Britain to repay part of First World War debt

London, Oct 31: British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne Friday announced that the British government will pay off part of the country's First World War debt as part of the redemption of bonds stretching as far back as the 18th century.

The Treasury will redeem 218 million pounds ($350 million) of debt from the 4 percent Consolidated Loan Feb 1, 2015, Xinhua reported citing a British government statement.

The so-called "4 percent Consols" was first issued by then British chancellor of the exchequer Winston Churchill in 1927, partly to refinance National War Bonds originating from the First World War.

The Debt Management Office estimates that the nation has paid 1.26 billion pounds in total interest on these bonds since 1927, said the Treasury.

These National War Bonds were first issued in 1917 as part of an "unprecedented effort" by the government to raise money to finance the cost of the First World War, which started with the first issue of the first war loan in November 1914, noted the Treasury.

Around two billion pounds of First World War debt remains, data showed.

"Large publicity campaigns were employed throughout the war to attract the general public to make a patriotic investment. And for good measure, the bonds also paid out an attractive rate of interest of five per cent," it said.

Osborne said in a statement: "We are only able to take this action today thanks to the difficult decisions that this government has taken to get a grip on the public finances. The fact that we will no longer have to pay the high rate of interest on these gilts means that most important of all, today's decision represents great value for money for the taxpayer."

In addition to the war bonds, some of the debt being repaid in redeeming "4 percent Consols" dates as far back as the 18th century.

And there are currently 11,200 registered holders of the bond. Around 7,700 investors hold less than 1,000 pounds nominal, and 92 percent of holders own less than 10,000 pounds each. This is one of eight undated government bonds currently outstanding.

This will be the first time that a chancellor has redeemed an undated gilt of this sort in more than 60 years, it added.


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