HC Deb 06 May 1924 vol 173 cc227-9
57. Mr. J. HARRIS

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to the advertisements printed on the back of the form (R.255) sent out by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue with repayment orders in settlement of claims for repayment of Income Tax, one of which advertisements, headed, "Buy Australian Land Now," states that £1 per month will purchase a plot of the nearest freehold land to Canberra, the new capital city, and that such a purchase represents an investment of exceptional safety and merit; whether he has sanctioned the publication of this statement in an official form addressed mainly to small investors; and will he take immediate steps to stop the further official distribution of the advertisement in question?


I have seen the advertisement to which the hon. Member refers. It is not the only advertisement on the back of the form in question, and the advertisements are clearly shown to be such in order that they cannot be confused with the terms of any official communication. As regards the general policy followed in this matter, I would refer to the answer given on a similar point to the hon. Member for the Farnham Division of Surrey (Mr. A. M. Samuel) on the 19th February last.


Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that this advertisement represents an investment of at least very doubtful security, that thousands of these forms are going out from a Government Department, and that people are invited to invest in this as a good security, and does he not realise the danger to the public of an advertisement of that kind?


May I say at once that there is a good deal of sympathy with the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised? The difficulty we have is that there is a natural desire to get revenue from this kind of advertisement, but the advertisement must be quite distinct from any reference to the facts on the other side, and must not be regarded as a Government recommendation of anything that appears. I am looking at this proposal, and I think I may say to the hon. Member that the Government will consider the whole question.


Will the hon. Gentleman state specifically on the form that this is an advertisement, and call the attention of the individual to it?


How much revenue is obtained in this way?


I could not say offhand as to the total amount, but in this case the revenue from the whole page was £884, of which one-half is attributable to this advertisement.


Am I right in understanding—I hope I am—that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury undertakes that the whole question of advertisements on Government forms will be reconsidered?


Yes, that is clearly our intention—to review the whole question.


Will the Government limit them to patent medicines?