Orders of the Day — Gas Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th February 1948.

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Photo of Mr Brendan Bracken Mr Brendan Bracken , Bournemouth 12:00 am, 11th February 1948

Let me add my support to the appeal of my right hon. and gallant Friend. There is really no necessity for including this figure of £250 million in the Resolution. If the right hon. Gentleman will consult with the Chancellor of the Exchequer tomorrow, I feel that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will probably take the view that this figure was put into this Money Resolution a long time ago and is now erroneous or unnecessary. We all know that the Bill has been ticking around Whitehall for over 12 months, long before the economic crisis broke upon the country; and, as is not unusual in Government Departments, no attempt has been made to bring the Bill up to date. I feel sure—and I think that here the Patronage Secretary of the Treasury, who is a great mathematician, will agree with me—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would agree at the moment to something less than £250 million, when the Financial Secretary to the Treasury himself suggests it is impossible to spend that money for a long period of years. I do beg the Financial Secretary on this occasion to show some signs of reason by meeting the Opposition's point of view.

Tomorrow we are to receive a long statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We have already read the grim White Paper issued by the Government, in which it is fully acknowledged that the policy of overbuilding and all sorts of other inflationary activities has proved to be altogether wrong. Savage cuts—hon. Gentlemen ought to remember this—may be inflicted upon the standard of living of this community in the next few months merely because of our folly in the past two years in over-spending and over-budgeting. I think that both sides of the Committee can agree here. What is the sense of over-budgeting for the gas industry when we have had an assurance from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, a most reliable authority, that certainly five years will pass before the sum is spent? This is what we may call "gasified finance." It is also an attempt to asphyxiate Sir Edward Plowden, who is the chief Government planner, because he has been struggling with a great mass of inflationary figures put into White Papers in the last two years. Yesterday the Government confessed that they grossly over-estimated the revenue to be obtained from travellers and all sorts of other people in the last 12 months. I have never read a more apologetic Paper than the one issued yesterday by the Treasury.