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New Clause—(Amendment Of Retail Licence Duties)

Volume 390: debated on Thursday 3 June 1943

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Section thirteen of the Finance Act, 1942, shall be amended by the substitution of the words "twenty-five per cent." for the words "five per cent." and by the substitution of the

words "any licensed retailer's on or off licence" for the words "a publican's licence."—[ Mr. Boothby.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

Having started the day with clergymen, it is perhaps appropriate that I should conclude it with publicans. Last year's Finance Act allowed a rebate of 5 per cent. on publicans' licences only in respect of diminution in supplies of wines and spirts. This was felt in the trade to be inadequate, but no very strong protests were made because the conditions prior to last year were not so bad in view of the existence in most cases of considerable surplus stocks. But it was felt that any concession should also apply to the off-retailer, and the off-retailer in Scotland includes the licensed grocer, who is rather an important factor in this connection. The surplus stocks which enabled the retail licence trade to carry on are now completely exhausted, and at present the proportion of spirits allocated to retailers on their former supplies is not usually more than about 5o per cent, of what they used to get, and on wines only about 3 per cent. So there is an immense reduction in their turnover. In the Finance Act, 1917, Section 7, holders of Excise liquor licences were granted a rebate of three-quarters of the payment in compensation for diminution of supplies of spirits and wines which they received. The diminution is certainly not less in this war. It was recognised by this rebate in the last war that retailers should not be asked to continue to pay an amount of duty out of all proportion to the volume of the trade they were doing. All that I am seeking is to persuade the Government that retailers are now being asked to pay a licence duty out of all proportion to the amount of trade that they can possibly do in view of the supplies of spirits and wines that they are receiving. My Clause seeks a reduction of 25 per cent, in the licence duty, as it were by way of compensation for the reduced turnover, and it is applicable to both on and off holders of retail licences, because it is not fair to discriminate between the two.

My hon. Friend has certainly covered a very wide field to-day in the attention that he gave to the claims of the clergy and, no doubt just as important, the attention that he is giving to the claims of publicans and those who sell retail wines and spirits. In the Finance Act of last year there were two Sections dealing with this problem, Section 13, which dealt with the reduction of duty on publicans' licences in respect of diminution in supplies of wines and spirits, and Section 14, "Relief from duty where trade diminished by war circumstances." I am not quite clear whether he appreciates the effect of the latter Section. It provides Licence Duty relief in view of the shortage of supplies and, except as far as the publican's licence is concerned, the relief is based on the trade done in each separate liquor and applies to each separate licence. The amount of the relief is two-thirds of the amount of the diminution in trade. I am not sure whether I understood him aright. Was he suggesting that it should be three-quarters instead of two-thirds?

If that is the suggestion, I am sorry to say that my right hon. Friend cannot accept it.

In view of my hon. Friend's categorical statement, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Clause.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedules r to 6 agreed to.