HC Deb 24 March 1955 vol 538 cc2257-60
28. Mr. John Hall

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, when preparing his Budget, he will consider repaying post-war credits to all persons who are registered as permanently unfit for work because of illness or disability.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Henry Brooke)

All the suggestions that have been made for accelerating the payment of post-war credits, including this one, will be considered.

Mr. Hall

Will my hon. Friend ask the Chancellor to consider this request with more than his usual sympathy when he considers the Budget?

Mr. Brooke

I am sure my right hon. Friend will give very sympathetic con- sideration to any suggestion made by my hon. Friend—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—but it is quite impossible, as these matters concern expenditure, to make any statement or give any indication whatever of Government policy in advance of the Budget.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this concession, which was embodied in an Opposition Amendment proposed to last year's Finance Bill, would meet with the general support of the whole House if the Chancellor should see fit to make it this year?

32. Mr. E. Johnson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total amount outstanding of unpaid post-war credits; and how much of this is owing to people over 50 and over 60 years of age, respectively.

Mr. H. Brooke

The estimated amount of post-war credits outstanding as at 31st March, 1955, is £540 million, of which it is estimated that £78 million relates to holders aged 60 and over and £187 million to holders aged between 50 and 60.

Mr. Johnson

Is it not wholly deplorable that these vast sums should still be outstanding 10 years after the war? Is my hon. Friend aware that there are many people suffering hardship which would be alleviated if the British Government paid their debts, and that many people expected the Chancellor to do very much better than his predecessor?

Mr. Brooke

My right hon. Friend took a forward step in the payment of postwar credits only last year.

Mr. Awbery

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I received a letter yesterday from one of my constituents to whom the Government owe £60, and who has to depend on friends to make ends meet? What would happen if this man owed £60 to the Government instead of the Government owing him £60?

Mr. Brooke

I was not aware that the hon. Gentleman had received that letter, but I feel quite sure it will be sent on to me.

36. Mr. Vane

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer approximately what proportion of the claims for post-war credits will still be outstanding in five and 10 years' time, respectively.

Mr. H. Brooke

On the basis of the current rate of repayment it is estimated that about 56 per cent. of the amount of post-war credits originally created will be outstanding at the end of the financial year 1959–60 and about 44 per cent. at the end of 1964–65.

Mr. Vane

Will my hon. Friend consult my right hon. Friend to see whether it is not possible to devise a scheme to pay off the whole of the outstanding credits in 10 years? Does he not agree that the present period of 35 years, which I understand is the estimate, means a very long business?

Mr. Brooke

I have said already that my right hon. Friend will consider all the suggestions made, but it would be decidedly inflationary to pay off £500 million of this money immediately.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Have not the Government got the inflationary situation well under control? In those circumstances, why not pay off this debt?

Mr. Brooke

That is precisely the reason why we do not want to spoil the situation by paying out £500 million.

Miss Ward

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that to pay off some of the postwar credits, at any rate to the higher-age groups, would help the small-income groups? Is he not looking for a way to help the small-income groups?

Mr. Brooke

I can only repeat, for I think the fourth time this afternoon, that my right hon. Friend has undertaken to consider all these suggestions.

41. Mr. Gower

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what he estimates would be the cost to the Treasury of reducing by five years and by 10 years, respectively, the ages for repayment of post-war credits.

Mr. H. Brooke

A reduction of five years in the age for repayment would cost £91 million in the first year, and would increase the annual repayment in each subsequent year by about £500,000. For a reduction of 10 years the corresponding figures would be £184 million and £1 million.

Mr. Gower

While appreciating the difficulty of this problem, may I ask whether my hon. Friend will bring to the attention of his right hon. Friend the fact that the former figures are not quite as impossible as others which have been mentioned?