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Clause 2—(Spirits)

Volume 390: debated on Wednesday 2 June 1943

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Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

I do not want to move a reduction in the Spirits Duty, but I would ask my right hon. Friend whether, in his opinion, this high duty is a war tax or whether it is to be continued after the war. I know that he cannot decide that now, but it would be a good thing to have it on record that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given it as his opinion that the tax should be reduced after the war. After all, we are fighting for freedom; and when we have established our freedom we want to enjoy it. I do not drink much whisky myself: I take it for a cold, but very rarely otherwise; but I am interested in the subject. The hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson), speaking of beer, said that all the output was consumed. I daresay that all the output of whisky is consumed to-day, but I am not sure that it is consumed by the people who previously consumed it. There are new consumers. There is a large number of foreigners who have come into this country, who, I dare-say, are in a better position to consume it than our own people. After the war they will go back to their own countries. If we set the example of high taxation in this field the countries to which it is exported after the war are likely, when they want to raise more taxation, to say, "In the country where whisky is produced it is subject to high taxation; why cannot we tax it heavily here?" That will adversely affect exports to those countries. This is a special commodity, not something with which other commodities compete, and it is essential that we should not give foreign countries an excuse for raising the duty, to the detriment of our export trade.

Also, I represent an agricultural constituency in Scotland, where a great deal of barley is produced, and I think it is essential, from that point of view, to see that when we have established our freedom and have got back to normal, there shall be a demand for the barley that is produced.

I am afraid I can only note what my hon. Friend has said. I would not like to put myself in the position of a prophet and attempt to indicate what is likely to be the course of taxation after the war. I have no doubt that this speech will be welcomed in certain parts of Scotland, and that it will be widely reported in the Scottish newspapers.

Not infrequently the only medicine which a doctor can honestly prescribe for aged people is a drop of brandy or whisky. I realise the difficulty of meeting this problem, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether something can be done when the next Budget is introduced.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.