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National Finance

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 19 July 1949

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War Debts (Anglo-Indian Talks)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how the debt of Britain to India of about £1,200,000,000 contracted during the war in the defence, inter alia, of the Commonwealth and Empire has been liquidated up to date; and if Great Britain alone by unrequited exports or otherwise has borne the cost of liquidation up to date.

Financial talks with the Government of India are at present in progress and we expect to make a statement when they are concluded.

Can the Economic Secretary say what is the proportion of this debt now liquidating, and whether it is true that out of the £1,200 million only some £200 million or £300 million now remains to be repaid?

No, Sir, that is not true. My right hon. and learned Friend thought it best to give the full details when these negotiations were complete.

When the right hon. Gentleman talks about talks going on, does he mean a permanent settlement of this problem, or another interim release of some of these balances?

Are their accounts to be submitted on a contra account for services rendered during the same period? Have all these been taken into consideration?

If the hon. Gentleman is speaking of counter claims by the United Kingdom, some of these were settled under the agreement made last year.

Will my hon. Friend ask his right hon. and learned Friend to consider sending to the Indian Government a bill for this amount for saving them from the Japanese?

In view of the hon. Gentleman's reply to the last supplementary question, is it not a fact that we have been told on many occasions that any counter claim we have against the Indian Government in connection with the war effort has been reserved for the final talks, and is it really correct when the hon. Gentleman says that such counter claims have already been settled in last year's talks?

A most substantial counter claim on account of defence stores, pensions and other matters was settled in the agreement which was published in the White Paper last year.

Is the Chancellor making no claim against this debt which has been incurred in the defence of India and for the effort we made in keeping India safe?

Has any request been made to the Governments of India, Ceylon, Pakistan or any other Government to assist in liquidating this debt, instead of leaving the whole charge to fall upon the unfortunate British taxpayer?

I think the second answer by the Economic Secretary to the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) was different to the one he gave to me. Are there still counter claims to be considered?

Inland Revenue Staff, Cardiff


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction at the Inland Revenue offices, Cardiff, due to the method pursued in selecting members of the staff for interviews by the Establishment Board; and what redress is open to those unestablished officers who feel that they have been unjustly treated.

The answer to the first part of the Question is No, Sir. The method of selection of temporary staff in the Inland Revenue for establishment as clerical officers was agreed with the Staff Side of the Inland Revenue Departmental Whitley Council. The Board of Inland Revenue have received no representations either from individual members of the staff or from the recognised staff associations that the method adopted has proved unsatisfactory in practice.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have received two deputations in my constituency from these unestablished officers? If he is prepared to consider the correspondence, I will forward it to him and he will soon have abundant evidence of dissatisfaction.

Certainly, I am always willing to consider anything which my hon. Friend cares to send to me, but I would point out that these individuals have a staff association which is very active on their behalf.

Eggs (Purchase In Usa)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what expenditure of dollars was authorised for the purchase in the United States of hatching eggs by the Colonial Development Corporation for its poultry project in the Gambia; and why he did not insist that these eggs should be supplied from the United Kingdom.

Fourteen thousand dollars. No quantity of suitable eggs or strain was available in the United Kingdom.

Could the Financial Secretary specify this special strain of poultry that is available from America, and is it proposed to allow the Corporation to spend still further dollars in buying another batch of these eggs?

I should want notice of the second part of that supplementary question. As to the first part, I personally could not judge, but the experts were of the opinion that these eggs had to be obtained from overseas.

What type of expert is this who thinks we cannot produce the type of eggs to go to Gambia, especially from the county where are to be found the best poultry in the world? It is fantastic.

I would suggest that the hon. and gallant Gentleman should look at a map, and he will see that Gambia is a tropical country. This country is not.

Oeec Payments (Bullion)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what extent settlements in gold and dollars in connection with payments agreement with the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation countries were made in bullion; and at what price per fine ounce to each of the countries, Belgium, Switzerland and Bizone, in 1948 and first five months for 1949.

All the gold payments in question were made in bullion; but I cannot give the hon. Member details of the proportions of gold and dollars in these settlements. All our monetary settlements involving the use of gold are normally made at rates agreed between central banks, based on the United States gold buying price of 35 dollars per fine ounce and the sterling-dollar parity of exchange.

Is my hon. Friend aware that 2,500,000 ounces of gold were involved in these transactions, and if gold had been valued at the free market price of £22 10s. per fine ounce instead of the controlled price of £8 12s. 5d. per fine ounce, instead of losing 2,500,000 ounces we should only lose 800,000 ounces? What is he going to do about it?

On a point of Order. I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter again, and again.

War Damage Claim, Plymouth


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will cause inquiries to be made into why the War Damage Commission have refused to accept the claim for compensation submitted on behalf of Mr. W. J. George, of 5, Stokes Lane, New Street, Barbicon, Plymouth, in view of the fact that the claim is solely concerned with the replacement by clear glass of the translucent glass used for the repair of windows when first aid repairs were done to this property by the local authority during the war and of the fact that there is no conflict of evidence on this point.

