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National Finance

Volume 437: debated on Tuesday 13 May 1947

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Tobacco Re-Exports

47.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of tobacco imported into this country was re-exported after processing to other countries in the hard-currency area and in the soft-currency area, respectively, from 1st January, 1946, to 1st April, 1947

0.2 per cent. and 6 per cent. respectively.

That is a considerable figure to soft currency areas. Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer say what means he proposes to take so that we do not expend our dollar loan in order to sell tobacco and cigarettes to soft currency countries where they, in turn, sell them to the public at a much cheaper price than that at which the consumer is able to buy them here?

For the purposes of this classification the whole of the British Empire, including Canada, is classified as a soft currency area, and, in fact, 77.5 per cent. of the soft currency exports here defined go to British Empire markets. I think the hon. Gentleman is slightly misunderstanding the situation.

That is not a satisfactory answer. Will the Chancellor explain whether in his view it is wise to expend a high proportion of our dollar loan on buying tobacco and cigarettes which are then sent to soft currency areas, even though they are in the British Empire?

Over 77 per cent. go to the British Empire and I think that is a pretty good proportion, and we ought to be pleased with it.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what proportion processing adds to the price of the tobacco bought in America?

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the importation of tobacco from Bulgaria where I understand there is a considerable quantity available for export?

Sterling Convertibility

50.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the convertibility of sterling in July, 1947, will apply to countries with which the United Kingdom will have no monetary agreement on that date.

I would refer the hon. Member to paragraph 8 (ii) of the Anglo-American Financial Agreement which sets out our commitment in this matter.

Sterling Balances

51.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer in view of the fact that the proposal to seek the scaling down of sterling balances will lead to withdrawals of these balances by unrequited exports, if he will now proceed to block them effectively pending agreements being reached.

46, 48 and 49.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1), whether, in view of the statements made by responsible members of the Indian Government, he will now give an assurance that the rights to present counterclaims against sterling balances held by India have now been exercised or, if not, that British representatives will be instructed to present and press such claims when negotiations for settlement are resumed;

(2) whether he will now give an assurance that United Kingdom assets in Brazil will not be sold against payment in blocked sterling;

(3) what steps have been taken by His Majesty's Government to ensure that, pending the presentation of counterclaims, countries holding sterling balances do not use them for the acquisition of unrequited exports.

In forthcoming discussions all relevant considerations, including those to which I recently drew attention, will be borne in mind, but I do not think it would be useful for me to bind myself, in advance of these discussions, by making a series of, declarations, such as are suggested in these Questions.

Stamp Duty (Charities)

53.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has taken into consideration the letter addressed to him by Sir Malcolm Delevingne, dated 1st May, pleading for exemption from Stamp Duty in favour of premises to be used for charitable purposes; and if he will treat this application on the same principle as the exemption made relating to Legacy and Succession Duties.

Would the Chancellor of the Exchequer look at the categories I have submitted to him, owing to their peculiarities, and reconsider the matter to see whether some concession is not possible?

That is a very natural matter to consider when we are taking the Finance Bill in Committee. Charity, of course, in the legal sense is very widely used, and it was for that reason that I have given the reply I have. I do not think a wide exemption would be practical.

Building Operatives (Travel Allowance)

55.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the 4½d. per mile travelling allowance to building operatives is tax free; and by what authority this concession has been made.

Threepence of the 4½d. is a time allowance and is taxed as wages. The remaining 1½d. represents additional travelling expenses and is exempt from tax under Section 26 of the Finance Act,. 1942.

Why is this concession given to one section only? Why is it not given to the black-coated workers, the clerks and others in this and other industries? Is it because they are not organised and they do not matter a tinker's cuss?

No, Sir. I am merely carrying out the law in this matter. The Finance Act of 1942 was introduced by a very distinguished Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, and no doubt was supported by the hon. Gentleman.

Can my right hon. Friend say what proportion of building operatives are receiving the 4½d. per mile? It must be a very small proportion indeed, and it certainly does not apply to the majority of those in the trade.

I have no knowledge of the number and have not been asked what the numbers are. I have been merely asked to define the legal position in regard to these travelling allowances and by what authority the concession is made.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say where his authority comes from to concede to Members of Parliament Income Tax relief for travelling expenses to and from their constituencies which concedes the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) 9s. in the £?

Tobacco Growing, Great Britain

57.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will encourage the commercial growing of tobacco in Great Britain by reducing taxation on it; and if he will allow the amateur gardener to grow and use enough tobacco for himself and his family free of duty

Will the right hon. Gentleman treat this question with a little more respect? Would it not be a good thing to have thousands of gardeners digging for dollars?

I think it would be a misuse of both British land and British labour to try to grow tobacco here. Nobody would smoke it.

Is the Chancellor aware that Virginian tobacco has been grown in West Cornwall and smoked by two or three people experimentally with great enjoyment and that similar experiments are in hand in regard to Cuban tobacco?

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the extreme danger of this home-grown tobacco unless it is thoroughly matured?