HC Deb 05 November 1948 vol 457 cc1192-3

Order for Second Reading read.

2.4 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to this Bill shows that the Bill provides that on the expiry of the Debts Clearing Offices and Export Restrictions Act, 1934, the obligation to pay any debt to any of the clearing offices is extinguished, and that the debt will be owed to the foreign creditor concerned. But for the Bill the clearing offices would have had to continue until all the debts were paid, although the clearing arrangement which they agreed to operate had come to an end.

I do not know whether the House desires me to enter into an explanation of this Measure, which is very technical although its object is simple. Little money is involved; the amount now outstanding is about £22,000 and I believe that that will probably be liquidated in due course. I can tell the House that there has been no loss on these clearing offices. In fact, the commission which has been laid down on each transaction has meant that a certain amount of profit has resulted to the State. The time has now come when these offices should no longer remain in being.

Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)

I have no objection to offer to this Bill, and I am pleased to see that the amount involved is so small. I expected it to be larger. I assume that there will also be a consequential saving somewhere else as well.

Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)

It is rarely that we get a Bill of this kind on a Friday, and I am glad to welcome it because it will make a small saving in the number of civil servants who have to be employed. The Financial Secretary seems to have missed a grand opportunity of showing that this Bill was the first earnest of what the Government have been promising for the past two or three years—to reduce drastically the swollen staffs of the Civil Service. However, I congratulate him and the Government on having taken this small step, although he should have taken the advantage which this House offers to show the people of the country that the Government are doing something on this occasion to reduce unnecessary staffs and accommodation.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. R. Adams.]