I think that the Amendments on page 29, line 35, at the end to insert:
(c) in the case of harps and harpstrings, where the rate under Group 19 would be so reduced to 30 per cent., they shall instead be exempt from tax.
and at the end to insert:
(c) in the case of musical instruments where the rate under Group 19 would be so reduced to 30 per cent., the articles (other than gramophones, radio-gramophones, player pianos, musical boxes and similar instruments or parts thereof or accessories thereto or gramophone records) shall instead be exempt from tax.
go together. Mrs. White.
I wonder whether you would allow me, Sir Charles, to take the opportunity to take counsel with the Committee on our immediate programme? Would that be in order or not? I would only like to say, because I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee——
I started by saying that the first two in line 35 might be taken together. The Amendments in line 35, at the end to insert:
(c) in the case of mirrors whether framed or not, where the rate under Group 11 would be so reduced to 30 it shall instead be reduced to 15 per cent.
and at the end to insert:
(c) in the case of the following appliances and apparatus, where the rate under Group 12 would be so reduced to 30 per cent. it shall instead be reduced to 15 per cent., that is to say:
are not selected. In fact, the next Amendment is that in the name of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), in line 42, at the end to insert:
(e) in the case of toilet preparations where the rate under Group 32 would be so reduced to 60 per cent., it shall instead be reduced to 30 per cent.
We understood that you were proposing to take the debate on Welsh harps and harpstrings—and not necessarily the Welsh ones only; I understand that there are Scottish harps as well—and that with it would be taken the Amendment on musical instruments. If that is the view of the Chair, I think that we will probably find it convenient, although I should like to make an alternative proposition to you, which is that you might like to take harps and harpstrings together with asbestos clothing, so that the interests of both sides of the Committee could be protected in the life to come.
I beg to move, in page 29, line 35, at the end to insert:
(c) in the case of harps and harpstrings, where the rate under Group 19 would be so reduced to 30 per cent., they shall instead be exempt from tax.
I understand that the Amendment dealing with musical instruments is to be discussed with this one, but I propose to confine my arguments to the one that I have just moved. Those arguments, Sir Charles, for the abolition of Purchase Tax on harps and harpstrings, fall broadly into three categories. First of all, there is the importance of this instrument to Wales and Welsh people. Secondly, there is the real concern in musical circles generally, not only in Wales, about the survival of the harp as an instrument of study and culture in schools, colleges, orchestras, and, indeed, in private homes. Thirdly, there is the anomalous operation of Purchase Tax in this connection.
The harp is as much the national musical instrument of Wales as bagpipes are of Scotland, saxophones of America and the washboard of Hammersmith Broadway. In the Principality, the art of the harpist is an ancient and venerated accomplishment, and from the earliest times the harp has been handed down with pride from father to son. To its music much of our poetry has been sung and many of our annals recorded. In days of defeat its strings have comforted us, and reminded us that, though outnumbered, we have never been overwhelmed by a certain predatory neighbour, whose name I shall not mention. In triumph, its music has tempered our natural pride. Under the old Welsh law, it was the one article which was exempt from seizure for non-payment of debts. Under the English law, it is heavily taxed to pay the Chancellor's debts.
Today, the instrument is cherished and played with great skill and beauty in the Principality by quite ordinary people. The harpist in my village is a slate quarryman. I could give instances of road workers, farmers and farm workers being accomplished in the practice of harp playing. We have, of course, not only professional players like Ossian Ellis, whom many hon. Members have heard, but also a large number of accomplished and enthusiastic amateurs.
There is in Wales a flourishnig society devoted to the practice and study of the harp and its music, with branches everywhere. In many a Welsh valley—tonight, for instance—after work the people will gather in the farmhouse or, perhaps, in the barn to make their own music and entertainment. There the harpist will have pride of place in the very centre of the gathering, accompanying the folk dancing and also what we call penillion singing. This, incidentally, is a contrapuntal style of singing unique to the Welsh and properly taken only with the harp. It is not an oddity but a widespread and attractive accomplishment indigenous to the area and to its people.
The Committee should encourage and not inhibit an active natural, indigenous culture of this sort at a time when radio, television and the cinema seem to be united in a cacophonous coalition to debase the musical sense of an entire generation. When the traditional harmonies of England as much as of Wales are being drowned in the clatter of tinned musical goods from America, we ought at least to place no fiscal hindrance in the way of the harp and its music. What the Government are doing is to tax the harp as heavily as the juke box.
That brings me to my second point: namely, that musical circles generally, not only in Wales, are deeply concerned about the future of the harp. No real orchestra is complete without this classical instrument, but very many of them find great difficulty in obtaining one. The cost is now almost prohibitive to orchestras, colleges, schools and homes. The craft of harp making has now almost completely disappeared from these islands. In Britain, a harp can be obtained only at secondhand or by importing one, or by leaving Britain and the world altogether. Even a secondhand harp costs between £100 and £200. Many of these are old and rapidly going out of commission. Soon they will be unobtainable by students, pupils, teachers, professionals and amateurs alike. The harp, indeed, may go the way of the dulcimer and the sackbut and one more element in the classical antedote to the neurotic uproar which passes these days for music will be lost.
A large pedal harp suitable for orchestras is made in France, but I do not think that more than a few have been imported to this country since the end of the war. The reason is clear: they cost anything from £800 to £1,000. When one adds import duty of 25 per cent. and Purchase Tax at 30 per cent., the cost approaches £1,500. One would think that there should be thrown in a pair of wings and a single ticket to Heaven for that sum.
The question of harp strings is just as important as the question of harps. Indeed, the leaders of the musical world feel that it is probably more important because of the need to repair the existing number of secondhand harps, there being no new ones coming along. A harp contains 46 strings, which vary in length until we reach the bass, where they are quite long and made of steel wiring encased in copper. These strings vary in price according to length. The longer strings may cost as much as 14s. 6d. or more each and the cost of replacing three or four of these longer strings may amount to £2 or £3, a heavy imposition on the kind of enthusiastic amateur whom I have mentioned and who is particularly obvious in Wales.
I do not know what is the yield of the tax on harps and harp strings. In the context of the Chancellor's accounts, it must be quite infinitesimal. At the same time, its impact on those who have to bear it is very heavy indeed. I calculate that the cost of replacing 46 strings in a pedal harp must amount to between £20 and £23, of which, under the present proposal of the Chancellor, anything between £6 and £8 would be Purchase Tax. To an amateur, to a person of moderate or small means, that is a heavy imposition.
That brings me to my final point. There is in any case a glaring anomaly in the fact that while pianos and piano strings are exempt from Purchase Tax, harps and harp strings are still subject to it. Harp strings are almost identical with piano strings, so that the discrimination is difficult to understand. Somebody has said that a harp is only a piano upside down; I would have said, downside up. The tax on pianos and piano strings was abolished three years ago because it was killing the piano trade. Surely, the same should apply to harps and harp strings.
There is an obvious quotation which is bound to be made before this discussion ends and I might as well make it, and make it correctly, myself:
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, strategems, and spoils.
I acquit the Financial Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer of treason and, less confidently, perhaps, of strategem, but like their predecessors they seem awfully fond of spoils. Let their spoilation be consistent. If they let off piano and piano strings, let them let off harps and harp strings. After all, like the rest of us, they no doubt would like to be certain of a tax-free harp in congenial surroundings some time later on.
I warmly support the eloquent plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts). Speaking as a Welsh Member, I would say that both our history and our culture, and our hopes for the future, are tied up with the Amendment.
The Committee will be aware that the earliest records of the Celtic race, both Welsh and Gaelic, give the harp a prominent place. As my hon. Friend has said, harpists were always regarded with peculiar veneration and distinction in Wales. The Welsh harp was a hereditary instrument to be used with great care and respect. It was played by the bards of the family, who were also the poet-musicians and the historians of the nation. It is interesting to note that according to the old Welsh law to which my hon. Friend has referred, a serf was not allowed to touch the harp and it was by law exempted from seizure for debt. It is quite clear that our old Welsh laws were in some respects well in advance of present legislation.
The harp is, of course, an instrument of great antiquity in the history of other nations, although a Latin writer, Venantius Fortunatus, described it in the seventh century A.D. as "an instrument of the Barbarians". That was a characteristically Whitehall view of things. Today, there are harp societies in Wales whose activities are being curtailed and stifled by the Purchase Tax, especially the tax on harp strings. The cost of harp strings has risen sharply during the years. For example, a set of harp strings which cost £1 in 1914 would cost £12 today and thicker strings now cost as much as 14s. each. The harpist or pupil of the harp in a Welsh village can hardly afford the cost of replacements if half a dozen strings are broken.
It is invidious that nylon harp strings, which are becoming more and more popular, should be taxed, whereas nylon fishing tackle escapes tax completely.
We are going down the ladder now. The central point that I ask the Chancellor to consider is that harp strings are a replacement. The harpist purchasing new strings is not buying a new instrument. He is repairing an old instrument. A person pays tax when he buys a new car, but he does not pay it when he gets the car rebored.
I have a letter from the secretary of Cymdeithas Cerdd Dant, a Welsh Harp Society, urging the Chancellor to treat this plea sympathetically. The letter is written in Welsh, but I will seek to translate it.
I am afraid I should be ruled out of order if I did so. The letter states:
Our Society has seven harps, which are lent out to children and young people under eighteen who are desirous of learning to play the instrument, but because of the high cost of strings, many families are deterred from borrowing the harp and this is a loss to the children and to this ancient tradition.
The removal of the tax would be a substantial relief to these societies, whose chief aim is cultural and educational. As my hon. Friend has said, the revenue from the tax is negligible. The prospects of the Chancellor and the Financial Secretary playing a harp themselves some day would be considerably enhanced if they made this trifling concession.
I cannot see any hon. Members from Ireland in the Chamber, but if they were here—[HON. MEMBERS: "There is one."]—I beg his pardon. I am sure that the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McKibbin) will forgive me if I paraphrase a famous Irish ballad to give point to our argument:
The harp that once through Tara's halls
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs so mute on Tara's walls
With tax at 30 per cent.
So sleeps the pride of former days,
So glory's thrill is o'er;
And hearts, that once beat high for praise,
Now feel that pulse no mare.
I hope that the Chancellor will enable the pulse to beat again.
I intervene at this stage in order to speak not particularly to this Amendment but to that which follows, in the same line. I understand that we are discussing the two at the same time. I shall talk about musical instruments in general rather than harps and harp strings in particular. The tax on musical instruments has been at the rate of 60 per cent. until the introduction of this Finance Bill, and the Chancellor suggests that we should reduce it by half to 30 per cent. The second Amendment would have the effect of remitting the tax altogether.
The Chancellor may well say that there is no pleasing some people and that the fact that he has halved the tax should have satisfied those of us who are interested in music. I admit straight away that the trade has welcomed the Chancellor's action. Professional people, who for a long time have laboured under the burden of a swingeing tax on the tools of their trade, are pleased and music lovers everywhere are also delighted. The difficulty is that although the Chancellor has made this reduction, those who buy musical instruments remain under a very heavy burden.
I am sometimes inclined to wonder whether the Chancellor, who has not been in his present office very long, is fully aware of how much tax is borne by musical instruments. I am one of those who were in the House when Purchase Tax was introduced during the war, I think in 1940. It was regarded by the music industry as a burden which it had to accept because spending had to be controlled during the war and as much revenue obtained as possible. The book trade did not take the same view, and although the Chancellor of that time was anxious to levy Purchase Tax on books, there was such an outcry that in the end he had to give way and no tax was imposed. I have often wondered whether, if the music industry had taken the same line and brought equal pressure to bear on the then Chancellor, he would have had to remit the tax on musical instruments as he remitted it on books. Instead, the music industry took what some might describe as the patriotic view and accepted the tax, which it paid quite cheerfully over a number of years.
The war has been over for 13 years and it is 18 years since this tax was first imposed. The astounding thing is that in spite of the reduction which the Chancellor has announced, the tax is still 30 per cent., which is almost the same as it was during the height of the war, when it was 33⅓ per cent.
Musical instruments are still classed as a luxury and bear the same rate of tax as furs and jewellery. Some of us think that grossly unfair, because music should not be described as a luxury. To a great many people, music, like books, is an essential to the good living. For that reason it occurred to some of us that we should put down this Amendment to see whether we could persuade the Chancellor that the 30 per cent. rate which he now proposes to charge is still much too heavy and that, in common fairness and justice, he should remove the tax altogether or reduce it to 15 or 5 per cent.
I do not know whether the Financial Secretary is to reply to the debate. If he is, I hope that he will remember that the number of people who now take an interest in music has grown immensely, particularly since the end of the war. Those of us who listened to the debate last night on gramophones and gramophone records realise that. The number of records now sold runs into millions. The Solicitor-General, who replied to that debate, resisted the suggestion that the tax on gramophones and gramophone records should be reduced, on the ground that we were dealing with a potted version of music and not the living music which one gets from an orchestra or a band. Here, in taxing the musical instrument, we are taxing the person who uses that instrument and not the mechanical recordings, such as gramophone records. This strikes us as unfair. We impose a tax at a stage where the music is made by the living performer and tax again when it is reproduced on a record.
We therefore suggest to the Chancellor that he should look at this matter again. The Arts Council, which has done a great deal towards educating people to a love of music, spends about £560,000 in this one direction alone, and practically all that, if not all, is provided by the Government. We therefore have the curious spectacle of the Government providing money, some of which at least has to be found for Purchase Tax by such bodies as the Arts Council.
The London County Council spends at least £9,000 a year on musical instruments which are used in schools. It has at least 670 classes, and the number is growing. It is therefore obvious that we are not here dealing with a luxury but with an item which is an integral part of the educational system of the country. The number of musical instruments and the teaching of music are growing in the schools and a good deal of money is spent on them. Throughout Great Britain, in schools, in towns and in villages, orchestras and bands need these instruments, and it seems to us unfair that they should have to pay this heavy tax on them. Although the tax is levied only on new instruments, it has a considerable effect on secondhand instruments, which have risen greatly in value and are difficult to get at a reasonable price.
If a youngster or a youth, or even someone older, wishes to own a musical instrument of his own, naturally he wants the best he can get. If he is to spend a considerable sum of money—because these instruments are not cheap—it is important that he should get an instrument of which he is proud and which will give good music when it is used. I hope that the Chancellor will remember that although some of these instruments are cheap, to get one which is worth while a performer has to spend a considerable sum.
When the tax was 60 per cent., the tax on a violin could be anything up to about £70; one could pay less for a violin, but on a good instrument the tax could amount to as much as £70. On an accordion it could rise to £105. These are very big figures. With the tax at 30 per cent. the amount of Purchase Tax will be about halved, but, even so, as much as £30 or £35 in tax is a lot to pay on a single violin or up to £50 on an accordion or similar instrument.
I was interested to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) said about the tax on harp strings. He indicated that to re-equip a harp fully with 46 strings would cost at least £23, which is 10s. a string. I have been told by those who play the cello that until recently the tax on a new silver string was as much as £2. It will now be reduced to about £1, but even that is a lot for a single string.
I hope that the Chancellor will have second thoughts about this tax. I have listened to the debates in the last two days in which we have been told either by the Chancellor or by the Financial Secretary that, although the proposals put forward were excellent in themselves, the Chancellor could not afford the millions of pounds which it would cost to accept the Amendments. I understand that. The tax on a single button or on some of the other articles which we have been discussing is not very much in itself; it is probably negligible. When we remember how many people buy and use buttons, however, we realise that the tax amounts to millions of pounds a year in the aggregate. So far in the discussions it has seemed that the smaller the tax the larger the amount involved.
When we consider the tax on musical instruments the exact reverse is the case. The return to the Treasury is quite small. Recently the Chancellor was good enough to tell me at Question Time that he estimated that the income from the tax on musical instruments was about £400,000 a year, which is not a great sum when we are talking in terms of a national annual income of £5,500 million. Nevertheless, for the person buying an instrument it is a very large sum indeed.
I therefore hope that the Chancellor will be willing to look at the tax on musical instruments again. If he cannot remit the whole of the 30 per cent. this year—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—I sincerely hope that he will remove the tax altogether, but I look upon myself as an eminently reasonable person—no doubt we all look upon ourselves as eminently reasonable—and if I cannot get a whole loaf I am always willing to take half. I am sure that the industry and music lovers generally would take the same view. If the Chancellor cannot accept the implications of the Amendment and remit the whole tax, I hope that he will go some way to meet us and reduce it to 5 per cent.
I am grateful for being called to speak after the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), because he put the case for a reduction in tax very much better than I can. I am also particularly glad because it is well known that he is a good friend of Northern Ireland.
On behalf of the Northern Ireland Bands Association, I thank my right hon Friend for reducing the tax to 30 per cent. There are 103 bands in the association, with 10,000 members, and every one of them will be grateful to him. All the members are amateur in status. Not one gets paid. All the expenses of running the band and buying the uniforms, on which Purchase Tax has to be paid also, are met out of the members' own pockets, assisted by subscriptions from some of their friends. Owing to the tragic unemployment situation in Northern Ireland at the present moment, such subscriptions are difficult to obtain.
I was informed by the secretary of the Brass Bands Association that many of the instruments in use are thirty years old, some of them with valves worn out just as the cylinder of a car engine wears out, and slides which have become loose and joints which leak. To try to keep them in condition, many of the bandsmen have to solder the leaky joints themselves and bind the slides with thread and chewing gum to keep the air from escaping.
Even with a reduction in tax to 30 per cent., the purchase of new instruments is quite outside the reach of most of the bands. They can, of course, as the secretary of the association pointed out, get new instruments on hire purchase, but in some cases where they have done so they have been unable to keep up the instalments and have had to return the musical instruments to the makers, and they then get a reduced price for them and also lose the Purchase Tax.
I regret that I am not musical. I would not know a practice chanter from tympani, but I saw those names on a list, and I noticed that the Purchase Tax on the chanter was 13s. 3d. and on the tympani—which had to be sold in pairs; male and female, I suppose—£28 19s.
So that I should learn something about the matter, the secretary of the Brass Bands Association took me to the Easter Festival of the Brass Bands League so that I should see things at first hand. It took place in the beautiful Floral Hall in Belfast, and twenty bands competed. The players ranged from 14 years of age to one grand old veteran of 78 who was playing the euphonium in the same band in which he paraded when the troops were going out to the Boer War. I did not ask him, but doubtless his instrument was about the same age.
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend was not with me. It might have softened his heart if he had seen those beautiful bands and realised the difficulties that that they had in keeping their instruments in order. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Knox Cunningham), who is in a very good position to do so, will ensure that the Chancellor comes over to Northern Ireland on some other occasion for this festival.
Finally, I would stress the important educational and social work that these amateur bands are doing in the small villages and towns throughout my country. While I do not wish to appear ungrateful for the concessions which my right hon. Friend has made, I earnestly hope that he will give these amateur bands the encouragement which they require and abolish the tax altogether.
I have very great pleasure in supporting the Amendment. I hope that the Chancellor does not think that we from Wales are far-seeing in moving it. This afternoon we are not concerned with the harps above. There will be no Purchase Tax on them—[HON. MEMBERS: "How does the hon. Member know?"]—for the simple reason that the Chancellor will never be up there to impose the tax. I cannot conceive of Heaven with a Tory Chancellor there.
The Committee will recognise that the harp is a very popular musical instrument in Wales. In order to ensure that the Chancellor should know exactly what we mean when we speak of the harp, I have taken the precaution to bring with me to the Chamber the Concise Encyclopædia of Antiques, where, under the heading "Harps", I read the following:
The largest and most familiar of these is the double action harp used in modern orchestras, usually known as the Gothic harp on account of its elaborate applique gilt decoration in high relief. These instruments may have 47 strings …
My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) spoke of 46 strings. Evidently, one of his harp strings has been lost.
… or more, tuned diatronically, and seven pedals working in notched slots, each of which gives three positions. By means of a complicated mechanism in the fore pillar and cone, the pedals reset the tuning of the strings. In the middle notch"—
I want the Chancellor to note this—
the pedal raises the strings, by controls, by half a tone and in the lower by a whole tone.
I am asking the Chancellor to put his foot on the pedal in that middle notch and reduce the tax by half a tone. We would rather that the Chancellor reduced the tax by the whole tone and removed it altogether.
I said that the harp is popular in Wales. Indeed, no Welsh festival is complete without it. One does not have anything in Wales which is of any note unless the harp is regularly displayed there.
I wish to impress upon the Chancellor three things in particular in relation to this instrument. In Wales the harp is used purely for cultural purposes. It has never been commercialised. Ninety-nine per cent. of the harpists of Wales play the instrument only for its cultural value; they are interested in the instrument only for the pleasure which they get by playing it. I repeat that it is used for cultural purposes only.
There was a time when the harp was somewhat commercialised. There were professional harpists in Wales who were financed by Tory landlords, but, because of the Conservative Government, these landlords cannot today afford it any more. Why a Tory should vote Conservative I do not know; but there it is, and they have gone out of existence in Wales.
However, I want to impress upon the Chancellor the fact that today the peasantry are extremely interested in this instrument. As a matter of fact, large classes in harp playing are held throughout the Principality every week of the year. Aberporth, in Cardiganshire, has a class of 70 young people who meet regularly to learn to play the harp, just for the sheer pleasure of playing it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) told us about the society that we have in Wales, of which I am a member, which is called Cymdeithas Cerdd Dant. That is a phrase which no one in this Committee or anywhere else can translate. If any hon. Member wants some idea what it means, perhaps he would see me afterwards.
Secondly, unlike most musical instruments, the harp is liable to constant breakages. Only five minutes ago I was given the reason for this. I was told that with other instruments one strikes the strings, but with the harp one pulls them, and because of the pulling the strings are always liable to break.
I have just said that the Gothic harp has 27 strings. [HON. MEMBERS: "The hon. Member has lost 20 strings."] I apologise; it has 47 strings. If every member of the class at Aberporth has a Gothic harp, one can imagine the number of strings which are being pulled every time they meet—thousands of them. Consequently, it must entail a great expense for those people. Yet the Chancellor says, in effect, "These young men and young women are not modern. They should interest themselves in skiffle or rock and roll. I will stop their enjoyment. I will impose a 30 per cent. tax on the instrument which they love so much."
I ask the Chancellor to listen to the plea which is being made this afternoon. I wonder whether he has consulted the Minister for Welsh Affairs, who is interested in the harp. I have not yet seen the Minister for Welsh Affairs growing any wings, but he has been to Wales often enough to know that there is a deep feeling about this tax. Whatever else the Chancellor promises to do, I hope that we have persuaded him how necessary it is, in the interests of culture and so that the young men and women of Wales shall spend more leisure hours learning to play this delightful instrument, that he should reduce the tax.
I have just been told that a Gothic harp costs £1,000. Who in Wales can afford to pay £1,000 for a musical instrument, particularly when one realises that the people who are today mainly interested in the instrument are the sons and daughters of the working class? If ever the Chancellor comes to my constituency I will take him to cottages where the harp is displayed with pride. When I think how these poor people are compelled to go to unnecessary expense every time they break a string, which happens so regularly, I think it is cruel on the part of the Chancellor to insist on retaining the tax.
Perhaps it is a little presumptuous for an English person to talk about the Welsh harp, but I claim that right as I have a little Welsh blood in my veins. My grandfather was a Welshman. On a glorious early morning at a Welsh Eisteddfod, at the Gorsedd ceremony, I have listened to Welsh harpists on the hills, and it is a memory which has stayed with me for very many years. I have also very happy memories of listening, in the village from which my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) comes, to the most wonderful penillion singing which occurs in that area.
Stoke-on-Trent has a very close connection with Wales. My grandfather, who was a Welshman, came to Stoke-on-Trent, and in that city we have a very strong Welsh community, so much so that on St. David's Day we fly the Welsh flag above our town hall. I ought to add that on St. Andrew's Day we also fly the flag of St. Andrew. For very many years the people of Stoke-on-Trent have excelled in using their vocal chords, and we are very proud of the fact that we have some wonderful choirs in North Staffordshire.
In the years before the First World War, Stoke-on-Trent choirs used to go to the Welsh National Eisteddfodau and were not very popular because they often carried off the first prizes. I am told that on one occasion they were even stoned because they had repeatedly carried off the prizes at the National Eisteddfodau. We have in North Staffordshire a very good young girls' choir, the Bedford Girls' Choir, which last year won a prize at the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen—a very wonderful experience.
In supporting my Welsh colleagues in their plea on behalf of the harp, I should like to say that they have a real case for the total abolition of duty on this lovely instrument. I congratulate the mover of the Amendment and the other Welsh speakers who, in their unique way, have made a very strong claim that this rare and lovely instrument should be tax-free.
Last week I attended the Children's Committee of Stoke-on-Trent Council where we heard a report about a boy who had been committed to the care of our local authority. At some time in the past he had been a very difficult boy. We did not know what to do with him. Then he asked if he could join the Marines. We allowed him to do so and he became interested in the regimental band. Last week at our meeting we had a report from his commanding officer saying that this boy, because of his great interest in music and because we had touched the chord of one thing in which he was particularly interested, had become a very prominent member of the band and in addition had a very fine record generally.
On 12th June, significantly the day of Trooping the Colour, this boy passed out, and it was reported to our committee that the organisers of the passing-out parade would be glad if we could send a representative to the ceremony. Our town clerk, of whom we are very proud, said that he would go to this passing-out parade and that he would act as a father to this boy.
It was also reported that the boy played two instruments. He had not got one of his own but it was hoped that contributions could be raised to augment the boy's savings so that he would be able to buy his own instrument. I remembered that in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) there was a band which was about to go out of existence. I suggested that we might contact this band to see if we could have the use of one of its instruments. The chairman said, "No, we have not anything good enough for a boy like that. We will give him £50 with which to buy a cornet."
There is a boy who, through music, has been able to rehabilitate himself, who might not have been a good citizen but who, in fact, is going to become a first-class citizen. How foolish it is that on a musical instrument which can do so much for a difficult boy we should have to pay 60 per cent. Purchase Tax. That means that over half the cost of the instrument goes in tax.
I cannot be as eloquent as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central was last night when he spoke about gramophone records, but to large numbers of people music is the salvation from the destruction of the soul in a modern world. If people can escape from stress and worries, if they can find a new interest and wider culture through music, why should a Government of a country which prides itself on being interested in culture tax the instruments which bring this salvation to our people?
Shakespeare was quoted last night. I should like to quote a line from another poem:
We are the music makers,
We are the dreamers of dreams.
