HC Deb 07 August 1975 vol 897 cc711-2
12. Mr. Hunt

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the amount of money annually injected into the economy by the credit card system.

Mr. Dell

Separate figures for the amount of bank lending to persons through credit card accounts are not published, on grounds of commercial confidence. However, the latest figures available for total bank advances to persons outstanding, which include amounts outstanding on bank credit card accounts, show little change over the past year.

Mr. Hunt

I am a user of one of these cards. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that they represent a permanent temptation to overspend? Therefore, is there not a case for a suspension of these credit facilities, at least until we have brought inflation successfully under control?

Mr. Dell

There has been no increase, or at least little change, over the past year in total bank advances to persons with outstanding accounts. Therefore, it does not appear that these cards are having the effect that the hon. Gentleman fears. He knows that in December 1973 the minimum payment was increased. Therefore, I do not see any reason for action on this matter at present.

Mr. Lee

Is not the position similar to that of advertising? It may be a marginal factor. Is it not absurd that, on the one hand, the Government rightly want to curb expenditure on personal consumption, and yet, on the other, they allow or connive at the existence of things which tempt people to spend to an unnecessary degree?

Mr. Dell

I should point out to the House that, like the hon. Member for Ravensbourne (Mr. Hunt), I use these cards myself. I do not believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee) would want the convenience that they represent to be removed, unless there were serious reasons for doing so.

Mr. Edward Lyons

What view does my right hon. Friend take of the ability to use credit cards abroad to buy goods above the £300 spending limit?

Mr. Dell

This follows from the freedom of trade in which this country engages. It is possible to import goods from abroad, by various means of payment, above the £300 limit which is imposed in respect of foreign travel.