HC Deb 19 April 1932 vol 264 cc1416-8

I do not think that I ought to conclude any review of the past year without some allusion to the changes which have occurred during the year in the National Debt, including the Sinking Fund of £32,500,000 and various minor receipts applicable to Debt redemption. There was, in fact, a total sum of £33,688,000 of cash applied which resulted in the cancellation of Debt to the nominal amount of £39,720,000. Against this we have to set the borrowing for the increased cost in the repayment of foreign credits advanced to the Treasury last summer. That shows an apparent loss of £22,711,000. As I have pointed out on one or two occasions previously, there is no real loss at the present time on account of the appreciation of the value of the gold which is held in the Issue Department of the Bank of England.


The Bank of England is a private concern.


The hon. Gentleman does not seem to appreciate that the profits of the Issue Department belong to the Exchequer. There are further additions to the nominal amount of Debt which are due to certain operations connected with National Savings Certificates. Under the conversion offer which has been open for some time to holders of National Savings Certificates a considerable amount of accrued interest has been capitalised, while £8,400,000 was borrowed under Section 29 of the Finance Act, 1928, to meet the interest on the encashment of Savings Certificates for which no margin was available in the Fixed Debt Charge. Hon. Members need not have any concern about these transactions. They are not in any way inconsistent with the general anticipations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) when he introduced the principle of the Fixed Debt Charge in 1928. As to the result of the Savings Certificates conversion scheme, this will be open until the end of this month, and therefore it will be some time before it is finally known, but up-to-date £65,000,000 has been converted, which is a figure which we consider perfectly satisfactory. I would, however, take this opportunity of reminding the holders of certificates who have not yet converted that there are now only 11 days left to them in which to exercise their rights, and I think that in their own interests they would do well to make use of one of the special offers which are still open to them before the offer is finally closed. The only other conversion operation of the year was in connection with the 4½ per cent. Treasury Bonds which fell due on the 15th of this month. Holders were given the option of converting either into 4½ per cent. Conversion Loan or into 4 per cent. Consols, and 95 per cent. of the Bonds have been converted.

That closes my review of the year, which, I think, in its financial and commercial aspects, must be described as one of the gravest in our history. Trade depression, which was deep and wide at the beginning of it, has grown deeper and has extended more widely throughout the world. The curse of unemployment has lain heavily upon many struggling households where the luxuries of life have long since been discarded, and even the bare necessaries have had to be carefully measured. Cuts and reductions of income have been suffered by many people in all walks of life. Taxes have been piled upon taxes until it has no longer been possible to meet them out of revenue, and capital has had to be sacrificed to meet them. Taken as a whole, the year has been one of anxiety, difficulty, and hardship, and it is only in the last few months that some revival of trade and employment has led us to hope that at last the worst has passed. We shall all part with the year 1931 without regret, and I believe that the Committee will not be sorry that I can now pass to what are perhaps the more interesting problems of the year 1932.