thought then that hi., estimate of the cost was too low, and so it has proved. It may well be that with the cost of importing food, he will find even his present estimate too low. At any rate, I am glad that he has uttered a warning about it.
Then, with regard to our civil charges in Germany, I was staggered at the figure of £80 million. I did riot think that it 1849 was anything like that amount. I share the right hon. Gentleman's views about that. We should not be paying reparations to Germany, which is what this really means. We shall be interested to hear later on a little more about that position and how it has come about in order that it may be remedied, as remedied it surely must be.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he would have to go slow on tax remission. He spoke about the Purchase Tax. So far as I am concerned, he spread a little gloom over me by saying that the Purchase Tax was not to stop. I had always hoped that it was a war measure and would go when the war ended. He tried to comfort us for that by giving a long stream of remissions, which began to impress me quite a lot until I added up what they were worth in relation to what we are still to pay, and found that the comparison was not so good. In a full year on that list of specified articles, the Treasury will let us off a payment of about £15 million and will be getting about £160 million. That is not quite as good as it might sound. It is a relatively small remission which the right hon. Gentleman, with his usual Parliamentary skill, caused to sound so much more than it is.
There is one warning which I would give. The right hon. Gentleman expressed satisfaction at the narrowing of the gap between our expenditure and national income. When it is estimated that our fiscal policy should be harnessed to the achievement of full employment by unbalancing our national Budget, overspending in some years and under-spending in others, it is, I think I am right in saying, maintained that the function of the Government is to spend beyond its revenue in years of depression. From that it follows that in time of full economic activity, such as at present, the Government should, if possible, budget for a surplus. I am not saying that the right hon. Gentleman could have done that this year—we understand the exceptional circumstances. But I recall that because, unless that is remembered, there is a possibility that the position which the right hon. Gentleman has today described will result in a measure of optimism which would not be justified by the underlying truths of the situation. The fact is that in a postwar year with an 1850 economic and employment situation such as this, the Government should be able to budget for a surplus to lay up against the lean years or had economic years which will most certainly come.
There are one or two more general observations which I should like to make This is a point which I would impress upon the Government. The right hon. Gentleman said about the position of industry—I could not agree with him more—that the only way to avoid inflation is to increase production. That is absolutely true. He made an appeal about that, and he has nude his contribution in respect of E.P.T. which we all warmly welcome. With regard to what is to come thereafter, we can neither welcome it nor frown upon it, because we do net know what it is. It may be that it will never materialise and, if so, that may be better for the country, for industry and, perhaps, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
What about the position of industry? What are his colleagues doing? We really must ask the Government to make up their minds as to what is their attitude to that part of industry which, even under the present Socialist dispensation, they propose to leave to private enterprise. At present there is nothing but order, counter order and disorder. A Minister makes a statement on Thursday and a colleague goes into the country at the weekend and makes a precisely opposite statement. We would like to know where we are. May I give this example? The right hon. Gentleman talks as if industry would go right ahead as a result of this encouraging Budget. It is good to hear that from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but has he read what the Minister of Fuel and Power said last Sunday, and did his speech represent the policy of the Government? If another speech like that follows on what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, then the good will which he has tried to create by his Budget speech will be dissipated.
On Friday the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Shawcross) let loose a tirade of abuse on the motor manufacturing industry which was admirably replied to by the joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply. He made a very good speech, if I may say so, because I agree with every word of it. I have one quotation from it here in which he contradicted the hon. Member who had attacked the industry. He said: 1851I am very pleased to pay tribute to the industry for the response which it has made since the war to the Government's request t hat it should expand exports to the maximum."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1946; 121, c. 1615.]He went on to explain how the exports had increased. I think that he said that a 50 per cent. increase in the number of cars exported is very greatly to the credit of the industry. That is admirable. But the Minister of Fuel and Power went to Leeds and held up to ridicule the very industry which the joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply had been defending from that Box on Friday. Where are we?
