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.]
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.