HC Deb 11 November 1958 vol 595 cc186-8
38. Mr. Hunter

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total amount of post-war credits still owing, and the total amount now repaid.

Mr. Amory

About £438 million and £302 million respectively.

Mr. Hunter

Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that there is great concern in the country over the rate of repayment, and that at the present rate of repayment some people will not be paid this century?

Mr. Amory

I know that many people are concerned on this subject, but the rate at which repayment may be made depends upon the state of the economy. That is a matter that any Chancellor of the Exchequer—including my predecessors and I—must always keep in front of him.

Mr. H. Wilson

Yes, but while there is a wide suspicion that the Chancellor is holding this back for inclusion in his election Budget, may I ask whether he would not agree that there is very great hardship among people at present, and not the least among widows and others who are on National Assistance? Would he now, before the winter is over, consider altering the rules to allow post-war credits to be paid in cases of acute hardship?

Mr. Amory

That point arises on the next Question, and I shall answer it.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of issuing a State loan for the whole amount? This would take off the market accrued savings which might be spent in an inflationary way, and my right hon. Friend could use the proceeds of the loan to pay post-war credits comprehensively.

Mr. Amory

That suggestion, but in a slightly different form, has been made on a number of previous occasions.

40. Mr. Willey

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make provision for the payment of post-war credits in the case of blind persons.

41. Mr. Hunter

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will consider lowering the age for the repayment of post-war credits; and if he will take early measures to repay post-war credits to persons who are unable to follow their employment through disablement.

Mr. Amory

The Government keep under constant review the possibility of increasing the rate of payment of postwar credits, but have no proposal to make for lowering the qualifying age in present circumstances. As regards the suggestion that payment should be made to disabled or blind persons, I would refer the hon. Members to the reply given to the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) on 6th November.

Mr. Wiley

As blind persons are easily identifiable and are specially deserving, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the time has come when this concession could be made to them?

Mr. Amory

This is a very difficult matter. One naturally always has sympathy when trying to find a basis on which concessions can be made on hardship grounds. The difficulty is not in defining the particular type of hardship but the degree of hardship, which does not depend upon a particular category. It is extremely difficult to find a basis which would be fair to all concerned. On many occasions my predecessors tried to do this, and I have tried to do it. I shall continue to keep it under consideration but I am bound to own that at present I do not think that I have found a fair basis.

Mr. Hunter

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have had my attention drawn to disabled persons in my constituency who are nearly 60 years of age, who will never work again and are in very poor circumstances? Could he give consideration to cases like that?

Mr. Amory

I know there are cases like that which are perfectly clearly defined, but when one embarks upon an administrative project of this kind one must make sure that it will work out broadly fairly.

43. Sir A. V. Harvey

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury why post-war credits which were due to Miss Minnie Stockton, of 15, Garden Street, Congleton, in May, 1958, have not been paid; and if he will instruct the Inland Revenue officials to expedite this matter.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. J. E. S. Simon)

Repayment of the amount claimed was made on 7th November. I am very sorry for the delay, which was due to the wrong reference number having been entered on the certicate.

Sir A. V. Harvey

While thanking my hon. and learned Friend for that information, may I ask him to instruct his local officials to take more care in dealing with very small sums which mean a great deal to these individuals?

Mr. Simon

Yes, Sir. The Inland Revenue will make every attempt to secure repayment of the claims as rapidly as possible. Of course, the Inland Revenue Department was under very great pressure in the year 1945–46, when the reference number was entered on the certificate.