Skip to main content

National Finance

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1949

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

High Court Judges (Salaries)

29.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will now introduce legislation to increase the salaries of His Majesty's High Court judges, in view of the increased cost of living since these were last fixed in 1831.

My right hon. and learned Friend has this matter under consideration in consultation with the Lord Chancellor.

As this matter has now been so long delayed, can the right hon. Gentleman indicate when some steps are going to be taken about it?

Yes, Sir. Legislation will be necessary, and I think I can promise the House that that legislation will not be long delayed; it will certainly be this year.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consult with the Scottish authorities in connection with the High Court judges of Scotland?

Do not the Government agree that public interest suffers unless His Majesty's judges are remunerated on a scale commensurate with the salaries paid to high executives in industry, and that there is an unanswerable case for reconsideration?

Obviously, all those points will be taken into consideration when a decision is arrived at in this matter.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Government have taken the trouble to draw the attention of the High Court judges to the White Paper on Personal Incomes Costs and Prices?

Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House what was the purchasing power of the pound in 1831 as compared with 1949?

If the hon. and gallant Member will put down that question, I will answer it.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the constitutional implications, because in 1931 His Majesty's judges made representation, when it was proposed to reduce their salaries, to the effect that we had not that power, and that it was a grave breach of the Constitution to interfere with their terms of employment?

Erp Aid

30.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will now state the amount of Marshall Aid to be received by the United Kingdom in the period beginning July, 1949, and, of this, how much is gift and how much loan.

No, Sir. The amount of E.R.P. aid that may be made available to the United Kingdom in the period beginning July, 1949, is not yet known; nor is it known what, if any, proportion of such assistance would be in the form of a loan rather than grant.

Is not the Economic Secretary aware that the necessity for the continuance of Marshall Aid is mainly due to the presence of a Socialist Government in Great Britain?

Pound Sterling (Purchasing Power)

31.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, taking the purchasing power of the £1 in 1914 as 100, he will give the corresponding figure for the latest available date.

In March, 1949, the purchasing power of the pound reckoned over the whole field of consumers' expenditure, was about 35 per cent. of its purchasing power in 1914.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if this Government remain in power, the purchasing power of the pound will go to nothing? What is the good of 100 paper pounds a week if the money is worthless?

The hon. Gentleman forgets that a large part of the fall occurred between 1914 and 1920.

British Salesmen, Us A (Currency Allowance)

32.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the Government's desire for British salesmanship in the United States of America to extend beyond the Atlantic seaboard, he will undertake to provide the extra dollars required for British salesmen to make their efforts more widespread throughout that country.

As my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade made clear in his speech in the House on 11th April, the Government are most willing to provide dollars for any legitimate purposes connected with the export trade to the United States. So far as business travel is concerned, the Bank of England is prepared to provide currency up to a maximum of £10 per day to all businessmen who wish to visit the United States for the purpose of promoting our exports. Moreover, where an exceptional amount of travelling is involved and the tickets cannot be paid for in sterling before departure, the Bank will be prepared to make an extra allocation of currency to meet travelling expenses. I am not aware that the efforts of businessmen are hampered in any way through lack of dollars for business visits, but, if there is any evidence to the contrary, I will gladly look into the matter.

Tobacco Tokens (Retailers' Refunds)

33.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the long delay that retail tobacconists are experiencing in obtaining a refund on tobacco supplies to old age pensioners, he will review the present arrangements which are having an adverse effect upon the benefits derived from this concession by old age pensioners.

I am not aware of any delay, but, if the hon. Member has any particular case in mind, I will look into it.

Education (Aliens And Non-Residents)

34.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the annual cost to the British taxpayer of providing scholarships and other educational facilities to individual aliens and to individual British subjects who are not residents of Great Britain.

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement giving the cost of certain arrangements for the provision of scholarships and educational facilities for the persons mentioned.

Will my hon. Friend say whether, in view of the heavy taxation in this country, expenditure on things like these are essential?

I would ask my hon. Friend to remember that in 1947 we passed an Act through this House—I think by general consent—the Polish Resettlement Act, in which certain provisions were made which, of course, the Government have had to implement.

In view of the fact that this money is very well spent, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that it is the intention of the Government to continue this policy?

Following is the statement:

Apart from the cost of the special services mentioned below, the cost to public funds of providing educational facilities for the persons mentioned is not known but is thought to be very small. The Polish Resettlement Act, 1947, gave the Minister of Education and the Secretary of State for Scotland specific powers under which they can provide Poles who elect not to return to Poland with the education necessary to fit them for resettlement here or overseas. The total cost of all services so provided, including the cost of schools for Polish children, is estimated at £1,936,400 in 1949–50. The net expenditure of the British Council in the financial year 1948–49 in providing scholarships and other educational facilities for the persons mentioned was £201,800. Expenditure by the Colonial Office in 1948–49 for the same purpose was approximately £275,300.

Displaced Persons (Income Tax)

35.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his regulations provide that displaced persons, who are employed in this country, shall be liable to pay Income Tax on their earnings.

