Skip to main content

Out-Turn For 1950–51

Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 10 April 1951

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

After that introduction, I now propose to turn, following the traditional pattern of the Budget Speech, to last year's results. I will, for the moment, deal with them in terms of the "above the line," as we call it, out-turn on the conventional basis.

The results of 1950–51 are, at first sight, somewhat remarkable. My predecessor budgeted for a surplus of £443 million; in fact the surplus was £720 million. This surplus, after meeting "below the line" items amounting to £473 million, has been used in redemption of debt. We must be careful not to conclude from this apparently cheerful out-turn of last year that the prospect for this year is correspondingly brighter. We must examine the reasons for it first. The difference of £277 million between the estimate and out-turn is explained by an excess of revenue of £80 million and lower net expenditure of £197 million.

The £80 million increase in revenue as between an estimate of £3,898 million and a yield of £3,978 million, is largely accounted for by an excess of receipts from Customs and Excise duties of £46 million. Most of this was due to increased clearances towards the end of the financial year, in anticipation, whether rightly or wrongly, of higher duties to be imposed today. For the rest, there was an excess of £16 million on Income Tax, due to a better rate of collection than had been expected, an excess of £10 million from sales of surplus stores and a further excess of £11 million on miscellaneous receipts. Not much encouragement here, the Committee will agree, for the current year.

The net saving of £197 million on expenditure is entirely in the field of Supply services, since Consolidated Fund services actually exceeded the estimate by £8 million. The gross saving on Supply was even greater. During the year, there were, as the Committee will recall, Supplementary Estimates of £67 million, largely for defence, which, when added to the original Estimates, gives a figure of £2,985 million in comparison with an out-turn of £2,713 million, so that the saving was £272 million.

How is this to be explained? How far is it a genuine saving and how far merely fortuitous and temporary or even a postponement which actually increases expenditure in the future? Savings of this kind cannot, of course, be itemised with final precision until Departments' Appropriation Accounts are available some time hence; but of the total figure of £272 million, there is no doubt that the largest single item, probably about £115 million on the Ministry of Food Vote, was due mainly to a shortfall in the purchases of various food and feedingstuffs, with a consequent fall, instead of an increase, in trading stocks. This does not mean that the actual expenditure on food subsidies was less than the £410 million which was provided for last year, but simply that it was financed differently out of the lower level of stocks.

Continuing with the explanation of this shortfall in expenditure, a saving of £19 million on the Ministry of Supply Vote resulted principally from the fact that some payments in respect of production orders happened not to fall due as soon as was originally expected. The payments will, of course, have to be made good this year. The same is true of a good deal of a saving of about £14 million on Colonial services generally, together with about £5 million on Foreign Office grants and services. Yet another fortuitous saving of £13 million occurred on educational services, partly because the balance of the grant due to local education authorities for the previous year was less than had been estimated.

Some of the smaller Votes, too, show savings which are non-recurrent. For example, about £4 million on civil aviation due, in the main, to the delay of works services resulting from the bad weather, and about £3 million on the Vote of the Ministry of Fuel and Power attributable, in part, to a smaller expenditure this year than was expected in connection with coal compensation. The balance of savings is spread over a very large number of other Votes. Some of it undoubtedly represents the results of the economies of 1949 which realised, in the event, more than was expected at the time, and are, of course, reflected also in the Estimates for the current year; but some of it was also either non-recurrent, or merely a postponement of expenditure into the current year. I think the Committee will agree, if they have followed this brief analysis I have given, that, taking the divergence from Estimates on both revenue and expenditure, it would be decidedly imprudent to assume that what happened last year should give us much encouragement for the future.