How can the Prime Minister expect re salts from his appeal to industry and from his broadcast unless he can, at least, coordinate the utterances of his own Front Bench? I have got a bit of advice for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I suggest that he holds a little class for his colleagues and tells them that, henceforth, they must stick to the line which he has tried to put forward in his Budget Speech, because if they do not they are wrecking;he Government's policy. It is really intolerable that one weekend the Prime Minister should broadcast and talk about the 1940 spirit, and a few weekends later the Minister of Fuel and Power should attack one of the largest industries of our country with which he has, in himself, no concern. I cannot help wishing that the Minister had read the Prime Minister's own advice on the subject of industry given to the House a little while ago. He said this:I think our motto should be to look first of all to see that we are doing our own job well, and not always thinking that it is the other fellow who is slacking.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1946; Vol. 419; c. 1970.]That is very good advice for the Minister of Fuel and Power.
I am bound to tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and I am referring to this now because it is the heart of the matter—that unless our industrial production expands rapidly within the year the figures which the Chancellor has presented to us this afternoon arc, to borrow an historic phrase of the Lord Privy Seal, meaningless symbols. It does depend on whether industry can do what we expect of it, and, therefore, 1852 industry has a right to ask what is the Government's policy. I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman the impression which we get today.. It is like a bad rider who drives his spurs into his horse and the next minute jabs it in the mouth and, when the poor brute gets into a "muck sweat," beats it and says," What a rotten horse you are," while it is really the rider who is both arrogant and inept. There is truth there, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should curb the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is to turn his meaningless symbols into live figures. I will conclude with one reference to the Land Fund. We should like to examine these proposals, but so far as I am concerned I am not against the principle of the thing at all. I have never quite understood why land could not be accepted by the Treasury in the same way as other possessions and I hope one of the results—I do not want to talk any more about the Minister of Fuel and Power—of his interest and activity will he that he will respond to the appeal of, I think, the Yorkshire Miners' Union and do something about the bit of vandalism which is taking place there just now, because we hope that if these places, which have no other future, are to be preserved for the people, they, should not be destroyed by the Minister of Fuel and Power before the people get the chance which the right hon. Gentleman is anxious that they should have.
I would conclude by saying this. The Budget presented to us by the right hon. Gentleman, with his customary skill, we will examine with careful criticism. If he will now and in the times ahead tell the country frankly what the position is and not conceal from us the mounting charges we shall have to hear, then the country, no doubt will be ready to face that situation. It is not by any means an easy one and my anxiety is lest his statement should have given the impression that things are easier than they are. If that impression gets abroad I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman, as some previous Chancellors of the Exchequer had to do when they created that impression, will put the exact position before the country when he winds up the Debate. Our approach to this matter and to all other matters will be on a national basis, and our criticisms will be directed to those proposals which we do not think will serve the nation well.
§ 5.45 P.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
It is the pleasant custom and kindly tradition in this House on Budget Day that the first speeches after that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer should take the form of, if I may say so, a metaphorical shaking of the hand before the contest, a fraternisation in the dressing-room before the match begins. I do most sincerely congratulate the Chancellor. He has an amazing gift of presenting the thing lucidly, clearly and simply and with a mastery over figures; which, so far as I can recall, has only been equalled by Mr. Bonar Law, who was, in that respect, undoubtedly a quite outstanding Chancellor. I offer my most sincere congratulations on this Budget to the right hon. Gentleman. I also want most sincerely to congratulate and thank his advisers in the Inland Revenue and Treasury. It is amazing how well they estimate and prognosticate not only the expenditure, but the revenue year by year. The Chancellor stands up at that Box and takes all the credit to himself saying, "Look how well I have estimated what the revenue will be. I was out only a few pounds." The real credit must go, of course, to the advisers 'o the Treasury and to the Board of Inland Revenue, who serve the country so well.
The next thing to which I should like to call attention is the fact that we seem to have gone back to the old days before the war when there were excitement and interest in Budget Day. Those of us who are older Members here will remember those days and recall that today was very like them. The House was full, the galleries crowded and all of us agog with interest. During the war years Budget Day became almost a matter of indifference. We could not express our criticism nor could we do much, and so we accepted what the Chancellor said. I am glad to sec the renewed interest today.
