Protective Helmets and Footwear (Tax)

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th April 1958.

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Photo of Mr Harold Boardman Mr Harold Boardman , Leigh 12:00 am, 24th April 1958

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what is the estimated yield of the proposed five per cent. Purchase Tax on protective helmets for miners and quarrymen;

(2) what is the estimated yield of the proposed five per cent. Purchase Tax on protective boots for miners, quarrymen and moulders.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he has imposed Purchase Tax on mineworkers' protective helmets and protective footwear.

Photo of Mr Harold Davies Mr Harold Davies , Leek

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what revenue he expects to secure from the imposition of Purchase Tax on mineworkers' protective helmets and footwear; and, in view of the essential nature of these articles, if he will reconsider his decision.

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he has imposed a tax on miners' and quarrymen's safety helmets and safety boots; and what is the estimated revenue from this source.

Photo of Mr George Sylvester Mr George Sylvester , Pontefract

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he is imposing Purchase Tax on mineworkers' protective footwear and helmets; and what will be the estimated yield.

Photo of Mr David Griffiths Mr David Griffiths , Rother Valley

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he has decided to put 5 per cent, purchase Tax on miners' working boots and safety helmets.

Photo of Mr Charles Grey Mr Charles Grey , City of Durham

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will reconsider his decision to impose a tax on miners' and quarrymen's protective clothing.

Photo of Mr Harold Finch Mr Harold Finch , Bedwellty

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he intends to tax safety boots and helmets, having regard to the continued serious limb injuries occurring in the mining industry.

Photo of Mr William Stones Mr William Stones , Consett

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what additional revenue he expects to derive as the result of the recent imposition of 5 per cent. Purchase Tax on miners' safety boots and helmets.

Photo of Mr Norman Pentland Mr Norman Pentland , Chester-le-Street

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he has decided to impose a tax on miners' safety boots and helmets.

Mr. T. Williams:

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the proposed duties on miners' protective boots and hats were designed exclusively for the anticipated revenue, or for what other purpose.

Mrs. Slater:

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will state the reasons for imposing Purchase Tax on protective clothing in certain industries.

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will state the reasons for the imposition of Purchase Tax on miners' helmets and safety boots

Mr. Slater:

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that Purchase Tax on mineworkers' protective helmets and protective footwear is likely to result in a falling off of purchase of such items due to the increased cost; and if he will reconsider his decision in this matter.

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he increased the Purchase Tax on miners' safety boots and helmets at a time when purchase taxes were being reduced.

Photo of Mr John Ainsley Mr John Ainsley , North West Durham

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the estimated net gain in revenue as a result of imposing Purchase Tax on miners' safety boots and helmets, taking into account the likely increase in minor accidents which will result from the imposition of the tax and the increase in compensation which will be payable.

Photo of Mr Arthur Probert Mr Arthur Probert , Aberdare

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, having regard to the efforts of the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers to bring about a greater degree of safety in a hazardous occupation, if he will now reconsider his proposal to impose a tax on protective boots and helmets for miners.

Photo of Mr Donald Wade Mr Donald Wade , Huddersfield West

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what amount of revenue he estimates will be produced in a full financial year by the imposition of Purchase Tax on protective boots designed for use by miners or quarrymen or moulders under Group 2 (b).

Photo of Mr Jocelyn Simon Mr Jocelyn Simon , Middlesbrough West

With permission, I will answer these Questions together.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. While it has been long recognised that, with your permission and that of the House, a Minister may answer more than one Question with another Question, is it not tending towards an abuse of that practice if the Minister purports to answer all the Questions on the Order Paper?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I think that depends very much on the Questions. If the Minister has a large number of Questions to answer which deal with the same subject and can be answered together, I think the practice of the House has been that he should do so. The matter lies in the hands of hon. Members who put down Questions. If they all put down the same Question, it would be a waste of the time of the House for the Minister to give separate answers.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

Further to that point of order. Has the Prime Minister been advised that all the Questions are being wiped off the Paper before he comes?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I do not know about that. It is nothing to do with me.

Photo of Sir Godfrey Nicholson Sir Godfrey Nicholson , Farnham

I have never known what the sin of simony is—is it this?

