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First Schedule—(Classes Of Goods In Respect Of Which Purchase Tax Is To Cease To Be Chargeable)

Volume 416: debated on Thursday 29 November 1945

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:I beg to move, in page 53, line 14, at end, add:

"All medicines, drugs, or other articles required in treatment for sickness, disease, or surgical operations."
This Amendment is for the purpose of removing the Purchase Tax from all medicines, drugs or other articles required for the treatment of sickness, disease and surgical operations. Some time ago I wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consult him on this question. I thought it was an act of courtesy on my part, before I put a Question on the Order Paper or raised it as an Amendment on the Finance Bill. But contrary to my usual experience I had no reply from him. I naturally wondered why this was, and then, of course, I understood that the reason possibly was that he was too busy at the time nationalising the Bank of England or working on the Trades Disputes Act and one or two other things which, no doubt, take up all his time. Failing any decision on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, I took this action of bringing the matter to the Floor of the House by putting down this Amendment.

I had thought possibly, although perhaps too hopefully, that, because I had not received a reply from the Chancellor, silence gave consent, and that I was, therefore, really knocking at an open door. If so, I apologise for taking up the time of the Committee.

11.30 p.m.

Nevertheless, the subject is of such importance that I feel I must still state my case. In considering this Amendment we must analyse why the Purchase Tax was imposed. It was for the purpose of restraining people from buying luxury or non-rationed articles of food and clothing. During the war, while the issue of victory still hung in the balance, it was right and proper that we should be guided in that direction, but are those arguments still valid? The war is over, victory is won, the enemy is defeated and still we are harassed—I will not quote the hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) again—we are still hampered and harassed by these controls on articles which are the very essence of the life and well-being of the community.

I cannot believe that the Chancellor will maintain that it is a luxury for the tired housewife who comes home after a day's struggle in queues and buses and sits down with shattered nerves and takes an aspirin. I cannot believe that that can be called a luxury nor that the Chancellor will maintain that it is a luxury that drugs should be given to relieve constant and growing pain of the many sufferers we have amongst us to-day after six years of war. Even the homely hot water bottle that is intended to give warmth to those cold limbs which are rendered still colder by the recent gas strike—surely that cannot be regarded as a luxury; otherwise every one of us here are probably going to indulge in luxury when we get home. [Hon. MEMBERS: "No."] There are tough and hardy ones amongst us, but the delicate Opposition—[ Interruption].

I would really like to draw the attention of the Chancellor to the situation in our hospitals. We have been told that a hiatus will occur between the time that the wells of private charity dry up and the flood of public benevolence begins to descend upon the hospitals. Does the Chancellor think it right that the money which has been donated by kindly, well-meaning, charitable people to maintain our voluntary hospitals, should be de- voted to the Treasury, or a large proportion of it? I cannot think this is a luxury. What about the knives and scalpels of the surgeons to relieve suffering and preserve life? Are these to be regarded as luxuries? Can any hon. Member deny that the lives and health of those he loves in his family depend upon every drug and medicine and the knife being available quickly and cheaply for the benefit of his people. Will the Chancellor pay particular attention to the fact that it is a tax largely on the poor. The rich can afford to pay such a tax, the rich—if there are any—can afford to pay the tax better than the poor.

If there is any political honesty in right hon. Members and hon. Members opposite they will support this. If there is no political honesty they have betrayed the people they are supposed to represent. As hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have learned by now, the party to which I belong has published a pamphlet "We Fight for the Poor." [ Interruption.] All that hon. Members opposite do is to try to make all people poor. We fight for the people. This Amendment was designed to help the poorest of our people. Therefore, if there is any justice, decency, sense of honour or loyalty to the people who put their trust in us, I ask hon. Members opposite, with confidence, to support the Chancellor and me in repealing this tax.

