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New Schedule—(Purchase Tax: Exemptions, And Reduction Of Rates)

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 16 July 1947

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

PART I.
CLASSES OF GOODS BECOMING EXEMPT, AND DATES FROM WHICH EXEMPTIONS OPERATE.

Classes of Goods.

Dates from which exemptions operate.

Domestic water filters designed to remove bacteria and other suspended impurities from drinking water by mechanical means, but not including filters also employing chemical reaction.16th April 1947
Children's safety reins and children's safety harness.10th July 1947
Thermostats.
Dustbins, buckets and pails and lids for any of those articles.
Projectors for sub-standard film, and lenses and other parts of, and accessories to, such projectors.
Appliances, apparatus, accessories and requisites for sports, games, gymnastics or athletics, not being mechanically operated articles, the following,—swings, slides (including water chutes), see-saws, roundabouts and giant strides.

PART II.
CLASSES OF GOODS BECOMING CHARGEABLE AT REDUCED RATE, AND DATES FROM WHICH REDUCTIONS OPERATE.

Classes of Goods.

Dates from which reductions operate.

Floor coverings, including linoleum, but not including the following articles—16th April 1947.
(a) carpets, carpeting, mats and matting, being articles of textile material;
(b) rugs;
(c) wooden floor coverings.
Chambers not supplied as part of a toilet service, and chair pans and commode pans, and lids for such chambers and pans as aforesaid.
Hot water bottles of a kind designed for use as bed warmers or foot warmers.
Requisites for cricket of the following descriptions,—bats, balls, stumps and bails, and wicket-keepers' and batsmen's pads and gloves.
Footballs and parts of footballs, and footballers' shinguards.
Requisites for hockey, but not for ice hockey, of the following descriptions,—sticks, balls and shinguards.
Boxing gloves.
Rowing boats specially designed as racing boats.
Floor coverings of the following descriptions:—10th July 1947
(a) rush, grass, raffia, straw or reed woven mats and rush, grass, raffia, straw or reed woven matting;
(b) woven mats and woven matting, being mats and matting whereof the warp or weft consists of tow of flax.
Requisites for shinty and hurley of the following descriptions,—sticks, balls and shinguards.
Requisites for lawn bowls of the following descriptions,—bowls and jacks
Requisites for lacrosse of the following descriptions,—crosses, balls and gauntlets.
Netballs.
Requisites for athletics, the following,—throwing hammers and handles therefor, regulation shot, relay batons, discuses, vaulting poles, hurdles, and javelins and heads and shafts therefor.
Inflatable leather balls made in panels or sections, and parts thereof.
Racing oars, spoon-bladed, not less than 12 feet in length.

PART III
CLASSES OF GOODS BECOMING CHARGEABLE AT BASIC RATE, AND DATES FROM WHICH REDUCTIONS OPERATE.

Classes of Goods

Dates from which reductions operate

Razor strops and razor sharpeners, but not including strops and sharpeners supplied as part of a toilet set.16th April 1947
Dental sticks and toothpicks.
Reproductions produced in quantity for general sale, irrespective of size, and whether plain or coloured, of such pictures, prints, engravings and similar articles as were executed more than one hundred years before the date on which tax becomes due in respect of the reproductions.10th July 1947
—[Mr. Dalton]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

We here set out, for convenience, the Purchase Tax pages, which, of course, operate in two ways. There were, first, certain Purchase Tax changes which I proposed in the original Budget proposals, and there is a further group on which I accepted suggestions made in the course of the Debates. I do not know how far the House would desire me to go into detail, but, very broadly, the revised Schedule comprises first the Purchase Tax concessions announced in the Budget—and I do not think I need go into them—and then the further concessions announced on Report stage, except those on mirrors and gas and electrical appliances. These have been already dealt with in Amendments to Clause 6 and in the Third Schedule, where the 66i per cent. rate is brought into operation.

