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Clause 4—(Power Methylated Spirits—Rate Of Excise Duty)

Volume 476: debated on Wednesday 14 June 1950

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Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

I wonder if the Chancellor of the Exchequer realises that in this Clause he is imposing a heavy and bad tax upon some thousands of housewives in this country. In many districts, especially in the remoter areas, methylated spirit can be, and is, used for lighting and purposes of that kind. I think that even at this time it would be utterly wrong if a Clause of this sort, which is placing a severe handicap upon the housewives in many of the more remote districts of the country, were allowed to pass without any comment from an hon. Member of this Committee. It may be that the Chancellor of the Exchequer never thought of this point. It may well be that he never thought of people like those in the Western Isles, and similar places, who are obliged to use this form of spirit for lighting.

I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer would at any rate free from duty this methylated spirit when it is used for the purpose of lighting houses in the country areas. It may not affect people in the great towns very much, or people in many other parts, but I think it is only right that someone should say a word for the housewives in the remoter districts, particularly for the wives of agricultural labourers. I know that does not affect hon. Members opposite, but every Member of the Tory Party has close at heart all those connected with the land, particularly the agricultural labourers. It will be very hard on them if this double tax is imposed.

I am not sure that there is not another use to which this spirit is put, and that is a use of which I thoroughly disapprove and which I think is a very retrograde use. It is seldom used in this way by any Tory, but there are members of other parties who use it for drinking. I do think it is a very wrong thing to impose the same tax on this very evil form of drinking.

We are dealing now with a Clause which does not refer to drinking.

I think that it is quite wrong that the Chancellor should treat the housewife with the same severity as those persons who take that form of liquor.

This has no relation at all to the point. It deals with power methylated spirits, which is a different thing altogether. It is de-natured alcohol, and the most common form in which it was known in the old days was "Discol." This tax was imposed in the 1938 Budget, by a Conservative Government, and this is merely putting the same increase on that tax as is put by Clause 1 on the main tax on petrol.

It is a different liquid altogether; this does not touch that liquid at all.

Can the Chancellor explain that, in no circumstances, the liquid to which I refer is not touched by this Clause at all?

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.