HC Deb 24 April 1928 vol 216 cc837-8

I now proceed to estimate the revenue of 1928 on the existing basis of taxation. Customs and Excise show little or no resilience. The consuming power of the people is increasingly being directed into new channels, but Customs and Excise move forward slowly by £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 a year in accordance with the growth of the population and the general maintenance of the consuming power of the people. The chances of a reasonably decent summer or, perhaps, I ought to say the chances against an immediate repetition of what we had last year, favour a recovery in the revenue from beer, which emboldens me to repeat my estimate of last year, apart from the extra month's revenue which accrued to us in consequence of the curtailment of the brewers' credit. Spirits, on the other hand, hold their own somewhat better under bleak conditions, but they roust be expected in normal weather to resume their continuous descent. The increased duty upon tobacco more than realised our expectations. That is certainly satisfactory when we remember that cigarettes, which comprise three- fourths of the tobacco consumption, have not been increased in price. The group of new luxury taxes on silk and on the McKenna imports show, on the whole, an increase. The same may be said, broadly speaking, about the various Safeguarding and Key Industry Duties. This class of taxation which is producing in the aggregate a very substantial revenue has not, generally speaking, been attended by increases in the cost to the consumer, and has certainly had no adverse results on the employment of the people. It may well be that a much more favourable statement might be made and might be effectively sustained upon this aspect on a more controversial occasion than the present.

As regards the Betting Duty, certain sections of the bookmakers, as the daily Press have not failed to make known, have urged me to remodel the Duty by lowering the rates of tax en turnover and by instituting a graded schedule of licence duties on the bookmakers. I have given a great deal of thought to the subject and to the representations that have been made to me and I am convinced that the new system would not yield the money which the Exchequer requires and intends to obtain. Moreover, the bookmakers are not agreed among themselves. Anyhow, it is better to await the results of the discussion on the Totalisator Bill before taking a new survey of this particular item in our taxation. I trust that as the Customs and Excise officers obtain more experience of the working of this Duty they will succeed in checking more effectively the evil of evasion. Accordingly, I am estimating for a yield of £3,250,000 this year as against the £2,669,000 which were received last year. There remain the duties on tea and sugar, those primary and basic comforts of the masses of the people and the poorest in the land in which there have already been great reductions of which the right hon. Member for Colne Valley is, no doubt, justly proud. I trust that these duties may be progressively diminished. I will not say more as to their yield in the coming year except that they may be expected to respond to the slow upward growth of the consuming power.