Expenditure Arising Out of the War.

Part of Supplementary Vote of Credit, 1941. – in the House of Commons on 16th December 1941.

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Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

This is the fourth occasion on which I have had to ask the Committee to approve a Vote of Credit of £1,000,000,000 for the financial year. Out of the £3,000,000,000 already voted, we had about £252,000,000 left on 13th December, and if expenditure continues at the same rate as in recent weeks, that balance, together with the Vote now asked for, will suffice until approximately the end of the financial year. Even in the circumstances of, say, a fortnight ago, however, it would not have been possible for me to estimate fully the rate of expenditure likely to obtain in the next three and a half months. With the considerable extension of the war into the Far East, it is obviously less practicable to advise the Committee just how long the new Vote will last. If further sums are required, I shall have to come to the Committee again in March, and I know that such demands will be readily granted.

The Committee will no doubt desire to be informed of the analysis of our current war expenditure. We have recently been spending at the rate of nearly £83,000,000 a week, or £11,750,000 a day. Of that, £9,000,000 was attributable to the Fighting Services and £2,750,000 to miscellaneous war services. When the last Vote of Credit was before the House, I explained the relation between our Vote of Credit expenditure and the figure of £3,500,000,000 which I assumed for the purposes of my Budget speech. The Budget figure of £3,500,000,000 excluded whatever might have to be spent in the United States on the purchase of goods not covered by the Lease-Lend Act arrangements. This exclusion was made, as the Committee will appreciate, because I was then concerned primarily with such of our expenditure as would require domestic finance. The expenditure in the United States must, however, be charged to the Vote of Credit, and may be estimated—though the estimate must necessarily be very tentative at this time of the year—at about £300,000,000 for the whole year. If therefore we seem likely to spend about £4,000,000,000 on war services during the year, that figure must be compared with an estimate of something like £3,800,000,000 at the time of the Budget. In other words, our total expenditure may be some £200,000,000 greater than was anticipated at the time of the Budget. It should not, however, be assumed that the so-called "gap" has necessarily been increased by £200,000,000. We have to take into account a number of other important factors before the balance to be met out of new savings can be calculated, in particular the amount of our expenditure financed overseas, the amount provided from domestic capital sources, from extra-Budgetary sources and the out-turn of the Revenue compared with the Budgetary estimates. It would appear likely that the final balance to be met from new savings may be somewhat greater than I estimated at the time of the Budget, but it seems unlikely that the difference will be large in relation to the dimensions of the figures involved.

On the domestic side of our finance, namely, revenue and savings, I would first like to say a few words on the vital question of savings. On this occasion I will not quote figures to the Committee; I have done it so frequently before. In the first place, no figures are yet available which show the whole of our present great savings effort—because that is how we must regard it—in all its forms. It is perfectly true that we have figures which show the rate at which the smaller savings of individuals are being put, for instance, into Savings Certificates and the savings banks. We have also figures for investments in the larger securities, National War Bonds and Savings Bonds, not all of which, of course, will represent savings out of current income. On the other hand, it is important to note that much individual saving goes on which is not necessarily lent to the Government through any of these securities, large or small. Some takes the form of regular payments to insurance companies or building societies, and may be lent to the Government by those institutions. Other savings accumulate in the banks, and help the banks to lend to the Government. Still other savings may remain, although, as I have already said, I wish they did not, as notes in tea-pots, under mattresses, and in all other kinds of receptacles. We cannot to-day put figures of all these forms of saving, though I hope later it will be possible to furnish the Committee with some estimate. But I think everyone will agree that the total amount of savings which has so far been achieved, and particularly in small sums, has been very impressive, and far greater than many at one time thought likely or possible. But it holds good of savings, as it does for the battlefield and the factory, that the only thing we can foretell with certainty is that still greater and more intensive effort will be necessary before victory is achieved, and that the effort will not be the country's best until everyone—I emphasise that, until everyone— pulls his or her weight. And we have not yet reached that high objective.

Out of many present incomes, and particularly out of the greatly increased incomes which are now being enjoyed by large numbers of our people, a great deal more can undoubtedly be saved and lent to the State. I have heard it said, for example, that perhaps a third of our people are saving on a scale that is fully adequate, that another third are saving on a moderately reasonable scale but might well save more, and that a third are either not saving at all or saving very small sums indeed. Whether these precise proportions are correct is, no doubt, a matter of opinion, but the direct evidence of observers does confirm that there are still large numbers who are not sharing in, or who are taking an inadequate share in, the. great savings effort which their fellow citizens are making.