For the convenience of the House the Fifth Schedule has been entirely recast in order to present a complete picture of the concessions that we have made. The House will recall that at an earlier stage in the Committee proceedings, I accepted a number of suggestions including the exemption of children's safety reins, on the suggestion of the hon. Lady the Member for Norwich (Lady Noel-Buxton), who presented us with a very homely picture of one article that was taxed and one that was not, so that we decided to untax the children's safety reins. We have made changes with other items, but I think hon. Members will sufficiently recall the proceedings of the Committee, so I need not go into them in detail. Practically all the changes made are made it response to requests from the Committee, or are concessions to proposals which came from different parts of the House.

I want to refer to two items in the new Schedule—rowing boats and racing sculls. I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the concessions which he has made, but I want to ask him for more, and I have put down two Amendments to try to secure those concessions.

First, with regard to tub pairs, which are necessary for training for racing. The price of these boats at the present time is about £90 to £100, plus Purchase Tax, so that a reduction in the rate of that tax would be a very considerable help to clubs which are trying to get going again after the war. I think that my right hon. Friend will say that the term "tub pairs" can be used to cover pleasure boats. I agree that it is very difficult to define the term more closely, but I have consulted experts who inform me that the term "tub pair" is not used for any other type of boat; the tub pair is much too uncomfortable to be used for pleasure purposes. Therefore, if my right hon. Friend should make the concession for which I am asking in regard to this item, I think he can be fairly satisfied that it will not apply to pleasure boats which he wants to exclude.

With regard to the racing sculls, I would like my right hon. Friend to reduce the Purchase Tax on them, as well as on racing fours. I would point out that racing sculls are quite as necessary as racing fours for rowing clubs. Again, I am informed by experts that racing sculls are tubular, and, therefore, cannot be used for pleasure boats, or, if they were, would be broken very quickly, and that owing to their cost it is extremely improbable that they would be so used. There, again I feel that my right hon. Friend can be fully satisfied that, should he make this concession on racing sculls, it will not be used to cover sculls which are used for pleasure boats. I hope, therefore, that he will say that he is prepared to make the concessions for which I ask.

I would like to express my very grateful appreciation to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the ready way in which he changed his mind over the question of children's playground equipment. We have now got complete exemption which will be an inspiration to many local authorities. Furthermore, I would like to express my appreciation for the relief of Purchase Tax granted, to a certain extent, in respect of sports equipments. Both these concessions will be of great help in the coming months to those for whom I spoke on the Committee stage, and I would like to express my pleasure that my right hon. Friend has been able to make these concessions.

The new Schedule which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just moved is, with some additions, very like Part I of the Fifth Schedule to which Amendments have already been moved. While I quite appreciate that I cannot discuss the particular Amendment which I moved to the Fifth Schedule in the amended Bill, I would ask my right hon. Friend to give his very close and sympathetic attention to that Amendment.

I wish to support the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Colman) in her remarks concerning tub pairs and racing sculls. Next year we shall have the Olympic games, and our crews will have to train very hard in order to put up a show. Deficient as we are in stamina, owing to the shortness or food, which looks like getting worse before it gets better, our men must make up for that by severe and intensive training. If we cannot train our men as well as those who come from overseas are trained, we may as well not enter these Olympic games at all. The hon. Lady has put up a very strong case, and I hope the Chancellor will meet it.

I would like to support the plea which has been made for extending facilities to boating, and I would confirm the hon. Lady's remarks that nobody would ever use these tub pairs for pleasure. The reason I rose was because during the Committee stage the Chancellor promised to look into the question of industrial gloves. As has been pointed out, industrial gloves are necessary for the safety of the worker, and we are anxious that there should be no hindrance to a continuation of the efforts to make more healthy those trades which are regarded as dangerous, by providing adequate protection. For instance, the handling of lead compounds can be made reasonably healthy if all precautions are taken, and among those precautions is an adequate provision of gloves. I understand there is in the Chancellor's mind some fear that people might use them for ordinary purposes. I can assure him that if he saw those gloves with "industrial" stamped across them, he would never fear that any of his lady friends would ask him to present them with a pair. If he cannot do this by inserting the appropriate words, I understand that it can be done by Order. I urge him to give attention to my request, because there is a growing desire throughout the country to safeguard the health of the workers, and it is the little things of this description which help, just as much as the major measures.

