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Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 6 April 1954

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Let me now make the final review of our national accounts. The Committee will already have realised that my proposals, which yield a surplus of £10 million, will still leave the Budget as it should be this year, broadly in balance. The estimate below the line will, it is true, have to take account of the concession on post-war credits.

But, in general, the changes which I have proposed have been much fewer and less spectacular than last year—deliberately so, for the reasons which I have already given. Just as, in 1952, I introduced an emergency Budget, and last year, an incentive Budget, so, this year, I am proposing a carry-on Budget, a Budget conceived as reaffirming our basic policies, rather than as marking any major change of emphasis or direction. That I can, with good conscience, do so is a tribute to the achievement of the measures which I introduced last year. They have brought us a good way along our road; they should be given the chance to carry us still further. Moreover, it would have been the easier and —I say this quite openly to the Committee—perhaps the more agreeable course to make sweeping reductions in taxation. But substantial tax remissions, would, in fact, have been premature, and unjustified in our present circumstances.

It is the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at such a time as this resolutely to reject temptations of this kind, and not to concede, to either the hopes or the fears of the future, what a dispassionate judgment of our economic prospects does not immediately require. But, although the scope for change was less this year than previously, I have tried to distribute what I can fairly, to ease some anomalies which have been felt to be unjust and undignified, and to enlarge, in a slightly novel way, the incentives to which industry responds. And I repeat that if, later in the year, circumstances should so demand, we shall not hesitate to take more radical measures at a later date.

It must, then, be a vigilant, poised and confident Britain which turns to face the new financial year—with an economy resilient to absorb whatever shocks and setbacks the fluctuations of world trade may inflict on us, but also alert to reach out for each and every opportunity for expansion and enterprise which circumstances may offer, and our own initiative may devise. So resolved, we have nothing to fear, and much to hope.