asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the hardship caused, particularly to those with fixed incomes, by the devaluation of War Loan and undated Government stock, if he will ascertain the number of persons wholly or principally dependent on income from such investments, with a view to determining what action is possible to relieve such hardship.
Does the Economic Secretary mean that he is not concerned about the large number of people who are affected by this unhappy position? They are people who have relied fully on the Government when investing their money and who today find themselves in penurious conditions because the value of their stock has gone down. Will he do something about it? I ask him to realise that it is important that he should try to find what kind of people, and how many, are being affected by this.
From the letters I have received and from talking to people, I am well aware of the difficulties which are facing people who hold this form of Government stock. My point is that merely to know how many people are dependent upon the income from Government securities, as suggested by the hon. Gentleman, would not help to overcome the difficulties which, as I explained to the House last December, stand in the way of adopting any special action.
Does the Economic Secretary recall that in the Budget debate on 20th April the Financial Secretary said this:
the Government are well in command of the monetary situation and … the gilt-edged investor can very well face the months ahead with just a little more confidence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th April, 1961; Vol. 638, c. 1410.]
As there has been a fall of about three points since then, will the Financial Secretary at least express sympathy with those who followed his advice?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will always have a right to speak. In point of physical fact, I did not see him, but I am afraid that, even if I had, such is the pressure on Questions nowadays that I am not entitled to indulge my wishes by calling all those I see rise.
I thank my hon. Friend very much for that response to my invitation, but is he aware that the article in the Daily Mail on the plight of people who invested in 3½ per cent. stock has been very much emphasised? Would my right hon. and learned Friend please look at the position of those living on small fixed incomes before I come to see him, in the hope that he may be able to suggest some way of helping these people in their present very parlous condition?
I think that it is apparent from what my right hon. and learned Friend has said on several occasions since 17th April that he is very concerned about the position of those living on small fixed incomes. Indeed, the whole object of his economic policy at the present time is to keep stability of currency, which will be of benefit to these people. As to the position of War Loan, which is referred to specifically in my hon. Friend's Question, I am afraid that I should be misleading the House if I gave any indication that we should be able to help in any way there.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the depressed price of undated Government stock, showing the reluctance of investors to support Government indebtedness, if he will accelerate his investigations towards reducing that part of the national assets administered by the Government.
I cannot accept the premise of my hon. Friend's Question that investors are reluctant to lend to the Government. £148 million was lent to the Government from the gilt-edged market in 1960 and we are not expecting to need any new money from that market in 1961–62.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, despite that reply, in addition to the hardship caused to the investors concerned, it is going to be almost impossible to raise undated Government stock in the market in the lifetime of anyone in this House? This is adding to the cost of lending money to the Government and is substantially increasing Government expenditure.
I am not quite sure what my hon. Friend has in mind by that, because his original Question asked whether my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor will accelerate his investigations towards reducing that part of the national assets administered by the Government. I think that the Chancellor's views on the question of denationalisation are perfectly well known and I cannot usefully add to them.