HC Deb 06 April 1954 vol 526 cc203-4

That, I think, is sufficient of figures for 1953–54. But in bidding farewell to that year, I think I may claim that its results, as I have tried to summarise them, provide ample justification of the policy on which last year's Budget was based. The success of a Budget should be judged, not by the narrow arithmetic of the Exchequer accounts, but by its wider effects on the economy. What were these effects?

Production has expanded; we have reduced taxes and enjoyed an increase in consumption, the benefits of which have been very widely spread; our external balance of payments and our gold and dollar reserves have been strengthened; the economy has been able to respond rapidly to the revival of export demand as it occurred in the later part of the year; we have enjoyed greater stability of prices; and we have been able to free from control many commodity and agri- cultural markets. Indeed, the fact that we have been able to foster expansion and go ahead with decontrol without a general rise in prices shows that we have held a fair balance between inflation and deflation. That, I suggest, is not a bad record of a year's voyage. It is a fair indication that, after the measures which we took 12 months ago, the ship really did make good progress and get out of slack water. But I have not shirked the problems which 1953 has still left us to face, and we had better now examine, first, the arithmetic, and then the wider prospects of the year ahead.