Cannot the Financial Secretary make the Chancellor of the Exchequer dream a new dream and decide that musical instruments, including harps, shall be exempt from Purchase Tax?
The speech to which we have just listened was, if I may say so, on a par with the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) last night. In eloquence and reasoning the whole case has already been stated, but, being that little bit anxious to lend our aid to the cause, those of us who are interested in musical instruments want to add our quota to the case.
I start by referring briefly to the first Amendment and by paying tribute to my fellow Celts, the Welsh people, in asking that the tax should be remitted on Welsh harps. Of course, it is possible to talk of harps or instruments associated with other countries in such a way as brings ridicule on the whole case, but, whatever the musical instrument, it is making its contribution to the comfort of the world and to the spirit of mankind. Even the bagpipe, about which some of my hon. Friends, no doubt, would like to twit me, is making its contribution in other countries, not only in Scotland but in Turkey, India and other countries. It is part of world culture and education.
It is to education in the widest sense that I would like to address my remarks. This tax has been crippling local authorities, parents, the Royal Academy of Music and students in the pursuit of their studies. I have a feeling that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary are paying particular attention to what is being said on this matter. I hope that they will go a little further and abolish this tax on musical instruments which require the skill of the executant.
In London, 6,000 children in schools and classes are being taught music and the playing of musical instruments. There are 100 school orchestras. In the past ten years £75,000 has been spent on musical instruments, 60 per cent. of the wholesale price going in tax. It would, therefore, help the local authorities to meet the increasing demand which is coming from young people for such classes if this tax were to be remitted. In the City of Glasgow there were 15 orchestras and five brass bands within the school education system. Last year, because of the difficulties of this tax, there were only five orchestras and three brass bands left.
I am thinking not only of schools, but of education in the widest sense. To make proper use of leisure time is one of the biggest social problems confronting local authorities and educationists. What happier, better and more useful way is there than by inducing our young people to meet together? Speaking for myself, I would much prefer that they should have a guitar in their hands than an iron bar or a bottle with which to attack people.
The brass band movement, with its festivals, is an indication of the great potential that is within our people, and when we consider this 60 per cent. tax on musical instruments surely Britain must be one of the most musical countries in the world when its citizens have to meet such an obstacle. There are the Foden and Black Dyke Mills Bands, and, incidentally, the National Union of Mineworkers supports this movement for the abolition of this tax because many of the miners' bands find it very difficult to afford the tax on the instruments which they need to buy. In addition, there is the Salvation Army—and let no one sneer at that body. Its bands are amongst the finest in the country. The Salvation Army is helping to build up the community spirit wherever it exists. Then there is the Boys' Brigade.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McKibbin) was quite right in what he said. The length to which many clubs clubs and boys' organisations are driven is scandalous. Their fathers have been brought in to solder in an amateur fashion valves which need the delicate skill of craftsmen to solder. Indeed, the instruments are not giving the executants the great satisfaction which can only be obtained from the use of a first-class instrument. Moreover, when these second-hand instruments are bought by schools, local authorities and boys' clubs, there is the criticism that in the matter of hygiene they are not absolutely safe. Nothing is more likely to spread disease than the use of a second-hand instrument which has already been used by two or three people before.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) referred to the case of a young lad who was helped by her local authority. Perhaps I saw that young boy. I will admit that I followed the Marines band, when it passed the House the other day, along to Victoria because of the attraction which music has for me.
I should like to refer to some correspondence which has come to my attention. A letter was written from Eastbourne House, which runs a youth club, to a firm of musical instrument manufacturers asking for the loan of a double bass instrument. I should mention that music was among the activities practised at this club. The firm had to say that even to loan an instrument they would be mulcted to the extent of a further £20 in Purchase Tax. The leader of the club wrote:
As you will appreciate, this is a big item for a young lad to purchase and we cannot afford to buy one with club funds unless it is offered at a nominal price. Can you please help us in any way?
The firm replied that the cheapest would
cost us £24 without bow and without case. For the privilege of lending that to you, or
giving it to you, or even selling it to you, we would have to pay an additional £20 …
Of course, the matter went by default. There is no tax on pianos and organs, because those instruments cannot be carried. This is the reason why a tax is levied on other musical instruments, because presumably they can be carried from place to place. There is no Purchase Tax on a piano, but there is a Purchase Tax of from £3 to £40 on a clarinet, according to the price that one pays for it.
The Purchase Tax on an oboe ranges from £8 to £40. Those figures are, of course, on the wholesale price. But on the retail figures a moderately priced clarinet would be £28 16s., which includes £4 16s. Purchase Tax. The price of an oboe, which cannot be bought at a moderate price, is about £114. That includes £19 Purchase Tax. People will not waste money on musical instruments if they have no use for them. People purchase them only if they have a keen desire to use them for their own pleasure, or in conjunction with others to give pleasure to some of their friends.
I know that I am speaking at some length, but may I put this point to the Financial Secretary? If we must have a tax on musical instruments, why should we not have a tax on the most delicate musical instrument in the world, the human voice? Has this possibility evaded the ingenuity of the people at the Treasury? I am not suggesting a new form of income, but why should we not tax the Glasgow Orpheus Choir or the Luton Girls' Choir? In logic, where is the difference? When we listen to a fine rendering of Bishop's, "Lo, hear the gentle lark", who can distinguish between the obligato of the flute and the voice singing? Meticulous co-operation is needed between the two, but there is a tax on one instrument but not on the other, yet both are essential to a proper rendering of this work. I would support a tax on voices which seem to be operated by exaggerated gyrations of the anatomy.
The tax on some of the accessories for musical instruments is ridiculous. I have in my hand a simple little thing which is called an oboe reed. It is not an offensive instrument; it is part of a musical instrument. This is perhaps the most delicate and most important part of the musical instrument, because, no matter how dexterous the fingers of the operator, unless he has this for a proper embouchure he will be frustrated and he will feel angry. The most important thing about wind instruments is the embouchure. The cost of it is 8s. 3d., 1s. 3d. of which is Purchase Tax. A musician could buy half a dozen of these things, go home and not find one suitable for the embouchure because the line between the reed and the mouthpiece is so fine that it makes all the difference unless there is ample air space with which to have access to the keys. There is Purchase Tax on all strings, but, as has been mentioned, on certain strings for the cello one can pay up to £2 in Purchase Tax. We do not only wish to see this tax reduced, but we want to see it abolished. The conductors of today, such as Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Malcolm Sargent and Basil Cameron, and the Royal Academy of Music, all want to see the tax abolished.
I sincerely hope that the Financial Secretary will be prepared to render a great service to music so that the teachers of today will be able to provide the cream—and, after all, we cannot get the cream without milk—for the orchestras of Britain, which is recognised to be one of the most musically-minded countries in the world and for the attainment of the spirit that we all want to see, namely, international peace and brotherhood, so that we can enjoy not merely the material things of life but those which comfort the spirit during the dark days.
It is not often that I am moved to take part in what has become to a certain extent a Welsh debate. However, I confess that the eloquence of my colleagues from Wales on the theme of harp strings has certainly tugged at my heart strings. I hope that this debate has had the same effect on the Financial Secretary. The argument is quite overwhelming and I hope that he will make a further gesture on this matter which will be a real encouragement to a vital folk art of our community.
We have had support for the Amendment from all parts of the British Isles. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) has given a most impressive account of the difficulties that this tax causes to schools and voluntary organisations, which have done so much to raise the cultural life of our country. I am told by those who speak with authority on these matters that the standard of amateur music in these islands today is greater than anywhere in the world. That has been achieved in the face of discouragement. The Government have not a good record in the arts. They could do much more. The contribution by the Government to the Arts Council is miserably inadequate, and now we have this gesture to retain half of this miserable tax on culture. A tax on the harp—what a thought it is!
I ask the Government to consider this point because serious discouragement is being caused. Music is not a luxury, and it is astonishing that in 1958 the taxation that is still to be levied after this Budget has gone through is still round about the high figures of the postwar period, when circumstances were entirely different.
We have heard a graphic account of the difficulties which the Chancellor's financial provisions are imposing. I do not know whether the Government will be moved by the difficulties of the harpists in Wales, but when I heard of the leaky joints of the Northern Ireland bands being patched up with chewing gum, that is a picture of the miserable state to which this wretched financial stringency is reducing those who are trying to raise our musical standards.
There was only one part of the speech of the hon. Member for Maryhill that filled the Committee with some despondency. That was the faint prospect that there might be a tax on the exercise of the human voice. We have heard that speech is silver, but the idea that it should be subject to Purchase Tax is a perpetration that it would be not for us in this Committee, of all places, to commend.
One is tempted towards frivolity, and frivolity is excellent on this occasion, but this is a serious matter. We must try to raise our cultural standards higher, whether through the brass bands of Northern Ireland, the harpists of Wales, or the school orchestras of West Ham, which, at present, are in grave difficulties in getting the equipment and replacements that they require.
In face of this most powerful case, I hope that the Financial Secretary, who has spent a good deal of his life in considering the force of argument and applying it, will accept the force of the argument on this occasion and make a full concession to those who have asked for it.
I should like to say a few words in support of the Amendment, although I do not want to harp upon it too long.
I have been examining the effigies of the British saints in the Central Lobby. There is something very striking about four of them. When I examined St. Andrew, I found that there was no suggestion of a harp at all. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan), whose speech we all enjoyed, will forgive me if I say that Scotland seems to have gone over to the pipe and left the harp behind. St. George, on the other hand, is engrossed in slaying the dragon—not, I hope, the Welsh dragon. When we come to St. Patrick, we find that there is a harp motif in the design, and I think that there is a sound reason for this assumption, because St. Patrick was essentially a Welsh Saint, although that may sound very Irish. When we come to St. David in the mosaic in the Central Lobby, we find that the harp forms a very prominent feature in the design indeed.
I think that the hon. Gentleman is being a little unfair to Scotland. We have the authority of the minstrel boy in the poem, whose
father's sword he has girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him".
so that one would not see it.
If I may proceed, the strange thing is that neither the Greeks nor the Romans took any interest in the harp. They played the lyre, but they never played the harp. My hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) referred to the Latin writer in the tenth century who said that the Romans play the lyre, but it is to the Barbarians that we must turn to hear the harp. We are not ashamed to be considered barbarians in that connection.
The word "harp" is of Teutonic origin, but, despite the beauty of the tone of this instrument, the domestic use of the harp has virtually disappeared from all Saxon lands. As hon. Members will remember, it was Thomas Moore who made the complaint that,
The harp that once through Tara's halls
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls
As if that soul were fled.
This is not so in Wales, where its use is on the increase, as indeed it should be. As other Members have already pointed out, from the earliest recorded history of, Wales the harp has always been an instrument which has found prominence in the hall and in the home, and the harpist has had a place of peculiar distinction and veneration.
The harp has still its appeal, because we have a peculiar form of musical expression, which has been referred to by many Members, known as pennillion singing, where the harp plays the air and the singer accompanies the harp. The House will forgive me for making a personal reference. I had a pupil in my school who played the harp. She brought that harp to school frequently, and on many an occasion she played the air on the harp and the whole school joined in pennillion singing. In what other country in the world would one find that taking place? This girl will be going next September to the Manchester School of Music. She wants to buy a harp, and now the question of Purchase Tax comes into the picture.
I have never believed in Purchase Tax being levied on school equipment. I am speaking from experience in what I say next. We tried to form violin classes and children had to buy their violins. We knew it was not fair for those children to pay tax to the country because they wanted to join a violin class in school. I also had a school band. If I remember rightly, the only instrument of which I was short was a drum. When I inquired into the cost of a drum, I was surprised that it was so high. It would certainly have been cheaper if there was no Purchase Tax on it.
All art seeks to attain the conditions of music, and in many respects music is the highest expression of art. It is certainly the widest art in its appeal, and it has revealed qualities in which the world is still very poor—the quality of harmony, the quality of balance and the quality of soul. I think it is very wrong indeed for Purchase Tax to be put upon the instruments of music which may inspire our people in these very difficult days.
I want to conclude on another note, and my observation will be brief. A plea for the traditional right of the harp has already been made. The Welsh harp was an hereditary instrument to be preserved in the family at all costs. It was a sacred treasure. It had a double protection even when it merely hung on the wall, as it often did because the family had no harpist. Even then, however, the family never parted with the harp because it cherished the fond hope that sooner or later a harpist would be born. So the harp was retained in the home and in the family. It was also protected by law. In payment of debts every article in the household and every animal in the field—cow, horse, sheep and goats—was liable to be seized——
The harp stood above the law. It possessed an inalienable right of its own. It could not be used to pay debts. On the other hand, Purchase Tax on a harp and on harp strings is meant to help to pay a national debt. I want to restore the position of the traditional right of the harp, and if some English or Scottish friends derive benefit from that concession, I personally will have no objection.
May I contribute briefly to this debate, prefacing my remarks with an apology for the fact that I have not been here during the whole of the discussion. It would be an embarrassment to me if what I have to say had already been said—I am sure it would have been said with more emotion than I would be capable of—but some of us sometimes have other things to do at the same time. However, so important is this discussion that I am sure I shall have the indulgence of the Committee in speaking in these circumstances.
There are several points of detail and two major points of principle which apply here. The points of detail are many and some have been referred to. I was particularly interested in the remarks about the clarionet and the oboe, which showed that where there is an ad valorem tax of this structure there are most unexpected and undesirable results. What one is concerned with in a clarionet is a musical instrument which produces a note. What one is concerned with in an oboe is a musical instrument which produces a note. They both do exactly the same thing in a slightly different way, and both are necessary for the balance of the orchestra.
What is desired is to produce one note. Why, in those circumstances, should the person who wants to produce his note on the clarionet be able to do so for a moderate contribution to the Chancellor, whereas the person who wants to produce it on the oboe has to pay a major contribution to the Chancellor, merely because it is an ad valorem duty? Also, because the clarionet can be made largely by manufacturing processes and the oboe has to be made entirely by hand, the cost of the two is so different that one gets this ridiculous result. Not that there is anything wrong with the oboe or with the clarionet. All that is wrong is the idea of taxing music, the idea of taxing culture.
I come immediately to the points of principle. The Financial Secretary must feel very uncomfortable, unless he is going to meet us on this point, because there rests a tremendous responsibility on his shoulders to justify taxing culture in this day and age. There is no doubt what the whole world feels about it. This is purely a tax on art and on culture, and it hits at the most effective point. Because it is not only the desire to play or to make music that enables one to do so; unfortunately, one has to have the cash as well.
Everyone knows this who tries to form amateur orchestras, school orchestras or university orchestras. He knows that the limitation of the orchestra is not the desire of the child. It is not the musical ability of this country which, in spite of the way we try to decry it, has for many generations set the standard for the world. There is a great flowering going on in music today—and in this country, of course, I include Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and anywhere else we are entitled to discuss in this Committee.
The difficulty is to get the funds with which to buy instruments. A good instrument costs money, and the more it costs the more does one have to contribute to the Exchequer. There can be no doubt that there rests on the shoulders of the Financial Secretary a heavy responsibility, if he is to discharge it, in satisfying the Committee that there should be a tax of any kind. Because once one admits a variation in tax—as one does because there are many rates, 5 per cent., 30 per cent., 60 per cent.—one cannot rely on the fact that there should be the same rate for everything. Once he admits the power to discriminate, the Financial Secretary is in a very difficult position; he has to show both sides of the Committee that discrimination against music, against this vital and living form of art, is justified.
The other major argument of principle I want to mention is not a party point. Of course this is not a party matter. I would be astonished if there were any difference between any side of the Chamber on this point. I am distressed beyond measure at what I see happening to our civilisation in this country. Let me explain why. We have television, we have wireless, we have films, we have all kinds of methods of entertainment in which the human spirit is encouraged to sit and gawp and be silent and be passive, to do nothing whatever. Yet whatever in each one of us is worth while, right in the heart of each one of us, is encouraged or discouraged by these emotions, by the arts, by the expression of art. In our civilisation we are doing everything possible to discourage people from enlightening their spirit, from blowing the spark into a flame. We are doing everything possible to discourage that and we should do the reverse.
We should take the greatest possible pains, by fiscal methods and any other methods open to us, to encourage participation in this way. We should make it our endeavour that every child shall be encouraged to make music first, and through making it to listen and to understand. The first thing is to make sure, no matter in what simple form, of the growing of the soul of that child. This is something which ought to appeal to the Financial Secretary because he has an added responsibility for a new child. Is the child to have the opportunity of playing the recorder? I anticipate that there is no tax on a recorder—[HON. MEMBERS: "There is."] That is utterly shocking—tax on a 7s. 6d. recorder. Well, at all events it has been possible to make recorders by mechanical means and the child can start that much better off.
I do not need to underline this point, which is of fundamental importance. Would that it could be settled merely by removing Purchase Tax, but it can be encouraged by doing so. We in this Chamber have a standard to set to the community and I appeal to the Financial Secretary to do so.
We have had many good debates on Purchase Tax during these last two days, but from the point of view of the quality of the speeches, I think that all hon. Members of the Committee who have been attending the debates regularly will agree that the discussion that we have had so far today has been outstanding.
I will deal, first, with the Amendment relating to harps and then with the question of musical instruments generally. It is clear that the plea for the exemption of harps from Purchase Tax appeals particularly to the Committee, for five different reasons. The first was undoubtedly the point made by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) that the cost is, as I admit, inconsiderable. The second is the one which appeals particularly to those of us who are not Welsh, in that we recognise that the traditional gift of music—which I am sure the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) is right in saying is at the moment in revival—was kept alive in Wales during the days when it was not so noticeable in this country.
The third is, as we know, that the harp means a great deal to the culture of Wales. The fourth, I am sure, is the effect of the singular felicity, wit and erudition of the speeches of hon. Members from Wales, particularly today. The hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) said that the eloquence would have an effect on my heart strings. I have no doubt that if my heart strings could be affected by eloquence in this matter, they would have been today.
I should like to deal with one or two minor points before dealing with the main point of the Amendment. First, the hon. Member for Caernarvon, the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) and the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) referred to the question of the repair of old instruments. It is quite general in the structure of Purchase Tax for taxable materials which are used in repair to bear tax in the same way as all other materials which are taxable. It is not peculiar; it is general to the structure of Purchase Tax for reasons which will be apparent to the Committee.
The second point was made by the hon. Member for Anglesey. He drew a distinction between the material for harp strings and the nylon used for fishing tackle which, he said, was tax-free. That gave a rather false impression, because the nylon used for sporting fishing is not tax-free; it is taxed at the same rate as other taxable sports commodities, namely, 30 per cent.
I now come to the main point. Harps are only part of a large range of orchestral or solo instruments which are now taxed at 30 per cent. and which, before the Budget, were taxed at 60 per cent. The hon. Member for Gloucester said that they were penalised, because this is an ad valorem tax. Purchase Tax is an ad valorem tax, but it would be quite impracticable so to construct it as to vary its incidence so that the end-product—the tax actually charged—was more nearly similar over wide ranges of articles like those covered by the definition "sports gear" or musical instruments.
I recognise that harps are by no means cheap; although they are not necessarily the most expensive of instruments—as the examples given by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) show. We really come down to this: there can be no argument for isolating and exempting one out of the many orchestral and solo instruments. Indeed, if I accepted the Amendment I hesitate to think what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) might say if the pipes were not similarly exempted.
In that respect, the hon. Member could not speak for all Scotland.
Reference was rightly made to the exemption of pianos, but that was a particular case. I recognise that it is an anomaly, but the concession was made because the piano-making industry was in a very serious state. The decision was made for economic reasons, in 1953, and the considerations there have not applied to other musical instruments.
The Financial Secretary is embarking upon somewhat dangerous theological grounds. The harp has metaphysical implications; it is an instrument for use in the next world as well as this. Its use in this world may be regarded as a preparation for its use in a different sphere of activity, so there is an argument for treating it in a quite different way from the way in which one would treat a saxophone.
The hon. Member's point is a perfectly valid one, but for the moment I am limiting my remarks to the Purchase Tax on harps in this world.
The main question arises out of the taxation of all musical instruments, and we have had a number of very persuasive and eloquent speeches on this subject. The right hon. Member for Colne Valley, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater)—who made a very remarkable speech—and, finally, the hon. Member for Gloucester, whose services to music many of us know, are entitled to speak with authority. But I think it is recognised generally that the Chancellor has performed a very great service to the industry in reducing the tax from 60 per cent. to 30 per cent.
I have here a letter from the chairman of the Association of Musical Instrument Industries, which says:
Even warmer thanks are due to you for what this concession means"—
he had already referred to the effect on the manufacturing industry—
to the child who wishes to learn to play a musical instrument of its own; to the Salvation Army bandsman, and the player in the miners' band or the works' band; to the young
people in the youth clubs, in the Boys' Brigade, and in great organisations like the National Youth Orchestra …
That is an expression of thanks from the chairman of the association of manufacturers of these instruments.
The basis of the case against the tax is that music-making and the playing of instruments is educational, as the right hon. Member for Colne Valley said, and that it is purely a tax on culture, as the hon. Member for Gloucester said—and there were various variations on that theme. I would ask the Committee to recognise, however, that while all that is true it is not the whole truth. That musical instruments also have a recreational function is not in question. In that way, they are an alternative form of recreation to such things as cameras and photographic materials. Those, too, have an education and cultural value, as the Committee will readily recognise, and it is right, for that reason, that musical instruments should be taxed at the same rate as sports requisites, cameras and photographic equipment, namely, at the standard rate of 30 per cent.
The hon. Member for Merioneth pictured my right hon. Friend as saying, "I will impose a 30 per cent. tax on their enjoyment." Surely the fairer way of picturing him would be as saying, "I will reduce the tax on their enjoyment from 60 per cent. to 30 per cent.; I will halve it." That is the way I would ask the Committee to view this matter. The hon. Member for Caernarvon, in an excellent speech, quoted again what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) quoted yesterday—the lines from Shakespeare, beginning:
The man that hath no music in himself …
I realise that I am rendering myself liable to be stigmatised as fit for "treasons, stratagems and spoils", but nevertheless I cannot advise the Committee to accept the Amendment.
As a Welshwoman I am sure that the Committee will appreciate that I am disappointed at the reply that we have received from the Financial Secretary. We have had some excellent speeches, and I do not propose to repeat the arguments which have been put with very great eloquence and sincerity by a number of my hon. Friends.
The main burden of our plea—to which we have had a very dusty answer—is that this tax is largely one upon young people. If a person is to learn to play a musical instrument, whether it be a harp, oboe or any other instrument, it is essential that he or she should start early in life. There have been exceptional individuals who have started somewhat later and have become proficient, and there is no doubt that one can take up such a thing as painting relatively late in life; but, normally, one cannot take up music with any hope of great proficiency unless one starts very early.
I see that the Chancellor agrees. I have a nephew who, for his age, is a reasonably competent violin player. He goes to a village school in Kent, whose educational committee is one of those which encourage violin playing in school. It would be very beneficial if all the children in his class who take violin instruction could have their own violins, but I believe that only two have parents who are in a position to buy even a child's violin.
The cost of other instruments, especially the wind instruments, is prohibitive. My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) had thought of intervening in the debate, but I can reveal that he is liable to purchase an oboe for his son in the fairly near future, and he felt that his interest might lead him into an excess of emotion.
I am happy if I have now committed a parent to his duty towards his child.
Our plea is that this is one of the finest forms of recreation—if one wishes to call it recreation. In fact, it is something very much more than that. It is something which anyone who has had anything to do with young people recognises as one of the finest forms of expression open to them. The tax is a very genuine burden upon schools, youth clubs, and youth organisations of all kinds, and it is because many of my hon. Friends who have had experience in this matter feel very strongly about it that we cannot accept the argument of the Financial Secretary as adequate.
