Prospects for 1944–45: Expenditure

– in the House of Commons on 25th April 1944.

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In conclusion, I must turn back to our Budgetary prospects for the present financial year, and I will keep the Committee for only a few minutes longer. In some respects, my task of estimating the needs for which the Budget must provide is probably more difficult than at any time during the war. So far as the National Debt is concerned, the interest on our growing debt will probably require some £55,000,000 more than the cost last year, and I propose to provide for a debt charge of £420,000,000. As in previous years, power will be sought to borrow any additional sum necessary to cover the contractual Sinking Funds. Other Consolidated Fund services are put at the same figure as last year's expenditure of £16,000,000. Ordinary Civil Votes, at £501,000,000, will require some £37,000,000 over the Budget estimate of 1943–44, owing to increases on supplementary pensions, school meals, roads, an expected deficit on the Post Office, and other items.

When we come to the Vote of Credit expenditure, the prospect is obviously full of uncertainties. If the war in Europe were to continue throughout the financial year, Vote of Credit expenditure might be anything between £5,000,000,000 and £5,200,000,000. But if I am to make any reasoned estimate of the probable soundness of our financial programme, on the lines followed in recent Budgets, I must recognise that there are possibilities of a change in the course of the war before the end of March, 1945. It would be idle to attempt to evaluate the bearing of such possibilities on the Budget. Indeed, to do so would hardly be consonant with the Government's determination to press on with the war effort and to take nothing for granted until victory is achieved. But, for the purposes of this particular Budget, I think I would be justified in assuming a very round sum for our Vote of Credit expenditure. I propose to put it at the figure of £5,000,000,000, compared with £4,900,000,000 estimated last year and an actual expenditure of £4,950,000,000. On that basis, the total expenditure to be provided for in 1944–45 will be £5,937,000,000.