The matter upon which we should all take great pride, not only in this House but throughout the country, is the wonderful resiliency of this old country. It is always able to rise to the occasion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) referred to the Budget before the war when we were budgetting for an expenditure of £1,000 million. May I say that I made my protest then that it did not seem to be enough 1854 either for home services, and certainly not to put this country in a proper state of defence. Soon afterwards we were right in the war, and increased money had to be found. It was found in spite of the fact that millions were taken away from productive industry. Here again in our first year of Peace, when we have not got back into our ordinary peacetime methods or the ordinary flow of trade, and when there are still many hundreds of thousands in the Services, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is able to estimate that in the coming year the Revenue will very nearly reach the required amount of expenditure. Leaving out those terminal amounts, the Revenue is to the Expenditure in the proportion of 18 to 20; nine-tenths is already forthcoming. This is a wonderful tribute to this great country of ours and to its people.
Might I also take up the point that has been touched upon by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington in regard to the increased expenditure, amounting to over £3,000 million? I call his attention to the fact that, in my view, looked at in the proper way, this country was never so wealthy as it is today. Never were there so many skilled and trained men, and never were there so many new methods and new sciences. Never was our capacity for production greater than it is today. As our expenditure ones up, so our strength increases. I. therefore, look forward to the future with considerable optimism.
I wish the Chancellor had said a little more about his five year plan. If I may boast, I think I was one of the first—in fact, I believe, almost the very first—to call attention to what I regarded as a wrong method of budgeting. I remember very well that we were budgeting and that the speech of the Chancellor of the day was following along the usual lines, and I pointed out that it was much the same speech which was made to the Committee of Ways and Means in the time of Edward III. All we were considering was how we were to meet the actual expenditure that the Executive were going to undertake for the one particular year without regard to whether the public income was rising and wealth increasing, or whether we were on one of those downward slopes leading to less production and less wealth.
The Chancellor talked today about the trend of expenditure. I wish he had 1855 spent a little more time—and I hope he will do so before we leave this Committee—in dealing much more fully with what he can see ahead if things go right in this country. I suggested this to one of his predecessors who had far and away, less courage than he has. He replied "I would not indulge in such a prophecy. Suppose I turned out to be wrong? "But the Chancellor need not be frightened, for we know how carefully his advisers can make their proper calculations and how true they are likely to be. It would be a great benefit, I am sure, if we could see the picture spread over this period not only of the expenditure, which lie has already touched on, but showing whether he can see a rise in the country's wealth, as I am sure he can. I am glad that the Chancellor has done what he has been able to do in this Budget to increase the stimulation of production. It is not only necessary, as he says, to maintain it as one of our best weapons for keeping down inflation during the increase in production, but it is essential so as to increase the export trade and thus meet that tremendous deficit of £750,000,000 in our overseas trade balance.
Mention has been made of Death Duties and agricultural land. I remember being told by the late Sir Austen Chamberlain of a conversation that had taken place between his father, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, and Mr. Gladstone at Hawarden after Mr. Gladstone had retired and immediately after Sir William Harcourt had introduced Death Duties. Mr. Gladstone had made this remark to Mr. Joseph Chamberlain at the time: "This may be the death knell of agricultural estates in this country.'' That was certainly an overstatement. But Death Duties have undoubtedly had a very big effect on agricultural estates. I will give a comparison to the Committee. Supposing there is a very wealthy man whose wealth in a company is represented by shares, when that man comes to die no single person need have any tear of losing his job. The owner's shares will be distributed, which is right. I wonder whether people who have denounced Death Duties have realised that probably they have been the saving of this country from a graver fate and that since 1894 there has been a greater distribution of wealth instead of it all being con- 1856 centrated into the hands of a very few. On the other hand, on the death of the old landowner, whose wealth depended upon his land, either the estate had to be mortgaged or a portion of it had to be sold. His successors kept up their positions, and kept up the main mansion, but they now have very much less with which to undertake what the old landlord undertook on the countryside. He fulfilled a very different function from that of the town landlord by providing repairs, gates, and fencing, drainage, and so on, and generally helping the countryside. Undoubtedly, the country landlords for the last 45 years have been less capable of doing that than before, with the result that the tenant farmers have suffered, and agriculture and production have suffered.