Gold Price

36.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions have taken place between His Majesty's Government, other members of the sterling area and the International Monetary Fund on the adjustment of the gold price, both for monetary and non-monetary purposes.

No discussions have taken place on this subject between His Majesty's Government and the International Monetary Fund. The other members of the sterling area who are members of the I.M.F. are members in their own right, and any discussions between them and the Fund are the concern of those Governments. We are, of course, in close touch on all these matters, as part of the normal exchange of information between the Commonwealth countries.

Does that answer mean that His Majesty's Government will support any move by members of the sterling area to secure a more equitable price, particularly for non-monetary gold?

No, Sir, it does not necessarily mean that. That is another question which the hon. and gallant Member might put down.

As this Question asks most particularly whether any action has been taken on this matter, cannot the hon. Gentleman at least give an indication of the view of His Majesty's Government?

I cannot give an indication of what our view might be on a subject which has not arisen, but, as I say, these matters are normally discussed between members of the Commonwealth in the ordinary course of business.

Raw Materials (Prices)

37.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the urgency to secure more dollar earnings, when he expects that British manufacturers will be able to secure raw materials at prices not higher than those paid by their competitors in the United States of America.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman will be aware of the difficulty of making a comparison in such general terms. I assume that the Question is related primarily to raw materials purchased centrally by the Government. The object here has been, except, where it is the Government's policy to subsidise, to make over a period neither profit nor loss. Thus, while prices were rising, certain raw materials were from time to time on sale at prices below the general world level. Now that some prices are falling, the converse may be true. Where export markets are involved, however, it may be necessary to adjust selling prices without too close regard to original cost. The Government are alive to this, and certain price adjustments have already been made.

Can the hon. Gentleman state, particularly in regard to linseed and base metals, what action His Majesty's Government are taking, or propose to take, to ensure that British manufacturers can secure those materials at the same price as their American competitors?

As I say, our policy is, on the one hand, to even out profits and losses over a period, but, on the other hand, where exports are concerned, to see that our manufacturers are not placed at a disadvantage.

Could the hon. Gentleman say, in regard to these particular materials, to what extent we are bound by long-term contracts to take them at more than the world market price?

There are no long-term contracts at fixed prices in the raw materials' field, but in some of the cases mentioned we do not always bind ourselves to sell a commodity at the price at which we bought it.

As the Government in this instance are charging 25 per cent. more than the world prices can the hon. Gentleman state when those prices will fall to the level of world prices?

No, I can give no precise answer, but as world prices of some of these commodities vary from day to day, obviously we could not keep exactly in line in all cases.

Purchase Tax

39.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what reductions have so far been made in Purchase Tax upon general household goods and commodities; and what is the gross value of those reductions and the individual amounts in each classified group.

I regret that information in this form is not available. I will, however, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the principal reductions made in the Finance Act, 1948, and subsequently by Treasury Order, at an estimated cost of about £60 million a year, additional to the reliefs accruing from extensions of the Utility Schemes.

Could my hon. Friend say whether these reductions have, in the main, been passed on to the consumer?

So far as we know they have in the great majority of cases. The revenue has certainly been conceded by the Treasury.

Is the Minister aware that there is a very strong feeling that Purchase Tax should be removed from all household goods and necessities and will he draw the attention of his right hon. and learned Friend to that before the Finance Bill comes in so that the Purchase Tax may be removed as the people desire?

Purchase Tax has already been removed from the great majority of real necessities.

Following is the list:

Brief DescriptionRate at 1st April 1948Current Rate
Per cent.Per cent.
Groups 1, 2, 3—
Silk garments5033⅓
Sheepskin garments, head gear and gloves for in dustrial use5033⅓
Non-Utility fur garments, headgear and gloves125100
Hand-knitted and hand embroidered garments33⅓Exempt
Hand-knitted and hand embroidered headgear and gloves50Exempt
Headgear, other non-Utility5033⅓
Gloves, other non-Utility5033⅓
Group—
Haberdashery of fur125100
Haberdashery, hand-knitted50Exempt
Haberdashery, other non Utility5033⅓
Group 5—
Domestic textile articles (non-Utility) of pile or woven-figured fabrics12566⅔
Non-Utility pillows, bolsters and mattresses5033⅓
Group 6—
Ribbons, etc., not more than 3 inches wide5033⅓
Pile and woven-figured fabrics (non-Utility)12566⅔
Group 8—
Fur skin, dressed125100
Group 9—
Certain tiles and strips for floor covering50Exempt
Fur rugs125100
Other floor coverings, except linoleum5033⅓
Group 10—
Paper towels and hand kerchiefs50Exempt
Group 11—
Glassware of cut glass125100
Galvanized baths not less than 42 inches long33⅓Exempt
Hardware, tableware, etc., except vessels for food and drink5033⅓
Furniture, non-Utility5033⅓
Group 12—
Vacuum cleaners, and other gas and electric appliances (except heaters)5033⅓
Gas space and water heating appliances7566⅔

