Mr. B. Taylor:
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what extent he has received reports of increases in purchases of miners' safety helmets and boots in the Nottinghamshire area over the past 12 months.
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there will be widespread relief now that this foolish tax has been taken from these articles and that the sales will not go down in the coming year?
Whilst appreciating what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done in removing this Purchase Tax from miners' safety boots and protective helmets, will he go a stage further and define what are the items of protective clothing and safety equipment? Secondly, will he take steps to remove Purchase Tax from all these articles, particularly having in mind that firemen's helmets are still subject to this tax?
Successive Governments have found it impracticable to devise a definition of "protective clothing". It is for that reason that the exemption in favour of miners' helmets has not been extended. But that is no doubt a matter which we can discuss further on the Finance Bill.
On the assumption that the first part of the Question refers to the 5 per cent. Purchase Tax on miners' and quarry men's boots and helmets proposed in my right hon. Friend's Budget statement, the Answer is "Yes, Sir." But, as my right hon. Friend announced on Tuesday, he has decided to restore in the Finance Bill the exemptions on these articles. With regard to the second part of the Question, it is not possible to estimate the reduction in revenue on the particular articles referred to.
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that the cost of boots, helmets and general clothing needed by underground workers in the pits is double the cost incurred by most workers in connection with their various trades; and what estimate he has made of the average extra cost to miners per year above that of other workers.
Of course, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor did investigate this matter before making the proposal in the Budget. On the other hand, it was quite clear from last week that the general feeling of the House was that strict logic and administrative tidiness should yield to wide social considerations. I reported that to my right hon. Friend and he again made these articles exempt.
I would refer the hon. Member to my Answers to the Questions just asked by the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) and other hon. Members. My right hon. Friend does not receive reports of purchases of industrial workers' protective clothing, which has indeed been found to be incapable of definition.
Would it not be advisable for the representatives of the Treasury to have discussions with the miners' representatives and similar organisations if in future they have such silly and stupid proposals to bring forward as the taxation of protective clothing?