Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the very considerable expense and inconvenience which wholesalers and retailers suffer as a result of these anomalies, some of which are quite absurd? For example, Beecham's Powders are taxed, but Kwells are tax-free. False nails and eyelashes are tax-free, but curlers for eyelashes are taxed. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman reinvestigate this?
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is hoping to slip into the shoes of the former Member for Kidderminster. With a tax of this kind one can always point to anomalies by comparing articles falling just one side of the line with those on the other. From time to time it is possible to review this tax, but my right hon. Friend was not able to do so this year.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that there is a tax relief on musical instruments in many other countries, including the United States of America? Is he further aware that, provided the necessary safeguards are taken to stop abuses, this is something which should be encouraged in schools? I earnestly ask him to bear in mind that this could be done along the lines of the personal export scheme, and I hope that he and his right hon. Friend will look at this again.
I have looked into this suggestion, and I am aware of the provisions under American tax law, but, because of the way in which our Purchase Tax is administered, it is not practicable, and as a general rule we do not seek to make special concessions for particular users of taxable articles. If a distinction can be made as to a particular type of article, that is a different matter.
This is an argument which we encounter over many things purchased by local authorities for schools, but the general rule is that unless, as for example in the case of school desks, one can distinguish the article by its nature, the tax has to be paid.