§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd-George)
rose, at six minutes after Three of the clock, to submit the Annual Financial Statement.
§ At the close of my right hon. Friend's last Budget speech the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for East Worcestershire, condoled with me upon having to follow such a master of lucid exposition. I confess that even if my task had been a comparatively easy one, I should have felt sorry for myself to have to follow such a predecessor as my right hon. Friend. But seeing that my difficulties are abnormally great and the burden which I have to carry is a very heavy one, I can only throw myself upon the kind sympathy and indulgence of the House. I have departed from precedent in one respect, which I hope will command the general assent of the House. I caused to be circulated with the Votes this morning a full statement showing the position last year, and showing what the position would be this year, assuming that taxation remained in its present form. I circulated that statement not merely because it lightened my task in delivering my speech, and lightened the task of the House in having to listen to it, but because I think it is fairer to Members.
§ It is exceeding difficult to follow these figures, even if you have time to go through them. They are very complicated, they are very perplexing, and they are apt to be very elusive, and therefore I thought the better plan would be to give hon. members full time to go through these figures in order thoroughly to appreciate what the position is. I have no doubt that hon. Members perhaps were slightly disappointed with the figure of the anticipated deficit, but on the whole I am sure there was a great sense of relief at the figure of the realised deficit. There is a realised deficit, as will be seen from the statement, amounting to £714,000, and the Exchequer balance, which stood on 31st March, 1908, at £8,919,000—an exceptionally large amount arising by reason of the 473 very considerable old Sinking Fund of 1907–8—is accordingly depleted by the amount of this deficit. That is how I propose to deal with that. I do not propose to add it to the taxation of the year, but I propose to deal with it by taking it out of the Exchequer balance. I will give a full explanation later on of these arrangements. They are rather complicated, and I do not want to take up too much time. Now I come to the consideration of the anticipated deficit for the coming year.