Dividend Restraint

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th December 1957.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North 12:00 am, 19th December 1957

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that since his last appeal to companies for dividend restraint a number of public companies, particularly those in oil, steel, brewery and property undertakings, have increased dividends; and whether he will issue a further appeal for dividend restraint or take legislative action to enforce dividend restraint.

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir", and to the second part "No, Sir".

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

What action do the Government propose to take in view of the appeals various Ministers are always making to the trade unions? Will not the Government take some action, in particular to restrain property companies who are doubling rents and, many of them, doubling dividends? Is that not inflationary?

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

The general policy of the Government has frequently been explained, and it is to make profits harder to earn.

Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what special steps he has taken to bring to the notice of steel companies his appeal to exercise restraint in the distribution of dividends.

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

My right hon. Friend has taken no special steps for this purpose.

Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge

In view of the special steps taken to restrain the National Health Service workers, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it makes a mockery of appeals for wages restraint when these distributions of dividends take place? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what extra effort these people have made over that of the holders of the 3½ per cent. steel stock in the days when it was publicly owned?

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

As I think the hon. Gentleman is aware, the distribution policy of the steel companies has been quite exceptionally conservative. In the last five years 80 per cent. of capital development has been financed out of income.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

Is it in accordance or not with Government policy that there should have been this rise in steel dividends in the last few months?

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

Government policy is a policy of restraint, not of freezing.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

Does the Economic Secretary consider that the denationalised steel firms are carrying out Government policy in that respect?

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

I do not think that anything at all improper has been done.