HC Deb 26 January 1956 vol 548 cc353-5
35. Mr. E. Fletcher

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, in preparing his next Budget, he will give priority to the repayment of post-war credits in cases of hardship.

Mr. H. Brooke

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson) on 3rd November last.

Mr. Fletcher

But a new Chancellor of the Exchequer has been appointed since then. Can we not therefore have some assurance of a new approach to this problem? Will the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues bear in mind that there are still innumerable cases of grave hardship to elderly people who are entitled to their post-war credits but are unable to get them?

Mr. Brooke

I said in November that I had great personal sympathy with those who have been holding post-war credits for a long period. No Government of any political colour has been able so far to find a solution to the hardship problem, but I grant to the hon. Member and to the House that there is a problem here and that, if we could find a solution to it, it would be very helpful.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Would my right hon. Friend look at those cases where hardship arises through disease, war disability and the like, and try to find a limited solution there at least?

Mr. Brooke

The fundamental difficulty is to find a definition which will correctly demarcate hardship. Whatever the form of words one settled upon one might well find that there were some even harder cases which would be left out, and one wishes to try to do justice to everyone.

Mr. S. Silverman

Would the Financial Secretary explain to the House what effect might be produced on our credit if the Government of the United Kingdom treated all its war loan debts in the same way as it has treated these post-war credits?

Mr. Brooke

That goes far beyond the Question on the Order Paper. There are some £520 million worth of post-war credits outstanding, and I do not think that the major question could be dealt with outside a Budget.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the minds of many people the inflationary implications of repaying post-war credits in full are outweighed by the moral obligation of the State to discharge this debt? Is he aware that there is a continuing public anxiety on the matter which should be redressed in the forthcoming Budget?

Mr. Brooke

I have taken note of everything that has been said in the House today, and I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to it.