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Volume 436: debated on Tuesday 15 April 1947

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We are providing this year £25 million more for housing and for the preliminary expenses of the National Health Service. We have provided £23 million more for the Ministry of National Insurance, for a full year's provision, this year, of Family Allowances. The Committee will be glad to know, in regard to these allowances, that they are costing us this year £4 million more than we had expected. And I am told that there are some 200,000 more eligible babies than were allowed for by the actuaries. The actuaries thought, however, that the, school-leaving age would have been raised sooner. So they were doubly wrong. Even actuaries may err. We may sum it up by saying that we have done worse than they expected in education, but better in procreation. And, of course, there is an extra pay day for mother in leap year, next year being a leap year. So much for family allowances at this stage.

We shall also provide £4½ million more this year for the Development Areas, in regard to which, and only in regard to which, I used the phrase about what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) so originally called my "cardiac murmurs." It is in regard to expenditure here, and only here, that I said that I would find all the money, with a song in my heart, to build factories and to employ the men and women in these areas. We shall provide £4½ million more this year for the Development Areas, for the acquisition of land and for building new factories. My right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade and I have been in consultation on the matter, and we both agree that this factory proposal has been marching too slowly. Those responsible are now being prodded by my right hon. Friend, and we hope soon to have a rather quicker rate of advance. In these days of widely advertised labour shortage, we cannot tolerate the continuance of local unemployment in these areas. Therefore, we are doing our best to speed things up, and we are very willing to be stimulated and criticised in this regard, as it will only urge us on to do even more than we are seeking to do at the present time.

We are providing £10 million more this year for roads, of which I am glad to say million are going to be spent in the Development Areas; and we are providing million more for State forestry which I warmly commended to the Committee last year as a very good Socialist investment in land and young trees. I am also pledged—and I am happy to be pledged, though "happy" is not quite the word; am very content to be pledged—to provide a sum, the total of which I cannot yet determine, to carry out the Government's promise to help to make good, as soon and as completely as possible, the loss and damage to agriculture and to other interests caused by the recent snow and frosts. We shall not be niggardly about this. We shall find whatever money is reasonably required.