HC Deb 14 October 1952 vol 505 cc13-6
24. Mr. Baker White

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what special currency allowance, over and above the statutory £25 foreign travel allowance, was granted to Sir Bernard and Lady Docker for their visit to the South of France in September and for what purpose the special allowance was given.

Mr. R. A. Butler

It is not the practice to disclose details of the relations between individuals and the Exchange Control.

Mr. Baker White

While realising that the Chancellor may be unable to give details in individual cases, may I ask him if he is aware that, from everybody's point of view, it would be a very good thing to clear up a mystery which is mystifying a large number of people?

Mr. Snow

Is the Chancellor setting himself up as the "Dockers' Q.C.?"

Mr. Butler

I fully understand the anxiety of the hon. Member, and I think it would really be convenient if I could answer the later Questions on the Order Paper—as there are several other Questions—and, in the course of my answers, I think the attitude of the Government and any projected action will appear.

25. Mr. Mikardo

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he proposes to take to counter the evasion of the £25 currency limit by British citizens taking holidays abroad.

30. Mr. Jay

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he has taken to prevent expenditure abroad by British tourists in excess of the £25 limit.

Mr. R. A. Butler

It would not be in the public interest to disclose measures taken against evasion of currency regulations. Hon. Members can be assured that whenever there is prima facie reason to suspect an offence, the matter is investigated.

Mr. Mikardo

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, firstly, that in some tourist centres these evasions are carried out on a highly organised basis by methods which are widely known and which his officers could therefore deter, and, secondly, that the great majority of British tourists abroad, who are, of course, honourable and law abiding citizens, suffer great distress from the sight of a minority of their fellow citizens who are bringing our regulations into disrepute?

Mr. Butler

As I propose to state in answer to a later Question—and I think I had better state it now—I cannot state too clearly that such evasions are contrary to the best interests of this country. I must assure the House that what I have just said in answer to the Question, namely, that whenever there is a prima facie reason to suspect an offence the matter is investigated, represents the truth about the present position.

Mr. Jay

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that if he pursues this matter very vigorously he will have the support of the whole of this House and of the public outside?

Mr. Butler

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, because I am certain that these sorts of evasions ought not to be permitted.

29. Mr. Mikardo

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many persons have been prosecuted from the beginning of this year to the latest convenient date for the evasion of the regulation limiting the allowance of currency for a tourist to £25; how many persons have been convicted for this offence; how many have been fined and what was the average fine; and how many have been sentenced to imprisonment and what was the average term of imprisonment.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Excluding prosecutions relating to offences committed in an earlier period, there have been seven prosecutions this year and 11 cases are awaiting hearing. All the seven persons concerned were convicted and fined. The average fine was about £24, but the seizure of notes and the imposition of costs brought the total average penalty up to about £62. There were no sentences of imprisonment.

In addition, there have been 12 cases which have been disposed of by payment of penalties without recourse to court proceedings, and a much larger number of cases in which sums of money have been seized from tourists in circumstances in which the loss of the money was thought to be an adequate penalty.

Mr. Mikardo

While appreciating the anxiety which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed to deal with this matter, may I ask if he does not think that the comparatively small number of prosecutions indicates that we have not taken sufficient and vigorous enough action in seeking out the offenders, and that the comparatively light penalties—and they are light because these transactions run into thousands of pounds—indicate that offenders are not being sufficiently dealt with? Could the right hon. Gentleman get some of his officers to have a confidential chat with a few of the hall porters at the larger hotels on parts of the Mediterranean coast where they will learn a great deal about this matter?

Mr. Butler

In view of the particular interest and the anxiety in the minds of the public I have been checking up the powers which I possess to deal with the matter, and for the interest of the House they derive from Section 39 of the Inland Revenue Regulation Act, 1890, as applied by Section 24 of the Excise Transfer Order, 1909. Part III of the Fifth Schedule to the Exchange Control Act. 1947, lays it down that enactments relating to Customs shall apply in enforcing exchange control. Those are the powers and I shall certainly use them to the full. If they are not sufficient, then I must look at the matter again.

33. Mr. Mikardo

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that many British tourists abroad, particularly in the South of France, are spending sums of foreign currency greatly exceeding the official allowance; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Yes, Sir. There is evidence that some British tourists are acquiring foreign currency by illegal means. As my answer to the hon. Member's previous Question indicates, a number of offenders have been detected and have had money seized or suffered other penalties. Other cases are still under investigation. I cannot state too clearly that such evasions are contrary to the best interests of the country.