Relief for Payment of Interest

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th May 1972.

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Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East 12:00 am, 17th May 1972

My reaction to that is that I should like to see a reconsideration, not necessarily this year but later, perhaps, of the fact that the first £35 of interest is not subject to relief. But it is fair to suggest that that can be taken separately from the general argument.

I return to the point, which I do not think the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton can deny, that, again speaking from memory, the total of hire-purchase transactions grew by several hundreds of millions of £s in the more recent period before the Labour Government's financial crisis and before 1969 when interest relief was abolished—from about £750 million to well over £1,000 million. Much of the growth was due to the attraction of interest relief, to the net interest arrangements and to the fact that many millions of people were able to benefit.

I wish to say a few words about my Amendment because it is much more technical in its aim and is symbolic, to some extent, in its objective. I should be most grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister of State would, in reply, spell out more clearly what the Government mean by "a commercial rate of interest". It could give rise to a great deal of doubt in many circles and in the public mind. I know that there are a number of precedents in previous tax Acts about a commercial rate of interest, but they have always tended to introduce confusion, and, therefore, in symbolically proposing that there should be an upper limit of 12 per cent. as a potential maximum market rate of interest I wish to impinge the light of the Government's attention on this matter, because it needs to be cleared up.

The Government should clearly say, even during periods of high interest rates—and they characterise the Labour Party's periods of administration rather than our own—that they would not envisage anything other than a certain maximum rate of interest to be in accord with the going market rate; or they should go the other way and say that interest relief will be available irrespective of the level of interest negotiated on a loan.

What does the phrase "commercial rate of interest" mean? To expert accountants—the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton is certainly one—it can mean something very different from what is means to people who have only a vague idea of the rates which obtain in the market for the purchase or financing of goods and services. I would appreciate clarification on that more narrow point.