Brief DescriptionRate at 1st April,1948Current Rate
Per cent.Per cent.
Group 13—
Cutlery5033⅓
Group 14—
Lighting fittings5033–
Incandescent mantles5033⅓
Electric filament lamps5033⅓
Oil burning lamps50Exempt
Group 15—
Hand lamps and hand torches5033⅓
Group 16—
Electric lawn mowers7533⅓
Garden ornaments125100
Garden furniture5033⅓
Group 17—
Clocks and watches (not of gold or silver)5033⅓
Clocks and watches of gold and silver125100
Group 18—
Wireless and television sets and valves5033⅓
Group 19—
Pipe organs, etc50Exempt
Gramophone records not produced for general sale50Exempt
Group 20—
Toys and some sports goods5033⅓
Group 21—
Wooden walking sticks5033⅓
Group 23—
Trunks, bags, etc., of leather125100
Plain baskets5033⅓
Group 25—
Pictures, vases, etc.125100
Groups 26, 27, 28—
Jewellery, gold and silver ware, etc.125100
Group 29—
Most fancy goods125100
Group 30—
Hair-waving and hair-drying machines5033⅓
Group 31—
Electric dry shavers12533⅓
Brushes, combs, scissors, razors, toilet paper, etc.5033⅓
Other toilet requisites125100
Group 32—
Perfumery and cosmetics125100
Toilet soap, toothpaste and other toilet preparations5033⅓
Group 33—
A range of non-proprietary medicines; and certain other medicines used in dispensing33⅓Exempt
Group 34—
Stationery and office requisites5033⅓

Kano Aerodrome (Currency)

38.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware of the irritation caused to air passengers at Kano aerodrome by the refusal of the authorities to permit payment for refreshments in sterling or South African pounds; and if he will issue instructions that such payments can now be made.

The question of what currency will be accepted in payment for refreshments at the Kano aerodrome is, of course, a matter for the Nigerian authorities. So far as United Kingdom residents are concerned, however, I am not aware that any inconvenience is caused by the present arrangements. United Kingdom residents travelling by air can pay for refreshments at the aerodrome in sterling area travellers' cheques, West African pounds or, if they are travelling by B.O.A.C., B.O.A.C. currency coupons purchased for sterling which are freely exchangeable into local currency at the aerodrome. I cannot agree to United Kindom sterling notes being used for such payments. Nor can I, of course, issue any instructions about South African pounds: this is a matter for the South African Government.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that at Kano the least demonination of sterling one can change is £1 and that, even with the best will in the world, one cannot spend £1 on tea? One is, therefore, left with a large amount of Nigerian currency which is unchangeable anywhere else. At every other stop by any air service it is possible to exchange sterling or South African pounds. Surely, therefore, it would be only fair to everybody concerned to allow the same thing at Kano.

This is a matter for the Nigerian authorities. Nevertheless, I would remind the hon. Member that it is possible for travellers going out there to take Nigerian currency and to have the allowance split here, before they go, by arrangement with their bank.

Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that before they leave on a trip of this kind people ought to provide themselves with 2s. 6d. in Nigerian currency in case they want tea at Kano?

No, but what I am suggesting is that this House should back the Government in order to see to it that we prevent currency from being freely exchanged abroad in defiance of the exchange control which exists.

Could the irritation possibly be removed by the free issue of a draught of groundnut oil easily obtainable at Kano?

Banks (Closing Days)

40.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will permit branch banks in England and Wales to be closed to the public on 1st July next and 2nd January, 1950, to enable the staffs to deal with the balancing of books and the heavy dividend and interest load and to ensure smoother working and greater efficiency of service to the public on succeeding days.

No, Sir, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 18th November, 1947, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe) and the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. H. Hynd). My right hon. and learned Friend has recently reviewed the question but sees no reason to alter his opinion that it would not be in the public interest to close the doors of the banks to the public on the days mentioned.

As there is considerable evidence that it would be both in the public interest and in the interests of the staff that this heavy burden should be relieved by closing the banks to the public on those days, could the matter be considered, especially in view of the fact that this practice was followed during the war and was found of great benefit?

They certainly were closed during the war, but it was because of the shortage of staff. I understand that the banks now have their staffs back and it does not, therefore, appear reasonable that the banks should be closed for these two extra days and that the public should be robbed of the facilities which otherwise would be provided.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in any event at the end of this year the banks will be closed to the public for one-and-a-half days?

Civil Service (Retiring Age)

41.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether, in view of the steady increase in longevity and the improvement in health of the nation and the urgent necessity of increased production, he will ensure that no person shall be dismissed from Government service on account of age before he has reached at least 65 years of age.

So long as there is a manpower shortage Government Departments are instructed to employ men and women beyond the age of 60 in all cases where they are willing to stay and are fully fit and efficient in the duties of their grade and where there is a real need to retain their services. Established staff are allowed to retire at 60 but can be retained in an established capacity until they are 65 and even, exceptionally, beyond that age. Departments may retain temporary staff, or may re-employ retired established staff in a temporary capacity, after the age of 65.