§ Mr. C. Davies
They never took advantage of the Clause which was put in the Budget of 1910. I think it is a kind of pride in them to hold on. They do not realise that they are doing damage to themselves and certainly to the tenants of the countryside. It would have been better had they taken advantage of that Clause and handed over a portion to the State which would have developed it through the county councils for the benefit of the community.
But, for today, I have said enough, and, in conclusion, I should like to repeat my warmest and most sincere congratulations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)
My friend Joe Tinker, who used to be a Member of this House in the years which are gone, always insisted that it should be the right of one of the back benchers in the Labour Party to take his part in the congratulating the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the leaders of the two other. parties had offered their congratulations the first day that the Budget was introduced. Without wishing to appear too presumptuous, I feel that this is a very special occasion when I might be allowed to offer to the Chancellor my own extremely warn congratulations on the speech which he has made and on the Budget which he has introduced.
1857 The right hon. Gentleman will perhaps permit me one or two personal reflections. I was very close to the first Labour Chancellor who brought the first Labour Budget into this House. I had the privilege of carrying Mr. Snowden's first Budget in that little red box and I certainly thought —as did most of those on the Labour benches on that occasion—that it was a very wonderful Budget in which he was able to distribute some £30million of extra money that had come his way—partly as the result of a previous Administration—in what was called "the establishment in reality of the free breakfast table." This Budget entirely outshines that one. The Chancellor will bring encouragement and hope to great numbers of our people by the plans he has laid bare today. I watched the faces of Members opposite when he was making his speech, and I derived appropriate encouragement therefrom. In fact, the party opposite realised, as I realised, that in many respects this Budget will start the country on a new path towards the financial provisions which the nation has to make. It will have great consequences for the general welfare of our people.
With regard to the point my right hon. Friend made about starting again from where my old friend Philip Snowden failed—in connection with land which can be received as payment of tax—I believe he may go further than his Death Duties of 75 per cent. If he does, his officers will not have to do any persuading, because there will be no other way in which to pay the tax if the process is continued to its logical conclusion. I would like to refer to what was said by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) about Sir William Harcourt. Mr. Gladstone spoke rather dolefully about the consequences of Death Duties and their effect on the land, but Sir William Harcourt said, in connection with the introduction of that Budget, that we were all Socialists now. He referred to the fact that there was being converted into public property, even although it was only 8 per cent., some of the wealth which had been retained for private enjoyment and private ownership.
§ Mr. Clement Davies
I do not want to do an injustice to that grand old man. He did not object to Death Duties dolefully or otherwise; he simply made a remark as to 1858 the possible effect on agriculture as it was then carried out by landowners.
§ Mr. Hudson
I do not think it was an altogether encouraging remark which the grand old man made. At any rate, I think the Chancellor is on the right track, and I am sure that we on these benches are all delighted at the step he has taken.
I was also pleased to hear my right hon. Friend say that he was not altogether satisfied about the behaviour of those who have been paving Excess Profits Tax, and the methods they have adopted to benefit from the encouragement which he gave in his last interim Budget. My right hon. Friend said that some had been doing the right thing, but from my reading of the reports of companies I have noticed many cases where money, instead of being put to reserves, or being reinvested in new capital undertakings, has been squandered, as my right hon. Friend said, in payments towards revenue. It seems to me that there has been very little encouragement for continuing the rebate of E.P.T., and the further step of removing the tax in due time. Unless there is some radical modification in the attitude of the bigger companies in regard to this matter I hope my right hon. Friend will put on a new tax to make up for this remission, and will insist upon such companies playing their part in avoiding inflation. I observe that the gentry who divide E.P.T. money between themselves never think of that money going for the purpose of countering inflationary processes. It is always the working class, it is said, who are likely to be responsible for the inflation. If we are to discourage workers—and I think the Chancellor is right, in present circumstances, in so doing—from wasteful expenditure, that should apply all round. There should be no waste of the wealth which my right hon. Friend makes available in the form of remission of E.P.T.