We know that one can argue, in respect of the Purchase Tax on any item, that if it were removed it would have repercussions in other directions, but we feel that our plea for musical instruments is such a strong one, on its merits, that
|Division No. 136.]||AYES||[5.42 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Healey, Denis||Owen, W. J.|
|Albu, A. H.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Paget, R. T.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Herbison, Miss M.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Allen, Soholefield (Crewe)||Holman, P.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.)||Holmes, Horace||Parker, J.|
|Benson, Sir George||Houghton, Douglas||Parkin, B. T.|
|Beswick, Frank||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Paton, John|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Pearson, A.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Hoy, J. H.||Popplewell, E.|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Hubbard, T. F.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Randall, H. E.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hunter, A. E.||Rankin, John|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Reeves, J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Reid, William|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Reynolds, G.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Carmichael, J.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Ross, William|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Royle, C.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Clunie, J.||Kenyon, C.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Coldrick, W.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||King, Dr. H. M.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoredith & Finsbury)||Lawson, G. M.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Snow, J. W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lewis, Arthur||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Lindgren, G. S.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lipton, Marcus||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Logan, D. G.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Delargy, H. J.||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Diamond, John||McCann, J.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Dodds, N. N.||MacDermot, Niall||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||McGovern, J.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McInnes, J.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Edelman, M.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McLeavy, Frank||Thornton, E.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Tomney, F.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Finch, H. J.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Forman, J. C.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Wade, D. W.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Weitzman, D.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mellish, R. J.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||Mikardo, Ian||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mitchison, G. R||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Monslow, W.||Willey, Frederick|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Moody, A. S.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mort, D. L.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Moss, R.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Grimond, J.||Moyle, A.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Hale, Leslie||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Hannan, W.||Oram, A. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hastings, S.||Orbach, M.||Mr. Short and Mr. Deer|
|Hayman, F. H.||Oswald, T.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Arbuthnot, John||Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Armstrong, C. W.||Baldwin, A. E.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Ashton, H.||Balniel, Lord|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Atkins, H. E.||Barlow, Sir John|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Heald, Rt Hon. Sir Lionel||Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan|
|Bingham, R. M.||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hesketh, R. F.||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Body, R. F.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Boothby, Sir Robert||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Osborne, C.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Page, R. G.|
|Braine, B. R.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Hope, Lord John||Peel, W. J.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Horobin, Sir Ian||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Bryan, P.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Howard, John (Test)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Campbell, Sir David||Hurd, A. R.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hyde, Montgomery||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Profumo, J. D.|
|Cole, Norman||Iremonger, T. L.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Cooke, Robert||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Redmayne, M.|
|Cooper, A. E.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Joseph, Sir Keith||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Kaberry, D.||Russell, R. S.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Keegan, D.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Sharples, R. C.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kershaw, J. A.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Kimball, M.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Kirk, P. M.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Speir, R. M.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Leather, E. H. C.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Leburn, W. G.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Drayson, G. B.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Temple, John M.|
|Duncan, Sir James||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Longden, Gilbert||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Erroll, F. J.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth S.)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Fell, A.||McAdden, S. J.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Freeth, Denzil||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Gammans, Lady||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Wall, Patrick|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Glover, D.||Maddan, Martin||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Godber, J. B.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Gower, H. R.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Marshall, Douglas||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Green, A.||Mathew, R.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Gurden, Harold||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Mr. Edward Wakefield and|
Amendment proposed: In page 29, line 35, at end insert:
(c) in the case of musical instruments where the rate under Group 19 would be so reduced to 30 per cent., the articles (other than gramophones, radio-gramophones, player pianos, musical boxes and similar instruments or parts thereof or accessories thereto or gramophone records) shall instead be exempted from tax.—[Mr. G. Roberts.]
|Division No. 137.]||AYES||[5.52 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Hayman, F. H.||Oswald, T.|
|Albu, A. H.||Healey, Denis||Paget, R. T.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Herbison, Miss M.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.)||Holman, P.||Parker, J.|
|Benson, Sir George||Holmes, Horace||Parkin, B. T.|
|Beswick, Frank||Houghton, Douglas||Paton, John|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Pearson, A.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Popplewell, E.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Hoy, J. H.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Hubbard, T. F.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Randall, H. E.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Rankin, John|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hunter, A. E.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Reeves, J.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Reid, William|
|Burke, W. A.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Reynolds, G.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Carmichael, J.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Ross, William|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Royle, C.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Clunie, J.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Coldrick, W.||Kenyon, C.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||King, Dr. H. M.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lawson, G. M.||Snow, J. W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S)||Lewis, Arthur||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lindgren, G. S.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lipton, Marcus||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Logan, D. G.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Diamond, John||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Dodds, N. N.||McCann, J.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||MacDermot, Niall||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McGovern, J.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Edelman, M.||McInnes, J.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||McLeavy, Frank||Thornton, E.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Tomney, F.|
|Finch, H. J.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Forman, J. C.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Wade, D. W.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mellish, R. J.||Weitzman, D.|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||Mikardo, Ian||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mitchison, G. R.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Monslow, W.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Moody, A. S.||Willey, Frederick|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mort, D. L.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Moss, R.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Grimond, J.||Moyle, A.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hale, Leslie||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby. S.)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Oliver, G. H.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hannan, W.||Oram, A. E.|
|Hastings, S.||Orbach, M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Mr. Short and Mr. Deer.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Barlow, Sir John||Bossom, Sir Alfred|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Baxter, Sir Beverley||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Beamish, Col. Tufton||Boyle, Sir Edward|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Braine, B. R.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bidgood, J. C.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Brooman-White, R. C.|
|Ashton, H.||Bingham, R. M.||Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Bishop, F. P.||Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Body, R. F.||Campbell, Sir David|
|Balniel, Lord||Boothby, Sir Robert||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Cole, Norman||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Osborne, C.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Howard, John (Test)||Page, R. G.|
|Cooke, Robert||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Peel, W. J.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hurd, A. R.||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hyde, Montgomery||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Pitman, I. J.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Iremonger, T. L.||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Cunningham, Knox||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Currie, C. B. H.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Profumo, J. D.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Kaberry, D.||Redmayne, M.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Keegan, D.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Kershaw, J. A.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Kimball, M.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Duncan, Sir James||Kirk, P. M.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Russell, R. S.|
|Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Leather, E. H. C.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Leburn, W. G.||Sharples, R. C.|
|Fell, A.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Speir, R. M.|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Freeth, Denzil||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Gammans, Lady||Longden, Gilbert||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth S.)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Glover, D.||McAdden, S. J.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Temple, John M.|
|Godber, J. B.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Gower, H. R.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Green, A.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Gurden, Harold||Maddan, Martin||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Marshall, Douglas||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Mathew, R.||Wall, Patrick|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hesketh, R. F.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nairn, D. L. S.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nicholls, Harmar||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Mr. Edward Wakefield and|
|Hope, Lord John||Oakshott, H. D.||Mr. Bryan.|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
I beg to move, in page 29, line 42, at the end to insert:
(e) in the case of toilet preparations where the rate under Group 32 would be so reduced to 60 per cent., it shall instead be reduced to 30 per cent.
The effect of this Amendment is to carry further the reduction in Purchase Tax on cosmetics which has already been reduced by 30 per cent. to 60 per
cent. It would be ungracious not to express the thanks of the female population for the small reduction we have already enjoyed, but cosmetics are so much a part of the every-day equipment of women that it seems most unfair that they should continue to be among the few goods which are taxed at 60 per cent.
There is such a narrow dividing line between goods treated as cosmetics and those treated as toilet preparations that the boundary between what is purely
cosmetic and what is essential for cleanliness and hygiene has become blurred, causing considerable difficulty to the industry and great confusion to the purchaser. I wish to quote to the Committee the words of the Schedule which try to describe the scope of the goods with which we are dealing.
Toilet preparations are chargeable with tax … whether they are medicated or not. Accordingly, the fact that a preparation commonly used as a toilet preparation contains medicaments or is held out as a remedy or is claimed to have medicinal value does not remove it from the scope of this heading. Medicated preparations fall to be considered under Group 33 only if they are not toilet preparations.
I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to clarify what seems to me an extraordinarily confused situation and the difference between a medicated preparation and a toilet preparation.
I ask the Committee to consider the importance of cosmetics. To most hopeful girls cosmetics and clothes are a sort of mute "Professor Higgins" which can make all the difference to their future lives. The purpose in moving this Amendment is not to deal with the obvious features concerned with the contribution which cosmetics can make to one's appearance, because I am sure that the Committee needs no persuasion about that. I ask hon. Members to consider the effect of this heavy taxation on cleanliness, which is even a more elementary virtue than beauty according to some authorities.
In this connection, we find all sorts of anomalies. For example, nicotine stain removers are treated as cosmetics for the purpose of Purchase Tax. It is a revolting sight to see a man or woman whose fingers are stained with nicotine. We should encourage them to get rid of this offensive sight, and I cannot see the justification for including articles which assist this primary purpose of cleanliness in the same group as cosmetics.
I wish to quote to the hon. Gentleman the example of what are called barrier preparations. Perhaps I should explain that these are usually creams used on the hands, both in industry or in connection with domestic work, as a form of protection. It is most inadvisable, in my opinion, that the heavier rate of tax should be charged on barrier prepara-
tions and, quoting the exact words of the Schedule,
… barrier preparations (whether or not sold for factory use against occupational dermatitis) perfumed or put up in a form comparable with cosmetics
are chargeable at the higher rate. What is meant by
perfumed or put up in a form comparable with cosmetics"?
That must be interpreted to mean that even if the barrier cream is unperfumed, if it is packed in a comparable form, it is chargeable at 60 per cent. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will explain. What does
put up in a form comparable with cosmetics
mean? Does it mean that if someone produces a barrier cream in a dirty paper bag it is chargeable at 30 per cent., but if the cream is put in a neat little jar it is chargeable at 60 per cent.? Of course, the jar itself would also be chargeable at 60 per cent. which adds to the confusion.
This is a more important point than it may at first appear. With the increasing use of detergents and other synthetic cleansers in the home, many women find these creams a help against various forms of dermatitis. It would be a good thing to encourage the use of barrier creams, rather than that a housewife should wait until she is suffering from dermatitis and then obtain from her doctor—at the expense of the community—some preparation which may well cost more than the shilling prescription fee. In this connection, may I remind the Financial Secretary that protective gloves of the sort that women would wear to protect their hands when doing housework are charged at 5 per cent. If only we could regard barrier creams as a form of glove and not as a cosmetic, it would be very helpful.
There are other inconsistencies with which I do not intend to weary the Committee in detail, but I should like to know why it is that if we try to make our eyelashes curl, we have to pay tax at the rate of 60 per cent. for the necessary equipment. But if we treat ourselves to a yard of false eyelashes we are charged not duty at all. If false eyelashes are free from duty, it makes it difficult to understand why false beards and moustaches should be taxed at 60 per cent.
Surely cleanliness of the hair must be accepted as an obligation in a civilised
society, but we find that all the articles designed either for
waving, curling, setting, dyeing, tinting, bleaching, or in any way dressing or treating the hair
are chargeable at 60 per cent. I submit that the phrase, "dressing or treating the hair" means that many preparations charged at 60 per cent. are useful and necessary. Nothing is more unpleasant than to go out with a man who has dandruff over his dinner jacket, and I should have thought that such preparations should attract only 30 per cent. and not 60 per cent. tax.
The hon. and learned Gentleman may say that if a preparation does not smell it can be chargeable at 30 per cent. because, reading this Schedule through very carefully, I find that the main "sin" is to smell pleasantly. Time and again we find that preparations are charged at 30 per cent. so long as they have no perfume. I cannot imagine what may be the sinister, Freudian explanation of this prejudice against perfume and a pleasant smell. There are certain cases in which smell is part of the function of the preparation. To take an unpleasant smell first as an example, anti-midge preparations have a rather noxious pseudo-lavender smell to make them effective and are chargeable at 60 per cent. because of what is called the perfume content. We must ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to find out what ingrained grudge his right hon. Friend the Chancellor bears against the use of the olfactory apparatus given to us all. Surely to enable us to have full enjoyment of our scents.
Sunburn and skin lotions of various sorts are chargeable at 30 per cent. unless they have an element of scent in them. Sometimes the purpose of a preparation can be achieved only by means of an ingredient which smells. If it is a sort of olfactory neutrality, which is the Chancellor's objective, we must point out that this—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but I am being quite serious about this. This neutrality of the sense of smell can be achieved only by countering bad smells with good smells.
The hon. Member must address that question to his hon. and learned Friend who may be able to tell him the number of "sniffers" employed in the Customs and Excise Department.
What is the use of a deodorant which does not smell? Yet something which is called a personal deodoriser is chargeable at 60 per cent. if it is perfumed. The idea of an unperfumed personal deodoriser is a contradiction in terms. Another preparation which must have a smell if it is to work is a man's hair cream. Its function is to counteract the greasy sort of smell which is most unpleasant if it is not dealt with.
In these debates we seem to have agreed upon a rough rule of thumb applying the highest rate of tax to what are usually classed as luxuries. I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to look again at the goods in this group to see whether there is some way in which the list can be revised in order that articles which have more to do with personal cleanliness and hygiene should be put in the lower 30 per cent. group.
It is very confusing that there should be tax at 60 per cent. on the very things which we buy normally to keep ourselves clean and to help us to look a little more pleasant, which is a social duty. Group 29, which covers
fancy or ornamental articles suitable for personal or domestic use",
has been reduced to 30 per cent. Stockings, as the hon. and learned Gentleman will know are charged at 5 per cent., but in the summer it is quite usual for women not to wear stockings but to use instead preparations which are generally referred to as "liquid" stockings. This is a cosmetic with which we cover our legs in an endeavour to economise while enjoying the full benefit of the sun's rays. The Chancellor is charging this preparation at 60 per cent., which seems a little unfair.
It is important that the hon. and learned Gentleman and his right hon. Friend should see the effect of all this upon the export position of the industry. In France, the Purchase Tax on goods of this kind is only 24 per cent., and in Germany 4 per cent. Tax on these preparations in this country has to be added to the tax on the containers which are so important for packaging in the cosmetics industry, and it is bound to be detrimental to the firms which are trying to export these goods to Europe in the face of very severe competition.
I would refer seriously to the psychological importance of the articles that we are considering in this group. I have here a letter which was sent to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle)—who is very sorry that she cannot be with us today—by a specialist who is responsible for a scheme of beauty treatment in Goodmayes Hospital. She writes to say how delighted the medical staff at Goodmayes have been with the effect on the patients, on the patients' relatives as well as on the staff, by the efforts that have been made in that hospital to give patients the use of cosmetics and the opportunity to learn how to use them and to take more care of their appearance. Psychologically, this has been of the utmost importance.
I have also heard of a beauty salon recently opened at Croydon in a home for young female spastic patients, who are quite incurable but who have been given a new interest as the result of this activity.
There are two women's prisons where attempts have been made to make it possible for women to take a pride in their appearance by the use of cosmetics and other preparations. In several cases there have been reports of the good this has done to the psychology of the people concerned.
For all these reasons, I hope that the Financial Secretary, who, perhaps I may say without embarrassing him, is among the most gallant Members of this House——
I hope the Financial Secretary will give us some proof of his concern for the well-being not only of the women who use cosmetics but of the men who also use them in their toilet preparations. Many men need to use, more of them. If I cannot touch the heart of the hon. and learned Gentleman in that way, I would remind him that this penal taxation applies also to preparations used for the beautifying of pets. Animals are charged this penal rate for preparations the only purpose of which is to make their fur look fluffier or their plumage more handsome. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman now has before him sufficient reasons to justify him to revise this taxation.
I intervene in the debate because an Amendment which stood in my name on the Notice Paper, and the general purpose of which was similar to that of the Amendment we are now discussing, was not selected. I wish, therefore, to say a few words on the Amendment.
It would be churlish and ungenerous of me not to acknowledge that a very substantial reduction in the price of cosmetics and toilet prearations has followed the relief of Purchase Tax, from 90 per cent. to 60 per cent., proposed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In that connection, the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) was a little less than generous in referring to the reduction as small. On the contrary, the reduction is very substantial.
The reduction ranges over the whole field of cosmetics and toilet preparations irrespective of price, from the cheapest lipstick to the most expensive perfume. I will give two examples at random. My researches have shown that lipstick formerly costing 5s. 6d. has been reduced, as the result of the Budget proposals, to 4s. 9d., and that a box of face powder which cost 25s. before the Budget now costs 21s. 6d. They are surely very considerable reductions.
I am sorry that the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) is not in her place, because she have been foremost in suggesting that shopkeepers have not reflected in their retail prices, since the Budget, the reductions in Purchase Tax to which my hon. and learned Friend has referred. A careful market survey has been carried out on that point and it is relevant to this discussion that the findings of the survey should be quoted in this Committee. I will read an extract from the survey, so that the nation may realise that the overwhelming majority of traders have faithfully reflected, in their retail prices, the reduction of Purchase Tax in my right hon. Friend's Budget. The survey covered no fewer than 1,231 items of toilet preparations and cosmetics, of which 1,166 had been reduced in price. The average reduction of price is approximately 10½ per cent. or approximately in line with the two examples which I have just cited.
Secondly, in connection with the hon. Lady's Amendment, it might be observed that the Amendment is tabled in the name of six hon. Ladies sitting on the benches opposite. That might lead one to suppose that only ladies have an interest in the price of cosmetics.
There are many people who are concerned about my welfare. A generous member of the public has just delivered to me at the House two tubes of Pomade Hongroise, that famous moustache ointment, which is classified as a toilet preparation. I readily confess that I am addicted to Pomade Hongroise. My pocket will no doubt benefit by my right hon. Friend's generosity. I would make it clear that most men are just as interested in toilet preparations as described in the Schedule as are women in both cosmetics and toilet preparations. Men have benefited from the proposals that have been made in the Budget almost as much as women.
I shall not support this Amendment in the Lobby, because it does not conform to the "Nabarro plan" for Purchase Tax. The "Nabarro plan" for Purchase Tax requires a single, uniform, non-discriminatory rate applicable to all articles that at present attract tax. The rate should be 15 per cent., in present circumstances. My right hon. Friend has brought the rate of Purchase Tax down from 90 per cent. to 60 per cent. Next year, I want him to bring it down, in pursuit of his general ideal, to a uniform rate of tax to which he has paid tribute on several occasions in the last few days, of 15 per cent. particularly in the interests of——
I am giving my reasons for not supporting the Amendment. I will halt there and say that what my right hon. Friend has done in the Budget by bringing the rate down from 90 per cent. to 60 per cent. is certainly a move in the right direction. It is another example of the short and faltering step which my right hon. Friend takes in my direction.
But in the current year I want my right hon. Friend to remove many absurdities which still exist in the field of Purchase Tax upon cosmetics and toilet preparations. The hon. Lady has drawn attention to some of those anomalies. Perhaps I might summarise them and give them to my hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary in very short form. By administrative action he could remedy the majority of these anomalies, help the export trade and assist the general level of business in this country.
The first anomaly is that toilet preparations, which are in any way perfumed, are liable to tax at 60 per cent. even if they are such essential products as preparations for preventing dermatitis, sunburn or insect bite, or be they deodorants. If such products are not perfumed they are either liable to be taxed at 30 per cent. or they are not liable to tax at all. Surely the Customs and Excise Department does not wish to continue to employ sniffers.
Secondly, a pre-shaving lotion suitable for application before the use of an electric razor—an increasingly popular instrument—is liable to tax at 60 per cent., whereas shaving soap pays tax at only 30 per cent. That anomaly should be remedied.
The third example is of face cream, cleansing cream, massage cream, hand cream or man's hair cream, which are liable to Purchase Tax at 60 per cent., while a shaving cream pays only 30 per cent.
The fourth example is toothbrush bags and holders, which pay Purchase Tax at 60 per cent., while toothbrushes are free of duty. Toothpaste and toothbrush racks, however, are liable to tax at 30 per cent. Surely the Treasury ought to consider abolishing the tax on these articles, particularly toothpaste.
Fifthly, eyelash curlers pay tax at 60 per cent. while artificial eyelashes are free of tax. Eyelash growers, on the other hand, pay tax at 60 per cent. but eyebrow combs pay tax at only 30 per cent. This anomaly should be put right.
Finally, bath salts and smelling salts pay at 30 per cent. if unperfumed, but if the slightest element of perfume is added they become liable to tax at 60 per cent. All these anomalies would disappear if there were a flat rate of tax.
I would make a specialised point to my hon. and learned Friend which is of very considerable importance to the nation's export trade. He may or may not know what is an aerosol. It is taxed at the same rate as the perfume or preparation which it contains. The Americans and the Germans have developed aerosols to a very high degree of perfection.
I will describe an aerosol very briefly. It is the most modern and progressive form of spray for toilet preparations. It is similar in principle to a syringe and the action for ejecting the fluid or spray from the container is controlled by a small and rather expensive valve, set in the neck of the aerosol. Many American, German and French toilet preparations are sold in aerosols.
In those countries the aerosol is free of tax and is not in any way associated fiscally with the preparation, or with the tax on the preparation which the aerosol contains. In this country the Customs and Excise Department and the Board of Trade have found it impossible to separate for taxation purposes the wholesale price of the aerosol from that of the preparation itself. The result is that the aerosol, until this Budget and now after the Budget, attract Purchase Tax. They formerly attracted tax at 90 per cent. and they now attract tax at 60 per cent.
The cost of production of an aerosol, which is very considerable in this country—1s. or 2s. each—is largely governed by the bulk of output of aerosols. The fact that the Purchase Tax rate is so high has not only militated against the use of this most progressive and scientific package, but it has given manifest and manifold advantages to our foreign competitors.
If my right hon. Friend would consult the President of the Board of Trade, he would find that I was questioning him six months ago on this point, in pursuit of an expansion of export trade for toilet preparations packaged in aerosols. The President of the Board of Trade admitted that I was quite right in the argument I was putting to him. He said that there was an administrative difficulty in separating the wholesale price of the aerosol from the preparation in the aerosol. I say to the Chancellor that I could solve the problem in five minutes by a simple arrangement with manufacturers for the declaration of the cost of the aerosols at the point of origin.
Would my right hon. Friend, in pursuit of an extension of export trade—which in toilet preparations and cosmetics is very important indeed, and worth millions of pounds a year—give our manufacturers parity with American and German manufacturers by removing aerosols from the field of Purchase Tax, and, therefore, increasing the production of these most progressive and scientific of all packages?
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) is now fully enlightened on the merits, advantages and export potential of an aerosol. I propose to donate one to him in the early future so that he can spray shaving cream on his face, thereby assuring an even covering, instead of using an old-fashioned lather brush. This will help him more easily to remove his whiskers.
I am unable to support this Amendment because it does not conform with the "Nabarro plan", but it moves in the right direction. Now that the Chancellor has returned, may I thank him most cordially—I am sure I echo the thanks of millions of women—for the substantial reduction in the price of cosmetics and toilet preparations which his Budget proposals contain. The epitome of that was the magnificent cartoon which appeared in a national newspaper, showing my right hon. Friend's face adorned with the marks of ladies' attentions made by lipsticks: surely an earnest of the gratitude they felt for him in this important field of feminine adornment, although, as I said earlier, I believe that it is equally important to the male population of the country that they should have toilet preparations at a reasonable price and without such a heavy burden of Purchase Tax resting upon them.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) mentioned that my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) had repeatedly said that the reduction in tax had not been passed on to the consumer. Perhaps the hon. Member for Kidderminster will tell his friends this: have in my possession a long list given to me by a person in the trade showing that the whole of the effect is not felt by the consumer. A very well-known hair cream for men, which is advertised extensively for doing away with dandruff and keeping the hair nice and smooth, used to retail in a small jar at 2s. If the whole reduction were passed on to the consumer, the price should now be 1s. 9d., but instead, because manufacturers put up their wholesale price on the day after the Budget, the price is now 1s. 10d. So the consumer loses 1d.
The survey which I quoted covered the large number of items to which I referred. Had the whole of the tax reductions been passed on for the whole of the list of items, it would have resulted in a reduction in retail prices of 12½ per cent. Out of the 12½ per cent. the survey showed that 10½ per cent. had been passed on to the consumer. That is most generous.
The point is that the whole of it should have been passed on to the consumer. We have a Budget speech in which it is said that there is a reduction in Purchase Tax on these commodities. Naturally, retailing chemists began to make reductions on the first day when the Budget became operative, and consumers understood that the whole of the reduction of the tax would be passed on to them.
A very well-known hair tonic, which is supposed not only to make children's hair grow beautifully, but also to make it curl, used to retail at 12s. 3d. If the whole tax were passed on, it should sell at 10s. 7½d., but instead it is being retailed at 11s. 6d. The consumer has some right to expect that when a reduction is made in Purchase Tax the consumer should feel the whole of the benefit. It is deluding the consumer to say that there has been a reduction when not the whole reduction is passed on.
I do not want to speak on the general topic of cosmetics because my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) did that extremely well and showed how many foolish little anomalies there are in this group. I want the Financial Secretary to look at the section on page 74 of Notice No. 78 which mentions preparations used in chiropody which are liable to the whole of the tax. Many people are more concerned about their feet than they used to be. Because the Ministry of Health will not allow them to start a full-scale chiropody service, many local authorities have to leave this work to voluntary associations, like the W.V.S., which are undertaking schemes for chiropody for old people. Money has to be raised voluntarily unless a grant can be made by the local authority.
A large proportion of the cost of such a service is in the wages of those operating it and in the materials they use. To many people, particularly old people and housewives who go out to do a hard day's work, it is absolutely essential to have comfortable and well-cared-for feet. This place, to which we come every day, is served by large numbers of women who have a heavy job to do. If their feet are uncomfortable and they cannot have them attended to, their job is much more arduous. If one's feet are bad one feels miserable and unable to measure up to the job. Therefore, preparations used in chiropody form a small part of this group which could be given special consideration.
I agree with the whole case which has been made in relation to the effect which cosmetics, shampoos and other things, have not only on cleanliness and hygiene, but also in making one feel good as a result of being able to take full advantage of these aids.
We have been told that
beauty is in the eye of the beholder
but I think that the object, nevertheless, may occasionally be improved by artificial aids.
We have argued in previous debates on Finance Bills that the range of goods we are discussing now are of interest not only to women, who are mostly concerned with their use, but also, we hope, of interest to men who behold the results. There are also other preparations which are of value to men. Those were mentioned by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) who, having made his speech, has—as is his usual custom—left the Committee. It is noticeable that he did not refer to one item on page 75 of Notice No. 78, which we thought he might find of special interest—"plumage improving preparations."
The serious argument on this particular group is that this is a trade which enters into the export market, as my hon. Friend for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) pointed out. As I think the Financial Secretary realises, she is not able to be present for the rest of the debate. We are placed at a considerable disadvantage by comparison with America, Germany and France, our three main competitors in this matter. One of the reasons is the attitude which the Customs and Excise take to the question of perfume or odour. A very large group of articles which come into this section of Purchase Tax attract a relatively low rate of tax if they have no smell, but they attract a high rate of tax if they are in any way perfumed.
We are informed that the legal interpretation of the word "unperfumed," which relieves such articles from the high rate of tax, is extremely strict. Any odour whatsoever is regarded officially as a perfume, even though the odorous ingredient is included as an antiseptic or for preservative or other reasons. Because this is an important matter commercially, we should be told how these differences are applied.
I am pleased to see that the hon. Member for Kidderminster has now returned to his place, because this is a point on which both sides of the Committee would like to have information. By what standard does one decide whether a particular article is, in fact, unperfumed or has an odour? Some articles, such as deodorants, are made of substances which have a positively unpleasant smell, depilatories among them. If they are to be saleable they have to have some kind of counteracting scent.
It seems quite ridiculous to expect not only the manufacturer for, the trade in this country, but also for export, to have any hope whatever of competing in the export trade in these toilet preparations if a D line is to be used. We all know of the difficulties into which our manufacturers were led when we had a financial D line in textiles. This discrimination in toilet preparations has very much the same effect on the manufacturer. It distorts the manufacture, it distorts the development and it is something which should be considered seriously.
It has been pointed out to some of us that the whole trend of modern manufacture is to make perfume or a pleasant scent of some kind an additional reason for buying a particular product. If one buys a scouring powder to clean a sink one finds that the modern type of powder is perfumed. The modern floor polish is also perfumed. Manufacturers of all these household goods have, during the last few years, realised that it is an added attraction, an added quality for their goods that they should use some kind of pleasant and antiseptic scent.
When we come to one's own personal preparations, then this addition of any scent whatsoever leads one into the position of having to pay a very much higher rate of tax. That, I think, is one of the most serious difficulties with which our manufacturers have to contend. The other one, which has also been touched upon, is the question of packaging. Again, if we are to compete at all, especially with countries like France and America that are so particularly skilled in this matter of packaging their goods attractively, it is unfortunate that the container as well as the content is subject to a high rate of tax. These are very serious and substantial reasons why we feel that the Chancellor should look again at this group.