:The Government cannot accept this addition to the Schedule for the following simple reasons. The first is that such drugs as are subject to Purchase Tax are charged at the rate of 16⅔ per cent. Those that are costly are exempt altogether. The tax, such as it is, falls largely on proprietary articles and articles of that kind which are sold in chemists' shops—pills and patent medicines. In addition, shortly after this Purchase Tax was introduced in 1940, the Medicine Stamp Duty was taken off, against the advice and consent of many medical Members of the House, who felt that that tax should have been continued. If we do what the hon. and gallant Member suggests, there will be no tax on many of these things, which some of us, at any rate, think should bear a tax. As far as the other articles are concerned, the Amendment is obviously too vague for any Statute such as we are dealing with tonight. I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who undoubtedly has forgotten, that things like surgeons' knives and instruments of that kind are now exempt from the tax. Dressings are also exempt. Nearly everything that is of a specialised kind that can be identified in a hospital is exempt. The only things that cannot be exempted are domestic cutlery, crockery, and so on, which by their very nature cannot be freed from the tax because anyone can use them and buy them. That being the situation, and as the hour is late, I hope the Committee will agree not to press that this addition should be made to the Schedule.

I desire to join issue with the Financial Secretary on the reasons he has given for refusing to accept this Amendment The first reason he gave was that the tax is 16⅔ per cent. That is not a reason. It is merely a statement of fact.

Surely the argument should be directed to the Tightness or wrongness of ever imposing a tax on medicines. There is no Purchase Tax on food, and surely there is no reason why a tax should be imposed on medicines. The second reason the Financial Secretary gave was that these things are largely sold to the public in chemists' shops. He was ignoring the point made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), that a large number of these things, of necessity, are bought by hospitals. If you make inquiries about the purchase of drugs bought by the big hospitals, you will find that they run into hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds a year for one hospital. The third point the hon. Gentleman made was that there is a schedule of exempted drugs which are expensive. It so happens that I have that list of expensive drugs in my hand, and they are rare drugs. They are not common drugs. It is not going to help the ordinary citizen to exempt these drugs from Purchase Tax. Just listen to this one—the sodium salt of l-methyl-5-allyl-5-isopropyl barbituric acid. The ordinary member of the public is not in the least interested in that exemption. He is thinking in terms of camphorated oil, and that is the type of drug for which a heavy price is paid, both by hospitals and the public.

The final point he made was that this was in effect a tax on proprietary medicines, and that the income from large quantities of proprietary medicines is so great the Chancellor of the Exchequer is entitled to a rake-off. That is the essence of the point. I submit that if there is in the proprietary medicine industry something which it is desirable should be further controlled in the interests of the community, the way to do it is not by blindly dropping a tax on these articles. The way to do it is to tackle it as a straightforward job, which belongs to the Minister of Health. We are proposing to spend£15,000,000 annually on a National Health Service. I would agree with the Financial Secretary that for people to spend £40,000,000 advising people not to use the National Health Service, but to go and take their own medicines, does not make sense; but you are not going to deal with that evil by merely dumping a tax on proprietary medicines. It is for the Minister of Health not to evade his responsibility by encouraging the Chancellor to share in the loot, but to tackle this as a serious health problem. I cannot see a single piece of validity in the reasons which the Financial Secretary advanced.

Amendment negatived.

I beg to move, in page 53, line 14, at the end, insert:

"Furniture, plate, ornaments, and textiles purchased by public subscription for a war memorial in a place of religious worship."
My Amendment, I think, will appeal to all sections of the Committee. As hon. Members will see, it seeks to exempt from Purchase Tax furniture and ornaments provided by public subscription for a war memorial in a church. The need for the exemption came to my notice in connection with the Battle of Britain Memorial in Westminster Abbey. As hon. Members will remember, the Dean and Chapter of the Abbey set aside the Henry VI Chapel at the East end as a memorial to those who fell in the Battle of Britain, and the memorial will include an altar with a silk frontal, and a silver crucifix and candlesticks. The Committee of the Memorial have been informed by the Excise authorities that these things will attract Purchase Tax at 100 per cent., and, therefore, that over £2,000 will have to be paid in Purchase Tax on those things. I really cannot believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer means to impose tax in such a case. I would remind him and the Committee that thousands of the public have given small subscriptions; there are many subscriptions of a shilling. Does he really mean to tell the people who have given their mites in order to do honour to those who fell in this battle for the salvation of us all, that half of what they subscribed will be seized by himself?

11.45 P.m.

If the Chancellor of the Exchequer does say that, I think he is committing some-ing very like the sin of Belshazzar. He is not actually taking the vessels of gold and silver from the Temple, but he is taking 100 per cent. of their value. As he was brought up in the shadow of the Chapel of St. George's, Windsor, I find it very hard to believe that he desires to do that.

