HL Deb 05 December 1962 vol 245 cc235-8

2.51 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government—

(1) Whether they can give the latest figures in respect of the claims of British subjects for compensation for losses resulting from the Suez Affair for Egyptianised and sequestrated property respectively showing:—

  1. (a) Number and total value of claims received in each category;
  2. (b) Number and value of claims assessed in each category;
  3. (c) Total value of payments made to each category.

(2) How much interest on the Fund of £27½ million has been received and how much deducted in tax.]


My Lords, the reply to the first part of my noble friend's Question consists of a table of figures, and with your Lordships' indulgence I will read it. Under Part III of the Order, which covers Egyptianisation, the number of formulated applications received totalled 1,013, claiming a total of 64,154,887 Egyptian pounds. Of these 1,013 claims, 648 were established and assessed at £44,612,162. I must apologise that the first figure is in Egyptian pounds; the other figures which I shall quote are all sterling. Under Part IV of the Order, which includes sequestration, 2,380 formulated applications were received, claiming a total of £12,433,966; and, of these, 1,818 claims were established and assessed at £4,240,280. As to the payments made in each category, of the claims assessed under Part III—that is, Egyptianisation—614 payments have been made, totalling £12,207,673; and, of the sequestration damage claims, 1,601 claims assessed were paid a total of £1,884,022. So that the total payments under the two categories is about £14 million.

In reply to the second part of my noble friend's Question, up to November 30 of this year the gross amount of income received from that part of the Egyptian Compensation Fund available from time to time for investment was £3,026,007, and the tax on that which had been paid up to March 31 of this year was £959,619. So that the net total of the Fund has been increased thereby from £27½ million to about £29½ million.


I should like to thank the noble Earl for the very detailed information he has given in reply to the first part of my Question. It will obviously take a little digesting, but I am grateful to him for it—it is very helpful to all of us. As regards the second part of my Question, the noble Earl will remember that when his noble friend replied to a similar Question in this House there was expressed, I think, a general repugnance at this charging of tax on the interest on this Fund. I am not suggesting that it is not legal, but it is not very nice. May I suggest to the noble Earl that the feeling of the House is probably the same to-day as it was the last time we discussed this matter—that is, one of some repugnance at the charging of tax on the interest on this Fund payable to these sufferers?


My Lords, I am aware of my noble friend's views on this subject. I do not think I can add anything to what was said by my noble friend Lord Mills on the two occasions when your Lordships discussed it, on November 29 of last year and January 24 of this year.


My Lords, I do not think that removes the feeling in the minds of so many of us that where a Fund of this kind has had to be dealt with—at very long intervals in the case of some of those concerned—it is unfair to tax the interest on the Fund which is being held before final distribution, instead of using it for meeting the expenses of the people concerned. I think that is very uncharitable.


My Lords, on the other hand, I know your Lordships are hoping that the Government may be able to provide a sum for what is called "topping up", which will be, I am sure your Lordships hope, rather greater than the amount which has been paid in tax. I do not know whether or not that will be taken into account in deciding the amount of "topping up", but I cannot anticipate the statement which I hope will be made on behalf of the Government at an early date.


My Lords, may I again thank the noble Earl for his answer and express the hope once more—the vain hope—that this question of taxation will be in some manner reconsidered? Apparently £990,000 has been paid in tax, which amount would otherwise have accrued to the Fund. It may be law—it is law—but it does not seem to be moral.


My Lords, might I ask the noble Earl, with regard to the losses against Egyptianised property, whether I am correct in understanding that all likely claims have now been entered and that therefore, as against the sequestrated amount, it is likely that the total which will rank for dividend is now complete, so that when the total amount of short-fall is assessed at least the Egyptianised part will be concluded?


I am not sure about that, because a large number of application forms received by the Commission are still unformulated, in the sense that they do not contain a statement of the amount or, in some cases, a description of the property concerned. In addition, the assessment of many of the outstanding fully-formulated claims is being held up for lack of evidence. But as a result of the exchange of Notes of August 7 of this year, we hope that many of these difficulties will soon be overcome.


While thanking the noble Earl for his reply, may I ask whether it is to be understood that the amounts of the Egyptianised claims have not yet been formulated, though registered?


Some of them are not yet fully completed.


My Lords, is the word "Egyptianisation" a word from which there is no escape?


My Lords, there may be no escape, but I hope there may be a deliverance.