Inland Revenue Computer
26. Mr. Ashley
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has for siting an Inland Revenue computer in the Midlands; and if he will take into account the case for Stoke-on-Trent to be chosen.
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Diamond)
None so far, but at the appropriate time a review will be made of all likely areas.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the considerable importance [column 1381]of this question to Stoke-on-Trent, particularly in view of the city's excessive dependence on pottery and mining and in view of the fact that unemployment figures in the city are twice the regional average?
My right hon. Friend will, of course, bear all those points in mind.
27. Mr. Gresham Cooke
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will give an assurance that the increase of fuel tax by 4d. will be temporary only, for the period of the present emergency, as was done at the time of Suez.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
Does that mean that the increase in petrol tax is permanent? If the right hon. Gentleman wants to reduce costs, would not the quickest way be to take the tax off?
It means that my right hon. Friend is not prepared to anticipate fiscal changes.
Nevertheless, would the right hon. Gentleman get his right hon. Friend to look with a little more sympathy than the Minister of Health did at the question of helping those who have invalid tricycles and have to pay this increased tax?
My right hon. Friend has heard what the hon. Member has said.
Civil Service Recruitment (Political Employees)
29. Mr. Dodds-Parker
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many former employees of Labour Party organisations have been recruited into the Civil Service since October 1964: and how many have been established or are awaiting establishment.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. James Callaghan)
As no central records are kept, this information could not be produced without disproportionate cost and effort.
May I regret that the Prime Minister has side-stepped this question and handed it to the Chancellor, [column 1382]because this affects the whole Civil Service? Will the Chancellor give an assurance that he will not repeat the previous Socialist disaster called the “Cripps wage freeze” , when Socialists were recruited as public relations officers for Government Departments and then established, as civil servants, which became an embarrassment and a liability to subsequent democratic administrations?
The hon. Member's history is quite inaccurate. So far as the present situation is concerned, there are a number of people moving into and out of the Civil Service. I notice that one is proposing to go to the Conservative Central Office after a sojourn in the Civil Service. I think his movement into and out of Government service is a good thing.
Sir Ian Orr-Ewing
Can the Chancellor tell us without too much research how many of the 50 extra public relations officers who have been appointed to Ministries come from Labour organisations and how many have now resigned through disillusion?
No records are kept of these matters, except for security purposes, and I think it would be improper to do so. I hope the hon. Member will not revert to the old technique of the Conservative Party in opposition of indulging in the smear and the sneer.
British Army of the Rhine (Foreign Exchange Costs)
30. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has yet received the reaction of the Federal German Government to his proposals for the full coverage of the foreign exchange costs of the British Army of the Rhine; and if he will make a statement.
I am not yet ready to make a statement on this matter.
Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer still hope to achieve a full offset of the exchange costs of the Rhine Army by 30th September, or has this hope been abandoned, as some reports have suggested? Will he bear in mind that, if all the cuts in Government overseas expenditure are to fall in Europe, this will throw a very sinister light on the Government's priorities?[column 1383]
I do not think that any question of a date for recovering the full amount was put on the question of the offset payments, but it is certainly our intention in these negotiations to recover the costs in full, by one means or another. I note what the hon. Gentleman said in the second part of his supplementary question.
Has my right hon. Friend observed that the Federal Government are now pleading economic difficulties as an excuse for not meeting the foreign exchange costs? To relieve them of some of their difficulties, if they are not prepared to pay up, can we have the troops brought home?
It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government, in so far as it is not possible to offset the total cost of these troops, that they should be brought home.
Mr. Iain Macleod
As the Chancellor has relied heavily on this matter ever since the Budget, will he be able to make a statement before we go into Recess for the summer?
No, I do not think so. We have had a reply from the German Government, and this is now being considered, but the negotiations will go on certainly until the early autumn.
31. Mr. Grant
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what effect he anticipates the recent economic measures will have upon national and private savings.
The measures will have no direct effect on National Savings, but they will on balance tend to increase personal savings.
Does the Chancellor agree that, in the present economic circumstances and difficulties, an increased level of savings is more necessary than ever? As last week the level of National Savings fell below that for the same time last year, will the right hon. Gentleman look again at the many schemes which have been put before him and not be so complacent?
I thought that a factual answer could not betray either [column 1384]complacency or the lack of it. As to the particular point the hon. Gentleman raises, National Savings have done well this year because of the introduction of the new National Savings Certificate, but there always are withdrawals in the holiday weeks. I hope that the level of savings will pick up again when the holidays are over.
In making that reply, what assumptions has James Callaghanthe Chancellor made about the level of interest offered by building societies?
There will be an answer on that, I hope, if my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government catches Mr. Speaker's eye at the end of Questions.
National Plan (Printed Copies)
32. Mr. Grant
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many copies of the National Plan have been printed: how many have been distributed; what is the total cost thereof; how many copies remain undistributed; and whether he proposes to print any more.
25,000 copies of the Plan were printed at a cost of £13,250. Of these, 3,843 are still in stock.
What is to happen to the copies which are undistributed? Will they be destroyed, or will they be enshrined as an awful warning to future Governments? When the amendments are to be made, will the right hon. Gentleman urge whoever is responsible for D.E.A. at that time that he should be little more cautious and modest than the present incumbent?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman and the House will be glad to know that a profit has been made on the sales of the Plan. As for the balance I could send the copies to hon. Members opposite so that they could read until the Recess those sections which deal with the deep-seated origin, during the past thirteen years, of the balance of payment deficit.
Sir C. Osborne
Did the £13,000 merely mean the printing costs, or does it include the amount it cost to cover the Plan? Could the Chancellor tell us how much loss has resulted if all the costs are included?[column 1385]
Customs and Excise (Press Advertisement)
33. Mr. John Wells
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the cost of an advertisement on 31st July in the Sunday Times headed, “Do you find our customs exasperating” ; in how many other newspapers or other advertising media similar advertisements have been inserted by the Customs and Excise; and if he will discontinue such advertising in view of the present financial difficulty and curtailed travelling.
£1,096; seven other newspapers or weekly publications. There would be no advantage or financial saving in curtailing this small campaign; it is due to end in mid-August.
Is the Chief Secretary aware that this absurd and frivolous advertisement has caused a great deal of offence to many people? As the present Government have broken so many promises, they might well cancel this advertisement and nobody would miss it.
No, I am not so aware. In fact, there has been considerably increased co-operation on passage through the Customs as the result of this advetisement. Some 50,000 requests have been made to the Customs headquarters for this helpful pamphlet. There have been precisely two protests at expenditure.
34. Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer following the Government's new economic measures, what is now their policy regarding the percentage of the gross national product which is spent on defence.
The policy of Her Majesty's Government is to reduce the proportion of defence expenditure to the gross national product to a level no higher than 6 per cent. by 1969-70.
Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
This will involve a reduction. Will the Chancellor always bear in mind what was said in the Government's Defence Review, which emphasised that British Armed[column 1386]Forces overseas play a very important part in the maintenance of world peace? The Review also said that no country with a sense of international responsibility would abandon such a task.
Yes, Sir. The Answer I gave was based on the White Paper. The Review also says that it is important that our strength should not be over-strained. It is certainly the policy of the Government that our contribution to world peace-keeping should be as great as, though not necessarily greater than, all the other nations of the world.