§ For what is a common argument against the Sinking Fund? Why, surely this—that it is better for the country to allow so many millions a year to fructify in the pockets of the people to the increase of their wealth than to devote those millions a year to the redemption of the debt through the Sinking Fund. I do not agree with that argument. I wish to maintain the Sinking Fund at a substantial amount, but I do not wish to strengthen the hands of those who use that argument by allowing it to be said that we cannot invest these millions which we devote to the Sinking Fund in a better way than by buying Consols, perhaps, at a premium of 15 or 20 per cent. in the years that are before us—Consols, the Committee will remember, which in 24 years hence will be redeemable at par. Sir, I wish to give the Committee a concrete instance bearing on my argument. During the four years since I have had the honour to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer we have devoted the sum of £20,569,000 to the purchase of Consols for the redemption of the debt. With that sum £18,641,000 worth of Consols have been purchased, so that during those four years we have actually paid £1,928,000—nearly £2,000,000—more for the debt redeemed than it will be worth in the year 1923. Well, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton called attention to this important matter three years ago. I remember he was answered by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire, who said he did not. see any way of reducing the debt except by buy- 1015 ing Consols at a premium. I sympathised with the right honourable Gentleman at that time, and I said I was endeavouring to avoid this loss as much as I possibly could. And what did I do? Why, Sir, instead of purchasing Consols I redeemed the floating debt to the extent of £4,293,000; and, further, I obtained the assent of Parliament to transfer from the old Sinking Fund, through which it would have been devoted to the purchase of Consols, the sum of £9,233,000 for permanent military and naval works and public buildings, instead of borrowing separately for this purpose. Those were, as far as they went, temporary palliatives of the difficulty which, I think, the Committee must admit to be before us.