My two hon. Friends have exhibited once again their generous and kindly feelings, and I reciprocate all the compliments which they have paid to me. I wish, however, that they had been a little more precise as to the meaning of the proposed new Clause, and perhaps I might then have followed more clearly the effects it might have if it were passed. There is no suggestion here, I can assure the House, of any threat to any old people who are inmates of public institutions. There is no threat, as far as I am aware, that they will no longer receive the allowance of tobacco which has hitherto been made to them as inmates of these institutions. It would, indeed, be a sad reflection upon the administration of the local authorities of the country if, because there had been some addition to the Tobacco Duty, those local authorities were to discontinue to supply old people in institutions with the allowance of tobacco to which they had been accustomed. I do not think such a proposal could be contemplated. I do not believe for one moment that any authority in the country would take up such an attitude. I cannot conceive that the Wolverhampton authority, for instance, would say to the inmates of its public institutions, "I am awfully sorry, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer has put a certain additional duty on tobacco, and as a consequence, there will be no more tobacco for you, my good friends." I am sure Wolverhampton would not do such a thing, nor would any other local authority.
In fact all this proposal means is a relief not to the old people but to the Wolverhampton ratepayers of whatever the amount involved may be—I should think an amount of a trifling character, for there are not likely to be more than 1,500 inmates in the local institution. It is not a question of the old people, and we need not weep any tears over them; and it is not a question of any comparison with what the Forces are getting. What we are concerned about is the question of the £800 or whatever the amount may be that falls on the Wolverhampton rates. We have had no representations from the local authorities of the country about this. If, in fact, it were found that the increase in the Tobacco Duty bore hardly upon the ratepayers of the community, I have no doubt the local authorities would come along with representations about it. When I was Minister of Health I never found any backwardness in coming forward, on the part of the local authorities, when any question arose about burdens being imposed on the ratepayers. I never found any hesitation by them to take up such matters; and, as the House knows, there are particular arrangements between the Ministry of Health and the local authority for dealing with payments in their respective spheres. If at any time this increase in the duty loomed very large in their minds, I am quite sure they would approach the Ministry of Health—not that I want to give them any encouragement to do so—but I cannot conceive that they would seriously go to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and say, "We have a very serious matter to put before you, this addition to the tobacco duty as it affects the poor inmates of our public institutions; will you give us a special addition to the block grant on that account?" In any event I can assure my two hon. Friends, as I am most desirous to do, that the inmates of public institutions will not be affected, because any relief which we gave under a new Clause of this sort—even if it were in the proper form (and this one has not been drafted in a very skilful manner)—would not concern the inmates, but would be a measure of relief to the ratepayers. If there is to be some measure of readjustment in this respect, that is not the way in which it should be effected. Therefore I hope that my hon. Friend, reassured, as he must be, about the 1,500 inmates of the Wolverhampton institution, will be prepared to withdraw this new Clause.