HC Deb 18 April 1950 vol 474 cc58-9

Many members of the Committee will remember that last year I dealt in some detail with the expenditure side of the Budget, and this year I must again emphasise the need for the most careful scrutiny of any and every suggestion of new expenditure. There is, as I have pointed out, an increase in the estimated expenditure of £147 million over the estimates of last year. This increase makes no allowance for any Supplementaries, such as that for increased National Assistance grants already foreshadowed, but also, of course, takes no credit for economies or under-expenditure.

In considering these figures we must remember that but for special economies of some £90 million introduced after devaluation, the estimates would have been that much higher, and also that the net increase of £147 million is arrived at after taking into account an anticipated decrease of £50 million in terminal services arising out of the war. In the nature of things we cannot rely much longer upon any such decreases to help us. This increase results mainly from the items covered by the recent Supplementary Estimates. The services concerned are being carried forward into the coming year.

The largest individual increase shown in the Estimates is for the National Health Services, £123 million for England and Wales and £10 million for Scotland. I will revert to those Estimates in a moment. The next largest is Defence at £21 million. There is not much hope of any immediate reduction here in view of the condition of the world and the obligations of North Atlantic Defence which we are undertaking. Colonial development and welfare accounts for another £17 million and there is an increase of £17 million in grants and loans arising out of the post-war conditions in Burma and Malaya. We cannot avoid such items if we are to discharge our responsibilities in the stabilisation and development of the colonies and of South East Asia. These increases add up to £188 million which is more than the net increase. The other pluses and minuses are not of major importance, and, bearing in mind the reduction in terminal expenses that I have already mentioned, they nearly balance out.