May I now make two small criticisms? I was not altogether surprised to learn of the amount of money we are still having to pay for the rehabilitation of Germany. I think the Government, in the next few months, will have to reconsider very carefully the issue which has been presented so well in this week's "Economist." There, it says that the policy we are pursuing in Germany is one of great difficulty, and is leading to so many setbacks in the Germans' efforts 1859 to build themselves up again that it is almost inevitable that we shall have to continue to pay out, for Germany, money which we badly need for ourselves. I do not feel that the Government really need urging in this direction, but I hope back benchers will give them every possible encouragement in embarking on a saner and more reconciling policy towards the German people in order that we may be relieved of this enormous burden of expenditure for the rehabilitation and policing of Germany. I am sure the Chancellor will do what he can.
My second and last point is this: What does the Chancellor think about his announcement today that he has persuaded the working classes to make small contributions, up to£ 520 million, towards general war savings? It is all to the good, but it is not as good as the approximate £500 million which they have spent to provide the Chancellor with his £300 million from beer. I know the Chancellor will not complain about my making that point—
§ Mr. Hudson
I have to put it any way round in order to make the point. Recently, from the opposite direction, I tackled the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Food on this matter. The Government must face up to the fact that the raising of money by means of a Beer Tax is a thoroughly expensive process. The Government get their £300 million, but the workers pay, roughly, about £500 million in order that the Government may get that £300 million. It is a thoroughly reprehensible process. We should go back to Adam Smith's old canons of taxation that one should take out of people's pockets about as much as one expects to put into the Inland Revenue. This process of raising the revenue by taxation upon beer is a thoroughly wasteful process, and is putting into the hands of the brewers a great amount of wealth which, if we followed a different line, we would get in the form of savings. If the wealth saved upon liquor consumption were to be in the form of savings, it would be a vastly better financial process from the point of view of the country than that now being pursued. With that one little note of criticism, I end where I began—with the warmest congratulations personally to the Chancellor for having done what he 1860 has done, in the best way in these difficult times.
§ 6.12 p.m.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
I do not want to follow the hon. Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) into the many interesting details which he presented for the Committee's interest, but I want to touch on one point of the Chancellor's Budget to which no hon. Member has yet alluded. We are in a very congratulatory mood, but it is not usual for a Member of the Opposition to have anything very glowing to say about the Government's Budget. I was, however, delighted to hear the concession that the Chancellor had indicated he is to make when he presents the Finance Bill to the House in connection with the lowering of the Entertainments Duty with regard to various forms of sport. I am particularly glad from the point of view of those interested in football. Many hon. Members will have received similar representations to those I have received in recent weeks with regard to this very important sport, in which many millions of people in Great Britain are so keenly interested. The Chancellor's statement—I am speaking from the point of view of those interested in football, but it applies to all the other sports— will be received with very great approval and congratulations My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) alluded in some detail to the Chancellor's proposals with regard to the acceptance of land for Death Duties. Again, as an Opposition Member—and I must at once own to my interest in landed property, as that is the proper thing to do—I am in cordial agreement with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery about this' being a very salutary proposal indeed on the Chancellor's behalf. For years in this House —all 'the 15 years I have been here, aril before that—until at least before the war, when any Finance Bill was considered in Committee or on Report, a Clause was invariably put down to plead with the Chancellor of the day, whether he was a Conservative or in a National or Coalition Administration, to make this concession to the landed interest. I suppose those are words which will not appeal very much to the Members on the Government Benches. All the Chancellors I can remember always turned it down. It has fallen, I am sorry to say, to a Socialist 1861 Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a concession that I never thought any Socialist Chancellor would be willing to make. I only hope there is nothing sinister about it, and that it is not just a little sop before we have a vast scheme of land nationalisation legislation presented to this House of Commons. I do not know; only those who sit on that Bench know what they intend to do in the life of this Parliament in regard to nationalisation of the land or if there is no time in the life of this Parliament, if they are so fortunate in the next appeal to the people of this country as to be returned in sufficient numbers once again to preside over the destinies of this nation I must be grateful for small mercies. I was very glad to hear my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery giving an interesting anecdote about Mr. Gladstone, the grand old Victorian statesman, talking with Sir William Harcourt at Hawarden Castle in North Wales when the Death Duties first formed part of Britain's Budget, in, I think, the fourth Gladstone Administration of 1894. The Parliament was from 1892 to 1895, and I think it was in the spring of 1894 that the proposals which came to be known as the Death Duties first formed a part of a Budget and a Finance Bill.