During an earlier stage of this Bill, the Chancellor promised to look into the case of sports netting. As almost all the requisites for cricket and other sports were listed, it seems inconsistent, if one does not use the stronger word "nonsense," to leave out one item, namely, netting. He spoke of the difficulties with regard to specification and export, but I should like to hear whether he can do something about this matter, because it affects a very large number of schools and local authorities.

10.0 p.m.

A number of points have been raised, and I will seek to deal with them briefly. I am very glad that I have been able to satisfy my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. G. Wallace) in exempting from tax children's playground equipment. It will be observed that in the Schedule it is proposed to eliminate from tax altogether certain items which are used by children and also by adults. But I am glad he feels he has been reasonably dealt with in that regard.

With regard to the claims of the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Colman) for tub pairs, I am in a certain state of doubt about how far I can go to meet her. I should like to go to meet her. The difficulty we have had is this. We have had to distinguish between business and pleasure throughout this consideration of athletic gear. I said at the beginning that I was anxious to relieve taxation on sporting and athletic gear used by active and vigorous people in the prime of manhood or womanhood, as the case may be, but not to the extent of including people just lazing about in backwaters in punts, and so on. That is sporting enough in a way, but it is not the same thing.

I have had last-minute consultations with my right hon. Friend, and what I should like to propose to the hon. Lady—I am very sympathetic with the hon. Lady—if she would be agreeable to meet me at the appropriate time and place to discuss further how we can devise this thing, is that it will have to be done in an Order. We cannot at this very late stage of the Finance Bill find a form of words to meet what we both want. But if she will consult with me appropriately we will see if we cannot make an Order to do what she wants to do—and also what the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) wants to do—namely, to see that our Olympic oarsmen and others are not unduly handicapped through their sculls and other things needed for their training being overtaxed. I think we can probably find a way. Not tonight, because it is late, and we have not had time to go into it with the draftsmen. But I am desirous of doing it, and I will undertake to consult about it—we have all a common purpose—and to find what form of words we can to assist our own oarsmen at the Olympics without leaving the door open too wide and bringing in all sorts of pleasure craft, and so on. Therefore, I hope that the hon. Lady will not press her Amendment. With regard to the Olympics, I have clone my best as regards general releases. I have brought great pressure to bear on my right hon. and noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, and he has succumbed to it, and we are going to have wood now to build boats for the Olympics.

With regard to industrial gloves, I want to find an appropriate definition, and I want my hon. Friend to help me in defining them. But I ask that this shall not be settled tonight. We shall make an Order later on, if we can find the right terms to deal with genuine industrial gloves without bringing in other things. That I will undertake to do.

The hon. Member for Western Dorset (Mr. Digby) has raised with me the questions of nets for football and cricket. I have gone into that carefully, but the difficulty is that once we get to ground equipment generally we have certain difficulties. I think it is very difficult at this stage. I hope it is only one stage, because I should like to go further into this field, because I am very sympathetic to the proposition that this sporting ground equipment should be, as far as possible, freed from all taxation. We cannot go so far as that tonight, but it is very difficult to extend this to ground equipment—

May I just deal with this? Then I shall be glad to give way. What I would like to suggest would be that for the moment we should leave this where it is, but I would be very willing to discuss with the hon. Member and others interested in this matter between now and next year. I will go into it sympathetically to see whether we may by Order give some slight extension to the Schedule which we have already embodied in the Bill. But I am advised that unless we are careful, we shall open the door to a very wide extension, which is not part of the hon. Member's purpose or of mine. I shall be glad to help in any way to meet him as reasonably as I can.

With regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) it is very difficult to name in this Schedule one particular mechanical griller. The hon. Member is interested in a particular mechanical griller, but it would be quite wrong to pursue further at this stage the question of a particular high-speed mechanical griller, I think that we ought to go into that a little more carefully, and perhaps my hon. Friend will have a word with me about it.

I do not want to disturb the harmony which has been established between the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Colman), or to interfere with that assignation which has been arranged tonight. Nor have I any objection at all to the concession which has been promised for tub pairs. I was interested when the hon. Lady denied with vehemence that anyone used tub pairs for pleasure, because I cannot help wondering if they are not used for pleasure, for what reason they can be used.