One could, of course, go into other arguments on anomalies—my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) had some opportunity to do so in an earlier stage of the debate—but I will not detain the Committee today on that very interesting annual discussion. I could do so, of course, because there are even some metaphysical comments in the pages on Group 32. We have been talking about aerosols, and essences which have an almost medieval air about them.
Aristotle, as my right hon. Friend reminds me. It was not for nothing that he was once a don. I will not, however, venture into these rather academic fields. I will content myself by asking that we should have a serious reply to the question of how Customs and Excise administers this testing of the perfume or odour of these preparations, and also a reply to the very serious point I made that this particular provision does act as a serious check to the development of this trade in this country.
We have come a long way since the year 1770, when there was introduced into this House a Bill which had the following preface:
That all women of whatever age, rank, profession or degree, whether virgins, maids or widows, that shall from and after such Act impose upon, seduce or betray into matrimony, any of His Majesty's subjects by the scents, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high heeled shoes bolstered hips, shall incur the penalty of the law in force against witchcraft and like misdemeanours, and that the marriage, upon conviction, shall stand null and void.
Happily, it was never passed into law. We have now come so far that we find my right hon. Friend reducing the tax on the very articles that are stigmatised in that Bill.
I want to make it clear upon what principle these articles are taxed at 60 per cent. under the new dispensation. My right hon. Friend has fixed, as he indicated, a basic rate of Purchase Tax at 30 per cent. and under that there are two lower rates where it seemed socially desirable to tax at the lower rate, but above that there is a higher rate, not because the articles are thought to be luxuries but because they are the sort of articles which will yield a high revenue and where there seems to be an expandable demand. It is not because it is thought that the use of motor cars or cosmetics or gramophones is luxurious or wicked; it is simply because they are higher revenue producers.
It is for that reason that I must say, at the outset, that my right hon. Friend is unable to accept this Amendment. The acceptance of the Amendment would cost £6½ million a year and all the articles concerned are very well able to stand a 60 per cent. tax. Indeed, I think that it would be fair to say—I do not want to get led into controversial subjects—that even a 90 per cent. tax was very little noticed by the consumer. I think that the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) might be unwilling to accept that but, by and large, that is a fair statement.
The second reason—and this is merely a technical point—is that the Amendment is defective in that it does not reduce the 60 per cent. rate on perfumery or on hairdressing preparations and therefore it would have the effect of creating further anomalies. It is therefore mainly on the ground of cost, because these articles are properly taxable at a higher rate and because there is an expandable demand for them and they can stand such a tax that I am resisting this Amendment.
The real purpose of the Amendment was, I think, to explore the various matters connected with the incidence of this tax. The hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North and the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger), who has explained to me why she could not be present now, and my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) all drew attention to various points of detail. I do not think that it would be profitable for me to attempt to go into them at this stage. What I will do is to undertake to read what has been said very carefully and to look into these matters.
Would my right hon. and learned Friend allow me one question? One matter is not a point of detail. It is a matter of administration and a very important one for the export industry. Will he try to do something about separating the value of the package, including an aerosol, from the value of the contents? I am sure, as the President of the Board of Trade has already said, that it is not part of the Government's policy to put a Purchase Tax on packages, particularly this most progressive and scientific package, the aerosol. Can he not give us an assurance that he will look into that point very carefully in the early future in the interest of the export effort of this important industry?
I was going to deal with that matter, particularly exports and packaging, because the hon. Lady, as well as my hon. Friend, mentioned it. I will certainly myself look into that matter specifically, although, of course, without giving or implying any undertaking.
There is one general matter which was raised by a number of hon. Members. That is the question of the discrimination, as it was put, against perfumery and against articles if they are scented. Again, that is simply on general revenue grounds. It is a fact that when articles are scented it seems to make them more glamorous and those are the articles which seem to have a more immediate appeal.
I should have thought that it was particularly relevant in the field of toilet preparations, where it is the scent that makes them particularly attractive. I cannot really believe that the housewife buys one detergent in favour of another because it smells better. That is essential in the field of cosmetics and that is the reason why there appears to be a discrimination.
Hon. Members will have noticed that perfumery itself is specifically enumerated in Group 32. I would add that Group 32 (b 2) provides for the tax to be at the basic rate—the standard rate—on a number of the more essential preparations and also on unperfumed toilet preparations. I think that if I went further I should be merely dealing with points of detail, without much profit to the Committee.
I ask the Committee to say that this reduction has been of great value to the trade, as has been recognised. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster was absolutely right when he said that the vast bulk of this reduction in tax has been passed on.
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again."
The reason I move this Motion is that at 3.30 p.m., when an Amendment had been called on harpstrings and harps, the Chancellor showed an almost uncontrollable desire to rise to his feet and address the Committee on a subject other than harps and harpstrings. At that time, it will be recalled, your predecessor in the Chair, Sir Gordon, the Chairman of Ways and Means, said that the right thing to do was to move to report Progress.
Objection was taken to this point. I gather that the further research that has since been made into the constitutional aspect suggests that that may not have been the right Ruling. Nevertheless, if the Chancellor was so moved at 3.30 that he wanted to address the Committee, I am sure that nothing has happened since to alter his desire, and I wonder whether you would accept this Motion now to enable the Chancellor to make now the statement to the Committee which he obviously wanted to make at 3.30.
What I wanted to do at 3.30—I chose my moment, I think, rather unhappily—was just to remind the Committee how much work we have ahead of us.
As I said last night—I still have no complaint at all about the manner in which hon. Members have applied themselves to these problems—we have a Finance Bill with seven parts, 34 Clauses and nine Schedules in it, and our work so far has enabled us to complete one Clause and part of one Schedule. I thought then, and I still think, that three days is not an unreasonable period to allow for the consideration of Purchase Tax, the Schedules and the two Clauses.
I realise the importance of it and the number of points that can legitimately be raised. But I still feel that this is not an unreasonable allotment of time to cover this important subject. I was only going to appeal to hon. Members—although I realise that we must all do our duty in this matter by raising any points that we think ought to be raised—to make their speeches as concise as possible so that we can make faster progress than we have made. Otherwise, I feel that we ought to proceed probably well into the night tonight.
On the other hand, I recognise that that would be inconvenient to many hon. Members, particularly in the present situation, and I would be reluctant to do that unless it became necessary. I was only going to say that, and I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me the chance to say it now.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that progress is apt to be much more rapid when the Government listen to arguments advanced from other parts of the Committee and make concessions from time to time?
I recognise that. I think that when the right hon. Gentleman thinks back over the course of our debate so far he will concede that we have listened to the speeches and the points that have been raised. I think that the number of concessions that we have made is well up to the average of those made on any previous Finance Bill at this stage.
There is no doubt at all that the Government representatives have listened most carefully to the debates, and only last night we acknowledged that fact, but I am sure that the Chancellor will recognise that once he laid open the whole field of Purchase Tax to examination by this Committee hon. Members in all parts—because this has not been debated from one side only—feel it necessary to examine the very many items listed in the Schedule, some because of a constituency interest in their manufacture, and others because of their concern about the position of those called upon to buy and consume the articles. Surely, the Chancellor, when he took his decision in the Budget, realised this was one of the prices that inevitably and rightly has to be paid for the decision that he thought proper to put before the Committee.
There is another thing that will be in the minds of all hon. Members. We have had some brief discussions on the subject of retrospective legislation, dividend stripping and so on. I do not want to enter into that subject now, as there will be ample opportunities to do so at a later stage of our proceedings, but I think that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House felt at that time that, whatever disagreements there might be on the subject, we must all agree that the lesson of what happened on dividend stripping is that Parliament really must do its job and get the legislation right.
I am sure it would be a great relief to many of us if the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) did not have to get up quite as often as he feels he must at Question Time to draw attention to anomalies in Purchase Tax. I am sure that he would be as happy as we if some of the anomalies could be removed by this Committee so that it was not necessary for any hon. Member to keep drawing attention to them. I hope, therefore, that there will be no feeling on the part of the Chancellor that this time is being wasted, however tedious it may, perhaps, be for him and his hon. and learned Friend.
As to his hopes for tonight, I am sure that the Committee will have studied the Amendments and will have seen that there are a very large number of rather important debates in prospect. Time could be saved if the right hon. Gentleman made the concessions, and made them speedily, but if the Amendments are to be properly debated I do not see how we can really hope to get through them at anything like a reasonable hour.
The Committee was extremely co-operative with the Chancellor on Monday, when the debate on the Motion that Clause 1 stand part went through much more quickly, I think, than he himself expected. That showed great restraint on the part of hon. Members on both sides. The number of speakers was equal—it was not a question of my hon. Friends doing all the talking. I do not think that anybody will disagree with what I have said about Monday's proceedings. Since then, we have had all these Amendments. I do not think the Chancellor will feel that any time has been wasted, but if we are to get through this Purchase Tax section of the Bill in a proper manner he really must examine his timetable.
In view of the right hon. Gentleman's excitement at 3.30 this afternoon, I thought that he intended to say something much more momentous than what he has just stated. I was a little disappointed that it was just this very short but courteous homily, but now that we have had it I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
This Amendment asks that baby dusting powders shall be exempt from Purchase Tax. I was surprised to learn that they were in fact taxed. When I referred to Notice No. 78, I found that they were classified under
Cosmetics and preparations of comparable character.
When I looked up the "preparations of comparable character," I found
Face cream, cleansing creams, massage creams, including slimming or fleshforming creams … astringent lotions … dusting powders … face powder in all circumstances …
Surely it is a great anomaly to class together dusting powder and face powder as "preparations of comparable character". Face powder is used on the face. A baby dusting powder—well, if the right hon. Gentleman is not sure where that is used, some of the hon. Ladies on his own benches will be glad to inform him, as will some of us on these benches. The two are not comparable, and it is anomalous to put them in the same group.
As I say, baby dusting powder is not used on the face. No mother would so use it. The infant would be in danger of inhaling it, and probably choking. It is used downwards from the chin—the folds under the chin, the fold under the arm—and so right down, used very lavishly, to the feet, where we dust between the toes. A small tin such as I hold in my hand would contain enough face powder to supply a lady for, perhaps, a full month, but no mother would dream of buying dusting powder in anything so small. It would not last one solitary day.
I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman for the great hardship caused by this classification of baby dusting powder. Perhaps some other bachelor some years ago was persuaded by a civil servant who also knew nothing at all about the subject to classify these powders together. The right hon. Gentleman has taken a step in the right direction in reducing the tax, but I do ask him, as I have pleaded in this series of debates, to keep all children's equipment and clothing out of Purchase Tax. It is a great hardship to impose even 30 per cent.
I recall that in the days of the clan struggles in Scotland there was a couplet that mothers used to sing as a lullaby to their babies:
Hush thee, hush thee,
Do not fret thee,
The bad Douglas will not get thee.
Today, perhaps, they are singing:
Hush thee, hush thee,
Do not fret thee,
The bad Amory will not get thee.
I am sure that the Chancellor would not like to hear a baby crying at all hours of the day or night just because its mother had not a sufficient supply of dusting powder.
We have striven for years to keep all babies' and children's equipment out of the range of Purchase Tax. Babies' bottles are not chargeable, nor are babies' napkins, and it is napkins that really should be classified with dusting powder. The powder should be grouped not with face cream or face powder but with babies' nappies, and should go completely free of tax. In any case, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can be making very much out of it, and I do ask him to look at it again and to take babies' equipment and preparations right out of the line of
Cosmetics and preparations of comparable character.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) for her very clear and concise statement of her case on the subject of baby powders. The position is that before the Budget these were thought to be properly taxed as medicines or drugs at 30 per cent. Legal advice was given that they were properly treated as toilet preparations and, therefore, taxable at 60 per cent. The effect of the Budget has been to bring them down to 30 per cent. at the standard rate.
There is really no greater case for exempting baby dusting powder than there is for a great many other toilet articles which are used for babies, and are taxed; such things as baby cream, babies' brushes and combs, toilet soap, and even toys. They are all taxed and, in the bulk, they produce a large revenue. If one started to exempt such articles it would certainly lead to widespread evasion and gross anomalies. How, for example, do we distinguish between a babies' brush or comb and one for larger children, or for adults—particularly those adults who are rather sparse in hair?
Babies' clothes are in a class by themselves, and that accounts for the exemption of babies' napkins. Babies' clothing is exempt because it is perfectly clearly distinguishable from children's and adults' clothing. I simply ask the hon. Lady to consider, even in this field, the liability to evasion if baby dusting powder were exempt. It would immediately lead to evasion into the field of ordinary face powder and talcum powder for adults. It would be indistinguishable and, although I have very great sympathy with the case that she has made for the special consideration that naturally should be paid to the welfare and cleanliness of children, it is not possible to accept this Amendment without making a nonsense of this tax.
I would just say that it is possible to get a free dusting powder for babies on prescription, as I think the hon. Lady knows. That is a matter that we went into yesterday when discussing drugs and medicaments. There is the provision whereby, if a doctor prescribes for a child, the dusting powder will be made up free——
Yes, a dusty answer, as my right hon. Friend says—which is regrettably likely to prolong rather than to curtail our discussions. He wants the Committee to agree to continue taxing this dusting powder at 30 per cent. The hon. and learned Gentleman gave as an example toys which are taxed at 30 per cent. which he seemed to think were a parallel with baby powder. Without going back on all the arguments about luxuries and amenities, to use the phraseology of the Paymaster-General, I should have thought that baby powder was certainly a more essential and more necessary type of product than the toys to which the Financial Secretary referred.
If one looks casually through this famous document, Notice No. 78, one can find various things which are much more parallel to baby powder, such as ordinary household necessities, which are taxed not at 30 per cent. but at 5 per cent. There is the whole category of furniture, for instance, as the hon. and learned Gentleman well knows. In Group 6, there are cushions, cushion pads, pillows, bolsters, overlay mattresses and mattress shapes, and so on; they are all at 5 per cent.
The right hon. Gentleman must not misunderstand me. What I was enumerating was a series of articles designed specifically for, or specifically suitable for, children.
What the Financial Secretary forgot to mention at the same time is that in the range of furniture, invalid chairs, babies' chairs, babies' cots and all the whole paraphernalia of babydom concerning furniture are exempted from tax and have been for years. It seems extraordinary that a baby should be taken out of an exempted cot and dusted with a taxed powder.
The Financial Secretary's new argument, which he produced in his intervention, seems to be even more extraordinary. He appears now to be saying that these household essentials should be taxed at 5 per cent. if intended for adults but should be taxed at 30 per cent. if intended for children. That is even less convincing. I notice, for instance, that there are all sorts of normal household articles, such as handkerchiefs, scarves, shawls, braces, gloves and all sorts of things of that kind, which even the present Government by a series of ups and downs and shifts this way and that have now got down to a Purchase Tax rate of 5 per cent. In these circumstances, I cannot see why this one particular children's essential, whatever
|Division No. 138.]||AYES||[7.19 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Godber, J. B.||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Aitken, W. T.||Gough, C. F. H.||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Gower, H. R.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Green, A.||Neave, Airey|
|Arbuthnot, John||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan|
|Ashton, H.||Gurden, Harold||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Page, R. G.|
|Barter, John||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Partridge, E.|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Peel, W. J.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Bishop, F. P.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Body, R. F.||Hope, Lord John||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Horobin, Sir Ian||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Braine, B. R.||Howard, John (Test)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Redmayne, M.|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Hurd, A. R.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Hyde, Montgomery||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Iremonger, T. L.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Cole, Norman||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Sharples, R. C.|
|Cooke, Robert||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Kaberry, D.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Keegan, D.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Kershaw, J. A.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Kimball, M.||Storey, S.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Kirk, P. M.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Cunningham, Knox||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Leather, E. H. C.||Temple, John M.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Leburn, W. G.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Longden, Gilbert||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth S.)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Duncan, Sir James||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Duthie, W. S.||McAdden, S. J.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Wall, Patrick|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Finlay, Graeme||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Freeth, Denzil||Maddan, Martin||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Gammans, Lady||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Marshall, Douglas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Mathew, R.||Mr. Brooman-White and|
|Glover, D.||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Mr. Bryan.|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Mawby, R. L.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Healey, Denis||Peart, T. F.|
|Albu, A. H.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Pentland, N.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Popplewell, E.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Holman, P.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Benson, Sir George||Holmes, Horace||Randall, H. E.|
|Boardman, H.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Rankin, John|
|Bonham Carter, Mark||Hoy, J. H.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hubbard, T. F.||Reid, William|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Reynolds, G.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hunter, A. E.||Rhodes, H.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Rogers, George (Kensingon, N.)|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Ross, William|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Short, E. W.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Kenyon, C.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Carmichael, J.||King, Dr. H. M.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Champion, A. J.||Lawson, G. M.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Clunie, J.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Coldrick, W.||Lindgren, G. S.||Steele, T.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Logan, D. G.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Cove, W. G.||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||McCann, J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||McGovern, J.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||McInnes, J.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Delargy, H. J.||McLeavy, Frank||Thornton, E.|
|Diamond, John||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Tomney, F.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Wade, D. W.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Weitzman, D.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Mellish, R. J.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mikardo, Ian||West, D. G.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mitchison, G. R.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Finch, H. J.||Monslow, W.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Moody, A. S.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C||Mort, D. L.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Moyle, A.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Grey, C. F.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Woof, R. E.|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Oram, A. E.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Hale, Leslie||Orbach, M.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Paget, R. T.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Hannan, W.||Parkin, B. T.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hastings, S.||Paton, John||Mr. J. T. Price and Mr. Deer.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Pearson, A.|
I beg to move, in page 30, line 23, to leave out from the beginning to "shall" in line 25 and to insert:
(2) Furniture of a kind used for domestic purposes and comprised in the list there set out previously chargeable under paragraph (b) at 5 per cent. shall be exempt from tax and this exemption.
I am sure that the Committee will agree that the most pleasant feature of the debate during the last three days has been the unfailing courtesy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary, the patience with which they have listened to what we have said and, most important, the fact that they have given answers to the debates. Unfortunately, the quality which we most desired has been almost completely absent; at no time have they given an unqualified "Yes" to our request. It would have been much more to the taste of my hon. Friends and myself if we had had shorter but more favourable answers. We carry on hopefully, and I hope that this time the Chancellor will give a favourable answer.
The effect of the Amendment is to exempt from tax domestic furniture, which is presently chargeable at 5 per cent., and also to exempt from tax office furniture, metal furniture and hall furniture, which were previously taxed at 15 per cent. and which in the Bill are taxed at 5 per cent. I am fully aware that arguments must be strong under existing conditions to justify a reduction in tax from 5 per cent. to nil, but I submit that those arguments are strong in the furniture industry, and I will try to set them out as briefly as possible.
First, there is the social argument. Furniture is an article of daily domestic commerce. I suppose that most people will agree that the priorities in the budget of the home are, first, food; secondly, the rent which must be paid; thirdly, the clothing which must be bought; and then furniture. Furniture occupies a very high priority. It is part of the every-day commerce of life. Beds and bedding, tables and chairs, cupboards and wardrobes, and chests of drawers, are all intimate utilities of the domestic landscape, and in my view they ought not to be a target for the tax gatherer.
We on this side of the Committee recognised that in the Utility scheme, when furniture first began to be made before the end of the war and after the war, because the utility group comprised 90 per cent. of the group of furniture which we are now discussing, which comes in the 5 per cent. tax range. Under the Labour Government that group was tax free. It is no answer to say that some articles were then more highly taxed than they are now and that on the more highly taxed range of furniture the tax has been reduced to 5 per cent. The essential point is that under the Labour Party's policy the worker's home was tax free, and it should still be tax free. We insist on that.
The 5 per cent. tax was therefore a new imposition, a direct imposition which had an immediate impact on the cost of living and the standard of living of the lower-paid workers and others in the lower income groups. It meant at the same time a big reduction—a financial sacrifice to the Exchequer—in the tax on the more expensive furniture. In my submission that was a retrograde step.
The D scheme which followed the abandonment of the Utility scheme—an abandonment which I very much regretted—adopted very much the same pattern. The D mark was so fixed and the articles which had formerly been in the utility range and had been tax free continued to be tax free under the Douglas scheme. In conflict with many in the furniture industry and with many hon. Members, I protested when that Douglas pattern was destroyed. Again, I think it was an anti-social step and I believe that many who at that time acquiesced in the ending of that scheme now very much regret that it was ended. It must therefore be considered that the tax which we are discussing is wrong on grounds of social justice.
It is wrong, secondly, because it is part of the cumulative attack which the Government have made and maintained on the furniture industry. The severity of the effect of that attack on the furniture industry may well be unintentional, but we have to consider the facts as they are. For instance, as soon as the first fine bloom wore off the hopes of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer early in 1955 and the last blizzard but one began to be felt financially, the first thing attacked was furniture. Immediately it was decided that there must be a 15 per cent. initial deposit on hire-purchase agreements. I am strongly opposed, and always will be opposed, to no-deposit hire-purchase trading or the unrestricted development of hire purchase, but unquestionably the present deposit is too high.
Another fact which adds to the difficulty caused by the Purchase Tax, and which has particular application to the furniture industry, is the proviso that every fresh purchase requires a fresh deposit. That is a great blow to young people setting up a home or to many families in constituencies like mine, where hundred-years-old slums are being torn down and where families are moving into new flats or new houses for the first time. They want a new home to go into these new flats, because that which they have endured for so long is not fit to move into their new accommodation. They are anxious to start a new life, but they cannot do this in the way they want because they cannot afford to do so under existing restrictions.
Even when they do buy part of their home on hire purchase, and perhaps nearly pay for it, they cannot make any purchase without a fresh deposit. Therefore, they cannot do what they would normally like to do and what this Committee ought to want them to do—that is, gradually to add to their home as they can afford to pay for it. It is much better that money should be spent in that way than on excessive amounts of drink or pools or things of that kind. This is a capital investment which we ought to encourage our people to make—an investment in their own domestic capital.
The Chancellor may well ask, what has this got to do with Purchase Tax? It should be obvious that if we have these restrictions in addition to the credit restriction and the credit squeeze—all part of the Government's policy and about which the furniture industry in particular cannot make any more complaint than any other industry—these two spearheads directed at furniture and particularly at the prohibition of "add to" agreements, which do not affect any other industry, have brought this industry very low indeed. We have this 5 per cent. tax added to the handicaps which I have already mentioned—the difficulties experienced by ordinary people to furnish their homes and to add to extra furnishing, this prohibition of the "add to" agreements which affects the furniture industry because it is a technique of convenience with a long historical background, a technique built up to help many people to obtain their homes in stages. This is part of the Chancellor's policy just as this 5 per cent. Purchase Tax is part of his policy about which we are now protesting.
What is the cumulative effect of all this? It is to bring the industry very low indeed, as I shall show later. First, in order that the Chancellor may have the whole picure, I would mention that there is particular difficulty which is increasing at the present time due to competition from abroad. I welcome competition. I think that the greater the freedom of trade we have, the better it will be for this country, with the proviso—other things being equal. All has got to be fair and above board. At present in this country we are subjected to an assault, particularly from countries like Czechoslovakia and Eastern Germany, of exports of furniture at prices far below the cost of production or even the retail prices obtaining in those countries. That is no direct fault of the Government, but my complaint about the Government is that they have failed signally to deal with the situation. We are told that these things cannot happen. We have not even got a trade pact with Eastern Germany. The furniture industry is up against all these things.
The furniture industry is trying very hard in existing conditions to make the best go of things that it can. It has not run away from any of its problems. It has done its utmost to promote exports. But furniture is not a commodity which can easily be exported. In almost every country there is a furniture industry which is capable of supplying the domestic needs of that country. It has been built up to match the state of the country's economic and sociological development. All those countries, because they have their own furniture industry, have a fairly high tariff at an average of about 20 per cent.
Then there are other difficulties, which will be obvious and manifest to the right hon. Gentleman, of the bulk of furniture, the immense cost of transport, freight, packing and so on. The industry has even considered the question of freight aircraft for the transport of furniture for export purposes. It has approached the Government to obtain a reduction in foreign quotas so that this country may export furniture. No effort has been spared to do the utmost possible in existing circumstances.
Recently the Federation of Retail Furnishers was sufficiently enterprising to ask the Economist Intelligence Unit to conduct a survey of the industry. I have a copy of its report here. It ought to be studied by every hon. Member and I am sure the Chancellor ought to look at it, certainly before taking any firm decision to turn down this Amendment. It is an impartial and invaluable survey of the furniture industry. This report, which examines the conditions of the industry, which delineates beyond a peradventure the causes of the present conditions and suggests remedies, must be accepted as a fair and impartial record of the facts.
The report represents an unhappy but clear picture of a steadily declining industry, declining through no fault of its own. There is no question but that this decline is largely, and perhaps entirely, attributable to direct Government interference—not only overall economic policy but points of Government policy which directly affect the furniture industry. For example, in February, 1955, which I mentioned earlier, there was a fall in the hire-purchase sales of furniture of from 41 per cent. to 65 per cent. compared with the same month in 1954. Over the year there was a decline in the whole furniture trade of 39 per cent. as compared with 1955 and 1954.
Nobody could pretend that the difference in the general economic circumstances was such between those years as to justify anything like a fall of that size. The right hon. Gentleman could not possibly mention any other industry in this country which in two consecutive years, or indeed since the war, has suffered a decline of anything like that. It would be idle to pretend that it was the result of anything but direct Government action. The official figures of furniture sales, in case the right hon. Gentleman wants to quote them, conceal the truth. That is unavoidable by reason of the fact that the official figures include sales of other goods like radio, television, china and crockery and all sorts of things with no relation whatever to furniture, but which retail furnishers have had to buy and sell in order to continue to pay their expenses and "tick over" at all.
Although total sales have declined in volume and in some measure in value, the relative actual sales of real furniture have declined to a greater extent. I ask the Chancellor to consider these figures. In 1941 there were 4,100 furniture manufacturers. Today there are less than 2,000. No other industry can point to such a decline.
As the Committee knows, I am particularly concerned in this matter because Shoreditch produces more furniture than any other area in the country, even more than High Wycombe. I see the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) is present. He is fond of saying—and I would agree if I were in his position—that it may not produce the most but that it produces the best. I am not here to dispute that suggestion, although I hold an entirely contrary view. We both have a considerable constituency interest in this matter.
In my constituency there are what are called "small working masters" who have to an ever-increasing degree been going out of existence through no fault of their own. It is a serious matter and one which the Chancellor should consider in forming his policy in order to give what help he can.
