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National Finance

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 22 March 1949

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

Purchase Tax


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that under head IV of the Purchase Tax (No. 5) Order, 1948, vaccines have been exempted from Purchase Tax so long as they are prepared for use by injection or by application to the scarified skin of the user, but that vaccines are chargeable with Purchase Tax if intended for oral administration; and whether, in view of the fact that there is a growing body of favourable opinion towards the latter form of therapy, steps can be taken to ensure that vaccines for oral administration are placed in the same position as other vaccines so far as Purchase Tax is concerned.

The trade organisation most concerned has already been informed that vaccines for oral administration will be considered when the next Treasury Exemptions Order is being prepared.

Motorcar Travel (Foreign Currency)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he proposes to restore the special allowance of foreign currency for running expenses to persons who take their motorcars abroad on short visits.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford-Holt) on 17th March.

But why is the allowance only to be restored from 1st May? Why should it not be restored for Easter?

Because 1st May is the beginning of the next year in these matters.

Technical And Scientific Reports (Publication)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the Report on Water Pollution Research covering 1947 has only just been made available after a delay of 14 months, and the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories for 1947 did not appear until the end of February this year; and whether he will take steps to expedite the publication of technical and scientific reports of this kind, which lose their value if unduly delayed.

Yes, Sir. I regret the delay caused mainly by printing difficulties which I hope will not recur.

Petrol Tax


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consider the repeal of the duty of 9d. per gallon on motor spirit used for research and experimental purposes and for engine testing by motor manufacturers; and if motor spirit so used will be placed in the same category as diesel oil used for engine testing.

The hon. Member will not expect me to anticipate the Budget Statement.

Having anticipated that reply, may I ask whether the Chancellor will keep this suggestion in the background in the preparation of his Budget?

International Gifts


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will give a list of all free and voluntary gifts in cash or kind that had been made to this country since the war by other countries; and what gifts of a similar nature have been made to other countries.

With permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the gifts referred to by the hon. Member.

Could my hon. Friend tell the House the total sum involved in each case?

The total of the gifts we have made greatly exceeds the gifts which we have received.

Following is the list of gifts

Apart from E.R.P. aid and post-war settlements with U.S.A. and Canada, gifts from other countries to the United Kingdom from the end of the war have been as follow:

New Zealand10
South Africa (gold)1
Sundry gifts of food (excluding private gifts)1

2. In the same period, the United Kingdom made gifts in cash and kind to other countries, or wrote off debts, etc., as follow:

Civil Affairs (not recoverable)49
Greece Armed Forces initial equipment, maintenance, etc.31
—Surplus stores and relief supplies2
Poland—Welfare and Social Services June, 1946—March, 19475
—Surplus stores6
Austria—before 1st April, 194610
—post UNRRA6
—Surplus machine tools0·125
Hungary—surplus machine tools0·2
Italy—estimated value of surplus stores in excess of payments under financial agreement55
Netherlands — military equipment and surpluses, estimated portion in excess of payment under Debt Settlement16
Roumania—medical supplies and surplus Army foodstuffs0·02
U.N. Fund for Arab refugees in Palestine1
Ex-Italian colonies—cost of administration11·3
Burma—cancellation of debt15
— B.M.A. expenditure (cancelled claim)23
Total (say)400

3. E.R.P.— As at 18th March the U.K. had received from E.C.A. dollar assistance to the value of £232,300,000 of which £64,100,000 had been notified as E.C.A. loan.

4. Intra-European Payments Scheme. —The use of drawing rights by the U.K. and by other participating countries on the U.K. has been as follow:


Up to end1948

Up to18th March1949

Drawn by U.K.5·65·6
Drawn on U.K. by other countries11·934·6
Net use6·329·0

Currency Allowance (Usa)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that while his regulations permit parents of American brides to travel to America to see their daughters, it is not permitted for the parents to pay the return fare of their daughters in order for them to visit Great Britain; and if he will take steps to remedy this anomaly.

We cannot as a general rule afford to allow the payment of fares by residents on behalf of nonresidents because of the resulting loss of foreign exchange. My right hon. and learned Friend is, however, always ready to allow exceptions on hardship grounds; in particular he would be prepared in future, where close relatives are concerned, to consider sympathetically such payments in cases where the non-resident cannot afford to pay his or her own fare.

Would my right hon. Friend say what means test would be applied to this? Is he aware that in the case which I brought to his notice both parents desired to visit their daughter in America and were paying British currency to a British shipping company? When they decided to bring their daughter over to this country, and pay British currency to the same British shipping company, they were told that dollars were involved.