I did not know of that interesting anecdote to which my hon. and learned Friend referred, but I am delighted to think that Mr. Gladstone should, with his great far-seeing capacity, at once realise that, as my hon. and learned Friend said, Death Duties, as far as agricultural estates were concerned, must have a very prejudicial and deleterious effect. My hon. and learned Friend with whom I so seldom agree—that is a matter of great sorrow as far as I am concerned—is in wholehearted agreement with me on this point. There can be no doubt that the Grand Old Man's prognostications have been very amply fulfilled. My hon. and learned Friend was inclined to suggest that if landlords had been more willing to take advantage of some obscure Clause in the People's Budget of 1909 or 1910, things might have gone better with them. As a small boy I remember that Budget, but I cannot profess to be intimate with its details, and that was a Clause I did not know about My hon. and learned Friend said that if they had taken ad- 1862 vantage of this Clause, conditions would have been better for agriculture and things as a whole. I must bow before the superior wisdom of my hon. and learned Friend, or, rather. his superior knowledge, because I am completely ignorant as to the nature of this Clause.
Going back to the main theme, there can be no question that the landed interest all round has suffered very heavily indeed in the last 50 odd years as a result of the Government of the day being unwilling to accept land in lieu of money in payment of Death Duties. My hon. and learned Friend put to the Committee very graphically what has resulted, and hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen opposite should know very well that there have been in the past very many large landed estates in this country the owners of which and their families depended entirely on the land They had no other source of revenue to fall back upon. My hon. and learned Friend agrees with me once again that when the head of a family and the owner of a large estate died, not merely had he very often to mortgage his estate to provide for his children, but he had either to mortgage or sell to provide for the Death Duties for which the Government of the day at once asked from his heirs and successors. At last a Socialist Chancellor of the Exchequer has decided to accept land in lieu of money, and it certainly will be a great help to those who even today have no other source of revenue than the land which they have owned for so long and for which they still have such very great care, anxiety and solicitude.
My hon. and learned Friend quoted Mr. Gladstone. I did not agree with him in the other parts of his speech when he took up what the Chancellor said about the balancing of this Budget and the way in which the Chancellor hoped to balance future Budgets, or nearly balance them. I thought my hon. and learned Friend was too optimistic when he associated himself with the Chancellor's rosy optimism in this direction. I only hope my hon. and learned Friend will be right. He spoke about the resilience of this great old country of ours. I agree with him about it in the past, but will it be resilient in the future?
The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Murray) is more 1863 sanguine than I am. It is only natural that he should he, because he has been sent here to support the political and economic theory with which I am completely at variance, and, naturally, it is up to him to buoy up his Government, and particularly the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with hope, false though it may prove to be.
My hon. and learned Friend is different: he inherits the Gladstonian tradition. He would not have quoted the Grand Old Man at such length today if he had not still in his heart the hest principles of Liberalism— Victorian Liberalism at its best. Indeed, it is very often a great grief to me, after hearing the hon. and learned Gentleman in his best moments putting forward the grandest precepts of Victorian radicalism, afterwards associating himself with the Socialist philosophy which comes from the Government Front Bench. I think he will forgive me for saying it, hut he was rather guilty of doing that this afternoon. I do not say it offensively. I shudder to think what the Grand Old Man would think of the principles of finance as practised in this House today by Members of the Government Front Bench, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in particular. I think my hon. and learned Friend, when he comes to reflect, will he inclined to agree with me that there is a good deal of truth in what I have said. The Grand Old Man would most certainly have recoiled in horror from all these instalments of National Socialism—I do not use the term offensively—which have already emanated, and which we are informed will continue to emanate, instalment by instalment, so long as this Parliament lasts or, indeed, so long as this Parliament is content to support the present Administration sitting on the Treasury Bench.
