HC Deb 02 February 1960 vol 616 cc787-8
34. Mr. E. Johnson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what has been the amount of post-war credits repaid, to the latest convenient date, on the grounds of hardship.

Mr. Amory

I regret that this information is not available.

Mr. Johnson

Is that not an extraordinary statement? After all the difficulty we had in persuading my right hon. Friend to define hardship—and I congratulate him on succeeding in defining it—surely we ought to know how much has been repaid? I was hoping to ask him to define it a little more widely.

Mr. Amory

The explanation, as I think my hon. Friend can imagine, is the work that would be entailed. We do not analyse our central records in that particular way as between one type of recipient and another. As he knows, the actual payment is not centralised. It would involve a tremendous amount of work if we were to analyse all these kinds of payments in ways which would permit me to answer all the questions which hon. Members ask me.

Mr. H. Wilson

In view of the great interest taken in this matter, will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to obtain the information? Is he aware that the total amount of staff needed to do this work would probably be smaller than that employed on getting Answers to Questions about Purchase Tax asked by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)? Is he aware that hon. Members in all parts of the House are disturbed about the operation of this scheme in relation to hardship, particularly in tying the payment in so many cases to the unemployability supplement? Is he aware that if he relaxed that part of the conditions he would relieve a little more hardship and be able to deal with some of the difficult personal cases of which hon. Members have knowledge?

Mr. Amory

I am glad to answer the question of the right hon. Member, and I am anxious to do everything I can to get the administration of this difficult bit of work as good as we can make it and as fair as we can make it. I am afraid that strictly to separate all these individual payments now from our total national record would involve a tremendous amount of work. I am anxious to keep the House in touch. What I shall do, in reply to my hon. Friend and to the right hon. Member, is to see if there is any way in which I can give an approximate figure. Perhaps it would be a little rough and ready, but I shall see what I can do.