We are always told, when such amendments of the law are proposed, that there are administrative difficulties. I suggest that there are no administrative difficulties in this case, because these ecclesiastical furnishings are entirely different from secular articles of the same sort. I would also point out that the Amendment limits the exemption to these things when they are provided by public subscription. It does not apply to things given privately, and if the Treasury is in doubt as to whether these things are given by public subscription for a war memorial, I suggest that it would be quite easy to make a condition that the Charity Commissioners should give a certificate to that effect.

:I am sorry to be so negative tonight, but I must ask the Committee to say "No" to this further addition to the First Schedule for reasons which have been given more than once, either today or in previous Debates. The Purchase Tax, as I think we all know by now, is charged at the wholesale stage. That being so it is difficult, in fact, sometimes impossible, to trace a given article through, if, for any reason, sentimental or other, Purchase Tax is not charged at the 'wholesale stage. Its ultimate use and destination is, in a sense, immaterial. Therefore, if the Purchase Tax is not charged on the ground that the article is to be used for some special charitable or religious purpose, it would be necessary, in the interests of the Revenue, to follow the article through and make sure that it was in fact used, as was stated when the Purchase Tax was not charged.

We have had, at the Treasury, quite a number of requests dealing with war memorials, bishop's croziers, and vestments, and other things besides, all of which, from one point of view, are entitled to sympathetic consideration, as, indeed, is the suggestion made here; but to which the Treasury has had to say "No," because now, quite definitely, the law will not allow it, and because, too, if this addition were made to the schedule, it would make the machinery of the law very difficult to implement. Therefore, I ask the Committee to say "No" to this addition for the reasons I have given, because it is, in our view, impossible. Although the object which the hon. Member who moved the Amendment has in mind is an excellent one, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to implement such a decision if it were embodied in the Finance Bill.

I suppose even at this late hour of the evening, when this Committee quitely properly is usually in a cheerful state, nobody would regard the subject of war memorials in a place of worship as anything but a matter to be treated with the greatest seriousness and solemnity. I could not imagine anything that should be treated with greater seriousness. I must make this preliminary observation, that I cannot imagine a more odious form of tax than a Purchase Tax on objects in so sacred a place as a war memorial in a place of worship, and I would not have thought that the Financial Secretary would differ from that contention. In fact any hon. Member who did so would stand very little chance of retaining his seat at the next election. Therefore, being in agreement on that, we come to the point as to whether there is any machinery by which this tax can be removed. The argument of the Financial Secretary is that it would be impossible. I must say that he did not support that contention with any very closely-knit arguments. Why it is not possible? If it is possible to set up a war memorial in any place of worship and purchase the articles used in connection with that memorial, why is it not possible to inform the Treasury where they have been purchased and ask the Treasury to make a remission of tax? Why is that not possible? The Financial Secretary could state no reason whatever, and I am entitled to ask him and I can assure him that I feel strongly on this matter.

The right hon. Member's party imposed this tax in the first place.

I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would not have treated this matter with levity. When he says it was our party that imposed it I presume he refers to the Coalition Government which included hon. Members opposite.

I would draw the attention of the Committee to this kind of argument—that the Tory Party being the predominant party in the Coalition Government, deliberately placed this tax upon war memorials. I regard that argument with the contempt and scorn which it deserves. Anybody who could make a joke on a matter like this, is certainly not worthy of membership of this House. I leave my observations to the Financial Secretary and the Chancellor who have, fortunately, a different sense of responsibility in this matter. I shall support the appeal which has been made to the Government. If a memorial is set up why is it not possible for the congregation of the church or whoever is responsible to go to the Treasury with a certificate and obtain remission of the tax? I would be very grateful for an answer and I would support the appeal to the Government to treat this matter with seriousness—[Interruption].

On a point of Order. A very insulting remark has been made against a Member on this side of the Committee by the Noble Lord who has just spoken. I ask him to withdraw that remark, particularly as I have seen him on his feet on previous occasions asking for the remarks of other Members to be withdrawn.

A point of Order has been raised and I am now going to give my Ruling. I did not hear any remarks which I regarded as insulting.

Further to that point of Order, Mr. Beaumont. Last night, in the upper chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, although he did not happen to hear an insulting remark, ruled that it must be withdrawn when it was communicated to him.