By 1955 a serious position was arising in the industry. The industry was then employing 100,000 operatives. The Ministry of Labour index gives a figure of more than 100,000, but that includes blind makers and others making oddments of that kind, men whom we do not really regard as being in the furniture industry. The latest official figure that I have from the Ministry is 86,700. That means that in the last two or three years many skilled men from the industry have gone into other jobs, many of them not skilled. Many of these men have become park keepers and bus conductors, which are important and necessary jobs but not the jobs for which those men were trained. This represents so much skill lost to the country. These men have been driven out of the industry by intermittent unemployment and short-time working. If all those men had remained in the industry and gone on the dole, it would have meant that more than 13 per cent. of the men in the industry were wholly unemployed. Fortunately, not many industries have a situation like that.
Of the 86,000 persons remaining in the industry, nearly 20,000—nearly one in four—are today working short-time according to the National Union of Furniture Trade Operatives. The official figure is 6,000 or 7,000; but that is unreliable because it does not include firms with fewer than eleven employees or firms which are, through agreement between the management and the men, restricting their output in order to spread the work among the men to avoid discharges. Nevertheless, the men working one kind of short-time or another now number about 20,000, which is very nearly 25 per cent. of the men employed in the industry.
In his taxation policy the Chancellor cannot refuse to have regard to the relative social importance and essentiality of goods in their relation to each other. He has been diffident—I understand it—about classifying anything as a luxury, but surely he can say that beds, tables and chairs are not luxuries? Some of us at about 5 o'clock tomorrow morning may be thinking what a luxury a few hours in bed would be, but, generally speaking, these articles would not be regarded as luxuries. They are a comfort, but they are an absolute essential to ordinary social existence at all income levels.
The industry is an important, skilled and efficient one. The Government have admitted the principle of preferential treatment based on social importance. The Chancellor may have tried to depart from that. He has said that Purchase Tax is a means of raising revenue, not of discriminating between one industry and another. In large measure, we accept that, but when a social reason also enters into it the Government have accepted the principle, because when the initial deposits for the hire purchase of cars, radios, television sets and so on were raised to 50 per cent., the initial deposit for furniture remained at 20 per cent. Thus, we had discrimination there.
The men in the industry—it is not only the employers; it is the men also—under the wise leadership of their trade union have increased productivity to a degree which is unsurpassed since the war in any other industry. Are they now to be told that they have worked themselves out of a job? That is an important question. The industry has not over-produced, nor has it over-expanded. After the war the industry did not become wholly uncontrolled in its production until 1953. First we had rationing, and then there was control of imports of plywood and timber, and it was not until 1953 that there was complete freedom to produce. Taking the index in 1948 as 100, the highest figure of production reached was 172 in 1954. Since then the figure has declined every year. Although there is no way of checking it, because there are no figures of production before the war, I would say that, having regard to purchasing power, the volume of production is no more today than it was before the war, and it may, in fact, be less.
Since we all say that we want a rising standard of living and an expanding economy within the limits of our overseas difficulties, it would obviously be utterly wrong to destroy or seriously cripple the furniture industry by directing fiscal policy and credit policy at it. The industry has not over-expanded; it has had the demand for its products artificially stifled by Government policy. I urge the Chancellor to do what he can to right the wrong by accepting the Amendment and removing the tax tonight.
I am sorry that I was not here in time to hear the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Collins). The Committee will appreciate that I must naturally have considerable sympathy with the purpose behind the Amendment. Indeed, on Second Reading I said that I thought furniture should be taken outside the Purchase Tax range altogether and treated as a necessity free from all tax. I must confess that that principle is attractive to me.
Nevertheless, we must have a sense of proportion. At the moment, the greatest volume of furniture bears tax at 5 per cent. and a small part of it tax at 15 per cent. I do not think the removal of the 5 per cent. rate of Purchase Tax will make all that difference in stimulating greater sales of furniture.
The hon. Gentleman has referred to more important factors, such as the credit restrictions, for they affect the industry as they affect many others. I would single out the "add to" agreement as being the greatest contributor to the difficulties which the industry has faced in relation to its credit sales. I do not think that that is a matter on which the Chancellor can help us very much today. It is more a matter for the President of the Board of Trade, who, I hope, will look with sympathy upon any representations that we make to him in the near future.
I wish to take up some points which the hon. Member mentioned. He referred to the effect on the industry of the dumping of foreign-made furniture here, notably from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Eastern Germany. There are also a number of chairs—very well made chairs—coming here from Yugoslavia—which has had an adverse effect upon the smaller firms, in particular, which have specialised in the past almost entirely in making chairs. There are one or two small firms in the Wycombe area that have been affected in that way.
I understand that in the London area the effect has been felt more severely. Nevertheless, the total import of that kind of furniture has been very small indeed when related to the total turnover of the furniture industry. It may be for that reason that the industry as a whole has not yet asked the President of the Board of Trade officially to take action under the anti-dumping legislation. I think that that is so. It may be because of the difficulty in proving that the industry has been damaged to any appreciable extent. Nevertheless, it is a problem to which attention should be given.
The hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury also said that in his view it was difficult to export furniture. I would cross swords with him here. I do not think the furniture industry has done all it could to export furniture. One or two firms in my own constituency—and I promise not to say that we make the best furniture—have successfully—entered the export market. They have managed in particular to find markets in the newly developing areas of the world where new enterprises are being built up, new oilfields found, and so on, and there is considerable scope for development.
The hon. Gentleman perhaps rather spoilt the case that he tried to make by over-emphasising the reduction in the size of the industry as a whole by pointing out that the number of manufacturers in the industry have fallen to, I think he said, 2,000. He will know that during and after the war a number of small manufacturers entered into the furniture industry who had previously taken no part in it at all. Their experience was very limited, but they found a ready market for what they could make. Many manufacturers could not stand up to the stress of competition as well as longer established manufacturers who had perhaps a greater percentage of craftsmen and men with experience in the industry in their employ.
It is my experience in Wycombe, whatever may be the experience in London that some of those who have been leaving the industry because of a falling off in the demand for furniture have not necessarily been the craftsmen. There were a lot of people in the industry who were not craftsmen but who learnt the art of making furniture only in recent years because of the considerable expansion that took place in the post-war years, and they have perhaps gone back to similar occupations that they had before they entered the industry. I do not think we are losing so many craftsmen through that cause as the hon. Gentleman might believe.
There may have been an influx of new firms during the war, but I would not have thought so. However, the number of firms has declined since the war from 3,148 in 1950 to less than 2,000 seven years later. That is post-war development. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman cannot ignore the very sharp decline in the total labour force despite the fact that he will agree there has been a very considerable increase in mechanisation and a great increase in productivity. There are less men in the industry.
The hon. Gentleman has quoted another reason, in addition to those that I have mentioned, why there has been a reduction in the labour force. It is true that there has been a considerable increase in the mechanisation of the furniture industry. It is true to say that before the war, and certainly almost immediately after the war, there was less machinery per operative in the furniture industry than any other industry. But it has been making great strides in increasing its mechanisation and introducing new and improved machines. Therefore, to that extent, it has been able, as is nearly always the case, to reduce the number of operatives for a particular operation in the manufacture of the furniture. That is one of the contributing factors.
I do sympathise with the purpose behind the Amendment, and I hope it will be possible for the Chancellor to look at this matter again from the point of view of considering furniture as one of the necessities of life. The Conservative Party has always supported the concept of a property-owning democracy. Although "property-owning" covers many things other than the ownership of houses, nevertheless we have always tried to encourage house ownership. It is no use merely owning a bare house of bricks and mortar unless it is furnished and turned into a home, because it is homes that we are trying to provide rather than houses or housing units, as they have been described.
If we are to encourage people to own their own houses we must make it easier for them to furnish them. It is difficult for young couples who are starting in life to meet the many calls made upon them in buying, renting or furnishing a home, and Purchase Tax, small as it may be, adds to the cost. Above all, the real culprit, if culprit there be, as it affects the reduction in the sale of furniture is not Purchase Tax at all but the credit restrictions and the things that go with them.
I hope the Chancellor will consider the points that have been made and see if he can do something on Report to help the industry further.
The speech we have heard from the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) is another example of hon. Gentlemen opposite supporting an Amendment in principle but opposing it in practice. We have had the usual well-informed discussion on the industry by hon. Members who represent it. I include myself in this category. I will not add a great deal to the valuable information that the Committee has been given about the present state of the industry. I want to consider the Amendment from the point of view of the hon. Member for Wycombe in his last remarks.
Of course, the industry has undoubtedly suffered a decline in recent years. The loss of 10,000 workpeople in the industry since 1956 cannot be attributed to an increase in mechanisation in that short period, because the industry had already mechanised and modernised itself by that time. I agree with the hon. Member for Wycombe that the industry has become a modern mass production industry which employs not so much skilled workers as semi-skilled workers. This applies to wooden furniture, but it does not apply to the upholstery side, which again is a very highly skilled part of the furniture industry. It does not affect the hon. Member's constituency as it does other hon. Members' constituencies.
This side of the industry is losing skilled workers who may not come back when the industry recovers and may be lost completely. This is an important and serious loss to the industry. As the Economist Intelligence Unit points out, a good deal of the troubles of the industry is due to fluctuating Government controls, restrictions and the whims of Government economic policy. I entirely agree that these are much more important with regard to credit restrictions and hire-purchase restrictions than they are with regard to taxation.
I agree that the industry should make a greater effort to export, although it is not only the constituents of the hon. Member for Wycombe who are contributing towards this aim. I was glad to see when I was in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, that Harris Lebus Ltd., which employs the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead) and myself and is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Sir F. Messer), had some of its new Link furniture on show in a showroom in one of the main streets. This company is perhaps taking the lead.
The case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury and the hon. Member for Wycombe is that furniture is a necessity and that any tax on it falls particularly heavily on young married couples and those who are setting up homes for the first time. The "add-to" agreement is a burden for those who are continuing to furnish, and that probably applies to young people, too. When one is faced with the necessity of obtaining furniture for a house, even if it is only the bare tables, chairs, and beds, undoubtedly a tax of this sort is quite serious, and it comes at a time when the Government have put serious burdens on those who are setting up homes for the first time.
Young married couples are finding it more and more difficult to get accommodation at rents they can afford to pay. If, in addition to the rent, or in the case of those who are property-owning, the mortgage charges, they have to pay an additional tax on the basic necessities for setting up a home, considerable hardship may ensue. This is at a time when Government policy, both credit and financial, is keeping the economy well below its possible economic level. There is thus a considerable reduction in earnings because there is either short-time working or much less overtime worked than was the case two or three years ago. So, since both the young man and woman are probably working, they will each have smaller incomes than they had a year ago.
There is a strong case for removing furniture from the operation of Purchase Tax. There certainly is a case for the tax in general principle, as both sides of the Committee recognise, but there is no case in principle for taxing the necessities of life and of the home. There may have been a case for some taxation under the old Utility and D schemes, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, when the more expensive and luxurious types of furniture were taxed, but there is no case for putting a tax on the equipment without which no couple can set up a home. I hope, therefore, that we shall have a sympathetic response from the Chancellor to the plea made from both sides of the Committee.
The hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Collins) moved this Amendment in a speech which displayed his considerable knowledge of the subject, and both hon. Members who have since addressed the Committee equally have knowledge of this industry in their own constituencies. The effect of the Amendment would be to exempt the major items of furniture which are now chargeable at 5 per cent., and the cost of it would be £8 million. That is the sum which I am afraid in any case my right hon. Friend would find it extremely difficult to contemplate by way of reduction in his revenue.
I do not think that the arguments put forward so far in discussing the Amendment, eloquent as they were, are conclusive. One can sum them up by reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury as having two characteristics. He said, in the first place, that furniture should not be regarded as a luxury. Secondly, he accused the Government, I am sorry to say, of making an attack upon furniture.
I hope to show that the hon. Gentleman failed signally to prove any such thing, but that is a matter of controversy, I admit. Those are his two points, and I will deal with them.
The hon. Gentleman said that furniture is not a luxury. Of course everyone admits that furniture is not a luxury. He said that there should be some social preference in these matters. With respect, that is a rather horrible phrase, but I think we all know what he means by it. There is social preference in the rates of tax because furniture is not charged at the 60 per cent. luxury rate. It is not even charged at the standard rate of 30 per cent. or the reduced rate of 15 per cent. It is charged at the lowest rate of 5 per cent., the effect in retail prices, I am told, being about 8d. in the £. That cannot be regarded as a very heavy rate of tax.
The fact is that when we contemplate the level of Government expenditure we now have—and with all respect to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite I have not seen any proposals of theirs that were likely to reduce the total burden of Government expenditure in the future—we realise that this cannot be obtained from luxuries alone. It must be realised that the burden of taxation must be widely spread. On Monday, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said to the Committee:
I have on this occasion reduced hardly at all the coverage of the tax"—
It is the coverage of the tax we are talking about now—
because I believe that it should be spread widely. I believe that if one has an indirect tax of this importance it should cover a pretty wide field and be levied at moderate rates."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th May. 1958; Vol. 588, c. 988.]
Certainly 5 per cent. on the wholesale value is a moderate rate. I think, therefore, that the maintenance of the tax at this level falls entirely within the principle for which my right hon. Friend was stating the case in the general debate on Monday.
The second point of the hon. Gentleman was the question of the attack on the industry. He referred to the three difficulties which the industry is facing: the credit restrictions, the dumping and the rate of tax. I think there is a certain amount of disagreement between the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend as to the relative importance of the three elements. On the whole, I would agree with my hon. Friend, not merely because I always agree with him, but because I think that in this case the balance of arguments probably lies with him.
Well, as someone once said, there is not always a great deal of difference between prejudice and conviction in some of these matters. As regards credit restrictions, the hon. Gentleman said fairly that these are of general application over a wide field. They are an essential part of my right hon. Friend's general policy for combating inflation. I do not think it can be fairly described as an attack on the furniture industry. Certainly the industry has not been singled out. Certainly those in the industry are affected, and I am sure severely at times, by the hire purchase restrictions, but they are an inevitable part of the general restrictions on credit which are fundamental to my right hon. Friend's policy.
I am marching in step with the right hon. Gentleman so far, but there is one point he has not appreciated. That is probably my fault. The superiority of his hon. Friend's argument was due to the fact that I thought, if I pursued it too far, I should be out of order. The hon. Gentleman found I was not, and so developed it. The point is that the prohibition of the consolidation of hire-purchase agreements only affects furniture. People do not buy another motor car on hire purchase before paying for the first one. So this only affects furniture, and that is the spearhead of the attack which the Government have made, and persist in carrying on, against furniture.
It would be unwise to venture too far, because I might be out of order. Nor am I as conversant with these matters as my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. It was said by one hon. Gentleman that the deposit was 20 per cent. in the case of furniture and 50 per cent. in the case of other things, so although we should realise that these restrictions affect the furniture industry, it would be exaggerated to describe them as an attack or as the spearhead of an attack.
Secondly, as regards dumping. As the hon. Member was speaking I wondered why no application had been made to the Board of Trade for anti-dumping duties. If it can be established that there is dumping and that injury is being done to the British trade, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will carry out his duties under the Act. So far, however, from what I heard from my hon. Friend, the industry has not found it necessary to take action. If at any time the industry feels it should be necessary, no doubt they will make representations to the President of the Board of Trade.
I am sure it will be a good one, and no doubt it assisted the hon. Gentleman this afternoon in his well-informed speech.
On the question of the tax, it cannot be said that there was an attack on the furniture industry in the Purchase Tax provisions of the present Bill, because in the present Bill a 5 per cent. rate is extended to cover the major items of office furniture, hitherto taxed at 15 per cent., together with the remaining items of, domestic furniture. For example, I am informed that hat, coat and umbrella stands and racks have been added to the 5 per cent. list, and the exclusion of articles made of metal has been removed. All are examples of the way in which this Bill has brought noticeable help to the furniture industry, though no doubt it will be argued that we should go further and do more.
Finally, I return to the point that the tax at 5 per cent. which is now levied on the articles about which we are talking represents in practice only about 8d. in the £ retail. I cannot believe it is a serious impediment to the retail sale of furniture. Certainly, in view of the cost of £8 million a year which this Amendment would mean, and in view of my right hon. Friend's general principle that there must be wide spreading of this tax, I must advise the Committee to reject the Amendment.
Once again we have had a negative reply from the Government to what seemed to me a very powerful case, made out by three hon. Members, for a tax relief in respect of furniture. The Paymaster-General says that the tax is a mere 5 per cent. When the railwaymen asked for a 3 per cent. rise in wages the Government made a great fuss about it. They did not seem to regard that as "a mere 3 per cent.". Of course, they gave way in the end, as they always do, and they caused a great deal of trouble about this mere 3 per cent. But the essential point in the story, which the Paymaster-General entirely ignores, is that the present Government are levying the 5 per cent. on a household necessity which was almost entirely tax-free under the Labour Government.
As my hon. Friend has pointed out, under the Utility scheme, which operated until 1951, 90 per cent. of furniture was altogether free of tax. The Government, therefore, are imposing this tax on something which was previously tax free, and raising £8 million in the process, as the right hon. Gentleman admits.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Collins) was quite right in saying that in the last five or six years the furniture industry has been made the victim of Government policy, especially with all the changes and shifts which the industry has suffered as a result of the Government's attitude towards it.
That is a little too sweeping. If the right hon. Member examines the figures he will find that furniture production increased considerably in the first four or five years after the accession to power of this Government.
Furniture production may have increased for all sorts of reasons. Nevertheless, there has been a remarkable series of changes of Government policy. First, the D scheme was introduced in place of the Utility scheme, and then, in its turn, the D scheme was abolished. The Government take one action after another which tends to cause a rise in living costs. This is a new tax on a household necessity. It is not very surprising that the total yield from Purchase Tax has risen from £290 million to £490 million in the last six years, when these widely used household necessities are brought into the ambit of the tax. By this sort of action the Government have continually created pressure for higher money wages, and they then blame the workers for putting in claims designed merely to counteract the rise in the cost of living caused by the Government themselves.
This is another example of their restrictionist policy, which, as the Paymaster-General admitted in the Budget debate, landed us in the situation where the Government must now prevent any rise in production for fear of raising prices still higher.
The imposition of the tax on furniture, apart from its effect on living costs generally, is particularly regrettable because it is a tax on home ownership—as the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) said. I only hope that the hon. Member will have more courage than did his hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), and back up his convictions in the Division Lobby tonight. We all know that the hon. Member for Kidderminster runs away when it comes to the test.
I am disappointed to see that the hon. Member has neither the courage to put down an Amendment himself nor to vote for one carrying out his beliefs when it is put down by somebody else.
Although we shall not have the support of his vote we entirely agree with his argument that this is a further tax on home ownership. Almost every action which the Government take tends to raise the cost of acquiring a home. I find that in my constituency, where housing is by far the most important problem, again and again I am asked to advise people who are homeless. In many cases they are young couples who have just been married or are about to be married, and they are faced with the impossible problem of acquiring a new house—impossible because of high interest rates, mortgage restrictions, the credit squeeze and everything else. On top of all that, we have to endure a tax on every article of domestic furniture.
All three hon. Members who have spoken have made it clear that the industry is facing a condition of depression. The Chancellor has admitted, as have the Government, that there is an additional argument for giving tax relief when an industry is facing difficulties. It was done in the case of the cotton industry, and the argument has been accepted for other industries from time to time. Therefore, I hope that my hon. Friends, with or without the support of the hon. Member for
|Division No. 139.]||AYES||[8.21 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Gough, C. F. H.||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Gower, H. R.||Neave, Airey|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Green, A.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Nicolson N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Ashton, H.||Gurden, Harold||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Page, R. G.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Barter, John||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Partridge, E.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Peel, W. J.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Body, R. F.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Hope, Lord John||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Horobin, Sir Ian||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Braine, B. R.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Howard, John (Test)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Redmayne, M.|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Hurd, A. R.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hyde, Montgomery||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Cole, Norman||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Iremonger, T. L.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Cooke, Robert||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Sharples, R. C.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Speir, R. M.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Kaberry, D.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Keegan, D.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Cunningham, Knox||Kershaw, J. A.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kimball, M.||Storey, S.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Kirk, P. M.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Leather, E. H. C.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Leburn, W. G.||Teeling, W.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Temple, John M.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Duncan, Sir James||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Finlay, Graeme||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Wall, Patrick|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Maddan, Martin||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Fort, R.||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Freeth, Denzil||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Marshall, Douglas||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Gammans, Lady||Mathew, R.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Mawby, R. L.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Glover, D.||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Godber, J. B.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Goodhart, Philip||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Mr. Bryan and|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Albu, A. H.||Hamilton, W. W.||Oram, A. E.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hannan, W.||Orbach, M.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Hastings, S.||Paton, John|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hayman, F. H.||Pearson, A.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Healey, Denis||Peart, T. F.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Pentland, N.|
|Benson, Sir George||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Popplewell, E.|
|Boardman, H.||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Bonham Carter, Mark||Holman, p.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Randall, H. E.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hoy, J. H.||Rankin, John|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hubbard, T. F.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hunter, A. E.||Reynolds, G.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Rhodes, H.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Burke, W. A.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Ross, William|
|Carmichael, J.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Short, E. W.|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Clunie, J.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Coldrick, W.||Kenyon, C.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Cove, W. G.||King, Dr. H. M.||Steele, T.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lawson, G. M.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Deer, G.||Lindgren, G. S.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Logan, D. G.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Diamond, John||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||McCann, J.||Thornton, E.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||MacColl, J. E.||Tomney, F.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||MacDermot, Niall||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McGovern, J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||McInnes, J.||Wade, D. W.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Fernyhough, E.||McLeavy, Frank||West, D. G.|
|Finch, H. J.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Willey, Frederick|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mellish, R. J.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mikardo, Ian||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mitchison, G. R.||Woof, R. E.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Moody, A. S.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Grey, C. F.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mort, D. L.|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Moyle, A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hale, Leslie||Mulley, F. W.||Mr. Holmes and Mr. Simmons.|
I beg to move, in page 30, line 33, at the end to insert:
(c) pastry boards and rolling pins.
Perhaps it would be to the advantage of the Committee if I were to remind hon. Members of the subjects which, as you have very properly suggested, Mr. Blackburn, we may discuss together. They are primarily the subjects which were made taxable in that disastrous Finance Bill of 1955. They are the tools of trade of housewives. If one looks at the Notice Paper, one will see that, of a very large number of items to which we might perhaps have drawn the attention of the
Paymaster-General, we have, in fact, selected only a representative number.
pastry boards and rolling pins, coal or cinder sieves and sifters, baths, wash tubs, wash boards, ironing boards, shields, and stands for smoothing irons or pressing irons, clothes line posts, clothes props and clothes airers (other than heated airers), pot scourers and steel wool, vessels designed for use primarily as containers for food or drink,
and various other receptacles.
Then, if we turn to the other objects listed in the Amendment to line 49, we shall observe another group also subject to tax, which includes—
electric kettles and other cooking utensils incorporating heating elements, smoothing irons and pressing irons"—
I have already mentioned the stands and shields for them—
interval timers incorporating an alarum mechanism, kitchen scales and weighing machines, hand operated wringers and hand operated mangles.
Finally, in the last of the Amendments which we are to discuss with this Amendment, there are—
cooking and cleaning utensils of a kind used for domestic purposes.
I think that the Committee will understand that, in addition to this representative list which I have enumerated, there are many other items which we could mention which come within Group 11 as set out in the very useful Notice No. 78, but, from the smaller number which I have mentioned, it is quite clear that this tax, which is at the rate of 15 per cent., is a most onerous tax on the housewife.
As we have pointed out before, industrialists and manufacturers are, for the most part, able to obtain their tools of trade free of tax. Constantly one finds something which is for industrial use defined in these Schedules and exempt from tax. It is only when one comes to the unfortunate housewives that one finds that their tools and equipment are taxed.
This tax was imposed after these objects had been freed from tax by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell). They were brought into the tax range again by the Lord Privy Seal when, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had to find same method of recouping himself in the autumn of 1955 for the extremely generous tax concession he had made to quite a different section of the community before the 1955 General Election.
It seems to us most regrettable, therefore, that these articles which we are now discussing should not have been included even among the items upon which tax has been reduced by the present Chancellor. Although the groups of other tax rates have been reduced—the 90 per cent. range to 60 per cent., and so on—the 15 per cent. group has not been reduced and most of these articles come within that group. Had the tax on these articles been reduced to 5 per cent., for example, one might still have regretted it as a discrimination against the housewife, but at least it would not have been quite so unreasonable; if one accepts that Purchase Tax of some sort is part of our fiscal structure and cannot be dispensed with entirely.
A token tax on some of these articles might have been justified, but to keep the tax at 15 per cent. on such articles as coal or cinder seives and sifters—articles which help in fuel economy—seems to us an extremely unintelligent policy.
To tax something like a pot scourer at 15 per cent. would appear to be beneath the sense or dignity of a Chancellor. If any housewife realised that she is paying tax at the rate of 15 per cent. for the privilege of using a pot scourer she would be extremely indignant. On some expensive items, like refrigerators, a shopkeeper does sometimes distinguish between the actual price and the tax but, unfortunately, in the case of a number of these smaller items that is not done. The housewife has to buy them and to pay what she is asked, and it is not always realised how much is being contributed to the Revenue in the purchase of these items which, after all, are essential items to the housewife.
It is not only housewives who are concerned about these things. Dustbins are of interest to local authorities as well as to householders. Local authorities have obligations connected with public health and sanitation, and I have no doubt that some of my hon. Friends who are members of local authorities, or who have had experience of their work, will wish to put the point of view of the local authorities about the continuing impost on dustbins.
There is also a tax on cooking utensils. We do not have a tax on food. No Chancellor would dare to put a tax on food, so what is the logic of taxing utensils in which the food is prepared? Again, it seems to us that this is taxing necessities. The Paymaster-General has been quoted on a number of occasions already regarding his careful distinction between luxuries, amenities and necessities, but I think that even the right hon. Gentleman would agree that almost all of these articles come into the category of necessities. Therefore, by the right hon. Gentleman's own definition they ought to be in the very lowest range of tax, if they have to be taxed at all.
We feel that many of these things are not suitable subjects for tax. Take washtubs, for instance. If used as a musical instrument a wash board is, perhaps, another matter, but so far as I know, a washtub has never been used yet by a skiffle group, so it seems to me that if any woman has to use a washtub she is at least entitled to an untaxed tub. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) was about to tell me that a washtub had been used as a musical instrument. That may be so. I do not pretend to be entirely au fait with modern music.