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

In view of the fact that there are approximately 20 Questions, is this procedure not intolerable? If all the hon. Members concerned object to the Minister replying to these Questions en bloc, can we demand an answer to each Question?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

This really concerns the time of the House. I think the House as a whole would regard it as a waste of time to have the Minister repeat the same answer to each Question.

Photo of Mr Jocelyn Simon Mr Jocelyn Simon , Middlesbrough West

I thought it would be for the convenience of the House if I answered these Questions in this way. The answer is:

The estimated yield of the proposed 5 per cent. tax on these boots and helmets is of the order of £100,000 per annum. But the revenue to be raised was not a significant factor. My right hon. Friend proposed this change as part of a rationalisation of the Purchase Tax, which also involved reductions of the tax on miners' caps from 10 per cent. to 5 per cent. and on miners' belts from 30 per cent. to 5 per cent.

Photo of Mr John Ainsley Mr John Ainsley , North West Durham

On a point of order. In view of the Financial Secretary's statement that he was answering my Question, Question No. 53, may I ask whether he will please look at it and note that it asks two specific questions, namely, as to the net increase in revenue from the increased tax and whether the gain will be offset by an increased accident rate? The Financial Secretary has not so far replied to my Questions.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

That is not a point of order, but a supplementary Question.

Photo of Mr Harold Boardman Mr Harold Boardman , Leigh

Is the Financial Secretary aware that the men who do these hazardous jobs can see neither sense nor justice in a proposal which, on the one hand, reduces Purchase Tax and, on the other, imposes the tax on goods which are used solely for the protection of life and limb? Were there prior consultations with the Inspectorate of Mines and Factories? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman not now abandon this incredibly stupid proposal and thus avoid very serious repercussions in the heavy industries?

Photo of Mr Jocelyn Simon Mr Jocelyn Simon , Middlesbrough West

With regard to consultations, there is a Question which will be reached later on the subject and which I will attempt to answer. With regard to the other matters, it is important that the important body of citizens concerned should realise that they have benefits as well as increased taxation under this rationalisation. In any case, this is a matter which we will no doubt be able to discuss in full on the Finance Bill.

Mr. T. Williams:

If the object of this tax was not the revenue to be derived therefrom, what was the other purpose? Does that other purpose justify imposing any duty on protective clothing such as these shoes and caps?

Photo of Mr Jocelyn Simon Mr Jocelyn Simon , Middlesbrough West

Where there is an anomaly in a tax, it involves unfairness and discrimination between one citizen and another. Protective clothing was already taxed. The committee has had an opportunity on many occasions of discussing whether all protective clothing should be exempt, and it has not been found possible to do this.

Photo of Mr William Yates Mr William Yates , The Wrekin

Is the Financial Secretary aware that more than 60 per cent. of the working population in The Wrekin are either miners or are in heavy engineering? Will he kindly look at this proposal again before he presents the Finance Bill?

Photo of Mr Jocelyn Simon Mr Jocelyn Simon , Middlesbrough West

The proper time to consider the matter is on the Finance Bill, when there will be a full opportunity for discussion.

Photo of Mr George Sylvester Mr George Sylvester , Pontefract

Is the Financial Secretary aware that this taxation will cause deep resentment in the coalfields, especially in view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's figure that the tax will yield £100,000, which is nothing when compared to the amount of accident to life and limb which these commodities have prevented and which happened in the old days when the men wore ordinary clothing?

Photo of Mr Jocelyn Simon Mr Jocelyn Simon , Middlesbrough West

I sympathise very much with what the hon. Gentleman says, but I hope it will be understood that the tax is part of a larger transaction which includes reductions in Purchase Tax on some of the articles used by miners.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there is very strong feeling that all protective clothing should be free of tax? In view of the fact that the Chancellor gave the reason why this tax was being put on, may I ask him to bear in mind that the general public think that this is a very silly and unnecessary new addition to taxation? This and one or two other things have entirely spoiled a very acceptable Budget.

Photo of Mr Jocelyn Simon Mr Jocelyn Simon , Middlesbrough West

Up to now, it has been found impossible by successive Governments to define protective clothing.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

We are better than the others.