I am well aware of the incident last evening. The occupant of the Chair was informed of the words used. I have not been so informed.

May I inform you, Mr. Beaumont, of the words used by the Noble Lord, because I was standing on the other side of the Chair and heard them? He said "A set of Jews."

I said "A miserable set of people and Jews." I was under the impression that the proposal was opposed by the hon. Member below the gangway on Jewish grounds.

The Noble Lord has now admitted having used words which I deem to be unparliamentary and I am going to ask him to withdraw.

Certainly. I did not at that time realise that the expression "A miserable set of people and Jews" was unparliamentary, but I am quite prepared to withdraw it.

I would urge on the Financial Secretary that even at this hour of the night the matter should be reconsidered. The matter is one of urgency for this reason, that it is now, and only now, that committees and religious bodies are concerning themselves with the erection of war memorials. An hon. Member on the other side of the Committee sought for some reason to attempt to make a party issue of this question by an interjection which suggested that hon. Members on this side were responsible for imposing this tax. May I point out to the hon. Member one important factor, that at the time when in general these taxes were imposed there was no question of the erection of war memorials because the country was still at war. The issue is an entirely new one, which arises and can only arise by reason of the fact that, in the mercy of Providence, we have passed through a state of war and it really verges upon the indecent for hon. Members opposite to seek to smear and besmirch the issue by attempting to introduce a party atmosphere. I appeal to hon. Members opposite, in the long run in their own interests, to desist from that attitude. I will pay them the compliment of saying that we approach this issue from one point of view only, that of practicability, and I will give them the credit with the exception of the hon. Member who made that interjection, of saying that they would wish to do so:

The Financial Secretary put forward the by now rather hackneyed argument of impracticability. May I put a perfectly simple solution to him? Let these articles go through the normal course of trade and bear the normal weight of tax, but when they have been purchased and used for this purpose, let a full rebate be paid on the certificate of a recognised religious body. I ask the Financial Secretary to tell the Committee what conceivable practical objection his Department, with its highly competent officials, can have to that solution? I do not think it will be suggested that the certificate of a recognised religious body would be lightly or irresponsibly given, and even if that suggestion were made, may I point out to him the fact that, in the nature of things, these articles will be on public display on public war memorials, and it will be easy for his officials, if they have any doubt as to the validity of the certificate given, to go and inspect these articles.

I am certain that in his heart the Chancellor would wish to make this concession, and I ask him whether he is really telling the Committee that the highly competent officials whom he has at his disposal, and who have surmounted many difficulties in the last few years, are really incapable of doing this. That, surely, is the only question on this Amendment, and it is one to which, I say with great humility, we are entitled to demand an answer. There is only one other thing I want to say. The right hon. Gentleman has often brandished before the Committee and the House what he pleases to call his mandate. Is it really suggested that he has a mandate from the electorate of this country to impose, or to continue to impose, a tax of such manifest and indecorous indecency?

I think it would be a very great pity if the Committee should display any party feeling on this matter. We know that on matters of this sort the hearts of the Chancellor and the Financial Secretary are as good as ours. It is their heads that are at fault. They have a rather timid character which makes them rather too ready to take the advice of their permanent officials. Let me remind them that frequently the advice that has at first been given to the House by the Treasury has been found, after examination by the House, and in deference to the will of the House, to be capable of amendment. Some time ago, when the House was gravely concerned about the sufferings of those who lost their possessions as the result of enemy action, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, briefed by the permanent officials, told us how very difficult a War Damage Scheme would be to operate. The House indicated its wishes, and a War Damage Scheme has been working quite successfully. A White Paper was also published indicating how impossible it would be to work a P.A.Y.E. scheme, but the Chancellor admitted in his Budget speech the advantages of P.A.Y.E.I say to the Chancellor that it would be a thousand pities if on a thing like this there were any party feeling, and particularly if there were to be a Division. On the other hand, this is a matter on which feeling in all parts of the Committee is very strong. The Chancellor has no mandate to impose taxation on this class of articles. I am sure he has no desire to see published on the appeals for funds for the purposes of defraying the expenses of war memorials the Purchases Tax which he proposes to imposeupon the articles so purchased.

I associate myself entirely with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher). This matter is something on which there should be no party feeling, and which should be solemnly and sensibly discussed in the Committee. I would like to approach the matter from a different point of view. Up and down the country funds are now being got together for war memorials to those who have fallen for the benefit of this country and humanity.

