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 James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife Eastern

I have not long in which to speak, and I would summarise my ideas in two or three short questions to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who is to reply to the Debate. I will say no more about the need for economy, because that has been sufficiently dealt with. Although, as has been observed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not say anything about it in his speech I think my right hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that the country attaches great importance to this question and realise how much the prevalent waste is undermining the War Savings movement. If my right hon. and gallant Friend will deal with that I think he will be satisfying a demand which is heard throughout the country. Secondly, I think he must deal with the problem of wages and prices. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) that any one period should be fixed, and prices and wages determined at that point. There is in to-day's "Times" an interesting letter dealing with farm servants. It is written by a farmer who points out the disparity between the wages of farm servants even to-day and those of road men and other people working in the same neighbourhoods. He says, referring to farm workers: There are men in this neighbourhood who until now have been working to the old 48s. maximum. They would be worth anything they like to ask if they thought they could work out of farming, driving a lorry or doing mechanical work. Therefore, on the question of wages, in addition to preventing a rise in costs we have got somehow to readjust the ill balance which is now appearing. Thirdly, I invite my right hon. and gallant Friend to say something about War Savings Certificates. I think the whole country had rather looked forward to a statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the effect that the limit of 500 certificates per holder would be extended. The Chancellor did mention the desirability of in-creasing savings on the part of wage earners and one way by which a great increase could be brought about would be by extending that limit.

This may not be the occasion for my right hon. and gallant Friend to deal with the fourth point which I make, but he knows that throughout the country there is the strongest possible objection, based upon the strongest case, to the present system of levying the Excess Profits Tax. Something must be done about that, and it would be interesting to hear that the Treasury are considering the matter. My last point refers to the banks. My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir A. Maitland) paid a well deserved tribute to the banks, and my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) has just spoken of the great increase in the National Debt. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must know that in the City to-day there are many people, including some of the wisest heads in the City, who believe that we ought to revert to the system of a Sinking Fund, even in the middle of war and even with the great increase in expenditure. It is the view of the wisest people in the City that a Sinking Fund ought to be re-established. If that were done it would have a considerable psychological effect, and would give a certain feeling of confidence. I have promised not to speak longer, and I invite my right hon. and gallant Friend to deal with the points I have made.