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Other Minor Changes

Volume 463: debated on Wednesday 6 April 1949

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I may here mention that I propose to renew the Customs duty of £4 a cwt. on hops, which was introduced in 1925, and has been extended for successive periods of four years ever since.

There are one or two other minor matters to be included in the Finance Bill. As I announced earlier, it is proposed to define the methods of calculating allowances in respect of plant and machinery, and to make it clear that the Special Contribution extends to Northern Ireland. It is proposed also to simplify the procedure for determining tax appeals by agreement, to correct a technical defect in the double taxation relief provisions, and to safeguard the revenue against avoidance of the ordinary liability to tax on purchased life annuities.

The Committee will be in no doubt, from what I have already said, that there is no room, this year, for any substantial alterations in taxation in a downward direction. The community as a whole will enjoy extra benefits this year in extended social services and defence measures, and cannot, therefore, have them over again in the form of remission of taxation. There seems to be a curious idea abroad in some people's minds that, as a result of last year, I have an available surplus for disposal. That is, of course, a complete fallacy. That money has all been used up for the intended disinflationary purposes. It is only on the basis of the anticipated revenue and expenditure for the coming year that tax alterations can be made. There is indeed, a very good argument for imposing some special charge or tax in connection with the Health Services, both to help to finance them and to bring home to people generally the simple fact that they have to be paid for out of taxation. It is argued, with some force, that this might help to make people more economical in their use of the Services. But, on the whole, I have come to the conclusion that we should await the outcome of another year before taking any such action, and I hope that there will be such economy in the use of the Services as to make it unnecessary.

I stated earlier the objectives that we should have in view, taking into account the general economic and financial situation of our own country and of the world. These objectives were to have an overall surplus balance, and also to have a significant true revenue surplus. We must now consider what further we must do to achieve those aims, in addition to the measures on the food subsidies, which I have already announced.