Some of them are in churches and holy places. In my own village, we are choosing a village hall, a very suitable and sensible memorial; but in many places the memorials will be in churches. Think of the people who have been saving up, making special efforts, to do so, because their fathers, brothers, husbands, and even their mothers, have been killed in the war, and with difficulty have collected sufficient to provide what they think an adequate and suitable memorial in the church, to last for ever. Think of them finding the sum they are so proud of speedily cut in half! I do not ented into the argument of the machinery of this case, for if the heart is willing the way will be found. I do ask the Chancellor to consider this.

This subjectparticularly should be debated without rancour, and if I imported any unnecessary rancour into my intervention just now, when the Noble Lord very properly and fully withdrew, I apologise.

I should like to thank the hon. Gentleman. I was thinking of those on his side who so shamefully interrupted.

It was the Noble Lord's own sotto voce remark which caused my intervention. But what 1 want to say now is this. It is distasteful that any considerations of cash or lucre should enter in when a war memorial in a sacred place is being considered—the purchase of it, and the putting of it up. But the single point I want to put to hon. Members opposite is that, after all, all these war memorials, whether of brass or textile or stone, are produced by commercial firms who make a profit in doing so. They are deemed to be entitled to make their profits. If you look at the advertisements each week in the pages of the "Church Times" or the "Guardian" or any other ecclesiastical newspaper, you will find hundreds of advertisements of firms producing war memorials, and I really cannot see why it is more sacrilegious or blasphemous, call it what you will, that the community should exact some payment by way of Purchase Tax than that commercial firms should make an ordinary commercial profit from such memorials.

I should like to say to the hon. Gentleman opposite that he has not apprehended the matter. If this was an Amendment to remove from Purchase Tax memorials of stone, there would be some force to his argument. But this is dealing chiefly with church furniture. I do speak with a certain amount of knowledge, and I think I am one of the few Members in whose constituencies the majority of the church furniture at the present day is made—by a small rural industry at Kilburn by well-known carvers. This firm of Mr. Thompson is making the majority of the church memorials of this country. The reredoses of most of the cathedrals have come from this small firm. It is not a profit-making firm. It is trying to improve the beauty of the wood-carving in the churches throughout the country. This is not like a wholesaler who deals with a retailer. So far as church furniture is concerned, I personally believe it to be quite practicable to exempt the furniture from Purchase Tax.

I am dealing here with the type of case which was put forward by the mover, my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling), where you are dealing with a large war memorial for the Battle of Britain. If that is a carved war memorial, it comes either from my constituency, or some firm in another constituency, who are not working for profit, but for the love of the thing, and trying to give something of lasting beauty to the country. I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will reconsider his attitude. I cannot conceive that on this occasion there could be any dissension in any quarter of the House, but that it is something we would all like to do. It could not have been done before, because the war was not over. Now the war is over, and we say that churches and any kind of religious buildings should be exempted from Purchase Tax.

I apologise for not covering the points initially raised by the Noble Lord, but as the hour is late, I telescoped what I had to say, and just gave the main points which occurred to me in the few minutes during which I felt I should weary the Committee. But actually there are other arguments which have not been appreciated by the Committee so far, and if I may I would like to put them. As the addition reads, it just covers, as has been said, furniture, textiles, ornaments, and plate in churches as war memorials. There are, however, war memorials in addition to these which may be put, and very properly put, into a church or other religious edifice. You will get, in some place, a row of cottages as a fitting memorial to the fallen, and who among us could say-that this is a less fitting memorial to those who died for a more beautiful England, amore happy and comfortable England, than a memorial in a church.

Do I understand that the hon. Gentleman's argument is that there is complete equality between a war memorial in a church and a row of cottages?

The point I am trying to make is this, that if the point of view of the right hon. and gallant Members opposite is that a war memorial should be exempt from Purchase Tax because it is in a church, that is one thing; if it is their point of view that the memorial should be exempted from tax because it is a war memorial, that is quite another matter. It has not emerged quite clearly yet. So far as I understand the argument, it is that the fact that it is a war memorial, and in addition, a war memorial in a church. puts it into a special category of its own.

