§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
In many respects this is a very inconvenient moment for reviewing the financial needs and prospects of the year and the best methods for meeting them. So much depends on the developments of the next two or three months from the military point of view, that the task of a Chancellor of the Exchequer who attempts now to reckon the sacrifices that it will be his duty to invite the country to make in order to meet the expenses of the War is almost an impossible one. All experts will give you very varied estimates as to the probable duration of the War, but with all respect to their experience and powers of prevision, the best of them cannot possibly tell at the present moment. The operations of the coming summer alone will enable us to form a dependable opinion—not as to the ultimate issue of the War, because that is not in doubt—but as to its duration, and that is the question which concerns a Finance Minister when he is framing proposals for submission to the House of Commons with a view to meeting the expenditure of the year. This is, therefore, not a suitable moment to attempt a forecast of the probable expenditure upon the War or to submit proposals for that purpose. Proposals which might be appropriate to a short campaign would be inadequate for a prolonged war, or vice versa, and I frankly admit I should not have chosen this opportunity for reviewing the finance of the year and making proposals to Parliament had it not been for the compulsory obligations of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act. However, even now, a review of the finances of the year may serve one incidental purpose. It may help the people of this country more fully to understand the dimensions of the task we have undertaken.