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National Finance

Volume 389: debated on Tuesday 4 May 1943

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Service And Prison Chaplains


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total annual charge on the public funds in respect of the pay of Service and prison chaplains?

The total annual charge on public funds in respect of the pay of Service and prison chaplains is approximately £1,160,000.

Apart from this relatively small minority—consisting, of course, of all denominations—would it be correct to say that none of the clergy or bishops of the Church of England are paid by the State?

Income Tax Payers


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will give the number of Income Tax payers during the year ended 5th April, 1942?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the Table given by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in answer to a Question on 23rd July last, from which he will see that the number of Income Tax payers for the year ended 5th April, 1942, is estimated at 10,500,000.

Second-Hand Jewellery (Purchase Tax)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether secondhand jewellery pays the 100 per cent. Purchase Tax?

Yes, Sir, where it forms the subject of a taxable purchase; but many transactions are, of course, not of "a wholesale character."

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the enormous trade which is being done in uncut and unset stones, many of the latter obtained from broken-up second-hand jewellery?

Cannot my right hon. Friend devise some means of taxing these transactions?

Government Departments (Telephone Calls)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the official estimate that approximately 80 per cent. of telephone calls throughout the country are attributable to Government Departments and Government-controlled institutions, he will take every step to ensure that this percentage is not increased by reason of calls no longer being charged to the appropriate Departments and also because no close scrutiny or record is now maintained?

As I informed my hon. Friend on 22nd April, the need for rigid economy in the use of telephone communication facilities has been impressed on all Government Departments. In cooperation with the other Departments the Post Office is keeping under review the practical operation of the new arrangements.

Is not the Minister aware that, notwithstanding the steps that have been taken, a large number of totally unnecessary long-distance calls is made almost daily from Whitehall? Will he endeavour to make Government Departments realise that they cannot monopolise the whole telephone service?

Debt Operations


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will arrange that, in the statement of debt operations for April, 1943, and succeeding months, the particulars regarding issues and redemptions of other debt shall distinguish between internal and external loans?

I have arranged that the transactions under "other debt" from April, 1943, onwards shall be divided between internal and external.

Savings Bank Funds (Terminable Annuity)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what amount of the funds of the savings banks were recently invested by the National Debt Commissioners to provide a terminable annuity of £6,516,331 10s. with a currency of 27 years?

Easter Offerings (Taxation)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether all Easter offerings to parish priests and ministers by their congregations are subjected to Income Tax; and whether he will consider exempting gifts of this nature from tax in future?

The taxation of Easter offerings is based upon the decision of the House of Lords given in 1908 in the case of Cooper v. Blakiston, in which it was held that Easter offerings to a vicar were assessable as emoluments of his office. I do not see my way to propose relief from the ordinary operation of the Income Tax law in this matter. I would remind my hon. Friend that the Royal Commission on the Income Tax considered this question and were unable to recommend any concession; and that proposals for the exemption of Easter offerings have been made in this House on several occasions during Finance Bill Debates and have invariably been rejected.

Will the right hon. Gentleman allow the House to have a free vote on this matter?

Comptroller And Auditor-General's Report


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has considered the Report of the Auditor-General on the Civil Appropriation Accounts for 1941; and will he say what disciplinary action it is proposed to take against the individuals responsible for decisions which lead to waste of public money?

The question of disciplinary action would be a matter for the Minister of the Department concerned. But I would remind my hon. Friend that the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General has still to be considered by the Public Accounts Committee, which will take evidence from the Departments and will report to the House in due course. I do not see how any question of taking disciplinary action could arise on the Report at this preliminary stage.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the subject of the Report of the Public Accounts Committee is of such importance that in the business world it would entail the dismissal of the persons concerned?

We had better await careful examination of the Report by the Public Accounts Committee.

Barge Sinkings, Welsh Coast


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any statement to make concerning the sinking of two barges off the coast of Wales and the consequent loss of the lives of a number of soldiers?

I have been asked to reply, as the casualties were not soldiers, but Royal Marine and Royal Navy personnel. This regrettable incident, which took place in a heavy gale, has been the subject of a board of inquiry, the full report of whose findings has not yet been received and considered. I can, however, assure my hon. Friend that the report of the inquiry will be very fully examined with a view to taking any necessary preventive or other measures.

Will the result of the inquiry be made public to this House? Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is reported that most of these people were not so much drowned or swamped in the barges as they were dashed to death on rocks, owing to an inshore gale?

I had better have notice of that Question, while I examine the report more fully.

Foreign Workers, Germany


asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any information through the International Labour Office as to the total number of foreign workers now employed in Germany; and whether in. can state the countries from which these workers have come and the respective numbers?

The International Labour Office published in the "International Labour Review" for December, 1942, information which had appeared in a German newspaper in September, 1942, according to which the number of foreign workers in Germany, including prisoners of war, "could be estimated at 5,500,000 and was not far from 6,000,000." Workers have been recruited by Germany from most of the countries occupied or dominated by her, but reliable figures of the respective numbers are not available.

War Criminals (Asylum)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether steps have been, or will be, taken to make it clear to the Governments of neutral countries that when we have won the war we shall not tolerate asylum being given by them to war criminals belonging to the Axis nations, no matter how exalted their position may be?

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) on 19th January last.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the very natural apprehension there is in the country that, after this war, the criminals may be allowed to get off scot free as they were in the last war?

My answer did make clear that there was discussion on this matter with the other Allied Governments.

Food Supplies Conference


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the fact that the International Labour Office and the economic section of the League of Nations have studied the problem of food supplies and nutrition, and that both bodies are located in the United States of America, he will suggest that they should be asked to send representatives to take part in the coming Conference on Food Supplies which will be attempting to relieve hunger and also eradicate the ills of malnourishment?

The position of the United States Government and of certain other Governments participating in the conference is not identical in regard to the International Labour Office and to the Economic Section of the League of Nations. I am sure, however, that the desirability of profiting from their researches into these problems and, if possible, of associating either or both of these bodies in some way with the work of the conference, will not be overlooked.