I am trying to make the point that lots of people would not agree to that. If the argument is that Purchase Tax on a war memorial to the dead is sacrilege, then it is wrong for a war memorial, whatever it is—whether a home, or a creche, or a clinic—to be subject to the tax. What is the argument to be? If the Purchase Tax amounts to sacrilege because the furniture or plate or textiles are in a church, that argument applies with equal force to any furniture or plate or vestments used in a church, and nothing has been said tonight to indicate that the Committee would like the Purchase Tax taken off everything of that kind used in a church.

I did not go into all that at the beginning because I did not think it worth while. But apparently some Members feel so warmly and deeply about this that it was felt by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that some fuller explanation should be made to the Committee by myself in order to indicate that the thing is not as simple as it appears. If you do want to exempt everything that goes into a church, that is one thing; but that is not what the proposed addition says. If you want to cover all war memorials that is another matter and again this is not the way to do it. We sympathise with the general view which right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen have in mind when they say that they want to see war memorials to which people have subscribed out of the fullness of their hearts not cost so much because of the Purchase Tax addition to them.

12.15 a.m.

:I only want to ask one question I am getting considerably confused because the Financial Secretary started by telling us quite definitely that the reason why we could not have this Amendment was because it was too much bother. It was going to be too much trouble. Now other excuses are being put forward. I really do feel that in all the country there will be a great feeling of shock if it goes out from this House that men could go out and lose their lives in the war and when the war is over civil servants cannot be bothered to go into detail about war memorial expenses. This is really a thing that will cause great feeling in the country. This has nothing to do with party politics. I do wish something could be said to-night to prevent that feeling that we are too lazy to be bothered.

:I would like to reply to what the Financial Secretary said just now. He said that there was no more reason for exempting the church furnishings mentioned in my Amendment than for exempting creches, institutes or rows of cottages given as war memorials. He suggested that these things are subject to Purchase Tax. But of course they are not. Therefore his argument is totally irrelevant. He further said, if I understood him aright, that if you agreed to this Amendment you would have to exempt everything that goes into a church. That is not so at all. It would be perfectly easy to identify these things that go into a church for a war memorial, which are paid for by public subscription. You could get a certificate, as I suggested, from the Charity Commissioners, who could require the committee of the memorial to produce the accounts of what they had spent in that way, or you could get a certificate from the church authorities. The Financial Secretary has not answered the sugges- tions which have been put forward by several hon. Members as to how the administrative difficulty could be got over. Nor has he appreciated the very deep feelings which exist in this Committee that some means should be found to meet the purpose of my Amendment.

I think everybody in the Committee would agree that it would be a great pity to divide the Committee on a subject of this kind, and I do appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it would not be possible for him to look at this important matter between now and the Report stage. If possible, perhaps he would consult with the hon. Member who moved this Amendment and who has this particular case of the Battle of Britain memorial in mind. This, I think, has caused him and other people to ask whether it would not be possible to devise some means whereby these things can be exempted from the tax.

We know it is difficult; we realise the difficulties of weighing one thing against another, but I think all of us on this side of the Committee would hope that the right hon. Gentleman could have another look at this matter and consult with those interested and, perhaps, give another opportunity at a further stage of seeing whether anything could be done.

:I think it is completely unnecessary and very wrong that heat should be imported into this discussion. Those Members of the Committee who have not shown heat can form their own view of those who have. [Hon. Members: "Speak up."] I am not commonly accused of being inaudible. If hon. Members will do me the honour of endeavouring to listen they will hear me. I am not a party to treating this matter with levity nor with carping, needless and discourteous interruption. An appeal has been made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite which I will consider again and I will—

:No, I am endeavouring to overcome the obstructions to hearing which seem to exist in some parts of the Committee. I will reconsider this matter, but the arguments which have been ad- dressed by the Financial Secretary are serious arguments and they are not to be brushed aside by mere emotional resistance. I will look, however, to see if it is possible to overcome them in some fashion which might give satisfaction to those hon. Members who feel, as I am sure we all do feel, deeply on this subject. It would be a shocking thing to cause a Division on this and I hope, after the assurance I have given, no Division will be asked for.

