I am much obliged and I will keep myself strictly to Christmas cards for the moment, or perhaps, if I may change my mind, try to deal with one small technical point on which I should be grateful for the assistance of the Financial Secretary. [HON. MEMBERS: "He has gone."] I hope I may say that I do not regard the exchange as one from which I shall suffer. I welcome the fact that the Economic Secretary is here. I know that he will deal with the matter seriously. It is not a matter for persiflage. It is one which places a new burden upon people. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answer to the question, "What did you do in the great economic crisis, daddy? "replies," I slapped 15 per cent. on Christmas cards."
I have in my hand a letter from my constituents, manufacturers of a wide range of brushes and constituents of very great reputability. It seems to me clear that the majority of these items will fall to be discussed on an Amendment to leave out paragraph (j) of a section of the Schedule but this firm says most sincerely that it is in the greatest possible difficulty in knowing what brushes are taxed and how and when and, of course, why. Naturally, we cannot hope to have an explanation of that last matter.
The letter states:
The Customs and Excise have informed the British Brush Manufacturers Association that the brushware becoming chargeable for the first time is 'of a kind used for domestic purposes.' Purchase Tax Notice No. 78 states 'the question whether an article falls within a tax group is determined by reference to the character of the article itself, and not by reference to the particular purpose for which it is bought'.
As I understand—I have tried to follow this through—we now have three or four, or possibly five, main categories of brushes. We have brushes used for toilet purposes, which are dealt with in Groups 30 and 31, some of which come within the Clause and some do not. We have brushes used for household purposes, which I understand will fall within the new paragraph (j) which is being amended by the Bill. Some people think the tax will be 5 per cent. and some think it will be 30 per cent. Then we have industrial brushes.
The difficulty of the definition arises in this way. In the first instance—I hope the Economic Secretary is trying to follow me, because I should like to have my mind clear on this before we move on—I understand that a toilet brush is a brush which is normally used on a human being—roughly speaking. [Laughter.] I wish my hon. Friends would not regard my most serious observations as matters for laughter. I am trying to deal with a matter of complexity. I do not know how manufacturers will deal with it.