I turn now from the year which has just closed to that which has just opened. I have, in the first place, to propose a number of minor adjustments in Customs and Excise, and I will deal with these minor details as rapidly as possible. The first adjustment concerns the present margin of preference on sugar, which I propose to continue for a further period of two years from August next. These margins were established at their present level in 1926 and their original term of 10 years has subsequently been extended on various occasions, the last occasion being in 1942. The Government are under an obligation to give 18 months' notice of any change and it is convenient on this occasion as on the last to continue the margin for another two years.
A Clause will also be included in the Finance Bill to implement the undertaking, given in January last by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that Parliament would be asked to increase from 360,000 tons to 400,000 tons a year the maximum quota of sugar which may be admitted at the special preferential rate for Colonial sugar.
The Committee will also be asked to pass Resolutions designed to raise the duty on beer by rd. per degree of gravity per barrel, but this is not to be passed on to the consumer. It is not a revenue change in the ordinary sense, but a small adjustment made in the light of the controlled prices of certain brewing materials. The Committee may remember that there was a similar adjustment last year.
Purchase Tax continues to yield a useful contribution to the national revenue, which at present I could very ill afford to forgo. There are, however, certain defects in the machinery for its collection which require remedying and I propose to include the necessary Clauses for this in the Finance Bill. Certain of them require a Resolution.