HC Deb 05 February 1941 vol 368 cc1031-3

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Major Milner

It is, apparently, proposed that all payments should be made out of moneys provided by Parliament and that all contributions received should be paid into the Exchequer. According to the next Clause separate accounts are to be provided each year, and laid before Parliament. Is that the usual course with regard to separate funds of this kind? I do not want it to be suggested at some future time that Post Office Savings Bank deposits may be used for the general purposes of the Exchequer. Are the Road Fund receipts paid into a separate fund or into the general fund of the Exchequer?

Sir K. Wood

We considered how this should be done, and whether, in fact, a separate fund was necessary. We wanted to avoid a separate fund if possible, and we came to the conclusion that we might do it by means of these two Clauses. Clause 36 directs that all payments in respect of war damage and payment of interest on value payments should be paid out of voted money, and that all sums received by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue should be paid to the Exchequer. That is the usual form of Clause, and it creates the necessary machinery for the payment of the money in the way I have indicated. As a result, the House will be able to discuss the activities of the Commission on the usual Supply Days, which is another advantage. Clause 38 lays down exactly what the Treasury will have to lay before Parliament each year. There will be a statement, showing the payments made by the Commission, the amount collected by the Inland Revenue in contribution, and the proceeds from disposal of salvaged material. This statement will give the annual income and expenditure under the scheme. In course of time, it will show how far contributions have met the cost of compensation; and any revisions in regard to contributions made by the Treasury under Clause 16 will have to be justified. It is to be noted that the statement is one of actual receipts and payments, not of liabilities and assets. During the war, at any rate, the amount of payments, we hope, will be small compared with the payments accruing, although, of course, one cannot say how much. The form of statement will be separate, so as to show contributions received, compensation paid, and also details in connection with charities and other cases where special circumstances exist. Subject to any exigencies of the war, Parliament will be able to see the whole of the expenditure, and will have opportunities for discussion.

Earl Winterton

Will these particulars come before the Public Accounts Committee in the ordinary way?

Sir K. Wood

The statement is a collection of facts.

Sir A. Maitland

Much as one appreciates the need for discussion, I think it equally important that the House should understand that the moneys will not be available for the general purposes of the Exchequer. What is not desired under this Bill is that the Treasury should make a profit out of the premiums. My right hon. Friend is a very clever parliamentarian and it is extremely important that we should have an opportunity of discussing these matters. It is equally, if not more, important that we should not allow the Treasury to lose its rights in the general fund of the Exchequer, and then to find that, while people can go on making contributions, when it comes to a final reckoning, the premiums collected have in fact been absorbed. May I have an assurance from my right hon. Friend that, though he thinks it is an advantage not to have separate funds, in the mixing up of the Fund, he will see that there is no diminution in the moneys available, and that when the fund comes to an end the Treasury will not have authority to take possession of the balance?

Sir K. Wood

I cannot, of course,, assume that responsibility.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clauses 38 and 39 ordered to stand part of the Bill.