Photo of Mr Jocelyn Simon Mr Jocelyn Simon , Middlesbrough West

If the hon. Lady can help us to find an acceptable definition, I shall be prepared to consider it.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

I shall be delighted to try. Shall I come to the Treasury?

Photo of Mr William Stones Mr William Stones , Consett

Is the Financial Secretary aware that many people in the mining industry have spent much time in recent years trying to persuade and encourage men who work underground to discard their prejudices and their cloth caps and to wear safety helmets and boots? Is he further aware that the people to whom I refer are deeply concerned about the possibilities of this imposition of Purchase Tax being likely to interfere with their efforts to persuade men to wear protective equipment, particularly in view of the meagre amount likely to be saved?

Photo of Mr Jocelyn Simon Mr Jocelyn Simon , Middlesbrough West

I know of the efforts to which the hon. Gentleman refers, and I should be very sorry if they were in any way affected; but I should remind the House that the tax on protective helmets will be under 6d.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Carlton

Is not difficulty of definition or the desire for neatness of taxation a very bad argument where it is generally understood that the whole tendency and desire of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the House in this sort of Budget is an untaxing tendency and not a tendency towards taxation?

Photo of Mr Jocelyn Simon Mr Jocelyn Simon , Middlesbrough West

This is essentially the sort of consideration we can weigh when we take up the discussion of this charge on the Finance Bill. I would emphasise what I said before, that where we have anomalies they involve discrimination against some other taxpayer.

Several Hon. Members:

rose——

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

We really cannot anticipate the debate on the Finance Bill. This is really becoming a debate; there is no Question before the House.

Photo of Mr Harold Davies Mr Harold Davies , Leek

Whilst appreciating the difficulty that you have, Mr. Speaker, in dealing with this method of answering Parliamentary Questions, may I point out that many of us put Questions down because we are concerned on behalf of our constituents with this problem, and because we know that, in the last five years, of a quarter of a million miners all but 6,000, according to HANSARD, have been injured. Am I not entitled to put a supplementary question and not be fobbed off by this kind of omnibus answer?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

This is the kind of point which can be discussed at length in the proper way in the Finance Bill. It is an abuse of Question Time to carry it on too far. I have allowed a large number of Questions, and most of the main considerations have, I think, been put.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

Further to the point of Order. If a Minister takes refuge in answering, all the Questions together, is it not unfair that my hon. Friends should not be allowed to ask supplementary questions?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

If a large number of Questions of the same import are on the Order Paper, that is not a matter which the Minister can control. If the matter can be discussed in a proper way by the House, with a Question before the House and a Division if necessary, that is the proper way to deal with the matter.

Mr. H. Wilson:

Is it not a fact that this tax is being levied now and that if we have to wait for the Committee stage of the Finance Bill we have to wait some time and the tax will be continuing all the time. Furthermore, since it has become clear to the House that upon another provision of the Bill strong pressure is being put upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is it not right that we should put supplementary questions?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I do not think that any impartial observer of the proceedings this afternoon would deny that a great deal of pressure has been put upon the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I have allowed far more Questions than I normally do, but I realise that there is very great feeling. My object is to see that when the House discusses a matter it does so on a Question on which it can decide, if necessary, by a Division. That is not possible at Question Time. There are other Questions on the Paper which are, no doubt, of great importance to other hon. Members. It is my duty to the House to try to press on and give them an opportunity.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

On a point of order. Would it not help if the Financial Secretary would get up and give an assurance that he will reconsider this matter? The Opposition to the Government's policy has been expressed on all sides of the House. Could we get on to the next business if the hon. and learned Member would undertake to give an assurance to reconsider the matter between now and the Finance Bill?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I was once Financial Secretary myself, and I know the perils in which a Financial Secretary can be involved if he gives an assurance on behalf of the Chancellor prior to consultation with him. There can be no doubt in anyone's mind of the feelings of a great number of hon. Members on this matter and, speaking from past experience, I think that the message of the House has been delivered. We have other things to do.