You are quite right, Mr. Blackburn. We had a most eloquent debate on musical instruments and I should hesitate to suggest that we bring washtubs into a category which we have already disposed of.
I suggest that any woman who has still to use a washtub because she is not sufficiently affluent to have invested in, or persuaded her husband to invest in, a washing machine should be pitied and not taxed. Similarly, women who have to use the kind of pressing or smoothing iron which requires a shield or a stand are worthy of our sympathy because it means either that they cannot afford an electric iron or they live in a rural area where, owing to the restrictions on capital expenditure imposed by the Government, an electricity supply is not yet available. The domestic life of such persons is hard enough as it is, so we ought to make it easier for them rather than more difficult.
I am sure that my hon. Friends who represent the Stoke-on-Trent constituencies will wish to speak about the pottery industry and the effect of the tax upon it, so there are good reasons why we should object to the tax being imposed on all these articles. Some items may be considered to be of minor importance. One of the Amendments mentions interval timers and kitchen scales. There are some women who have a natural genius for cooking and are able to proceed without using scales or measures. They seem to know by instinct the quantity of materials to use and may not require to have interval timers.
Those of us who are not so skilled find that we need to have scales, weights and weighing machines. Those who are busy housewives—I speak for myself—and who very often try to do cooking while possibly preparing a speech to be delivered in this House, regard an interval timer as almost essential. It tells me when I have to return to the kitchen stove from studying at my desk. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about timing speeches?"] We do not have interval timers in the House of Commons for timing speeches. We might have that particular type of interval timer, not one fitted for the kitchen, in which case the Chancellor might be inclined, after our recent debates, to exempt it from tax.
In the same group we have hand-operated wringers and mangles, which are almost——
Yes. They bring to mind a picture of the dingy Victorian kitchens, sculleries and wash-houses, which were dark and gloomy. I can only sympathise with any woman who still has to use a hand-operated mangle. She is a subject for sympathy and not for penal taxation. We are absolutely entitled to ask why this very large group of articles, which is reasonably representative, should have been left out of the welcome remissions that the Chancellor has made. There are still other articles which we might have selected.
I do not know the domestic capacity of the Paymaster-General. I expect that he has had some domestic experience in his life. Some Government supporters have not entirely escaped it throughout their lives. He will no doubt have sufficient experience, or imagination, to realise that this group of articles is peculiarly unsuitable for taxation. In those circumstances, I hope that he will be able to tell us that some remission is to be made for it.
I have understood throughout these debates on Purchase Tax that one of the ostensible purposes of the Chancellor was to infuse a certain degree of rationality into it, and to give the Schedules the tidiness of Income Tax Schedules. If he is, at the same time, trying to effect some degree of easement in the burden of tax, I fail to see why it should be necessary for those who have been responsible for this series of Amendments to have had cast upon them the burden of seeking to establish a case for exemption for this group. There was no need to make that case because it was made a very long time ago.
Without exception, all the articles listed in this series of Amendments were exempt until the emergency autumn budget of 1955. If we are returning to a greater degree of fairness and rational complexion of our Purchase Tax Schedules, this is the moment when the former pattern ought to be reverted to. Exemption for this group existed at a time when the general level of taxation was higher. What the Chancellor now proposes over the whole range is surely doubly justified for that reason alone.
In that case I do not propose to spend time in arguing the justification for exemption in this group. I support it. I want to call particular attention to one item to which reference has been made and which illustrates the illogicality of the tax of 15 per cent. in this group. I have heard about dustbins, which are not a particularly romantic subject. I started off with buttons and now I find myself dealing with dustbins.
Dustbins are now chargeable at 15 per cent. under Group 11 (a). I do not think that even the Chancellor will attempt to argue that a dustbin is other than a necessity. It is not only a necessity, it is a statutory requirement enforceable by law. Under Section 72 of the Public Health Act, 1936, it is obligatory upon the owner or occupier of any premises to provide a receptacle for the storage, disposal and collection of refuse.
There is an alternative whereby a local authority itself can provide such dustbins for the populace at large and charge the cost to the general rate fund, or levy an individual annual charge upon the person to whom the dustbin is allocated. Many local authorities take the view that on grounds of public health it would be preferable to adopt a comprehensive scheme of that kind, but they are now deterred from doing so because, whatever method is adopted to fulfil this obvious, simple necessity of public health—and a statutory obligation at that—Purchase Tax must be paid on the receptacle.
Dustbins are clearly admitted and acknowledged to be an essential and indispensable part of the machinery of public health. The case for exemption of items which are important and vital in sanitation and public health is already admitted in the existing Schedule by the exemption provided in Group 11 (f) for such articles as sanitary bins and pans. Also, presumably out of consideration for public health, the Chancellor is adding to the list of exemptions the provision he makes in respect of water filters. Surely it is not too much to ask that on public health grounds he might extend the same process of reasoning and logic to exempt dustbins from the imposition of a 15 per cent. tax.
The case is just as strong on public health grounds, plus the inequity that in this instance compliance with the law involves liability to a tax which is most illogical and I should have thought entirely wrong to be operative in any matter of this kind. It is not that the burden of the tax is perhaps so heavy on a single item. I am advised that it is about 4s. 6d. per bin on the average, but to a local authority which may choose to adopt a scheme of providing dustbins for the populace at large on some basis of charge to the general rate or to the individual concerned, this clearly is a deterrent factor. To that extent it minimises the possibility of a really efficient public health service.
If it is argued that the purpose of this tax is to deter spending and to limit consumption, clearly that has no possible effect in this instance for sales must approximate to the satisfaction of the legal requirement. On the other hand, if it be argued that it does deter excess sales and purchases of these articles, such deterrence is only at the expense of public health. That is not a tenable position to get into on a matter of this kind. These arguments seem to see-saw in a convenient way. If it is suggested that the purpose is to receive revenue by Purchase Tax, one must admit that the revenue in respect of dustbins, if we speak of those alone, must be quite insignificant—perhaps £100,000 all told.
Having been reproached by the Financial Secretary last night for being somewhat immoderate in proposing a series of Amendments which I was told, if accepted, would involve the Chancellor in a sacrifice of about £50 million, I hope that now I have come down to a simple plea for £100,000 I may elicit some response which my colleagues and I have failed to induce hitherto. To the extent that revenue of this character on dustbins is derived from local authorities, it is doubly unjust to impose a tax of this kind on the performance of their statutory functions in the sphere of public health, when another Ministry is at the same time sending them circulars with great frequency urging them to reduce their expenditure in every possible way.
Some local authorities, as I have said, are being deterred by this charge. I understand that the Chancellor has received very urgent representations on this subject from the Institute of Public Cleansing, and I hope that he will now feel impelled to say that there is at least a case for some modification. I hope that he will be disposed to accept the logic—not only of the argument about dustbins but about the whole of the articles in this group—of restoring a proper pattern of Purchase Tax, and that he will exempt the whole of this group.
I want to raise a constituency point on the question of utensils made of enamel hollow-ware. The enamel hollow-ware trade is only a small trade, mainly constituted in the Black Country in the divisions of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) and my own and in South Wales.
Immediately after the war the industry employed about 4,000 persons which has now dropped to about 2,000 as a result entirely of Government action. The wares which are made by this industry include pots and pans, cleaning utensils, tidy bins and all those kind of things which go to brighten the kitchen. In case anyone is thinking of the old type of dirty white hollow-ware or something like that, these utensils are made today in most attractive colours and are really an adornment to any house-proud wife's kitchen. They make a great contribution to brightening up the home.
It was a great blow when the Chancellor in 1955 put a 30 per cent. Purchase Tax on these commodities, because when we look at the industry since 1945, in response to urgent pleas to speed up production to assist the export drive, it increased its production almost immediately by 25 per cent. and, by the end of 1951, 50 per cent. of its total production went in exports.
No industry can live on the export trade alone; there has to be a substantial home market. The trouble is that now that the export trade has gone again owing to Government action, or rather I should say to Government inaction—the inaction of the Board of Trade—by reason of Hong Kong dumping in the export market and by the Treasury making pots and pans liable to Purchase Tax, there is unemployment in this small but important industry. In order to find work for employees, a firm in my constituency improved its layout and machinery and practically doubled its production. In order to utilise plant and find work for its employees as a result of the depression and of the Hong Kong competition, it even went into the production of plastic materials, but a great deal of the productive capacity of the plastic factory is unused at the present time.
Nigeria, which imported 20 per cent. of enamel hollow-ware in 1954, now imports only 3 per cent., and outstanding orders are practically nil. The same applies to practically all the colonial and Commonwealth markets upon which this industry is dependent. Hong Kong prices in world markets are 50 per cent. below United Kingdom economic prices. The trade has had to concentrate intensively on the home markets, and, as I say, after these blows the imposition of the 30 per cent. tax was a further and grievous blow. The trade was suffering the worst depression in its history, but the Government, instead of tackling the dubious and improper trading methods of foreign competitors, put on this tax.
The continuance of Purchase Tax at 15 per cent. will not help the industry much. To save it—from both the export and the home-market angles—the tax must be abolished altogether. Almost all the goods are household utensils, and it is monstrous that the housewife should have to pay 16s. 4d. Purchase Tax on a set of saucepans. These domestic articles are more important to her than is office furniture and hat, coat and umbrella stands, on which the tax has been reduced to 5 per cent. The tax on pots and pans is a serious item in the cost of living of the ordinary housewife.
The Chancellor has made a fetish of tidying up and streamlining. The Government reject controls and give us the plan. They reject a planned economy, but plan the housewife's economics in such a way as to eliminate any possibility of her having a surplus. The Chancellor tidies up Purchase Tax, but retains a tax of 15 per cent. on the tidy bin. The Government reduces the workers' share of the national cake, but taxes the cake tin. Even with all this tidying up, we have such absurdities as tax-free mops but taxed pails in which to put them.
Let the Chancellor scrap his fetish and amend his Finance Bill on human considerations rather than on mathematical calculations. All the things which we are discussing in this group of Amendments represent human problems, because they affect the lives of ordinary people. I am fed up with all the people who talk a lot about tidying up, streamlining and the rest. I would call them cool, calculating individuals with no heart. We have to look at these things with a human eye and not just with the eye of the economist. If we were to put all the economists head to toe and measure them they would not add up to one good housewife, so let us do something for her.
I should like to support the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons). As he has pointed out, in his constituency and in mine are situate two of the main factories concerned with the production of hollow-ware. Going back beyond the more recent days to which my hon. Friend referred when he spoke of the threat to the prosperity of this industry as the result of the dumping measures that are alleged to be taking place in Hong Kong, I can remember that, before the war, the threat to this industry came from unfair competition by Japanese traders in both East and West Africa, as well as other parts of the world.
Our manufacturers had also to face very intense competition from countries like Czechoslovakia, and if they had not tried to put their house in order and to keep up with modern developments one would have had less sympathy with them than one has today. Anybody who has visited these factories must realise that the firms have done everything possible to improve their productive efficiency. Now, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, as a result of the advent of Purchase Tax, their efforts to maintain a certain level of production for the home market have been thwarted as, indeed, one might claim with regard to other industries.
I ask the Minister to consider the plea that we are making tonight to help this important industry. Many thousands of individuals depend for their livelihood, directly or indirectly, upon its prosperity. The fact that they are small in proportion and are, therefore, not able to bring the big guns to bear upon the Treasury, as may be the case with larger concerns and the great corporations that exist today in industry, is no reason why their plea should not be given the most sympathetic consideration. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will listen most sympathetically to the plea we are making tonight concerning the tax that is imposed on upon the products of the hollow-ware industry.
There are three possible reasons for imposing the Purchase Tax In my view, all of them are bad. The first is to raise revenue for the Government, which I would not trust with a penny of my money if I could avoid it, because we know what has been done with the money that has been collected in taxation. It is fair to say to start with that taxation itself is fundamentally a bad thing. It should be avoided as far as possible. I agree with the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) in this. I do not believe that the man in Whitehall can spend my money any better than I can spend it myself, if I had any money to spend; but unfortunately, the Government have not permitted me to have any money to make any marked effect upon public expenditure.
The second reason, which seems to me to be perhaps the more valid one, is to apply a certain measure of economic planning. For example, in the days when the Conservative Government left us with no electricity, we found it necessary to put a tax upon electrical appliances because they would be using the limited quantity of electricity which was available and which was necessary for the maintenance of industry.
The third reason, which we have talked about from time to time in the last few days without coming down very much to brass tacks, is the sort of idea of social planning which occurred in Russia in about 1918 and which was not particularly successful. It is at least a point that can be borne in mind.
One concedes, therefore, that if a majority of the House of Commons is persuaded that hydrogen bombs are necessary, it may be necessary to raise money. I do not accept the point. I do not accept the premises, but some people, on both sides of the House of Commons, do. Therefore, we concede the possibility of Purchase Tax.
We had an astonishing speech this afternoon purporting to deal with harp strings, which, I concede at once, we are not now discussing, but laying down some general principles for the rest of the debate—or some general lack of principles—from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury which left me, for once at least, gasping for breath. What the Financial Secretary said was that the Government had to maintain a uniformity of application. Applying it to this Amendment, the hon. and learned Gentleman would say that if it had to be applied to pastry boards, it must be applied to them as well as to souffle dishes with special covers of some sort which will be found in the Schedule. It seems to me that there are lines of demarcation which could be applied.
The Financial Secretary went on, however, to say that the principle must be applied to all forms of recreation. I would not like to be indelicate in this Committee, but that form of recreation to which most of our literature is directed is not subject to any tax at all. If we consider the forms of recreation which are subject to tax, we find the Financial Secretary laying it down that in considering the use of the harp we must link it up with the use of the crown and anchor board and that "Happy Families" must be applied in the same way.
That is the trouble, Sir Gordon. The moment one tries to be brief and streamline my argument in the way that the Minister said that he is trying to streamline the Schedule, one loses the rational points and becomes misleading. I hope and believe that this is relevant. Indeed, I shall venture to quote some points in aid of my argument.
On this Amendment I want to know, first, whether it is necessary to say that we must apply the same standard of treatment to
rat traps (break back and other household types)
to dustbins, to flower blocks and holders, to cash boxes and log boxes, to posting trays and accessories for domestic stoves, or could we draw a line? I cannot expect, Sir Gordon, that you, occupying the Chair, will express any assent, but I hope that I am putting an argument which will find general assent in the Committee when I say that on the whole there must be a line of demarcation between Mr. Bung the Brewer and Mrs. Bung the Brewer's Wife in "Happy Families" and a Beethoven sonata. But the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said, "No. Both these are recreations. Some people like 'Happy Families', some like music, and we must apply an overall standard in terms of so-much percentage to every form of taxable occupation which gives people a certain recreation."
I am glad to see that the Financial Secretary has returned to the Chamber, because I am sure that he would wish to ruminate upon this. I do not wish to lead him astray—your eagle eye would stop me if I did, Sir Gordon—but having listened to his argument and having thought over it on the Terrace for half-an-hour, I went to one of the best psychiatrists in London and said, "There is something wrong either with me or with the Financial Secertary to the Treasury. Will you have a look at me?"
He said, "Well, what has upset you?" I recited the Financial Secretary's speech as closely as I could remember it, word for word, and within ten seconds the psychiatrist was out on the couch, and I have been administering sedatives to him for the last two hours. I am not sure that he will ever recover.
It seems to me that this point about pastry boards has some relevance. I know that I cannot carry you with me about pastry boards, Sir Gordon, but they are the sort of things that I handle at half-past six in the morning. Surely if one had met the ordinary circumstances of domestic life one would know that a pastry board is also a bread board. When I start to cut the toast, I cut it on the pastry board. I do not suppose that my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) does much cooking, but I have to work for my living and I can assure her that the pastry board is also the place where one scrapes the burnt piece off the toast when one has burnt it.
I am not a journalist but a common-or-garden M.P. with no other income. We have to use what boards we can. I do not mind telling you, Sir Gordon, that I have seen pastry boards in the greenhouse, used as potting boards, too. This is a classic example of an all-utility article.
I will not go into the question of rolling pins, because anybody who has practised in the divorce courts knows that they can be used in many connotations and with varying effects. My hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann), who has had a most happy domestic life, probably is not aware of these things. They are—
Year after year for about ten years, to my knowledge—and I will not go back to the time when there was a Labour Government, because even then we had occasional little differences about Budgets—the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said one of two things on a brief from the Treasury which he reads assiduously and carefully, enunciating each word with admirable clarity and putting forward a series of words which often do not mean very much. The first is, "I cannot forgo this tax, because it is very large"; and the second is, "There is no reason for abolishing this tax, because it is very small." That is what is said. He says, "What does it matter, a mere matter of £13,000 a year tax on pastry boards? Who will lose any sleep over that? Who will go short of a pastry board?"
I was recently told that during the war one of the results of our economic planning was that notepaper got thinner and toilet paper got thicker. As far as I remember, this represents precisely what happened in relation to trying to keep costs down. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend says "No", I understand.
If we come down to brass tacks, there are people in Oldham who have to face many more problems than anyone in this Committee has to face—people in those little kitchens in Oldham, some of which are not even kitchens, some of them in houses with two rooms up and two rooms down, one of which is partly kitchen and partly scullery with a shelf on the wall for a pantry and with the lavatory outside. There is no room for storing kitchen apparatus.
If you are the most thrifty person alive, Sir Gordon, trying to live in those conditions, you have to furnish it as simply as you can. You could not carry half the things which are mentioned, including soufflé dishes, those things with fantastic covers on, I gather. If the Government are really interested in economic planning and in creating a decent society, they would say, as I have said before, "We as a Government want to make every home in the country worth living in and want to be able to say to our people, 'If you can buy a washing-up machine do so.'"
I must not expatiate upon washing-up machines at this stage, because I am not sure whether they come into the discussion. They might do. I did, however, mention them last year, and I declared a personal interest, because at that time I found that the amount of time that I was spending washing up detracted from the amount of time which I might usefully spend in digging the garden. So I looked for a washing-up machine and eventually got a secondhand one. I was able to buy a secondhand washing-up machine because the man who sold it to me used to run a canteen and he had transferred the washing-up machine from his canteen to his house, it having been paid for at the expense of the Government, and, therefore, he was able to sell one to me. That is exactly what is mentioned in the "Nabarro plan". All the expensive implements are paid for by the Chancellor out of taxation—but not pastry boards, to which we return, or rolling pins.
If the Government were administering a sane policy, if they had their priorities—I will not mention the hydrogen bomb at all, Sir Gordon, tempted as I am—they would say, "Our policy is to see that every home in Oldham is decently equipped. We want to see that every woman who is working 14 hours a day in Oldham—getting up in the early hours of the morning, sending the children to school, cleaning her rather miserable house, paying extra rent for it which the Government have imposed, facing all the financial burdens—at least has a decent kitchen, decent equipment and does not have to work unnecessarily, because she lacks the ordinary decent implements of life."
Therefore, we should say, "So far from taxing these things, we shall give a bonus on them. We are going to encourage their sale." This is part of the ordinary economic planning of a sane society, and we would say that if we are to build a new society and create something worth while, we will try to create decent homes; we will try to see that they have a television set and a wireless set; we hope the day is coming when they can have a Frigidaire and a washing-up machine; at least we will see that they have the minimum of equipment that anyone in employment can reasonably buy if it is not excessively taxed.
The dividend on that approach would be that we would create nice homes, we would reduce juvenile delinquency, we would reduce crime, we would lay the sort of foundations of society which really did exist in my middle class and bourgoise days in 1913, even if they did not extend as far as we hoped they would. This would be the sort of policy which any sane Chancellor would try to enforce.
Sometimes I wonder whether we here do not occasionally find ourselves limited by the rules of order—which have placed a heavy burden on me in the last few minutes—and deprived of the opportunity of discussing fundamental principles of taxation and social planning because we confine ourselves to the discussion of individual items which do not of themselves create any wide public interest. I wonder whether it may not be sometimes felt that Parliament is failing in its duty in that it is forced to discuss these things instead of fundamental general principles.
I apologise if, in building up a statement about pastry boards and rolling pins, I may have built it on a rather wider foundation than is usually provided for a rolling pin, but I venture to submit to Her Majesty's Minister that these are matters of vital importance to the community at large which they ought to be considering.
I often think that Members of Parliament as a whole have their noses too much to the legislative grindstone and could well do with finding out more about people and how they live. When I look at these articles and see that under the "pots and pans" Budget they are still subject to Purchase Tax, I wonder why the Chancellor, finding himself with £30 million to distribute this year, did not consider the people who really require relief from their burdens.
Let us begin with baths. What kind of baths are there? There are the zinc baths that hang out in the back yard in England or are pushed under the bed in Scotland and taken out into the middle of the kitchen floor when needed. The very poorest of the poor, the old-age pensioners, are singled out here.
Then we come to the wash board. Who uses wash boards today, apart from skiffle groups? The higher income groups do not, nor do the middle income groups; they have washing machines. Instead of looking to the poorest of his human family, the Chancellor looks to those with washing machines and says, "I have some money to distribute. There will be a reduction in the Purchase Tax on washing machines." Who uses shields on irons? It must be the poorest old-age pensioners who have been unable to renew any item of kitchen equipment who use irons which require shields.
Next, we come to clothes posts. Local authorities have written to me about housing costs increasing because of the clothes posts which they have to erect in the gardens of houses. It is not only the dustbin which is a matter for local authorities.
Then we have clothes airers. Today, we have the spin dryer. There has never been a woman at the Treasury; Heaven send us one soon, and we may then get some daylight on these problems. The old fashioned clothes airers which go in front of the fire—the ones which cause so many accidents—are taxed, but the spin dryer, which eliminates a great deal of work, is relieved of tax.
Let us consider how this man-made Budget money is divided. It singles out women. Let us think of the woman who has to sieve her coal with a sieve. She is taxed. But let us think of the other woman, the one who uses lip salve, rouge, greasepaint, eye black and other cosmetics. She is relieved of tax to the extent of 30 per cent. Then there are skin foods, skin tonics, eyelash grower, perfume, pomade—
I am contrasting how the money is divided and where I would have given relief.
The Chancellor is always asked in advance of his Budget whether he intends to do certain things. I have asked him about clothes dryers and other things time and again. The reply that I have always received is, "I cannot anticipate my Budget statement." I think it would be a fine thing if sometimes he consulted a few of the lady Members of the House and asked them where they thought relief was most needed. As it is, he has played the part of the wicked baron in Cinderella. Poor little Cinders, who is sifting out the coal with a sieve, is penalised by a tax on the sieve, whereas the ugly sisters, who require the pomade, the false eyelashes and the lipstick, are singled out for the Chancellor's favours and get a 30 per cent. reduction.
I confess that I do not think that the Chancellor looks like a bold, bad baron. I could much more easily visualise the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) in that rôle. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] I can conceive why such a tax should be imposed in an emergency, in the "pots-and-pans Budget", of 1955, the emergency Budget. One would imagine that since these things were imposed in an exigency, during an emergency situation, whenever the Chancellor found himself with some money he would have immediately taken off the tax where it bore most heavily. That is why I believe that he ought to do this tonight.
One of my hon. Friends said that the housewife knew more than most economists. I have been a housewife for a very long time. I have had a rather big family and I know that my family would never have forgiven me if I had shown unfairness to any of them. I have always tried to be fair to all of them. Anybody who has a child knows that one of the first things that children look askance at in a parent is the slightest tendency to be unfair. A housewife knows that needs come first and she turns her attention to those members of the family who really require first-aid and she gives it to them first. Surely the poor old-age pensioners who are struggling to bring out their zinc baths from under their beds, those who use washboards, dustbins and buckets and have to sieve cinders, and the Mrs. Mopps of the household, ought to have had the Chancellor's first consideration. I therefore plead for the removal of this tax.
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when we were discussing Clause 1, agreed that if we have any philosophy in reference to matters of taxation we should consider the home very closely and try to favour it as much as possible. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) made a powerful plea, and I think the Committee accepted what he said when he asked us to see that neither the home nor its contents is taxed in any way.
I shall speak briefly on pottery. The history of the imposition of Purchase Tax on pottery is recent. It was not thought fit to impose it during the war nor in the immediate post-war years. Our citizens paid for this by being without decorated ware of any kind, making do with plain, crude, white ware, and very crude indeed it was compared with what we used to enjoy. We exported all our decorated ware while we were struggling with an implacable foe.
When the war was over we were naturally short of money, so the citizens of England were again without decorated ware, every scrap of which was exported. The only bits of decorated ware we saw were seconds and spoiled ware which was not good enough for export. Then, as the years went by, frustrated exports sometimes came our way. Australia changed her mind about what she could afford to import and a certain amount was left on our hands. South Africa did not want it either, all these countries having different designs and different habits, so we were able to have it at home. Then, after a year or two, there was an improvement in the sale and use of decorated ware, but long before our people had become accustomed to buying it, we found in the Autumn of 1956 that tax was imposed at the rate of 30 per cent. This temporarily crippled the industry. It did it very great harm.
My colleagues in North Staffordshire spoke strongly about this and warned the then Chancellor, who is now the Home Secretary, of the ill effect of the tax. The right hon. Gentleman at that time made it clear that he wanted the money. He said that our arguments were logical—that was the adjective he used. He said they were sensible and logical arguments but he could not accept them because he wanted the money, and the money he required from the industry was £7 million. We thought he would not get that. We thought that before the year was over the industry would have been so injured that he could not get the full amount. This proved to be the case and I think he got £5½ million.
If that had been the only damage it would have been difficult enough for the industry; but, once a tax of 30 per cent. is imposed where no tax has existed before, everybody expects that sooner or later it will be either taken off or diminished. The result was that before the next Budget, in 1957, none of the wholesalers would buy anything. They were waiting to see what would happen. In fact, Purchase Tax was halved, to the figure of 15 per cent. which now operates. Only then, when they knew what it would be, did the customers—the wholesalers—buy from the manufacturers.
That created a second difficulty, resting upon the first one. Members of Parliament representing pottery constituencies, and all those with an interest in kindred trades, were implicated in this, for the harder they struggled to get the tax removed the more certain they made it that confusion would be brought to the industry for a time. That sounds queer, but it is true. Therefore, the Government should be very careful not to chop and change in their policy towards this industry. Speaking as I do for one of the constituencies in Stoke-on-Trent, I feel that I have a right to say that the time has come when the tax should be taken off once and for all.