I do not think Mr. Gladstone would have agreed with my hon. and learned Friend that the production, the output and the export trade of this country will expand under the Socialist economic regime which we now have installed with such a large majority in this country. I hope I am wrong. I say that even as an Opposition Member. However, I cannot agree with my hon. and learned Friend that everything in the garden is as lovely with regard to our economic position as 1864 he would indicate to this Committee is the case.
I conclude by saying that whole I share to the full the apprehension- expressed in moderate language by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) about the way we are drifting in out economic and financial policy, I am grateful at all event, for the two concessions which the Chancellor made today —the one which affects the millions of sport-loving people of this country, arid the other the amelioration of the very hard hit and quite deserving people, though few in number, who represent the landed interests of till, country.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Colonel J R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Central)
It is early for any hon. Member to sit back and regard the whole picture of the Budget as it was unfolded today in all its aspects, but knowing the difficulty that back benches have of intervening at a later stage in these Debates, I take this opportunity to comment shortly on one or two points which stand out clearly as a result of the Chancellor's exposition this afternoon.
There is evidence that the right hon. Gentleman, and hon. Members on the benches opposite, are beginning to realise the necessity of producing an incentive to the industry of this country if we are to regain the position which we once had, and little by little we are glad to see that recognition of the need of incentive is being offered. So while there is, naturally perhaps on these benches, a tendency to fear the Greeks and the gifts that they bring, nevertheless I think it will be generally welcomed that the Chancellor has seen fit in some cases to abolish, and in some cases to reduce, Purchase Tax, although I regret that he warned the Committee this afternoon that he regarded this tax as being something in the nature of a permanency. Also we can only look with favour upon his decision to abolish that extremely unfair and crippling tax of E.P.T., and I congratulate him upon his wisdom in so doing.
He made one comment with indications of a veiled threat behind it, that if private enterprise did not behave itself, he had other rods in pickle for it, and he indicated that since his interim Budget had been introduced, the response of private enterprise to the ploughing back of profits into industry had in fact been patchy. I 1865 think that all those who have the interests of this country and its trade at heart will be at one with him in recognising the importance and the essentiality of preserving our financial resources, in order to be able to compete in what will be a desperately competitive market throughout the world a few years ahead. So we have but little sympathy with those who, at the expense of their future prosperity, are in fact wasting their assets at the present time.
However, I would like to remind the Chancellor—who is unfortunately absent at the moment—that at the time the Bank of England Bill was introduced, I pointed out to him that the very result which has come about today, would arise from the basis upon which he proposed to calculate the compensation he was giving to stockholders at that time. So long as the only consideration upon which his eyes arc fixed is the earning capacity of a concern, when it comes to the consideration of the compensation that shall be paid to it under nationalisation, so long will there be a tendency for all concerns in the country to tend to improve their possibilities under nationalisation in the future, by increasing their dividends at the present time. I warned the right hon. Gentleman that unless he could give some satisfaction and some assurance that in the calculations which he had made, by which he arrived at the figure with which the Bank of England stockholders were to be compensated, and that unless that compensation contained a measure of capital value for the assets which the Bank of England held then, he was bound to produce some such result as that of which the right hon. Gentleman is complaining today. That is one of the things he should bear in mind in any nationalisation scheme, and in the coal nationalisation scheme which we are now considering— that the current earnings or past earnings of a concern by themselves are not enough If that is the only yardstick by which compensation is to be measured, an attitude of mind will be created which will tend to make industrialists want to raise their dividends as high as they can, at the cost of future security.
The second matter is the desperate insecurity in which the country is living at present. None of us know for how long the reprieve from nationalisation has 1866 been granted. The President of the Board of Trade punches industries as he tells them to get on with their initiative and at the same time there is this sword of Damocles over their heads of the uncertainty of controls and the risk of nationalisation in the future. There is a further uncertainty about which much has been written in the papers in the last few days—with that keen anticipation of what the Budget is going to contain in which the Press and general public indulge. Are there to be taxes in the future on increased dividends, or are these dividends to be prohibited? So long as there is uncertainty there, so long is there a tendency for companies to make for their shareholders hay while the sun shines. The Chancellor would be doing a great service to the country if he would remove these uncertainties and show what further policy lies in the future for trade.
