HC Deb 10 December 1946 vol 431 cc976-8
61. Mrs. Middleton

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he proposes to make payment of value payments under the War Damage Act; and whether he is prepared to increase their amount, in view of the change of values since 1939.

Mr. Dalton

I propose that value payments under the War Damage Act should be made in the course of next year. I have so informed the War Damage Commission, and have requested it to consider urgently, under Section 11 of the Act, whether there should be an increase in these payments.

Mrs. Middleton

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, which will be received with great relief in all areas which have suffered war damage, and not least in the City of Plymouth, may I ask whether those to whom value payments have been made in whole or in part will benefit under any escalator provision which he may suggest? Further, can he say whether members of local authorities, Members of Parliament and aggrieved persons will be able to state a case to the Commission before a decision is reached on this question?

Mr. Dalton

The War Damage Commission are a statutory body and determine their own procedure in this matter. I have asked them to go into the matter urgently, and give me a report. It is for the Commission to decide in what form, if at all, they will receive evidence whether it be from Members of Parliament or any other people. As regards the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, I am expecting that the Commission will make a report in due course.

Earl Winterton

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that the interest due on these payments will also be paid at the same time?

Mr. Dalton

Yes, Sir, the interest is due to be paid, at 2½ per cent., which is the current rate, from the date of the damage taking place until the date of the payment being made.

Mr. George Hicks

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the owner-occupier will also benefit under the new scheme, whether the people who have had their houses entirely destroyed will benefit, or whether the scheme applies only to partial damage?

Mr. Dalton

I am speaking of cases in which a value payment is due to be made. It covers all value payments; it does not cover cost of works payments.

Mr. Chamberlain

My right hon. Friend told us in July that only 36 per cent. of the cases had been settled in areas outside London, and that only 16 per cent. of the cases in London had been settled. Is he hopeful of reaching his target by the end of this year?

Mr. Dalton

I said, "next year". I would not have any hope of settling them by the end of this year. The number of agreed cases is now over 50 per cent., and the process of agreement is proceeding rapidly.

Mr. Eden

In view of the wide interest in the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made, will he consult the Lord President of the Council to see whether an opportunity might be given to debate this important subject early in the New Year?

Mr. Dalton

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. He is the dictator in these matters.

Mr. Medland

In fixing value payments, will regard be had to the amount of mortgage interest which has had to be paid by those who have lost their property, and to the rent which they have had to pay for new properties?

Mr. Dalton

That is one of the many matters which might be considered by the War Damage Commission. I should think that to take into account the actual rent paid in each case would make the scheme administratively impossible, but that on the broad scheme the incurring of liability for rent would be a matter which the Commission might, if it so desired, take into account.

Captain Crowder

Is the 2½ per cent. interest subject to Income Tax?

Mr. Dalton

Yes, Sir, if the recipient has an income which is enough to pay tax upon.

Mr. Michael Foot

Can my right hon. Friend say whether, among the factors which the Commission will be able to take into account, will be the fact that some owners of blitzed property have received a 60 per cent. increase on 1939 values under the Town and Country Planning Act? Will the Commission be able to make a comparable increase? Should not the Treasury, in this matter, be as generous as local authorities were compelled to be under the Town and Country Planning Act?

Mr. Dalton

I am disinclined—and I think the House will agree—to give a lead to the Commission on any points of detail. It is a statutory body, and has a clearly defined duty under the Act. I have asked the Commission to perform a duty under the Act, and I would not like to suggest that it should, or should not, operate in this or that way.