Does not my hon. and learned Friend agree that, in view of the important work done by charities in promoting a sense of social responsibility and in practical social work, there is a need for an urgent review of this tax, and its elimination altogether?
For the reason that I have given I do not think that this would be acceptable. Where charities enter into trading activities, most people would expect them to trade on an equal basis with those with whom they compete. Their profits are free of tax.
Instead of protecting commercial Christmas card operators, would it not be better if the Treasury reviewed this matter in the light of the economic squeeze which has made life very hard for charities for the last few months?
In view of the fact that the Chancellor told me previously that he has received no representations from manufacturers or retailers protesting against the system which gave preference to charities, will not he reconsider the question and at least consider repaying to charities, in the form of a grant, the difference between the tax as it now stands and the tax that he proposes to impose?
The principle involved is an important one. It cannot be confined to Christmas cards. If this concession were to be made there are many other fields in which charities could turn to trade, and trade on terms which meant that they did not compete fairly. The suggestion that the hon. Member is making would mean concealing what would still exist—discrimination in favour of charities.