I regret that my right hon. and learned Friend cannot undertake to answer Questions about individual war damage cases. I am told by the Commission that they have already informed my hon. Friend of the reasons for their decision.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the Debate on 18th March he made this statement:

"… if the claims are and can be shown to be war damage claims, quite obviously under the law they should be accepted."?—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 2523.]
There is no doubt whatever that this is a legitimate war damage claim, and that is not denied by the War Damage Commission, If the Commission is not, therefore, prepared to recognise this claim, will the Treasury take the step of refunding to my constituent the war damage contributions which he made during the war?

Unfortunately, the final decision must rest with the War Damage Commission. It is a statutory body, and an independent body at that. I can do no more than see that the War Damage Commission is made aware of what my hon. Friend has now said.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether the same kind of principles are going to be applied in the case of insurance if it is nationalised?

It is obvious that if the War Damage Commission is responsible for refusing the claim, the Treasury should reimburse my constituent for his war damage contribution, and under the circumstances I ask that that should be done.

Overseas Countries (British Aid)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will state the combined totals of our aid to overseas countries and the redemption of sterling balances, since the end of the war.

For the first part of his Question I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) on 24th May. For the second part of his Question I would refer him to the table published on page 11 of Cmd. 7648.

Sugar (Brewing Trade)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the annual consumption of sugar by the brewing trade for each of the last four years.

I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate this answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Not with my consent, Mr. Speaker. I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether these figures do not indicate that there is a slight reduction in the total amount of sugar allowed to the brewers, compared with pre-war usage. As there is a very large reduction in the domestic allowance of sugar, compared with pre-war usage, would my right hon. Friend say how the Chancellor of the Exchequer came to the decision that sugar for the domestic users must now be cut down whilst for the brewers it is left at the same level?

My hon. Friend will, of course, see the complete figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but I can tell him that between 1947 and 1948 there has been a reduction in the sugar allocation of something like a quarter of a million hundredweights.

May I ask whether my right hon. Friend is treating the soft-drink makers as liberally as he is treating the brewers?

Is not the fall in the allocation of sugar to brewers due merely to the falling off there has been in the demand for beer, which falling off the Chancellor of the Exchequer is trying to put right by his Budget this year?

Following is the answer:

The estimated quantities of sugar, including the equivalent of syrup, glucose and saccharum consumed by the brewing trade for each of the last four years ended 30th September were:

19451,784,064 cwts.
19461,790,021 cwts.
19471,601,186 cwts.
19481,443,558 cwts.

I should explain that "saccharum" is a form of sugar ("invert sugar"), not saccharin, the use of which is prohibited in brewing.

National Savings (Political Propaganda)


asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what steps are taken to prevent the use of the machinery of the National Savings Movement for party political propaganda.

The National Savings Committee attaches great importance to the non-political character of the National Savings Movement and does not tolerate any infringement of this principle.

In view of his answer, will the right hon. Gentleman consider drawing the attention of that Committee to the statement made in a publication which the right hon. Gentleman would regard as reliable, "The Surrey County Clarion," about the case of a woman who uses her position as collector in the National Savings Movement to canvass for the Labour Party? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that publication suggests that other people do the same, and will he make it clear that this kind of thing will not be permitted?

If the right hon. Gentleman will bring to my notice the facts that he has now indicated to the House, I will certainly get the National Savings Movement to look into the matter.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that party political propaganda by hon. Members opposite has tried to destroy the machinery of National Savings before now?

American Stage Shows (Dollar Cost)


asked the Secretary to the Treasury, how many American theatrical shows have been imported into this country during tine last 12 months; and at what cost in dollars.

Information about the number of American theatrical shows imported into the United Kingdom is not available, but during the 12 months ended 31st May, 1949, remittances to the U.S.A. by entertainment artists, including those engaged in theatrical productions, amounted to £470,000.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of one case in which no fewer than 8,000 dollars were permitted for the purpose of enabling two American artists to appear for one night in a show at Olympia?

In view of the fact that there is some unemployment on the stage in this country, will my right hon. Friend examine very closely any applica- tion for American dollars in this respect? After all, we can provide our own entertainment for ourselves.

Perhaps I might answer the question put by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton). The trouble is that this country cannot discriminate in these matters. It would be tantamount to setting up a censorship, and it might also mean that other countries would differentiate between our people and theirs in the same way.

is it not bad enough that we cannot buy books and pictures from other countries without being unable to have theatrical performances from other countries either?

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that British artistes are earning valuable dollars in the United States?

Before my right hon. Friend answers that question, would he also bear in mind that, with the consent of the Opposition, we have introduced a policy which limits the amount of American films brought to this country? Is it not only reasonable that we should do the same in regard to live entertainment?

Would my right hon. Friend say whether American artists who wish to be paid in ordinary sterling can be so paid, or whether they are forced to receive convertible sterling?