HC Deb 06 November 1958 vol 594 cc1103-5
48. Mr. Jay

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the need for re-expansion of production and employment, he will speed up the repayment of post-war credits.

Mr. Erroll

Last Monday my right hon. Friend reviewed the steps already taken by the Government to stimulate the resumption of expansion, and assured the House that we shall continue to take such action as the situation demands. I have nothing to add to that statement.

Mr. Jay

But as British industry still has more slack capacity than at any time since the war, would not this be a very suitable moment for relaxation of post-war credits?

Mr. Erroll

No, Sir, I do not think so.

Dame Irene Ward

In this new period of expansion when money is to be spent in stimulating industry, may I ask my hon. Friend whether any of that money will come to the shipbuilding and shipping areas and to the fishing ports, or is it all to go to general industry? We should like a little share of it, please.

Mr. Erroll

I hardly think that supplementary question arises out of the main Question.

49. Mr. Janner

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the hardships experienced by many to whom the State owes money under the postwar credit scheme, he will take steps to make some of this money available in such cases.

Mr. Simon

I am afraid the term "hardship" might cover so many widely differing types of case that it could not be adopted as a criterion for repayment of post-war credits.

Mr. Janner

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman consider the question of dealing with cases of financial embarrassment? Does not he consider it highly unfair that an individual who is financially embarrassed should be owed money by the Government while he himself may be put in a very serious position owing to the fact that he cannot meet his current debts? Cannot the hon. and learned Gentleman devise some way of dealing with that position?

Mr. Simon

One comes across many cases of the sort which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned which are bound to arouse sympathy. The question has been examined from this angle by successive Chancellors of the Exchequer, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it has been quite impossible to find a satisfactory criterion.

Mrs. L. Jeger

Would not the Minister agree that he could add administrative economy to sympathy if he would repay post-war credits especially to widows on the death of their husbands? Is not it a fact that there is considerable administrative action involved in passing these credits through probate and that it would be a convenient opportunity to make repayment instead of, as at present, charging widows death duties on their husbands' post-war credits which they have not got?

Mr. Simon

May I first dispute the assumption in the last part of the hon. Lady's supplementary question? Death duties are not payable on post-war credits. As regards the other point, any repayment of post-war credits leads to an administrative saving but I am sure the hon. Lady will see that if one said merely that, on the ground of hardship, widows should be repaid on the death of the husbands there would be very many much harder cases which would be left outside.

Mr. E. Fletcher

May we take it that the Minister now recognises that there is a great deal of hardship resulting from the failure to repay post-war credits? Will not he recognise that the reason given previously for having failed to deal with this problem was the general state of the Exchequer? Now, however, that we are moving into a period in which the Government are anxious to give away money and to increase spending power, is not this an ideal opportunity for tackling this problem again and relaxing the existing system in order to overcome these large numbers of individual cases of hardship?

Mr. Simon

No, Sir. The question of repayment on the ground of hardship has been considered on its merits and quite irrespective of the desirability of inflationary or deflationary moves. I know the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) will bear me out that it has been found quite impracticable.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will my hon. and learned Friend give an undertaking that when payments are due on a given date—legitimate payments—he will liven up his Department to pay them? Recently I have had cases of repayment being six months overdue, when poor people could not get their money. Will the Minister issue an instruction that these matters are to be dealt with promptly and efficiently?

Mr. Simon

The Inland Revenue makes every attempt to deal with repayment as rapidly as possible, but in some cases there is delay in the making of the claims. In other cases the certificates have been lost, and considerable trouble is taken in the Inland Revenue to find copies.