HC Deb 30 June 1924 vol 175 cc1045-7

I beg to move, in page 5, line 39, at end, to insert the words together with fifty per cent. of eight-pence per gallon chargeable under The Finance Act, 1916, and Section five of The Finance Act, 1923, together with the relatively similar a mount of Customs duty chargeable on certain table waters known as-unsweetened table waters and sold or kept for sale in Great Britain or Northern Ireland. I move the Amendment as a protest against the rather unfair treatment of unsweetened table waters. If the Chancellor is to give relief to table waters, why should he confine that relief to sweetened table waters? Everything that could be said in favour of the relief of unsweetened waters has been said in support of the Clause as it stands now. The Amendment is designed to extend the benefits of the Clause to unsweetened table waters.

9.0 P. M.


I thank the hon. Member for the brevity with which he has moved this Amendment. There are two reasons why the remission of duty has this year been confined to sweetened table waters. The Government last year made a reduction of the duty. The House of Commons then admitted that there was a distinction in the claim of the two classes of water for consideration. Sweetened table waters are consumed very largely, indeed in the main, by children of the poorer classes of the community. The unsweetened waters are consumed almost wholly by people of fairly considerable means. Those two facts are borne out by the history of the consumption of sweetened and unsweetened waters since the duties were imposed. There has been a very considerable reduction in the consumption of sweetened table waters. Whereas the duty upon the unsweetened waters has apparently had no effect at all in reducing the consumption—the consumption of unsweetened table waters increased, from the time the duties were first imposed, from 10,800,000 gallons to 12,300,000 gallons—the consumption of sweetened table waters fell from 56½ million gallons to 31 million gallons in the same period. Those figures support the choice we have made in favouring sweetened waters this year. The tax on unsweetened table waters is one that I would not continue if I had an abundance of resources and was in a position to scatter my bounty, but for the time being the complete abolition of the duty on sweetened waters has a prior claim. The cost of the Amendment would be very considerable.


The total duty for 1924–25 is £480,000, and for unsweetened waters £30,000,000 only.


The hon. Member is wrong. The Amendment would cost an additional £130,000 this year and £200,000 in a full year. With the remission which I have given to the sweetened waters, that would make a total in a full year of £500,000, which is much more than I can afford now. The only hope I can hold out to the lion. Member is that in more prosperous times he may be able to press his claim.


I see quite plainly that the amount of money involved is too largo a sum for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to grant. I would draw this conclusion from his speech. He tells us that the duty on sweetened table waters caused a diminution of the sale. The moral to draw from that is that sweetened table waters are a luxury. The duty has had no effect on unsweetened waters. Why? Because unsweetened water, pure water, is a necessity.


Has the Chancellor of the Exchequer taken the trouble to ascertain as nearly as possible the cost of collecting these duties? It has been said that the cost of collection leaves very little margin to the Exchequer. Would it not be desirable to abolish this comparatively small tax altogether?

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.