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 Mr Henry White Mr Henry White , Birkenhead East

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has brought us up to and beyond the fourth milestone of our financial year, and in his survey to-day he has been fortunate in that he has been able to recall, since he addressed the House on this subject in September, that there has been no substantial adverse circumstance develop in our national finances. In fact, the position, has been, in the main, favourable and encouraging. If we look into the road ahead the green light is showing, but in the distance there is one red light beginning to gleam, and there are many matters to which we shall have to give very close attention. His statement to-day has been reassuring. The so-called gap—why it is always referred to like that I do not know, because it is a very genuine thing—when he last addressed us, seemed likely to be of the order of £400,000,000 greater, than the Budget estimate. To-day he tells us that it is likely to be of the order of £200,000,000. I hope that that may be correct.

The right hon. Gentleman devoted most of his remarks to the matter of saving, and I propose to make one or two observations in that direction myself. I would like, however, to refer to the new proposal that he has made for facilitating the collection of taxes. I think that that proposal is well conceived. It is, in the amounts involved, rather a technical matter than a matter of the greatest financial scope. If it facilitates—and I think it will— the even flow of revenue it will be a great convenience, but whether it will actually save any money to the State, I am not quite convinced. I thought that if these funds were accumulating in the bank they would be available to the State indirectly, but I do see the convenience of the suggested arrangement. I asked my right hon. Friend whether the security which is to be issued in relation to the taxation to be paid would be issued at a discount. He said that this might be of particular help to companies liable to Excess Profits Duty. Therefore, I presume that the security to be issued will be issued at a discount. If it were to receive direct interest payment that would in time become subject to Excess Profits Duty, it might be of no great help to the company. Otherwise I am not convinced of the advantage to the. company of this arrangement, although I regard it as one making for convenience and the easier control of finance.

I turn now to the vital matter of War Savings. Some influences coming into play now which may alter the general course of savings, and the rate, and the volume in which they will accrue to the State. Does my right hon, Friend seek to foretell what effect the spread of the war in the East may have upon the course of economy in this country? It is a fairly safe prediction to say that it will not increase the amount of consumable goods in this country, and to that extent may help the War Savings Movement. On the other hand, the general tightening-up in the demands upon man-power and the calling up of large numbers of individuals throughout the country are going to have an effect upon War Savings. What that may be I find it very difficult to forecast. If individuals are withdrawn exclusively from the class who up to the present have not been doing their duty in saving, it will not make much difference. If, on the other hand, it falls upon those who are making the maximum effort in that connection, War Savings will not be very much stimulated. I am inclined to take the view that the time has come when, having had a review of the man-power resources of this country and having tightened up the machine and made it more effective, we ought to look into the financial aspect of affairs and see whether a review there might not be helpful in bringing about a change of emphasis which may be desirable to help the effort in the War Savings Campaign, which has already been so extraordinarily successful. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor, if I remember rightly, said that the amount of small savings in this country would shortly reach the £1,000,000,000 mark—