Dollars are involved, but in cases of that kind my right hon. Friend would allow the visit to take place.

Aircraft Purchases (Currency)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that owing to his refusal to grant British air charter companies sufficient hard currency to buy aircraft and spare parts, unobtainable in the United Kingdom, these companies are unable to provide the services required by British firms with overseas interests and the latter are thus forced to spend hard currency to obtain the services of foreign air lines; and if he will now alter this policy.

Applications for the expenditure of hard currency on aircraft or spare parts are considered on their merits. I am not aware that permission has been refused in any case with the results suggested by the hon. and gallant Member. If he has a specific case in mind, perhaps he will let me have the particulars and I will look into it.

Special Contribution


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his regulations provide for the Treasury to pay interest on any sum of Special Contribution paid on or after 1st January, 1949, but before assessment, in excess of the amount which turns out to be due.

As a special contributor who wishes to avoid interest has to guess the amount due, does the reply mean that if he guesses "tails," he loses, and if he guesses "heads," the Chancellor wins?

Is Income Tax repayable on interest charged by the Treasury on overdue contributions?

Medicines And Drugs


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to the fact that under Notice 78N, issued by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise, it is only permitted, in respect of certain medicines and drugs sold in multiple packs, for the outer container to bear the brand name or trade mark, and that the inner container must not bear such name or trade mark; what is the reason for this provision, and whether, in view of the special arrangements required, he will consider dispensing with it.

The scheme explained in this notice will enable branded or proprietary forms of certain drugs and medicines to be supplied free of Purchase Tax to pharmacists who require them for dispensing. Except in the case of those substances which can be supplied to the public only on a doctor's prescription, the scheme requires that the dispensed medicine shall not reach the consumer in the branded or proprietary get-up. The particular provision referred to enables perishable substances which must be dispensed in their original containers to participate in the scheme and is an essential part of it.

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be a reassurance to the individual consumer to get the article with the brand name on it?

In that case it could not contain the branded name, if it was to be free of Purchase Tax, and comply with the law.

Argentine Meat Agreement (Payments)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer at what date the sums set out in Article IV (a) of the Andes Agreement were transferred by His Majesty's Government to the Argentine Government.

Is the whole sum transferred under this article? Does not it mean that we paid in advance for all the meat due from the Argentine; and would the hon. Gentleman correct what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, who said we had only paid for the meat that had been delivered.

The arrangement was clearly set out in the White Paper. If the meat was not delivered then, if we wished, we could ask for the money to be returned.

There is no point of Order. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has risen to put a Supplementary on Question 57. It is perfectly true that I had called the next Question, but the time for it has now elapsed.

It is clear from what the hon. Gentleman has said that, according to the Agreement, the money had to be paid in advance. The question is whether the right hon. Lady was right in saying that we had only in fact paid for what we had received, or whether we had carried out the Agreement and paid it all in advance. We all want the answer to that question.

If my right hon. Friend said that we should receive all the meat for which we paid, she was perfectly correct, because we are receiving it.

The hon. Gentleman will keep on misunderstanding the question. What the right hon. Lady said was that we had only paid for what we had received, whereas the Agreement was that we should pay in advance for everything which was covered by the Agreement. I understand that the hon. Gentleman now says that we did in fact pay in advance for all that was covered by the Agreement. Therefore, the right hon. Lady was wrong, and that is what we want corrected.

Mr. Speaker, might I press the hon. Gentleman. What is involved here on the figures—

On a point of Order. Would it not be in Order for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to press the right hon. Lady instead of my hon. Friend?

Mr. Speaker, might I repeat the point on which we want to press the hon. Gentleman. It is one of importance to everybody because it involves a sum of at least £25 million—that is, 25 per cent. of the £100 million which is involved, let alone the advance payment of £10 million. Therefore, this is a matter of great importance to everyone in this House. Cannot the hon. Gentleman answer the question and say whether it is right or wrong?

Mr. Speaker, what remedy has this House got when hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Ladies, who after all are responsible Members of the Government, give us contradictory statements? How can we get any reply out of them? Is it not really up to the Prime Minister, who is present, to pay some attention to this problem and at least to try to get the hon. Gentleman to give a reply?

Every Minister is entitled to say, "I will not answer." That is all part of the rules. I cannot do anything. It is up to the Minister concerned. The House must take it or leave it: we cannot do anything else.

I beg to Give notice that in view of the deliberate misstatement of fact by the Government I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.