Before there was a 30 per cent. Purchase Tax Stoke-on-Trent employed about 30,000 workers. Between 6,000 and 10,000 went as a result of what happened. It may be argued that other factors have operated, but they are subsidiary to the imposition of a 30 per cent. Purchase Tax in 1956. We have never recovered those workers. We pointed out in the House that if the time came when our export markets opened up again as fully as we wished, our workers would be gone and we should not be able to deliver. That is what happened.
One woman decorator—one girl, trained to handle a brush in the way they do after years of training; with a patience and experience that even the Chinese cannot better—is worth at least £6 or £7 a week to the export industry, much of it in the dollar markets. There are many thousands of these girls in Stoke-on-Trent. It seems a pity that we should throw away opportunities. We are thriving again; we are now doing reasonably well. But many factories have closed permanently. Those that are doing well are doing so after a sort of blood-letting. This type of surgery, which has been imposed on this industry, is more suitable to horses than to human beings. It would be far better to have a blood transfusion. When a person recovers from blood-letting he gets back his functions, but at a lower level than is reasonable or normal.
I speak for an attractive industry. The other day I visited the Wedgwood factory, and I noticed that coach-loads of people were going into the factory. I asked who they were and the reply was, "This is customary. We get nearly 30,000 people visiting us each year. We employ four guides, full-time, to show them round the factory." It is an age-old craft, and when I plead on its behalf that there should be a reduction in the tax it will be understood that I am not putting forward a piece of special pleading but am merely submitting that an industry on which North Staffordshire depends so much has a right to special consideration.
I make my first intervention in the debate on the Finance Bill, and possibly my last, because I want to make an appeal to the Chancellor on a particular constituency point concerning Cardiff, and that is the tax on hollow-ware and enamel ware.
We have in Cardiff a very large factory which, during the war, was turned over wholly to making munitions, and it did a very good job with the Bofors gun and in making a lot of other equipment for the Services. Since the war, that has tailed off and the number of workers there has been reduced. This firm, Edward Curran, Limited, which is well-known to a great many people, has shown considerable initiative in turning over to the manufacture of hollow-ware and many other types of domestic utensils. It was doing very well, and employing a great many of my constituents, until this iniquitous Purchase Tax on hollow-ware was clapped on in the autumn of 1955.
Since then, its trade had dropped off. I have here a letter from the firm, which says, quite simply and shortly:
We feel that the decline in our home sales was in a very large measure due to the imposition of the Purchase Tax.
As a measure of its seriousness, the firm tells me that its home sales—and it has given me permission to use these figures—have fallen by 35 per cent. since the autumn of 1955.
Perhaps to many people this does not matter very much, but, in fact, Cardiff is having one long succession of hammer blows from the Government. B.S.A. Tools closed down, followed by the closure, or the announcement of the closing of the Royal Ordnance Factory at Llanishen, which is taking place at this very moment, when men are being stood off. Throughout the whole of Cardiff's industry, of which there is far too little, we find recession, drawing back and retreat from South Wales. Cardiff is becoming far too much a commercial centre, and far too little an industrial one. There is now no outlet for boys wishing to become apprentices, and no real outlet for skill. We are back again to steel and coal as the only industries into which young men can go.
Here is another example where there is a substantial decline in employment because of the operation of a fiscal duty which is being used to prevent the full development of its industry. The number of employees in the factory has fallen from 650 to 450, and that is a serious matter to us. Messrs. Curran has shown very great initiative in its attempt to turn over and adjust its industry, output and production from munitions to civilian goods, but it is far more frustrating to a firm than almost anything when it uses its initiative, energy and skill to retool its factory and go out and find new markets and then find that a fiscal blow descends on them, so that its initiative and energy has gone for nothing.
Messrs. Curran, in conjunction with a great many other people, finds itself in a situation of very great difficulty, and has asked me to speak in support of the Amendment to reduce the Purchase Tax on enamel ware and hollow-ware. I do so because many of my constituents are being stood off work at present. Some of them are women, and their menfolk are already suffering from the other blows which Cardiff has suffered. Therefore, because we wish to protect the livelihood of the workers, I have the utmost pleasure in supporting this Amendment, and fervently trust that the Chancellor will think again and will give us in Cardiff the opportunity of earning our living.
I have listened to every speech in the debate on these Amendments and I am amazed that there have been no expressions of opinion voiced by hon. Members opposite. Is not this one of the most fundamental matters which we can discuss?
May I remind my hon. Friend that it is only by the courtesy of hon. Members on this side of the Committee that the Government have been able to maintain a quorum for the last six hours?
That evidently explains the matter.
These Amendments relate to tax on a series of articles which increase the cost of living to the housewife. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has mentioned aluminium hollow-ware. I have here a letter from the British Aluminium Hollow-ware Manufacturers' Association, in Birmingham. I support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) who advanced similar arguments. Where is the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)? Where are other hon. Members from the party opposite who, we are told, are supposed to speak for the manufacturers?
The British Aluminium Hollow-ware Manufacturers' Association point out that aluminium cooking utensils are an essential commodity which in no sense may be classed as a luxury, and that a tax upon such articles adds to the cost of living and bears most hardly on young married people who are setting up a home. The association maintains that the restrictive effect of the tax on home sales has increased manufacturing costs. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East mentioned a case which emphasises this. The association states:
Prior to the imposition of the tax in 1955 the indications were that it was the desire and intention of the Government to gradually reduce direct taxation and eliminate Purchase Tax. Their action in introducing the tax, was, therefore, inconsistent with their declared policy and was regarded by the Association as a retrograde step.
I mention that to indicate how strongly the manufacturers in Birmingham and in other parts of the country feel about this matter. I have no doubt that they will note that hon. Members opposite have not thought fit even to be present in the Chamber when this matter was being discussed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), in an interesting speech, referred to pastry boards and rolling pins. I know from experience that many people cannot afford to buy rolling pins and have to use bottles instead. It is out of the question for them to purchase a Pyrex rolling pin because they might have to pay 10s. or more for such an article. I can use a rolling pin myself—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] As one bachelor to another, I say to the Chancellor that I would not mind entering into competition with him in the use of a pastry board and a rolling pin. I have had to use those things and I know that it is necessary for housewives to be able to replace these articles from time to time. Is not it terrible to contemplate that there are people who have to make do with their old kettles, pots and pans? I have been into the homes of old-age pensioners who cannot afford to replace their saucepans and kettles let alone buy expensive pastry boards.
The Government ought to give us guidance. The Paymaster-General has been sitting on the Government Front Bench, taking no notes, and behaving as though he almost had his reply ready prepared. Can he give us guidance whether the Government can move to exempt ordinary pots, pans, pastry boards and rolling pins? A number of articles are exempt in Group 11, such as brooms and mops. Why should not aluminium utensils be exempt? Are the Government to give us no answer, no guidance about their intention to remove this tax and to reduce the cost of living for the people upon whom it bears very heavily?
Today I have addressed a letter to the National Assistance Board—it is not the first—asking the Board to provide additional clothing for old-age pensioners who cannot afford to buy clothes. I wish much more consideration could be given in this debate to such matters. My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead) mentioned dustbins. I should have thought the Government would have decided no longer to permit taxation on dustbins. We had a debate not long ago, in which I pointed out how many dustbins Birmingham would provide and how much it was to cost. Dustbins are still essential to health. I am always calling the attention of the authorities to the need to replace dustbins which ought to have been replaced long ago if it had not been for considering the cost.
All these matters are of vital importance to the people. Government supporters ought to have made some contribution to the debate if they were interested in the cost of living as they pretend they are. They ought to have given guidance to this Committee. The Government should remove the tax from articles which are vital to the people, are urgently necessary, and are in no sense a luxury. It is time we sent a message to the Government that at the first opportunity they should get rid of the tax on these articles.
The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), who moved these Amendments with her usual lucidity and moderation, made it quite clear that her general purpose was to reintroduce the exemption for the particular article within Groups 11 and 12, known as "pots and pans", which was rescinded in the autumn of 1955. She covered the general field and subsequent speakers have dealt wth particular items in that field.
The hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons), the right hon. Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) and the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) whose incursions to the Opposition Front Bench are so much welcomed, although I cannot accept his conclusions, dealt with hollow-ware. There was a reference to Hong Kong competition. This is a very serious problem for the industry. I think it was the hon. Member for Brierley Hill who talked about Hong Kong and who spoke of "foreign competition". After all, Hong Kong is a Colony and we have to treat these articles as goods coming from a country for which we have a special responsibility. The Government cannot ignore Hong Kong, or the other countries to which the hon. Gentleman called attention.
That is a rather strange statement. It is possible to put a quota on goods coming from foreign countries, but to put a quota on goods from Commonwealth countries would be against the principle of Commonwealth trade. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), in the course of one of his characteristic interventions, made many remarks, some of which I thought a little inconsistent. For example, he was complaining that we had not reduced the tax on washing machines. The hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) strongly disagreed with the tax, I am afraid again ignoring the fact that we had reduced the tax on cosmetics. I thought there were some inconsistencies in some of the arguments which have been advanced.
All of them, broadly speaking, including the argument of the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates), were broadly concerned with the position of the housewife and covered the wide field constituted in "pots and pans" from the position of the industries, the producers, and the housewife as the consumer. I am sorry that the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie is not now present. Although she has not a complete monopoly of knowledge of domestic difficulties, she may call my right hon. Friend the Chancellor a bold, bad, bachelor baron but the other Treasury Ministers can speak collectively from knowledge as they have seven children between them. That shows they have some knowledge of these matters.
The reason I cannot recommend the Committee to accept this group of Amendments is as follows: in framing his Budget proposals dealing with Purchase Tax, my right hon. Friend had three particular ends in mind. He had first of all in mind the removal of anomalies so far as possible. I agree with the hon. Member for Brierley Hill and the hon. Member for Ladywood and one or two others that anomalies still remain. That is perfectly true, but over the whole wide range anomalies have been removed by the simplification of the Purchase Tax structure. Secondly, my right hon. Friend had in mind the belief that an indirect tax of this character should be spread over a wide field at a moderate rate. Thirdly, he had in mind that he had to raise large sums of revenue, and Purchase Tax is a major contributor to revenue. The hon. Member for Oldham, West implied that if the H-bomb were abolished the Government would need no further revenue, but that seems rather an exaggeration.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give some indication of the yield from these categories, because one of the difficulties when we see some of these groups of items is to know what individual items would bring in?
I was intending to deal with that later, but perhaps I had better do it first. The effect of accepting the Amendments in this group would represent a loss to the Revenue of £8½ million.
As the right hon. Gentleman will realise, this Committee will be called upon, not to vote on the group, but on certain individual items. No hon. Member can really decide whether the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman are sound. For instance, on pastry boards it would be useful to know whether the Purchase Tax yield is £50,000 or £5 million.
The argument I am about to adduce is that it would be wrong to treat these items other than as a group, and one of the troubles about the Amendments is that if they were adopted they would introduce a number of anomalies. For example, one of the Amendments would reduce the tax on pastry boards but not that on pastry cutters.
I made very clear in my opening remarks that instead of putting down an Amendment to the whole Schedule, as we could have done, we selected certain items where we thought it reasonable to suggest a reduction.
I heard the hon. Member make that point. My answer is that I have pointed out that the Amendments would lead to anomalies. That is inevitable because a system of exemptions pre-1955 which it is sought to restore would give rise to more anomalies and distortions than almost any other provisions of the Purchase Tax Schedules.
Let me take one single section from the Schedule of equal taxation. It ranges from cocktail sticks to copper lids, seats of plywood for chairs, washboards and knifeboards. Is there some social significance and some easily defined demarcation between cocktail sticks and seats for kitchen chairs?
As a matter of fact, the relief proposed by the Amendments would include relief for table china and glassware including whisky decanters and champagne buckets. While anomalies will remain in Purchase Tax the effect of restoring the exemption proposed by the series of Amendments would be even wider to extend the range of anomalies. One of the main considerations that my right hon. Friend had in mind in framing his Purchase Tax proposals was to modify as many as possible of these existing anomalies.
To come to the second point, my right hon. Friend's argument, which is supported on this side of the Committee, is that if we have to raise substantial sums by indirect taxation of this character and importance it should cover a pretty wide field and be levied as far as possible at a moderate rate. My right hon. Friend on Monday went on to say that we have now a standard rate of 30 per cent. and below that
… a range of articles which enter particularly into the cost of living and come into the category of necessities or near necessities and which for social and economic reasons I think should bear less than the standard rate".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th May, 1958; Vol. 588, c. 988.]
All these articles bear less than the standard rate at 15 per cent. which is half of the rate of 30 per cent., having been reduced from 30 per cent. to 15 per cent. in the Budget of last year.
If social reasons are to be adduced for reducing this rate of taxation, what is the social reason for maintaining the tax at a point where it means that men are discharged and a number of my constituents are unemployed?
The 30 per cent. rate is the standard rate and on social grounds these articles, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, are at a rate less than the standard rate—in fact, half of the standard rate. I should have thought that with a rate of 15 per cent. on the wholesale value, the burden so far as the home market was concerned would not be as drastic as is sometimes maintained. Fifteen per cent. on the wholesale value cannot be described as a penal rate of taxation. I think that it compares very reasonably with the general burden of taxation, direct and indirect, on industry which this country has to bear in the light of the level of Government expenditure that exists at the present time.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman's mind must go back, as mine does, to the whole of those very arduous debates in 1955, when the whole justification for these taxes at that time was the danger facing the country at that time. Assurance after assurance was given from the Front Bench that these were meant as temporary taxes for the danger period. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that he is going back on the whole of those assurances? He is, in fact, now saying that we must envisage this almost as a permanent tax, even at a low rate, on a whole range of necessities. He is really throwing overboard everything that his colleagues said at that time.
Since October, 1955, the rate of tax has been halved, and I do not think that one can say that the economic emergency is by any means passed at the present moment. The tax, in the meantime, has been halved from 30 per cent. to 15 per cent.
Once again, to quote my right hon. Friend on Monday, while he agreed that Purchase Tax in the aggregate could be legitimately adjusted from time to time according to the need to stimulate purchasing power, he pointed out that to make frequent changes in individual rates would lead to chaos in administration. That principle has to be borne in mind, Finally, the cost of this Amendment, taking all the things together, would be £8½ million in a full year. That in itself my right hon. Friend feels is a sum larger than he can accept as a remission of Purchase Tax over and above the £41 million in a full year which already he is remitting by his Budget proposals.
These are the three reasons why I cannot recommend——
If I may again interrupt, as the Paymaster-General was good enough to give way just now, I asked him what social reasons led him to maintain the tax at a rate that leads to the discharge of people in my constituency. He then brushed me off by saying that he was coming to it. He has not come to it, so perhaps I might be allowed to put it to him again. If social reasons led him to reduce the tax from 30 per cent. to 15 per cent., will he now reduce it to nothing so that my constituents can remain in a job?
Then I must say that it is too much for the hon. Gentleman to assume that the maintenance of 15 per cent. on the wholesale value will certainly affect the demand for hollow-ware, and the present level of employment in the industry. My point is that we cannot accept that Purchase Tax can be varied for individual articles at short notice to meet the short-term difficulties of particular industries.
That is what I think that my right hon. Friend had in mind in the passage I quoted. It would not be a good plan to vary the individual rates of tax for any short-term change of circumstances. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman. He may not think it an adequate answer, but I am sure that he will acquit me of any discourtesy. I did not intend to ignore what he said.
To sum up, my three reasons for advising the Committee to reject the Amendment are: the need to avoid the reintroduction of anomalies; my right hon. Friend's principle that if we are to maintain a moderate tax rate in this field it should be a fairly wide field, and thirdly, the fact that £8½ million is more than he can afford.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has raised the question of unemployment in his constituency in relation to the hollow-ware industry. If the right hon. Gentleman were to come to my constituency and find four houses out of five without an adequate supply of modern hollow-ware, would not he then feel that the time had come to apply the general Socialist principle that goods are produced for use, and not for profit; and that, whilst some of Her Majesty's citizens are deprived of things they vitally need while others of Her Majesty's citizens are not allowed to make them because of the tax, the time has come for an intervention by Her Majesty's advisers?
The right hon. Gentleman's last reply is really on a par with the speech that we have just heard. It was a great disappointment to us to hear him speak in such a manner, because, as Economic Secretary, he had a very good reputation for the quality of his replies. Whether it is that he is spending too much time in the Free Trade Area, or wherever he has been, I do not know, but his speech tonight was not of the quality that we have come to expect from him.
Furthermore, the right hon. Gentleman's speech is completely inconsistent with any other reason given for these taxes. These that we are debating are, as has been made very clear in the last hour or so, a very important group, and I am bound to say that I slightly resent his saying that they must be treated as a group; that the Opposition have put them down as a group, and that we have debated them as a group.
The fact is that we have put down a whole series of Amendments, and that nothing would have given us more satisfaction than to have considered them separately——
We had no choice in the matter. Otherwise, it would have been possible to mount a full debate on each one, as happened, the Committee may recall, in the autumn Budget of 1955. However, having examined this, it was considered by you, Sir Charles, to be a greater convenience for the Committee as a whole that they should be debated as a group, the first having been moved by my hon. Friend. That, however, was not our intention, and since we shall be called upon to vote on certain Amendments separately, and not as a group, the right hon. Gentleman might at least have taken the trouble to get the figures, in order to see the loss to the Revenue that would be involved in the acceptance of the Amendments on which we shall be called to vote.
Although we are delighted now to see that there are more Conservative Members in the Committee than there have been all day, we have gone on for long periods of the day without seeing a single backbencher anywhere on the benches opposite, apart from the indefatigable Parliamentary Private Secretary, who is worth every penny that he is paid. I am sure that most hon. Members opposite have no idea whatever how much revenue is involved in each of the Amendments on which they will shortly be dividing.
As has been made clear to the Committee, most of these items which we have discussed in this debate are now taxed at 15 per cent., although some of the later ones to which my hon. Friend drew attention—electric kettles, timing mechanisms in alarm clocks, and all the rest—are still taxed at 30 per cent. It is this group which is of great historical interest to many hon. Members, because these items formed the central theme of the Lord Privy Seal's famous "pots and pans" Budget.
We all recall how that Budget came about, how, earlier in the year, we had had the Election Budget, introduced by the Lord Privy Seal, and how, in the economic crisis which occurred and which the Government had denied had ever been with us, he found it necessary in the autumn to introduce the autumn Budget. That, of course, killed the Lord Privy Seal. The purpose of that Budget——
It is interesting to see that the "chocolate soldier", the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), is with us again. For months, he has been carrying out his great publicity campaign about Purchase Tax, but all we have had from him was one Amendment for which he could not even vote when a Division took place yesterday.
The debate on these successive items in the Amendments was the subject of that famous all-night sitting on or about 17th November, 1955, when we had one debate after another on each of these items. We all remember the subjects that we debated on that occasion the clothes line posts, clothes pegs, pot scourers, steel wool, babies' baths, cast iron baths, hollow-ware, pots, pans, cutlery, and all the rest. It is nice to see the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) back with us. That all-night sitting will live in the memory of many of us for many years to come, and not least of yourself, Sir Charles, since that was probably the only time during your tenure of the Chair that you have been forcibly removed from it with the good will of the whole House and of yourself.
Tonight, we are taking all these Amendments together. What is common to most of these items—I will not say to all of them—is that they are household essentials in the plainest sense, as my hon. Friends have made clear. I am not saying that electric kettles are household essentials, but they are at the 30 per cent. rate; I am not suggesting that the timing or alarm mechanisms are essential. There is, however, no doubt that the other items—wash boards, ironing boards, hollow-ware, bread boards, sauce-pans and all these other things—are obviously essentials.
What we want to know is why it is necessary to tax them. We argued this in the autumn Budget of 1955. I shall not weary the Committee with long quotations from what was said on that occasion. I do not want to embarrass any further than he has already been embarrassed the present Minister of Housing and Local Government. He said that these items had to be taxed because there was a yawning gap, because these items were tax-free and other things were carrying the tax.
Next, we had the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, now Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, who produced a much more sophisticated theory—but, of course, he is a much more sophisticated Member of the House. He produced the same argument throughout the night on each Amendment. It was the argument which I dignified with the title "Boyle's law". It was first enumerated in the debate on clothes line posts, which are included in the Amendment which we are now discussing. He repeated it later on babies' baths, and it arose at 3 o'clock in the morning on pot scourers and coal and cinder sifters. He was particularly eloquent on the same theme when discussing pedal-operated sanitary bins and coal hods.
We asked him whether he wanted to reduce consumption and to deter people from buying to save metal, but he said that that was not the argument. He said that he knew that they would not be deterred by the tax because these were essential goods, and that if something is essential people buy it. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) has pointed out that many people cannot afford to buy essential goods in some of these categories, and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) pointed out that many people used bottles instead of rolling pins and then challenged the Chancellor to a most interesting duel between the two bachelors, both using rolling pins or bottles.
The argument was that the tax was not to deter consumption. We asked whether it was because the Government wanted to increase exports of pedal-operated sanitary bins, or did they think that there was a vast, challenging dollar market for coal hods or steel wool or pot scourers? Was the idea that if the tax were high enough, people would stop buying them and they would be sent into the export markets of the world, or was it that it would save some imported material used in these clothes line posts and clothes pegs and babies' baths? No; the then Economic Secretary was quite clear about it, and he was sure that that was not the Government's motive.
At last, we got it out of him. It was because they were necessities, and anyone buying them and having to pay more through the tax, would then have less money to spend on other things. It was a mechanism for syphoning off surplus purchasing power. That was the essence of "Boyle's law". The idea was that when the Jones family needed a new coal hod, because coal was dropping through the bottom of the present coal hod, and they had to have a new one, then if they paid a little more for it they would have less to spend on other things, and it would be the other things which would be exported or would lead to import economies. If the Brown family had to pay more for a pot scourer they would have less to spend on other things. The argument was that this disinflationary operation would solve all our economic problems.
That is what we were told in the autumn of 1955. We attacked it at the time. We said that it was the economics of Bedlam, that it would not solve the economic problems, that it would not increase exports, and that it would not put the gold and dollar balance right, and we said that far from being anti-inflationary, it was about the most inflationary thing which could be done, because if we increased the cost of living by taxation of this kind the only result was that wage pressures must inevitably follow. Of course, the Government in those days had never heard of the difference between cost inflation and demand inflation, and the right hon. Member for Monmouth never believed it when he heard of the difference. We know that he is quite ready to take over the functions of government at any time. The present Chancellor is still fighting against the inflation of three or four years ago with every weapon at his command, including this. We felt that to put up prices in this way was highly inflationary, and, of course, the Government deliberately gave another twist to inflation by that very method.
I have made many unwise speeches, but I think that the unwisest that I have ever made in this House was when I said "On this argument, why do not the Government tax bread?" Of course, in the next Budget the present Prime Minister, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, took me at my word and removed the bread subsidies. The result was a further twist of the inflationary spiral. That was the only reasonable argument that we had. It was obviously fallacious, but it was the only clear argument that the Government put forward in those autumn Budget debates.
We must ask the Government—because the Paymaster-General has not made this clear—whether they still stand by this argument. Do they still believe those taxes are necessary to syphon off purchasing power, because these are essentials, because people cannot do without them, and because if there is a tax on them people will have less money to spend on other things? That was the justification for imposing those taxes. Is that the argument for keeping them on? The Paymaster-General has not told us.
At present, we have recession and unemployment over wide sections of the country. My hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) have made plain the industries which are affected. Do the Government think that it is right to maintain these taxes which, as I say, were designed to be anti-inflationary, when the problem is a rather sharp measure of deflation?
I will say this for the right hon. Member for Monmouth, to whom I have paid many tributes in the past—not that it has done him a great deal of good; obviously, the right hon. Gentleman only half believed this "Boyle's Law" argument, when he was Chancellor, in his one and only Budget, last year, he reduced the tax on essentials from 30 per cent. to 15 per cent. He could not have maintained that the inflationary problem was less serious than it had been in the autumn of 1955. Prices were much higher and we were facing a most serious inflationary crisis at the time of the then Chancellor's Budget last year. Yet he showed this one little element of courage in that Budget when he repudiated the policies of the Lord Privy Seal, no doubt with the full support of the Prime Minister, and reduced these taxes from 30 per cent. to 15 per cent.