The Chancellor said that block grants to local authorities were to be adjusted in the light of the burdens which he says some of the national legislation is going to take off their shoulders. I would like to warn him that in Scotland, at least, there is a strong feeling growing that already the local authorities are bearing a very large burden which the State itself should all along have been bearing. So far from our looking for a reduction of block grants there has been a growing tendency to expect the State to shoulder more than it did in the past. After all, the State, by legislation, imposes these burdens on local authorities. It is too early to try to anticipate a Debate of this kind but no doubt the Chancellor will seek to show, and will perhaps succeed 'n showing, that by nationalisation part of the burden is being taken off local authorities' shoulders. But other burdens are being piled on to them. When it comes to the day when he proposes to reduce block grants or other burdens he will have a hard light to get away with it.
Finally, the incentive he wants to foster in industry, to get on with things and get the trade of the country going, is not very evident in the results left to individuals. I suppose it depends whether one sits on this side of the Committee or on the other side, whether one thinks a particular point in a Budget is good or bad. But the day will surely dawn, as it has dawned in Russia, when it will be realised that one cannot give incentive to the type of man who can contribute 1867 the most to the benefit of the country in brain, great enterprise and great initiative—which after all are what we need—so long as he goes on suffering crippling personal taxation. Death Duties, which hon. Members opposite joyfully hailed and gleefully listened to, are only a penalisation on the private individual's incentive at some stage. I would draw the analogy that one can have a cow and milk it, but one cannot kill the cow and still have the milk. These Death Duties will eventually kill the source from which Surtax flows and the Chancellor will find that the already dwindling return from Surtax will disappear altogether. Death Duties, which are capital, are being treated as a form of income, but the time will come when at the rate at which the Chancellor proposes to levy them they will dry up and end by drying up the Surtax with them.
Until one has stood back from the whole great picture on this canvas, and is able to see one's way more clearly through the tangle of figures which one has to wade through, it is difficult to see the whole broad scheme of things, but these single facets of it leave me in no doubt.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I should like to say a few words in praise of the Budget, which I consider is very well balanced, wisely conceived, and broadly planned. I think it will do a great deal to strengthen Britain's credit throughout the world. The fact that we, in the first year of peace, are able to bring forward a Budget in which, allowing for terminal expenditure and income, we shall be meeting something like 18s. out of every f, of our expenditure out of revenue is, in my view, a remarkable achievement, and one which, I think, will be very widely appreciated as evidence of the financial strength and remarkable resilience of this country.
The concessions which have been made are very well spread and will be generally acceptable. In particular, I am glad that a beginning will be made in the payment of postwar credits to men over 65 and women over 60. That is the right thing to do and there is no serious danger of inflation from action of that kind. There will also be a stimulus to industry in the abolition of E.P.T. and encouragement to married women to go into industry by the increase in the earned income 1868 allowance from £80to£110. All lovers of true sports will be glad that sport and games are to be in the same position as the living theatre, so far as Entertainments Duty is concerned, and their financial recovery made possible. Spectators, one hopes, will be able to enjoy games at reduced prices as a result of the reduction in the tax.
Like the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison) however, I regret the view expressed by the Chancellor, that the Purchase Tax should be a permanent feature of our national life. I hope not, because I think the Purchase Tax is extremely unfair to the married man, particularly the married man with children. I should have thought from the point of view of the national interest and encouragement of people to have children—and the population question is one of our most urgent national problems—an indirect tax of this kind is something to be deprecated. I hope that if we have to retain it, it will be retained as a purely luxury tax and will not apply to the essentials of life. Subject to that reservation, I congratulate the Chancellor on the Budget, which I venture to prophesy will be popular and generally welcomed by the country as a whole.
§ Ordered: "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[Captain Michael Stewart.]
§ Resolutions to be reported Tomorrow; Committee also report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.