HC Deb 17 March 1964 vol 691 cc1171-2
18. Mr. P. Browne

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what consideration he has given to the problems of small investors in undated Government stocks; what action he proposes to take; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

I have considered this matter with sympathy and care. I have examined a number of different suggestions for special action to benefit people in various categories who have experienced a fall in the capital value of their holdings of these stocks. It is with great reluctance that I have had to conclude that the objections to all of them are overriding.

Mr. Browne

Is my hon. Friend aware that I am extremely grateful for the careful consideration which he gave to the latest scheme that I put up to him? Does he not appreciate, however, the very real hardship suffered by holders of Government stock, particularly the elderly folk who hold 3½ per cent. War Loan? Does he not think it is time that instead of the Government regretting bitterly that they cannot do anything about it, they did something about it? I know that they can.

Mr. Macmillan

The difficulty in doing something about it is that it is almost impossible to do so without creating a worse anomaly than the one we are removing, or being unfair to other people who have attempted to resolve this problem themselves, or without stirring up for the future a worse evil than the one it is attempted to remove at present.

Mr. A. Lewis

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that before the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Maurice Macmillan) became a Minister he took an active part in this campaign and, together with his hon. Friend, made various statements in favour of this suggestion? What has changed since the hon. Gentleman became a Minister compared with the situation when he was a back bencher?

Mr. Macmillan

I said that I had examined different suggestions for special action to help people in various categories. Those I examined included one which I had supported in the past. It was examination with somewhat fuller information than I had as a back bencher that made it quite clear to me that, deeply as I regretted it, whatever one did the situation was likely to be made worse rather than better.