HC Deb 12 July 1955 vol 543 cc1733-4
36. Mr. L. M. Lever

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will introduce legislation forthwith to enable postwar credits to be paid in all cases of proven need or hardship.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary gave to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) on 30th June.

Mr. Lever

Does not the Chancellor realise the very great urgency of dealing with the question of repayment of postwar credits in cases of hardship, sickness and difficulty, and will he give this matter his immediate attention? Does he realise that ten years after the war is sufficiently post-war for these to be paid, and will he make it part of his policy to set the people's post-war credits free?

Mr. Butler

I wish that the situation were as simple as that. It is almost impossible to use such a criterion as the hon. Gentleman suggests without being unfair to one or other holders of post-war credits. That scheme would involve legislation, and this is certainly not the time for it.

Mr. Usborne

Does the Chancellor realise how important this matter is? I know of a young man in my own constituency who is suffering—incurably—from tuberculosis, and he is very hard up. He has about £20 or £30 in postwar credits. If only he could get them, he might be able to take a holiday abroad. He feels that the Government are keeping his own money away from him. Does the Chancellor realise that this does not seem to be fair?

Mr. Butler

I realise the difficulty, but the point is that if I did something for this person who is incapacitated, it would be very difficult to find a rule which is fair to all. Furthermore, the late Government made a definite rule in the direction of the liberation of post-war credits. We shall certainly take every opportunity we can to do so, but I cannot make any statement today.

Mr. Gaitskell

While recognising the difficulty of repaying post-war credits on the basis of need or hardship, may I ask the right. hon. Gentleman whether he will consider urgently whether he cannot speed up repayment generally, for example, by reducing the age at which the credits may be claimed?

Mr. Butler

As the right hon Gentleman indicates, there is a difficulty in using need or hardship as a criterion. There are other methods which it would be easier to adopt. I can only say that this is not the time to make such changes, but it is very valuable, in this beautiful weather, to examine these very difficult problems.

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