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Civil Service Estimates (Capital Outlay)

Volume 148: debated on Tuesday 8 November 1921

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47.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, with a view to reducing public expenditure in any one year, he has examined the Civil Service Estimates from the point of view that, as at present framed, considerable expenditure by, for instance, the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Board of Works is capital expenditure, which should be spread over a number of years instead of being a charge upon the current revenue in a single year; whether he will consider the desirability of framing the Budget more in accordance with business principles in this respect; and whether he will cause inquiry to be made as to whether the efficiency and up-to-dateness of the Admiralty dockyards, for instance, would be improved if this method were introduced; apart from the main issue of relieving the taxpayer from paying in a single year for items which represent capital outlay, and should therefore be met by special short-term loans of, say, five to ten years?

The question of the form in which the Budget is presented, and in particular whether expenditure of a capital nature should be met from loans and not from revenue, has frequently been discussed in this House. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is certainly prepared to consider the question anew and will bear in mind the hon. Member's suggestions. He must, however, point out that alterations of form of the kind suggested do not in themselves reduce public expenditure by one penny, and do not reduce the amount of cash which the Exchequer has to find in any given year. Moreover, the loan commitments of the Government in the near future are already so heavy as to make it very doubtful whether it would be wise to add to them.

With regard to the last part of the question, which the hon. Gentleman has not answered, will he say whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer will appoint a Committee of Inquiry into the Admiralty dockyards with a view to ascertaining whether the results which I have indicated in my question would not be obtained?

No. My hon. Friend will hardly expect me to give an undertaking of that sort in a matter which is occupying my right hon. Friend's attention.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the efficiency of the Royal dockyards cannot be improved?