HC Deb 02 February 1956 vol 548 cc1066-9
29 Mr. Page

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, (1) under what circumstances the face value of a post-war credit certificate is reduced when the holder claims payment;

(2) whether his estimate of the amount required for payment of all post-war credit certificates is based upon the amounts stated on those certificates or upon the amounts noted by the Inland Revenue Department as payable upon those certificates;

(3) what is his estimate of the difference in amount between the amounts stated on outstanding post-war credit certificates and the amounts which will be payable when payment of such certificates falls due.

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

The post-war credit payable may be less than the face value of the certificate mainly because the full tax due for the relevant year was not actually paid. The amount shown on the certificates was based on the tax payable, but in some cases the actual tax paid may have been less, and this would affect the credit due. Attention is drawn to this by a note on the post-war credit certificates. The face value of the postwar credits outstanding is estimated to be £526 million. The shortfalls in actual payments of tax are likely to reduce this figure by less than 1 per cent.

Mr. Page

Is not my right hon. Friend aware of cases in which just the opposite happens, where more tax has been paid than was due and where, after a wartime payment of tax, there was a reassessment at a lower figure, the post-war credit certificate is written down in the books of the Treasury and the taxpayer is refused a return of the overpayment of tax because more than six years have elapsed? Is he aware that it is rather a shock to the taxpayer, who has kept his post-war credit certificate safely and brings it out when he reaches the appropriate age, to be told that it does not represent the value which is stated on the face of it?

Mr. Brooke

If my hon. Friend will send me the case he has in mind, I will gladly look into it. What we cannot do is to repay tax which has never been paid. What we seek to do is to repay tax which has been paid.

Mr. J. T. Price

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the difficult situation in which he is placing many widows and other dependants who succeed to the credit on survival? The widows are in no position after 15 or 16 years to check up the tax position of their late husbands because no documentary evidence is available to them except in the Treasury.

Mr. Brooke

I am very sorry if anyone is disappointed. Should anyone think that he or she may be liable to that kind of occurrence, he or she can send in the certificates at any time.

Mr. Hirst

It is not a question of disappointment but of a grave injustice to people in the position mentioned by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) who, many years afterwards are informed that they will not get the face value of the certificate. It may be ten, twenty or thirty years afterwards; it is not a question of disappointment but of grave injustice which ought to be corrected.

Mr. Brooke

Every post-war credit bears a note which says that the amount due may not be identical with the amount on the credit; it may be less or may be more.

50. Dr. Stross

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will give consideration to the repayment of post-war credits to all those who produce a medical certificate stating that they suffer from a chronic and incurable disease.

Mr. H. Brooke

I regret that this suggestion cannot be accepted. The difficulties of paying post-war credits earlier on special hardship grounds have often been explained to the House.

Dr. Stross

Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that the sum involved here would be small and that the hardship is often very great? Will he please remember that the public accepts that the Treasury has a brain but really feels that it has no heart at all?

Mr. Brooke

I think that have a heart, but the difficulty here is to draw a proper dividing line. If one were to allow payment to the people in question one might still find oneself excluding people whose financial needs might be even greater, such as widows who had nothing at all.

52. Mr. G. Jeger

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the cost of repaying post-war credits to all applicants who are at present in receipt of National Assistance.

Mr. H. Brooke

I regret this information is not available, nor could it readily be obtained.

Mr. Jeger

Could the right hon. Gentleman not find information quite easily through the National Assistance Board, which deals with its applicants personally? Would not that information help him in solving the problem of how to pay post-war credits to those who are suffering great hardship?

Mr. Brooke

I think that it would be found that two-thirds of those who are receiving National Assistance are over what I might call the post-war credit age, but there will remain always the difficulty of distinguishing between those in permament need and those who go to the National Assistance Board because of purely temporary need.