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National Finance

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 15 April 1954

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Poland (British Claims)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he is taking to obtain repayment from Poland of British claims against that country.

Negotiations are in progress.

Hungarian Debt (Interest Repayment)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is including repayment of interest due on the Hungarian bonded debt in the present discussions on trade with Hungary.

Would my hon. Friend bear in mind, in these negotiations, that it is always possible that one Department may feel determined to make a success of their part in them without realising fully the needs of other Departments? Can he assure us that the Treasury is keeping well in mind the fact that the Hungarians, as far back as 1949, were offering to pay certain sums, and make quite sure that today's figures will be no less than those of 1949?

All Departments are equally keen to make sure that their own interests are watched, but I can assure my hon. Friend that the question of pay- ments in respect of the debt from Hungary is very much in our minds.

Does that mean that claims for compensation for the industries which Hungary has nationalised will be dealt with as in the case of similar negotiations with Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia?

Can my hon. Friend say how these negotiations are going on and when they are likely to be concluded?

No, I cannot say. They were started only fairly recently and they are rather complicated.

Production (New Capital Investment)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in future numbers of the Economic Survey, he will relate more clearly the effect on production of new capital investment.

It is not possible to isolate the effects of investment from the other factors which influence the course of production. In many cases, moreover, these do not fully mature for a considerable period.

Is my hon. Friend aware that on one page are given statistics of new investment and, two pages further on, the increase in production, yet adverse comments on private enterprise were made in the debate although it increased its output far more than the nationalised industries?

I think that the adverse comments made in the recent debate about private enterprise were fully dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Economic Survey (Statistics)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will furnish an estimate of the degree of accuracy, plus or minus, of the estimated statistics in the Economic Survey.

No, Sir; an adequate interpretation of the statistics in the Economic Survey is available in the Survey itself, in the Balance of Payments White Paper, and in the National Income Blue Book.

As many of these statistics are only reasoned guesses, might they not be produced on the usual scientific basis, giving some indication of the possible degree of error, because they are treated by ordinary people as representative of the precise truth?

I feel that the degree of error would be only a reasoned guess. It is fairly common knowledge to those who read the document that the estimates are the best we can give, and that the degree of statistical reliability must vary from figure to figure.

National Debt Increase (State Assets)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what new assets we have secured as a result of an increase in the National Debt of £531,000,000 during the year ended 31st March, 1954.

For details of the change in the estimated assets of the State over the year ended 31st March, 1954, I must ask my hon. Friend to await publication of the Finance Accounts of the United Kingdom for 1953–54.

There will be very substantial increases in assets in respect of the Local Loans Fund and the National Coal Board. Moreover, as my right hon. Friend mentioned in his Budget speech, in considering the assumption of liability by the Treasury for British Iron and Steel 3½ per cent. Guaranteed Stock one must also remember the securities of the nationalised companies which have been transferred to the Holding and Realisation Agency.

Roumanian And Hungarian Assets (Distribution)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will be able to make a statement about the distribution of Roumanian and Hungarian assets held by the Custodian of Enemy Property.

A draft of the Treasury direction is nearly ready. I hope to make it available to Parliament before the direction comes into effect, and, at the same time, to give any explanations that may be needed.

It was as far back as July, 1952, that we were told that this direction was almost ready? Can my hon. Friend give us any reason for this long delay, which has caused a lot of inconvenience to many people?

Yes, I have already expressed regret on more than one occasion for the delay that has taken place, which, I agree, has been very long. It is now merely a question of finishing the legal drafting of the direction, which is a complicated task, but it is going on and it should not take long to finish.

Can my hon. Friend say when it will be finished, within a few weeks or months? It took years last time.

Budget Proposals (Pamphlet)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will resume the practice of the former Government and publish an illustrated pamphlet entitled, "The Budget and Your Pocket," explaining, in the simplest terms, what the Budget proposals will mean to the British taxpayer.

The usual Budget poster will be prepared as soon as the Finance Bill is enacted, and will be widely distributed.

Is the Minister aware that in the days of the Labour Government the Chancellor of the Exchequer used to publish an interesting booklet called "The Budget and your Pocket" which enabled ordinary people, like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), who cannot understand the Economic Survey, to appreciate some facts about their national life? Also, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it would help the old-age pensioners to understand the position?

I think the explanation of my right hon. Friend's financial proposals, which he and others have given from this Box, are adequate to explain the admirable nature of those proposals.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are some extraordinary people who would also like elucidation, such as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes)?

Is it not a fact that the Budgets of the Labour Government needed much more explaining than the Budgets of my right hon. Friend?

Highland Games (Tax Revenue)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what receipts he had in 1953 for entertainment tax on Highland games.

In view of the fact that it is a very small amount, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that a number of the smaller Highland communities are unable to carry on their Highland games this year, and will he weight this comparatively small sum against the damage to the Highland cultural interests and also to the tourist industry?

My right hon. Friend has had representations on this subject. It is the fact that under the existing law some of these games are able to qualify for exemption, but some are not. However, the representations of my noble Friend will be borne in mind.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the mock auctioneers made greater profits at the Highland games last year than in any other part of Britain?