HC Deb 19 April 1955 vol 540 cc43-4

If the Committee will bear with me, I will now very briefly summarise the position about the National Debt. The National Debt outstanding at 31st March, 1955, was £26,933 million, an increase of £350 million over the year. Apart from the £68 million borrowed to cover the deficit below the line—which, as I pointed out, was nearly covered by revenue—this increase was primarily due to the provision of an additional £300 million for the sterling capital of the Exchange Equalisation Account to enable it to finance the increase in the gold and dollar reserves early in the financial year. The Exchequer also issued £35 million of Government stock for coal compensation. These increases were offset by £36 million of debt redeemed by application of sinking funds and by the cancellation of £13 million of stock tendered for steel shares, together with £4 million for other adjustments.

The principal changes in the composition of the Debt are as follows: Floating Debt rose by £427 million, largely as a result of the issue to the Exchange Equalisation Account. During the year £292 million of 3 per cent. National Defence Loan, 1954–58, £413 million of 1¾ per cent. Serial Funding Stock, 1954, and £650 million of 2¼ per cent. Exchequer Stock, 1955, were converted into securities maturing in later years. As a result of these operations the amount of the three loans remaining to be paid off on maturity during the year was reduced to £234 million—that is a notable achievement. A new cash issue of £300 million of 2 per cent. Conversion Stock, 1958–59, was made in conjunction with the first of the conversion operations just mentioned. These represent, quite shortly, the principal changes in the composition of the Debt; others will be seen in the Financial Statement.