asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much has been received by the Treasury during the present financial year in Excess Profits Duty; and what is the total paid or payable by way of refund?
was passed without opposition on 20th December, 1749; that this Act was not one of conversion of national debts but a notice of reduction of rates of interest to those persons, bodies politic or corporate, including the Bank of England, entitled to any part of the National Debt; that this Measure was responsible for an annual saving of £288,000 on the amount of debt affected of £57,703,475; that the rate of interest was later reduced to 3 per cent.; that this Measure received the commendation of William Pitt, who described it as a piece of consummate wisdom; and whether, in view of this precedent on the part of British statesmen, he can now see his way to reconsider his decision not to introduce a similar Bill in the present Session?
The hon. Member is mistaken in supposing that the Act to which he refers was not one for conversion. The Act enjoined "strict regard to public faith and private property," and holders were given the option of having the principal repaid at par, a sum of £3,290,041 being in fact so repaid. The rest of the question does not arise.
Is it not the case that where creditors are repaid at par, that is not conversible, and is the hon. Gentleman not aware that this Act dealt specifically with the reduction in the rate of interest, and that with the exception of the few millions mentioned, all the large holders, including the Bank of England and the East India Company, accepted the terms of Mr. Pitt? In these circumstances and in view of the fact that tomorrow the French Ministry do the same with their War Bonds and reduce the interest by one-half per cent., will this Government also take steps?
Is it not the case that at the time of the conversion referred to in the first part of the question, the funds stood at over par, and was it not that fact alone which enabled the conversion to be made?
I think that was the case, but I defer to my hon. Friend's superior knowledge of the subject. As regards the question put by the hon. Member for Govan, the interesting circumstance about this Act was that it was voluntary and not compulsory. As regards what is, or what is not, conversion, that appears to be a matter for discussion. The provisions of this Act to which I desire to draw special attention express the view that strict regard shall be had to public faith and private property.