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Government to 'retire' some of its WW1 debt

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The UK Government has said that it will 'retire' £218m of the UK's £2bn First World War debt by refinancing bonds originally issued by Winston Churchill.

The UK has paid a total of £1.26bn in interest on these bonds since then.

The debt has not been paid off before because of the relatively low interest it incurs.

The Treasury plans to cut the annual cost of the debt by re-borrowing money at current market rates. It is the first such move for 67 years.

The bonds that Chancellor George Osborne has acquired have a lower rate than the 4% interest on the debt.

The continued existence of the war bond debt illustrates the lasting shadow cast by World War One.

According to the UK Treasury there are currently 11,200 registered holders of the bonds.

Winston Churchill first issued "4% Consols" in 1927 when he was Chancellor partly to refinance bonds from the First World War.

In addition to the war bonds, some of the debt being refinanced by the Treasury dates back to the 18th Century.

One of these bonds was issued by William Gladstone in 1853 to consolidate the capital stock of the South Sea Company, which was founded in 1711.

The South Sea Company collapsed during the South Sea Bubble financial crisis of 1720, leaving behind it a lot of debt.

In 1932 Chancellor Neville Chamberlain converted some war bonds into "perpetuals". This gave the government the right not to pay back the loans, as long as they continued paying 3.5% interest on them.

Perpetual bonds, as the name suggests, pay a steady stream of interest forever.

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