HC Deb 19 April 1955 vol 540 cc46-7

Now for expenditure. I estimate total expenditure above the line in 1955–56 at £4,562 million—an increase of £39 million over the Budget estimate for 1954–55.

Practically the whole of this increase is accounted for by the Consolidated Fund services which, at £699 million, are £32 million more than last year's estimate. This increase arises on the provision for debt interest, which reflects recent developments in the money market, and is, of course, particularly influenced by the increase in the rates for Floating Debt.

Expenditure on Supply in 1955–56 is estimated at £3,863 million and is only £7 million more than the original estimate of a year ago—only £7 million more. Within this total, net expenditure on defence at £1,494 million is £61 million less than the original estimate of last year, despite a reduction of £42 million in the estimated receipts from American aid. Civil expenditure, at £2,369 million, is £68 million more than last year's original estimates.

I will comment in more detail on these expenditure figures in a moment. Meanwhile, I must mention that they do not include the additional cost arising from the Special and General Agricultural Price Reviews recently concluded. This cost, as has already been announced, will amount to £14 million in all during 1955–56, and will be provided, along with other changes likely to be necessary in the existing provision for food and agriculture, by further Estimates in due course.

To round off the main outlines of the picture, I must mention that below the line I expect a further increase in net payments, from £501 million last year to £584 million in 1955–56. The main factors are smaller receipts from Housing Votes and from the Raw Cotton Commission; a whole year's advances to the Post Office instead of only part of a year; larger advances to the National Coal Board and heavy payments to clear up the large arrears of compensation which accumulated while we recast the scheme of the Town and Country Planning Acts. All these much more than offset the reduction of £33 million in loans to local authorities which we can reasonably look for after their spurt in the past few months. I am estimating these loans at no less than £320 million this year.