Yet today the Paymaster-General is still asking us to support these taxes. He is still recommending the Committee to maintain them at their present level of 15 per cent. when we have first seen the whole economic theory and policy of the Government shattered by the action of the right hon. Member for Monmouth, and, secondly, we have seen the utter irrelevance of policies which are designed to deal with a demand inflation at a time
|Division No. 00.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Hamilton, W. W.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Albu, A. H.||Hannan, W.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hayman, F. H.||Peart, T. F.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Pentland, N.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Popplewell, E.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.)||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Benson, Sir George||Holman, P.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Boardman, H.||Holt, A. F.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bonham Carter, Mark||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Randall, H. E.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hoy, J. H.||Rankin, John|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hubbard, T. F.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hunter, A. E.||Reynolds, G.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Rhodes, H.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Burke, W. A.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Ross, William|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Royle, C.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Short, E. W.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Kenyon, C.|
|Clunie, J.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Coldrick, W.||King, Dr. H. M.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Lawson, G. M.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lindgren, G. S.||Steele, T.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Deer, G.||McCann, J.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Delargy, H. J.||MacColl, J. E.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Diamond, John||MacDermot, Niall||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||McInnes, J.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thornton, E.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Tomney, F.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Wade, D. W.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Weitzman, D.|
|Finch, H. J.||Mellish, R. J.||West, D. G.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mikardo, Ian||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Forman, J. C.||Mitchison, G. R.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||Moyle, A.||Williams, Rev. Llywellyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mulley, F. W.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Oram, A. E.||Woof, R. E.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Orbach, M.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Grey, C. F.||Oswald, T.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Owen, W. J.|
|Hale, Leslie||Paget, R. T.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Barter, John||Brooman-White, R. C.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Bryan, P.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Chichester-Clark, R.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bidgood, J. C.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bingham, R. M.||Cole, Norman|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Bishop, F. P.||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger|
|Ashton, H.||Body, R. F.||Cooke, Robert|
|Atkins, H. E.||Bossom, Sir Alfred||Cooper-Key, E. M.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Boyle, Sir Edward||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Braine, B. R.||Corfield, Capt. F. V.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Peel, W. J.|
|Crowder, Petre (Rulslip—Northwood)||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Hurd, A. R.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Hyde, Montgomery||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Iremonger, T. L.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Redmayne, M.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Renton, D. L. M.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Keegan, D.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Duncan, Sir James||Kershaw, J. A.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Kimball, M.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Kirk, P. M.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Leather, E. H. C.||Sharples, R. C.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Leburn, W. G.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Fort, R.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Freeth, Denzil||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Speir, R. M.|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Gammans, Lady||Longden, Gilbert||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. M.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Glover, D.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Storey, S.|
|Godber, J. B.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Goodhart, Philip||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Gower, H. R.||Maddan, Martin||Teeling, W.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Temple, John M.|
|Green, A.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Marshall, Douglas||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Gurden, Harold||Mawby, R. L.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Nairn, D. L. S.||Wall, Patrick|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Neave, Airey||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Nicholls, Harmar||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Oakshott, H. D.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||Osborne, C.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Page, R. G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Mr. Wills and Mr. Gibson-Watt|
|Howard, John (Test)||Partridge, E.|
|Division No. 141.]||AYES||[10.31 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Callaghan, L. J.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)|
|Albu, A. H.||Champion, A. J.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Chapman, W. D.||Finch, H. J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Chetwynd, G. R.||Foot, D. M.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Coldrick, W.||Forman, J. C.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.)||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Benson, Sir George||Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)|
|Boardman, H.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Gibson, C. W.|
|Bonham Carter, Mark||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Greenwood, Anthony|
|Bowles, F. G.||Deer, G.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Delargy, H. J.||Grey, C. F.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Diamond, John||Hale, Leslie|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Hannan, W.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Henderson, Rt. Hn, A. (Rwly Regis)|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Ross, William|
|Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Mellish, R. J.||Royle, C.|
|Holman, P.||Mikardo, Ian||Short, E. W.|
|Holt, A. F.||Mitchison, G. R.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Moyle, A.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Hoy, J. H.||Mulley, F. W.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Steele, T.|
|Hunter, A. E.||Oram, A. E.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Orbach, M.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Oswald, T.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Owen, W. J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Paget, R. T.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Pargiter, G. A.||Thornton, E.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Parkin, B. T.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Peart, T. F.||Wade, D. W.|
|Kenyon, C.||Pentland, N.||Weitzman, D.|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Popplewell, E.||West, D. G.|
|Lawson, G. M.||Prentice, R. E.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Proctor, W. T.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Randall, H. E.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|McCann, J.||Rankin, John||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Redhead, E. C.||Woof, R. E.|
|MacDermot, Niall||Reynolds, G.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|McInnes, J.||Rhodes, H.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmonds|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Duncan, Sir James||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Duthie, W. S.||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Keegan, D.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Kershaw, J. A.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Errington, Sir Eric||Kimball, M.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Finlay, Graeme||Kirk, P. M.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Ashton, H.||Fort, R.||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Freeth, Denzil||Leburn, W. G.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Gammans, Lady||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)|
|Barter, John||Gibson-Watt, D.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Glover, D.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Godber, J. B.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Goodhart, Philip||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Gough, C. F. H.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Gower, H. R.||Maddan, Martin|
|Body, R. F.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Green, A.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Marshall, Douglas|
|Braine, B. R.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Gurden, Harold||Mawby, R. L.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Bryan, P.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Chichester-Clarke, R.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Cole, Norman||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Neave, Airey|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Cooke, Robert||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hirst, Geoffrey||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Osborne, C.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Page, R. G.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Howard, John (Test)||Partridge, E.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Peel, W. J.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Hurd, A. R.||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Hyde, Montgomery||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Iremonger, T. L.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Redmayne, M.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Remnant, Hon. P.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Renton, D. L. M.||Storey, S.||Wall, Patrick|
|Ridsdale, J. E.||Studholme, Sir Henry||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Rippon, A. G. F.||Summers, Sir Spencer||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Roper, Sir Harold||Teeling, W.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Temple, John M.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Sharples, R. C.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Spearman, Sir Alexander||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Speir, R. M.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Stevens, Geoffrey||Tweedsmuir, Lady||Mr. Legh and Mr. Hughes-Young.|
|Division No. 142.]||AYES||[10.41 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Hannan, W.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Albu, A. H.||Hayman, F. H.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A (Rwly Regis)||Pearson, A.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Peart, T. F.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Pentland, N.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.)||Holman, P.||Popplewell, E.|
|Benson, Sir George||Holt, A. F.||Prentice, R. E.|
|Boardman, H.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Bonham Carter, Mark||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hoy, J. H.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hubbard, T. F.||Randall, H. E.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hunter, A. E.||Rankin, John|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hynd, J. H. (Attercliffe)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Rhodes, H.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Ross, William|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Kenyon, C.||Royle, C.|
|Coldrick, W.||King, Dr. H. M.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Lawson, G. M.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lindgren, G. S.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Sparks, J. A.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Steele, T.|
|Delargy, H. J.||McCann, J.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Diamond, John||MacColl, J. E.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||MacDermot, Niall||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McInnes, J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thornton, E.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Wade, D. W.|
|Finch, H. J.||Mellish, R. J.||Weitzman, D.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mikardo, Ian||West, D. G.|
|Forman, J. C.||Mitchison, G. R.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||Moyle, A.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mulley, F. W.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Oram, A. E.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Orbach, M.||Woof, R. E.|
|Grey, C. F.||Oswald, T.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Hale, Leslie||Owen, W. J.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Paget, R. T.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Palmer, A. M. F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Short and Mr. Deer.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Armstrong, C. W.||Barter, John|
|Aitken, W. T.||Ashton, H.||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Atkins, H. E.||Bennett, Dr. Reginald|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Baldwin, A. E.||Bidgood, J. C.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Barlow, Sir John||Bingham, R. M.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Osborne, C.|
|Body, R. F.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Page, R. G.|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Heald, Rt. Hon Sir Lionel||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Partridge, E.|
|Braine, B. R.||Hill, Mrs E. (Wythenshawe)||Peel, W. J.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bryan, P.||Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Cole, Norman||Howard, John (Test)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Cooke, Robert||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Redmayne, M.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hurd, A. R.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hyde, Montgomery||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Iremonger, T. L.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Cunningham, Knox||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Sharples, R. C.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Joseph, Sir Keith||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Keegan, D.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Deedes, W. F.||Kershaw, J. A.||Speir, R. M.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Kimball, M.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Kirk, P. M.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Leather, E. H. C.||Storey, S.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Leburn, W. G.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Duthie, W. S.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Teeling, W.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Longden, Gilbert||Temple, John M.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Fort, R.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Freeth, Denzil||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Gammans, Lady||Maddan, Martin||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Glover, D.||Marshall, Douglas||Wall, Patrick|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Godber, J. B.||Mawby, R. L.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Gower, H. R.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Green, A.||Nairn, D. L. S.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Nicholls, Harmar||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Gurden, Harold||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Oakshott, H. D.||Mr. Legh and|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Colonel J. H. Harrison.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
I beg to move, in page 30, line 37, to leave out from the beginning to "the" in line 42.
The object of the Amendment is to remove oil heaters from Purchase Tax, and to prevent the Chancellor from imposing a tax of £1½ million which, in my submission, will tend to fall on those who have been hardest hit by inflation. On Monday, my right hon. Friend said that in this Budget he had set out to accomplish some reduction in the Purchase Tax burden. I certainly welcome the reduction of £30 million this year and of £41 million in a full year which, as he pointed out, was made up of a gross reduction of £43 million, and an increase of about £2½ million. Unfortunately, the fact is that of this increase no less than £1½ million relates to oil heaters.
I quite understood the Chancellor when he said on Monday that he wants to move in the direction of a reasonable degree of uniformity; when he stated that he must be fair and reasonable to all concerned. Later, he said that the purpose of Purchase Tax—and I emphasise this—is to raise revenue. But is it fair and reasonable to raise revenue from those who use oil heaters, the majority of whom do so because they cannot afford to pay the ever-increasing price of coal, gas and electricity? A lot of them are the old people, but there are also those in rural areas, who rely very extensively on oil stoves for their heating.
I know that the increase in the tax on oil heaters may not seem very much, but if the Chancellor has been able to understand, quite rightly in my view, the psychological factor involved in increasing the tax on miners' safety helmets, let me assure him that there is just as great a psychological factor to be taken into account when dealing with a section of the community which is far less able to bear such an increase in tax even than were the miners.
If my right hon. Friend replies that he cannot afford to lose the revenue, will he look again at thermo-storage block heaters, which are at present being used in business and commercial premises, but which, because of an anomaly that the Minister of Power admits it is in the hands of my right hon. Friend to alter, cannot at present be put on the domestic market. The saving in capital expenditure would be considerable, as it would shift the load on the power stations from day to night. We should then be able to give householders the advantages of a low off-peak tariff. All that is required here is a decision by him to let these thermo-storage block heaters be used on the domestic market. I am sure that the saving of capital expenditure would more than balance the loss of revenue that he might have got, not from oil heaters alone but from all heating appliances. I hope, therefore, that when my right hon. Friend thinks again about this tax on oil heaters, he will agree that there is doubt whether he is being fair and reasonable, as he said was his aim on Monday.
I have no intention of pressing the Amendment to a Division, but I hope that if my right hon. Friend does not see fit to accept it now he will have reconsidered the position before the Report stage. I ask him, however, to look again into the incidence of this tax and who will be affected by it, because I am sure I am right in saying that it is those who have been hit hardest by inflation who will have to bear this tax.
When I talk on Purchase Tax matters, I am reminded of the advice given by that great preacher, the late Dr. Spurgeon, to young ministers. When advising them how to express themselves, he said, "My friends, when talking to your congregation about Heaven, let your faces light up with joy and radiate with a heavenly glee. When you are talking about Hell, your ordinary face will do." When I am talking about Purchase Tax, I feel that my ordinary face will do quite well.
We have had today debates on baby powder, rolling pins and pastry boards. We are to have debates, I gather, on mouse traps and fly swatters.
That is excellent.
Oil heaters are important. I support the Amendment and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) on dealing with the Amendment, which was not called, on thermo-storage block heaters, for two main reasons. The first is that the Purchase Tax was removed from oil heaters shortly after the war, because they were regarded at that time as essential items for public use. In my view, they are still essential items for public use. Secondly, I support the Amendment because it is a retrograde step to reintroduce a tax.
It seems to me that the Treasury has been bemused by the skilful and energetic campaign waged by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).
The officials in the Treasury have been so bemused that they have genuflected to the West rather than to the East. They have worshipped at the shrine of the sacred cow of my hon. Friend—the sacred cow of standardisation.—[Interruption.] I would not dream of regarding my hon. Friend as a sacred cow. I am referring to his sacred cow of standardisation. I will change the metaphor if my hon. Friend desires.
My hon. Friend cannot have been listening with his usual care to what I was saying.
I do not want the plea for standardisation by the removal of anomalies to result in the equal sharing of complete misery rather than in improvement.
I support the Amendment also because the tax hits particularly badly those living in the agricultural areas. In those areas, there are few instances where gas supplies are available, in some cases there is no electricity supply and the people rely on oil not only for heating, but often also for cooking. These remote areas—my constituency is only 30 miles from London—are often extremely remote from the ordinary amenities of life. They are cut off by the lack of transport facilities and other facilities which country areas lack. They are divorced from the facilities of life, but we are proposing to make such amenities as they have a little more expensive by the introduction of this tax. Even where electricity exists in the countryside it is often very expensive, which is one of the great problems of providing electricity in country areas. Many people living there can afford only to use oil-burning heaters. Coal is very expensive, and they burn it in grates which are free of tax.
Indeed, some curious anomalies arise from the taxation of these heaters. This is the very situation which my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster was trying to avoid. For example, in the nursery, babies' high chairs, cradles and cots are untaxed, but the oil heaters which we need to keep the children warm are taxed. In the invalid's room, invalid chairs, commodes and commode stools are free of tax, but the oil heater to keep the room warm is taxed. Oil lamps, which are widely used in parts of my constituency, are free from tax, so that the vestal virgins need not worry very much. Batteries for radio sets—and battery sets are largely used in country areas—are free from tax, but oil heaters, also required in country areas, are to be taxed.
Whereas the big blocks of flats will have their oil-fired central heating free of tax, and whereas the great houses, occupied perhaps by the National Coal Board or by the headquarters of some great trade union, can have oil-fired central heating free of tax, the man in the small cottage has to pay tax on his oil heater.
I believe that I am right in saying that it has, or proposes to install, oil heating instead of coal heating in its headquarters. I hope that that is not correct, but I believe that it is.
Why has it been decided to introduce a tax on oil heaters? Is it because there is already a tax on gas and electric appliances? I cannot believe that it is because of such a dog-in-the-manger attitude; surely we are not told that just because we have a tax on gas and electric heaters we must have a tax on oil heaters. If my right hon. Friend pays a visit to a hardware shop in any small country town throughout the country and sees the large number of oil-burning appliances of all kinds, and the spares for them, it will be borne home to him how vital oil heaters are to those who live in country areas. I hope that he will look at this proposal again between now and Report.
After the very colourful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) I am left with the memory of his reference to a sacred cow radiating glee. In view of the fact that in six of the seven Budgets which this Government have introduced there have been tax reductions, it would be a pity if there were to be any increase unless there is a very strong reason for it. The reason which has been advanced for some of the increases in Purchase Tax which are to be imposed is the need for conformity. I suggest that if conformity is to be achieved, it should be achieved by rating downwards and not rating upwards.
Oil heaters are of great importance to many people living in homes which are not very rich and in homes in the outlying parts of the country. Moreover, the tax will hit the industry itself in its home market and it will injure it in its export trade. The industry has responded to the Government's demands that it should do all it could to increase its export trade and it has succeeded in doing so. This seems a very poor return for its efforts.
In my constituency there is a very go-ahead firm, Chalwyn Lamps, which concentrates upon these heaters. It began some years ago making hurricane lamps, and it exported over 90 per cent. of its production—a fine record. Unfortunately it met very strong competition from Germany and Japan in its markets, particularly in East and West Africa, but undeterred by this and under great difficulty it switched largely to the production of these oil heaters. For this tax now to fall upon those heaters is a harsh and cruel blow. I should like to add to the arguments we have already heard, and ask the Chancellor to reconsider his proposals in this matter; and, when he has reconsidered them, to withdraw this tax.
I should like to associate myself with this Amendment, mainly on the ground that this Purchase Tax will hit very hardly those living on small fixed incomes. I have tried to make up my mind about how the Chancellor has been able to resist so many Amendments. I have been very interested in his technique and, having studied it, I consider that this particular Amendment will almost defeat him. I do not think that he will be able to use his usual argument because, after all, one cannot mistake an oil heater. One may be able to mistake baby powder for some other sort of powder; we may get mink mixed up with sable, or sable mixed up with mink, but one cannot get oil heaters confused with other kinds of heaters. It will be very difficult for him to find a new technique to resist this Amendment.
May I remind my right hon. Friend that when he was talking about the problem of the baskets made by blind people he said that they might get mixed up with other types of baskets. Because of all this, I think that this Amendment will defeat the ingenuity of the Chancellor. I shall listen with great care to hear what sort of an argument he submits. In my own mind I am wondering if he is preparing himself against an increase in the price of coal because, if coal prices go up with the arbitration award which goes forward this week, people who did not want to use coal at a higher price would want instead to use oil heaters. It will be very awkward with all the small coal lying about. Is the Chancellor looking far ahead?
Furthermore, when he is discussing these matters with his officials and getting advice as to whether Amendments such as this should be accepted or not, does he ever ask how many of those officials have gone out to look at the problem on the home level? I always notice that he is a clever operator from the Front Bench; he is always careful to say "My advice is …". We should know what is the background of his advisers. Although he makes his own breakfast, and goes out with a shopping basket, as he has told us, he has not yet told us if he has an oil heater. Perhaps he has oil central heating which is free of tax. Perhaps he will tell us.
I want to know whether those who advise my right hon. Friend ever come down from their Olympian heights to look at what really goes on in life, because it is easy to advise from the mountain top, but when one comes down to the plain and into the homes of the people, and sees what is going on, experience in life teaches a lot. One can get experience on the mountain tops, and one can get the sun there, so one does not need oil heaters, but when ones comes down to the plains in the valley, where the sun does not follow, then one gets a quite different point of view. I have always thought the trouble with the Treasury is that they sit on the Olympian heights, and I want to see a few of them really down on the plains.
As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister are always saying how difficult it is to find anything that can be done fairly to help those living on small fixed incomes, here is a really straightforward case, and that is what I want accepted. It is tremendously important, and I have had something to say about quid pro quo before. The Chancellor will be in for a rather rough time if the price of coal goes up. I know he may argue that it is no good trying to look into the future, but I like to have my money on the table and I like to prepare the way, to be quite sure that that particular section of the community in whom I am interested are not to be penalised.
Here is a heaven-sent opportunity. It will not mix anyone up, or make people dishonest. It is just a simple, straightforward argument, and I hope my right hon. Friend will realise that it is not in the Conservative philosophy that any tax should go up. We are set on reducing taxes, and I hate spoiling a good, long, straight path by suddenly digging a ditch. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept the Amendment.
I find it a little more difficult than usual to follow the logic and some of the metaphors of the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), but I understand she was supporting her hon. Friends who submitted this Amendment—from the mountain tops. I would have thought that, generally, the higher ones goes the colder it gets. This is an extremely important Amendment, and we on this side strongly support it.
The oil central heating which consumes a great deal more oil than the oil heaters we are talking about is free of tax. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman wants tax to be imposed there—otherwise I do not see the logic of what he is saying.
What the right hon. Gentleman is saying now is that he does not support his friends in the National Union of Mineworkers, who have been quite adamant in the last few months in seeking an increase in the consumption of coal and a diminution in the consumption of oil. If this Amendment were carried, it would lead to an increase in the consumption of oil, which is exactly contrary to the wishes of the union.
I do not want to swap logic with the hon. Gentleman, because it would not help. Before the Budget there was no tax on these heaters. If we have our way, it cannot lead to an increase in consumption of oil. I want to add my plea to those made from the other side of the Committee to the Chancellor to consider seriously the argument that has been put forward. I hope he will tell us that he will consider it and will come back and tell us the result when we reach the Report stage.
It seems to me that in this matter fiscal logic has been carried to a lunatic conclusion. I can see the logic in saying that if some sorts of heaters are taxed others must be taxed, but that is the sort of logic which led the Chancellor temporarily to put tax on miners' helmets and boots, and the sort of logic he had the good sense from which to withdraw when the defect in it was pointed out to him and he reconsidered it. I hope he will do likewise now and not pay close attention to the arguments which have been put before him.
If we cannot have some such hope and assurance, we for our part will certainly do our best to bring this matter up on Report, when we shall hope to be able to discuss it again, and at greater length at a more reasonable hour, and when, if necessary, we shall, of course, press the matter to a Division, with the support, we hope, of hon. Gentlemen opposite who feel so strongly about it.
How sweet of the right hon. Gentleman to allow me. I said, "Following the Conservative lead," because right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite had slipped in not taking up this matter.
We have an exactly similar Amendment down on the Paper. It just happened that the Chair called this Amendment. That had nothing to do with us. It is a matter within the discretion of the Chair. I am not sure that our Amendment was not put down first and that the Conservatives are not following our lead.
However, we will not quarrel about this matter. It is a matter about which many hon. Members opposite happen to be saying the right thing, and whenever that happens we are very glad to associate ourselves with them. I hope they will carry their views into the Division Lobby if necessary.
We have got so used to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) making powerful speeches and then finding feeble reasons for not voting in support of them, but the hon. Lady is far more courageous than the hon. Member for Kidderminster and we hope she will carry her view to the Division Lobby if necessary. I hope it will not be, and that the Chancellor will give the assurance for which he has been pressed. We await his conclusion, and I hope he will be able to give it to us in a favourable manner.
No Chancellor enjoys putting on a new tax charge. I really think that there have been very few Budgets which have contained fewer tax charges than this year's Budget. I thought very carefully before I included this proposal in my Budget. The reason I did so was, first, that up to the present oil space heaters were in a glaringly anomalous position. One of my objects in this Budget was to get rid of as many obvious anomalies as I reasonably could. The question is whether the removal of this anomaly was a reasonable step. I believe that it was.
Let me briefly sketch the history of this position. In 1945, electric, gas and oil heaters were all free of tax. Subsequently the electric and gas space heaters were made subject to tax, following the supply shortage. Oil was then left exempt. Now I have reduced the tax on electric and gas space heaters from 60 per cent. to 30 per cent. These three methods of space heating, which generally, but not, I agree, invariably, are in competition, will, under Purchase Tax, at least, be able to compete on an equal basis. We have to remember that gas and electric heaters use domestically produced raw material. Oil heaters are using an imported raw material. From that point of view, there would be an argument—I do not say how good—for having a higher rate of tax on oil heaters than on the two alternatives.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) is quite right. It is one of the by-products of the refining process. In reply to the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), I should have thought that the proportion of electricity made from oil, taking the country as a whole, was insignificantly small.
Now I come to the point of view of the country dwellers, which I agree is an important matter; and I took this matter into consideration before I reached my decision. I am a countryman myself, and I hope that I am in sympathy with the conditions in which people live in country districts. The main form of heating houses by country dwellers is that of solid fuel, though I admit that there are many oil heaters in use in the countryside. But statistically I understand that by far and away the bigger proportion of oil heaters are sold in areas in which they have to be sold in competition with gas and electricity.
The numbers of oil heaters that have been sold have been going up astonishingly over the past few years, which is, of course, quoted by their competitors as evidence that they have been preferentially treated in this matter. In 1953, oil heaters to the value of just over £2 million were sold. In 1957, it was just under £8 million—in fact £7·8 million. It may be that oil heaters are more economical—I do not know; in certain cases they may be. But if they are, that in itself is not a reason which would justify a preferential treatment in the rate of tax.
The conclusion that I have reached is that taking all the factors into consideration, we really ought to look at this matter rather broadly. In this grade I have made reductions amounting to £24 million, reducing the tax from the 60 per cent. to the 30 per cent. rate, and I have made additions amounting to only £2 million. The net reduction, therefore, in this grade is one of £22 million. The benefit which will be enjoyed from those reductions is spread very widely over the whole community.
To sum up, my reasons for reaching this decision were, first, to deal with what was a glaring anomaly which we have found harder and harder to justify over the past few years. I believe that the position before the Budget was quite unfair to the producers of the alternative types of heaters. I believe that we are bound to attach some weight to the fact that the oil heater uses an imported raw material, and I cannot agree that to put these three methods of space heating on to the same basis of tax is, in general, and, on balance, unfavourable to the consumer or to any sections of consumers.
I regret the speech that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made. I fully realise that he must feel that a tax of £41 million in a full year which is going back to the taxpayer through Purchase Tax which has been extracted from him in the past should be taken into account, and, of course, one takes it into account and thanks my right hon. Friend for it, but it puzzles me a little when the Chancellor, who has so lately been Minister of Agriculture, should not have thought a little more deeply about the small farmers on the hills and elsewhere who have not got electricity or gas. It is absolutely essential that they should use these oil heaters.
The argument that my right hon. Friend adduced about the use of oil in general instead of the consumption of coal and the other fuels that we have at home did not impress me at all. My right hon. Friend knows better than I do the amount of heavy oil that has to be used for industrial purposes plus the normal petrol consumption and the situation in relation to the cracking of oil to produce paraffin and the rest. Therefore, the question of oil from the point of view of imports does not ring a bell with me.
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend realises how very seriously and angrily a number of his very good supporters in the countryside feel about this. I have a letter from a very great personal friend of mine who lives in Devon—that is to say, in England, not in Cornwall—saying:
Can you tell us why Derick Amory has put Purchase Tax on oil heaters? We and all our country neighbours are simply furious.
That reflects the feeling of a great number of people living in areas where they can derive no benefit from the reduction of Purchase Tax on electric heaters, refrigerators, and so on, because they are not supplied with electricity to work them.
I hope that the Chancellor will reflect on this matter. Many years ago, when the late Sir Stafford Cripps introduced a rather severe Budget, I tabled an Amendment to remove the Purchase Tax from oil lamps. At first, he would not agree to it, but the argument that I and my hon. Friends adduced from the point of view of a part of the country dwellers who had not got other forms of fuel impressed him so much that he removed the tax in spite of the difficulties confronting him at the time. I therefore hope that between now and the Report stage the Chancellor will give further consideration to this Amendment.
I believe that in his Purchase Tax proposals in this Budget my right hon. Friend has done an excellent job, and on most of them I give him 100 per cent. support.
The one thing that I would say is that in this case, although I am prepared to agree with him that he has logic on his side, I think he has forgotten the psychological reaction to the problem. In country districts there are many households with no other means of heating apart from coal. The people there would dearly like to have electricity and gas. They see aircraft flying overhead, yet they themselves live in an age, from the point of view of amenity, long past compared with most of their fellow countrymen.
I know the reason behind the Chancellor's operations, which was to try to remove the anomalies in Purchase Tax. I have an enormous respect for him and I think that he has done a wonderful job in his Budget, but I would say to him, "Let not the Treasury rabbit be mesmerised by the stoat from Kidderminster".
We heard with very great disappointment the speech which the Chancellor felt that he had to make. We will do our very best to come back to this subject again when we can deploy before him at greater length the arguments which we feel very strongly, to some extent the same arguments as put forward tonight and to some extent different arguments.
We shall, therefore, return to this matter if it is in order, and we hope that, meanwhile, the Chancellor will bear very well in mind the speeches which have been made by his own supporters and will not forget that had the hour not been so late there would have been a great many speeches from hon. Members on this side of the Committee, who feel very strongly on the subject.
I assure my right hon. Friend the Chancellor that the action he has taken in this matter follows by only three weeks a rather lengthy Adjournment debate which we had on 26th March, when all the arguments were ventilated from every point of view. I strongly urged my right hon. Friend to do something about the glaring anomaly and, far from being a stoat in this matter—or a cow——
—or a vestal virgin, I am very grateful for this important change, which not only has logic, but is in the general and long-term interests of our fuel economy. If the matter is raised again on Report, I assure my right hon. Friend that I shall give him the most powerful support.
I have listened very carefully to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, and I must say that it caused me a great deal of disappointment, since I thought he would pay attention to the fact that the fixed income group is having a difficult time. I hope that before we reach the Report stage, my right hon. Friend will realise that this tax falls on those people who have been hardest hit by inflation. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.