Foreign Travel Allowance

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th July 1967.

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Photo of Mr John Hunt Mr John Hunt , Bromley 12:00 am, 18th July 1967

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he has decided to retain the limit of £50 for the foreign travel allowance for 1967–68.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his decision to retain the limit of £50 for the foreign travel allowance in 1967–68.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to increase the limit of £50 for overseas travel.

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what reasons he decided to continue the limit of £50 on foreign travel allowance for the year 1967–68.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party

I would refer my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentlemen to the Answer given to the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) on 29th June, 1967. This restriction is making a useful contribution to the recovery of our balance of payments.—[Vol. 749, c. 123.]

Photo of Mr John Hunt Mr John Hunt , Bromley

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this petty and foolish decision means that British holiday-makers abroad are being ridiculed and regarded as the poor relations of Europe? How much longer is the Chancellor going to cling to a policy which combines the minimum of savings in foreign exchange with the maximum of irritation and inconvenience to everybody concerned?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party

I do not accept this. I recognise that any limitation on foreign travel allowance is an inconvenience, but if it is likely to make a substantial saving in foreign exchange during the course of the year it seems to me that it is an inconvenience that it is my responsibility not to allow to go by. As to the adequacy of the allowance, I think it is still true that the average person who goes abroad and is entitled to £50 plus £15 in sterling notes and £25 if he takes a car finds it possible to have a holiday in reasonable comfort.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

Does the Chancellor realise that a Rhodesian citizen may have a travel allowance of £100? If we are doing so well financially, why are we more heavily restricted than Rhodesians are?

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

Has the right hon. Gentleman any figures in respect of the increased amount of holidays taken in the overseas sterling area, which is an equal drain on the balance of payments, and are not people going on their holidays there because of these miserable restrictions?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party

Yes, Sir; I have some estimate, but as we are in the middle of the holiday season I do not think it would be helpful to the House to give figures. The hon. Gentleman would be the first to criticise me if they were found to be inaccurate in any way. Clearly, the net balance of payments effect is not as great as the saving of foreign exchange but it is the foreign exchange element of the balance of payments which is of significance.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

On a point of order Mr. Speaker. Is my Questions No. 29 on the travel allowance being answered with this mass of Questions?

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

Is my right hon. Friend aware—

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Did the Chancellor answer Question No. 37?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

The right hon. Gentleman did not answer that Question. These questions are wasting Question Time.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread abuse as a result of the very marginal use made of the business foreign travel allowance? Would he not think it worth making it more equitable by allowing the concession to carry forward so that any not used one year could be used the next?

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will permit all or any part of an individual's foreign currency allowance not used in one year to be carried forward to the next.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. I thought that this Question had been taken with a previous Question. May I, therefore, say "ditto" in respect of the supplementary question that I put to my right hon. Friend just now?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. An hon. Member should not anticipate a Question of his own.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I asked a supplementary question earlier of the Chancellor, and he said that he would deal with it, presumably on a later Question. May I ask him whether he will now deal with it?

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

It has never been the practice when there has been a controlled travel allowance to allow a carry-forward, and to do so would give many people an additional allowance to spend in the following year and reduce the expected savings.

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the very great damage done by the present restrictions to British airlines, both nationalised and independent ones, and would not a slight extension of this kind be of marginal help to them?

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

If any such action were required I do not think that this would be the way to do it.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the £50 foreign currency restriction applies to Ministers' wives when travelling abroad with Ministers on official business.

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

Yes, except when a wife is travelling at public expense, in which case she is entitled to a personal allowance from her own moneys of up to £2 a day or £10 a week, whichever is the less.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that I have no objection to a Minister taking his wife with him on limited occasions when it is necessary in the national interest, in the same way as businessmen can take their wives on limited occasions, but, in view of the sacrifices being asked from the general public, should not there be a reduction in the number of these occasions and should not part of the £50 allowance be used as an extra contribution above what would be considered to be reasonable?

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

The question of a reduction in the number of these occasions is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to whom the hon. Gentleman should direct his question. In the amount of the allowance made available in such cases, we are following the precedent of what is allowed in other, similar cases.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what further information he now has concerning the saving in foreign exchange resulting from the £50 limit for British travellers outside the sterling area during 1966–67 travel year; and what is his estimate of such saving during the new travel year commencing 1st November, 1967.

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

On the current travel year, I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my speech in the Adjournment debate on 19th June. I expect that the limit will continue to procure a useful saving in the coming year.—[Vol. 748, Col. 1085–90.]

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

For the umpteenth time, may I ask the hon. and learned Gentle- man how he arrives at his choice of words, "a useful saving", when he has no available statistics, on his own confession, to support that choice of words? Again, will he avoid side-stepping until 23rd October and give the House a truthful answer?

Mr. MacDertnot:

For the reasons I gave the hon. Gentleman in an Adjournment debate, there is plenty of evidence that we are making a saving running into many millions of pounds.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

Has the hon. and learned Gentleman considered the powerful argument by the former Governor of the Bank of England, Lord Cromer, in a recent letter to The Times, to the effect that this restriction was not resulting in substantial savings to the balance of payments? Will not the hon. and learned Gentleman pay attention to such advice from one who has served the Government very well indeed?

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

I read that letter with considerable surprise. I would have thought that Lord Cromer would have been the first to recognise the importance of our giving absolute priority to our balance of payments.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

Will my hon. and learned Friend note the experience of travel agencies—which is that, to ordinary people, this does not matter a damn, since they can take £130 for a couple, plus £30 in cash, which is quite enough for any reasonable couple?

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

I would not adopt my hon. Friend's choice of language but I certainly agree with his sentiment. The area in which we are expecting to get the saving is among the 25 per cent. of the travellers who spend over 50 per cent. of the foreign exchange.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what period of time is the permission for the £50 travel allowance valid.

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

Any unused foreign exchange must be turned back into sterling within one month of the date of issue or immediately on return to this country if that is later.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

If we are to have rationing, just as we had rationing of practically every other commodity under the previous Socialist Government, could we not at least have an entitlement, a ration card, for the travel allowance so that those who did not want to use their ration in one year or in one month could use it in future?

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

As I have explained, it cannot be used in another year but can be used in another month in the same year, and returned moneys can be credited in the traveller's passport.

Photo of Mr Charles Morrison Mr Charles Morrison , Devizes

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what special travel allowance he intends to allow for British visitors to the Olympic Games in Mexico City in 1968.

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

My right hon. Friend has received representations on this subject and is considering them.

Photo of Mr Charles Morrison Mr Charles Morrison , Devizes

Could the hon. and learned Gentleman make sure that an announcement will be made in adequate time for people to make plans for visiting the Olympic Games if they decide to do so?

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

Yes. We will have regard to that.