I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his assurance and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 53, line 14, at end, add:

"Office machines, equipment, furniture and forms not capable of use for or adaptable to domestic purposes."
—In page 53, line 14, at end, add:
"Educational equipment and materials supplied through recognised educational suppliers."
In line 14, at end, add:
"Stationery pre-printed or pre-printed and pre-ruled for educational use in such a way that not more than four-fifths of the area is available for individual writing or that the stationery is thereby renderedrelatively uneconomical or unsuitable for general writing purposes "—
I would like to telescope this Amendment and the next two Amendments with a view to saving the time of the Committee. It may be that we can save time still further because it maybe that I am labouring under a misapprehension in which I have the sympathy of a number of hon. Members and that I am misrepresenting, or have not fully understood, the Chancellor's attitude to this case. This matter is one which I brought to his attention first on the Budget Resolutions and again on the Second Reading. He has given me no reply whatever. It may be that I have misinterpreted the absence of a reply from the Chancellor as being a lack of sympathy—even hostility—which, in point of fact, he does not feel. There is no urgency about this particular matter, nothing can happen before April and if it is his intention in the meantime to consider this proposal with reasonable sympathy before then, I hope he will let me know, because I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee. There- fore, I make only one point on the first issue—that of office machinery—because I have already put the main four arguments for it in the Debates on the Budget Resolutions. A further point which has occurred to me since is that we are asking that the principle which is applied by the Inland Revenue in the concessions made for expansion and development of businesses by the Income Tax Act, 1945, where it makes no distinction between office and factory, and no distinction between industry and commerce, should be applied also by the Customs and Excise. I think that is a good point.

I think that rather than argue the case for the other two, I had better explain them. Taking the last one first, I mean by pre-printed and pre-ruled stationery, copybooks of the sort in which there is in printed handwriting "The cat sat on the mat," and so on, which the child has to copy on lines ruled below. These are subject at present to 33⅓ Purchase Tax, which has to be borne by the school. A stamp album, which is similarly a pre-printed or pre-printed and pre-ruled book of paper, and could be used for domestic purposes, no doubt, as much as a school register or a children's specially printed copybook, is not subject to that tax. There are some very good arguments which can be adduced in the case of educational equipment. I will not keep the Committee to develop them, but the main point which perhaps I should make is this: The end of a war is a period at which one should consider whether machine guns or children come first. I hope the Chancellor will say that he will be prepared to look carefully at this matter. I think there is a very good case for saying that he should take the occasion now, at the end of a war, to switch over from a discouraging taxation on children and school efforts to a more encouraging one.

I would like to make one point in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman). Whatever may be the financial position of the country, whatever may be the general merits or demerits of the Purchase Tax, it is quite clear that there is no sense at all in levying a Purchase Tax on an article that is eventually going to be purchased or subsidised by the Government, because it is merely a bookkeeping transaction and cannot benefit the Exchequer. In the case of school supplies, it is obvious that the great bulk of those supplies are purchased out of public funds, and therefore, it is only in a bookkeeping sense that the Exchequer can appear to benefit from it. The only benefits to the Exchequer come from the comparatively small number that is purchased by private schools. That being so, the benefit to the Exchequer of the continuance of this tax is a very trivial one. In view of the arguments that have been adduced, and in view of what all hon. Members feel about the importance of reconstituting education, we hope that we may make a successful appeal to the generosity of the Chancellor.

I think the short answer is one we have heard a good many times, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will, of course, of necessity survey the whole field before his next April Budget; and that I am afraid is the best comport I can offer to the two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken. I would remind them of this. They devoted the major portion of their brief remarks to educational equipment. They must know as well as I do, and I remind them and the Committee, that much educational equipment is now free of Purchase Tax. Items like pencils and things of that kind are in a different position. It is not certain they are going to be used in schools or by the hon. Gentlemen or myself, who are supposed to have finished our education. When they would not be classed as educational equipment, I hope the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his addition to the Schedule in the full and certain knowledge that the Chancellor between now and April will be surveying the whole field covered by Purchase Tax. I have not the slightest doubt that because of what the hon. Gentleman has written and said to him it will be one of the first things he will consider.

May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman will see a deputation? I think he will co-operate to that extent in order to help in the consideration of this problem between now and then. I do not want to take up the time of the Committee.

:I think the simplest thing would be if the hon. Member saw me alone. Do not let us make a public meeting of it. Let us get on with the work.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule agreed to. Remaining Schedules agreed to.

Bill reported, with an Amendment; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 43.]