Photo of Mr Roy Mason Mr Roy Mason , Barnsley

But the message could he delivered with much more force. Altogether, seventeen Questions have been put down on this topic from this side of the House, and I think, Mr. Speaker, that you have allowed only five hon. Members from this side to ask supplementary questions. We were tolerant enough to give the Minister permission to answer them all together. Are we not to have the right to ask supplementary questions?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

There is no such right. It is a matter of discretion and judgment in each case, and no doubt, when it is a matter of discretion, there is always a difference of opinion. Discretion is a matter of opinion. There is no such right. The fact that all these Questions have been put on the Order Paper and that hon. Members have not asked supplementary questions about them does not destroy their force or effect. I will ask the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme to ask Question No. 23.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore Lieut-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore , Ayr

Further to that point of order. In view of the obvious interest in this matter being further discussed at a later date, I beg to give notice that I will raise it on the Adjournment.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The hon. Member's notice is invalid. I think it might require legislation and, if so, it could not be raised on the Adjournment. I hope that the House will allow us to proceed. I am trying to save the time of the House in the interests of other hon. Members who have Questions on the Order Paper, but, of course, my purpose can be defeated if hon. Members rise to points of order, and I hope they will not do so.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

Further to that point of order. A suggestion has been made to the Financial Secretary that he might give an assurance to reconsider the matter. If he cannot go as far as that, is he prepared to say that in view of the representations made from both sides of the House he will at least consider what has been said?

Photo of Mr Jocelyn Simon Mr Jocelyn Simon , Middlesbrough West

I cannot myself give any undertaking to reconsider this matter, but I will say this: I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to today's proceedings.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Are there any further points of order?

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

I desire to put a more general point to you, Mr. Speaker, not connected at all with the merits of the question which has been discussed but on the general question affecting the rights and customs of the House of Commons in this matter.

The tradition by which the House allows a Minister to answer a number of Questions together has hitherto always been operated in such a way that the effect of his answering them together is not to deprive any of the hon. Members who have put Questions on the Order Paper of their rights arising out of their having done so, and one of the customary rights, if an hon. Member puts a Question on the Order Paper, is to ask a supplementary question. The importance of it is that it has become one of the most useful of the rights of private Members, on a particular issue and to a particular Minister, for a number of hon. Members to put down Questions in order to have a review of the matter.

If, in future, it is to be regarded as right that a Minister may answer all the Questions together and that the hon. Members who have put the Questions down are not then permitted further to question him, the rights of hon. Members who are private Members, and who are already very limited in the exercise of those rights, would be much further reduced.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

If there are perhaps half-a-dozen Questions and the Minister answers them together, I always endeavour to call any hon. Member whose Question has been answered, but when it comes to twenty Questions the matter becomes rather difficult and the time of the House is occupied with repetition. As I said, no hon. Member has a right to ask a supplementary question. It is, I think, Mr. Speaker's duty, if he can, to have due regard to the rights of other hon. Members who have Questions on the Order Paper.

Several Hon. Members:

rose——

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I cannot hear any more on this matter.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Further to that point of order. As you know, Mr. Speaker, it is the usual custom when the Minister wishes to answer a number of Questions together for him to ask the permission of the House and of hon. Members to answer them all together. In view of the fact that many hon. Members have not had an opportunity either of giving their consent or of asking their supplementary questions, would they be in order in tabling the same Questions for answer next week if they have the Questions transferred before the end of Business today.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The hon. Member is asking me to rule in advance before I have seen the Question. A Question which has been answered fully cannot be asked again in the same Session.

Photo of Mr Charles Grey Mr Charles Grey , City of Durham

Further to that point of order. Quite a number of Questions have been put on the Order Paper this afternoon by my hon. Friends. I think the general impression is that when any hon. Member has put down a Question at least he should have priority in being called before anyone else. What we regret is that hon. Members opposite have been called to ask supplementary questions.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I take a different view entirely from the hon. Member. I think that if it were desired to make a protest about this tax, the protest is strengthened by the fact that both sides of the House took similar views.

Mr. T. Williams:

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how far he discussed the expediency of imposing duties on miners' protective boots and hats with the National Coal Board or representatives of the National Union of Mineworkers; and what their reactions were.

Photo of Mr Jocelyn Simon Mr Jocelyn Simon , Middlesbrough West

It is not the practice to consult interested parties before my right hon. Friend reveals his Budget proposals to the House.

Mr. Williams:

Do we take it from that that neither the National Coal Board nor the National Union of Mineworkers representatives had any views and the Treasury never heard their pearls of wisdom?