I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the line drawn by which certain Amendments and concessions in the Purchase Tax are put down in the Schedule of the Finance Bill, and certain others are to be done by Order at any time in the year. We have spent a great deal of time in the last few months discussing the Schedules to this Bill, and it would appear to the ordinary observer that that was the time and place in which Amendments were made to the Purchase Tax. Now the right hon. Gentleman has told us that as the Bill is in its penultimate state, he cannot make any more changes in the Bill, out he can perfectly well provide for tub pairs and cricket bats by Order. Could not he have done everything else that is done in this Schedule by Order as well?

That is what I want to know. When is it wrong and when is it right? When is it right to do a thing only by Schedule of the Finance Bill, and when is it right to do it by Order at any other time in the year? I am inclined to agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the right time to do a thing of this kind would be in the Finance Bill of the year. On the other hand, we have this procedure which enables him to do it, although I agree with less publicity, at any time during the year. Would it not be preferable, therefore, to relieve our overladen financial discussions and to do it in the rest of the year instead of waiting for what appears to be the quite otiose procedure of the Finance Bill? It raises an interesting point to which I do not see the answer, but I should be obliged if the right hon. Gentleman would tell us the traditions on which he proceeds.

By the leave of the House, I would like to answer the right hon. Gentleman. I think that it is a question of degree. I think that it would be very wrong, and I would not lend myself to such procedure, to make all these changes by Order. We have made a number of changes in connection with Purchase Tax this year, and I think that it would be very wrong to propose to the House that we should make all of these or the great majority of them by Order. I think that the procedure by Order should be the exception, and that the procedure in the ordinary course on the Finance Bill should be the regular rule. I think that the majority of changes should be made in the Finance Bill; but various considerations sometimes lead us to proceed by Order, and I will indicate two.

First, there are the suggestions made very late in our proceedings. There is this question of the tub pairs, which has come forward at the eleventh hour. I make no complaint about that, but we have not the time to go into it carefully, to see whether we can frame a definition to achieve what my hon. Friend wishes, without opening the door to pleasure craft about which no one is very interested. The first consideration, therefore, is lateness of suggestions. The other is the difficulty of definition. We have had the suggestion made in regard to industrial gloves. There is great difficulty in framing a definition for industrial gloves, without opening the door very wide. I suggest that these are two sufficient criteria for the small minority of cases; firstly, where there are special difficulties of definition which experts ought to look into at more leisure, and, secondly, where last-minute ideas are projected into our discussions. I would propose that in the vast majority of cases we should seek to settle these matters in the Finance Bill.

Does that mean that suggestions must be made during the course of the Debates on the Finance Bill?

Would the right hon. Gentleman accept suggestions made afterwards? The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the lateness of suggestions. Is he empowered to put items within Purchase Tax by Order, and is he able, by Order, to restore Purchase Tax? Does he receive suggestions for that to be done.

I think it would be a pity if we got into a habit of thinking that suggestions which are not made in the course of our lengthy and full discussions on the Finance Bill could reasonably be brought up later. I am only giving a rough indication, and in any case, all these matters are subject to the approval of the House. It would be a pity if hon. Members, with valuable ideas about Purchase Tax, withheld their suggestions, or did not think about them, during the Finance Bill, and only brought them up later. I should not like to lay down any absolute rule that I would not rule out any propositions in regard to Purchase Tax; but, in general, I think we ought to think about these things during the passage of the Bill.

10.15 p.m.

I am still rather puzzled. Immediately we have finished with this, we are to discuss an Order to reduce or exempt the Purchase Tax which we were asked to agree to during the earlier pass- age of the Bill. What is the reason these things are being done by Order, when all the others are being done by Amendment to the Bill? It certainly cannot fall under either of the reasons the right hon. Gentleman has just given.

I suspect that I should not be in Order if I gave the grounds on which a further proposal in the Bill should be supported.

May I put on record what my right hon. Friend omitted to say, that this Order comes into operation on 7th July. That is at the very moment when the Finance Bill is before