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New Clause. — (Commercial Account.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Post Office and Telegraph (Money) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th June 1952.

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Photo of Mr David Gammans Mr David Gammans , Hornsey 12:00 am, 26th June 1952

That is done by a sample. In parenthesis, I might say that from next year the three Service Departments, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Supply and the Treasury are going to be charged on an annual commercial basis for the calls which they make, and that will have to be debited to their Estimates. I hope as a result of that that we will see the scheme extended generally. It is an experiment, and as that is nearly three-quarters of the expenditure it will meet the point which both sides of the Committee have in view.

There is one other matter with which I would like to deal, and that is that we are investigating to what extent there may be some expenditure for defence purposes which is wholly for defence and expenditure which ultimately can be used for civilian purposes. We are hoping it will be possible to find a formula so that the Post Office will get direct commercial credit for that expenditure. In that way it will not in any sense affect the ordinary civilian accounts of the Post Office.

The last point I wish to make will, I hope, satisfy the hon. Gentleman and his friends. There has been at the back of their minds a feeling that because £25 million of the £75 million was being spent on defence this year, that was likely to hold up the development plans which we all want to see put into operation. But that is not so. The limiting factor is not money, but the extent to which capital resources can be devoted to civilian ends. The handicap on us is that which is on British Railways, the Coal Board and on large civilian companies as well. If it were not for that I would have no hesitation in coming and asking for a further sum of money perhaps earlier than one would come.

I hope I have dealt with the points that the hon. Gentleman raised and also with the misgivings which not only hon. Gentlemen opposite, but hon. Members in all parts of the Committee, have on this point. So far as the interest or income is concerned, the Post Office is not affected in any way. As I have said just now, we are trying to see to what extent it is possible to isolate pure defence items from the capital budget, and to what extent it is possible on the income side to get credit for those works which do not immediately yield ordinary rentals like we are getting from the Service Departments. I trust that I have satisfied all the points which have been raised, and that the hon. Gentleman will not press this new Clause.