HC Deb 17 June 1936 vol 313 cc1127-31

In paragraph 2 of Rule 5 of the Rules applicable to cases I and II of Schedule D, the word "glasshouses" shall be inserted after the word "Factories."—[Sir M. Sueter.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

10.10 p.m.

Rear-Admiral Sir MURRAY SUETER

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

Under the existing provisions of the law the general rule is that only the net annual value may be deducted for the purposes of assessing annual value, but Rule 5 of the Schedule provides that in the case of certain premises being mills, factories or other similar premises, the gross annual value shall be deducted, and we desire to extend this privilege to glasshouses. Certain factories are given this concession, I understand, because they have machinery which causes vibration, and the buildings deteriorate very much because of that. The owners of these factories have benefited by the concession, and I submit that it should be extended to glasshouses.

We have more glasshouses in my constituency than in any other part of the country. They are peculiar buildings. They are largely erected on a brick wall, then have longitudinal pieces of wood, a certain amount of glass and then a, large span of roof, of light wood, carrying the glass. These great roofs are subjected to rain, frost, hail and snow, and when they are well saturated are exposed to the heat of the sun. External temperatures are always varying, but the internal temperature has to be kept fairly high for the production of roses, cucumbers, tomatoes and so on. These variations of temperature cause the buildings to deteriorate very rapidly, and the life of these structures is not a very large number of years. They deteriorate after some 20 years, and however careful you may paint them every year you find that insects and other things get into the wood as well as the walls, and you get bare patches in the wood. When everything is taken into consideration these glasshouses do not last for more than 25 years.

They cost about £3,000 to erect, and when they are scrapped you do not get more than £500 or £600 for them. That is a dead loss to the grower. I submit that we should help these growers as much as possible. We want to increase the production of tomatoes, as they are good for everybody to eat. In the Navy we give the men tomatoes, and I can thoroughly recommend them. There is a slogan, "Eat more fish," but I should say "Eat more tomatoes." Tomatoes contain the necessary vitamins for making pale people red. I submit that there might be many hon. Members who would benefit by eating more tomatoes. In the Lea Valley we grow the most succulent tomatoes there are in the world. I have eaten tomatoes in many other countries, but in my constituency we really grow the very best tomatoes. I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer carefully to consider whether he cannot help the growers. These men ought to be encouraged. We want to produce as many tomatoes as we can in this country and not have to rely on tomatoes coining from foreign countries. If we could grow all we want in this country, it would relieve the shipping of the country if an emergency arose. I ask that this small concession should be made to help the growers in my constituency and in other constituencies. They have worked hard to start this new industry and they deserve every consideration.

10.17 p.m.


The particular allowance which my hon. and gallant Friend wishes to have applied to glasshouses, in addition to mills and factories, is one which was granted to mills and factories because of the additional depreciation of those buildings which arose from the vibration of the machinery used in them. I am sure the Committee is willing to credit the constituents of my hon. and gallant Friend with very high proficiency in the art of horticulture in these glasshouses, but I do not think they have arrived at such a high pitch of perfection that the produce grows with such speed that the vibration caused shakes the glasshouses to pieces. It is obvious that the reason for the allowance being made in the one case is not appropriate to the other. There is, however, an allowance given to the owners of glasshouses which is a very important one and which more than takes the place of the allowance for which my hon. and gallant Friend is asking. A man who has glasshouses is allowed at the present time to charge the actual cost of repairing the perishable part of a glasshouse as a trade expense, and I think the Committee will agree with me that that is a very fair and just allowance.

Apart from the considerations I have advanced that the allowance was intended for an entirely different sort of industry than the one which the hon. and gallant Member has been good enough to describe to us to-night, it would be impossible to grant this vibration allowance—if I may so call it—to glasshouses. If it were given in the case of such a peaceful structure as a glasshouse, it would be impossible to refuse it in the case of all sorts of other buildings, and what the cost would then be I am not able to say. The Royal Commission on Income Tax, which sat in 1920, considered the whole question of extending the relief granted to one section of taxpayers to other sections, and paragraph 222 of the report definitely states: We are opposed to the extension to other classes of buildings of the allowance for depreciation of mills and factories. In view of the considerations I have put before the Committee, I venture to suggest that is a sound conclusion. Therefore, I ask the Committee not to give this proposed Clause a Second Reading.


Surely this concession in the case of mills and factories was made before glasshouses were being built in such great quantities as they are now. This is an expanding industry and I do not think that the question of vibration alone ought to be considered in this connection. I was making out a case in connection with the effects of weather variations and variations of temperature. These glass roofs are subject to variations of external temperature in conjunction with the internal temperature. No factory buildings are constructed in the same way as these, because factories are built with steel supports, whereas these structures have supports of light wood which deteriorate very quickly. I ask my hon. and learned Friend to consider this matter more carefully and to give me, at any rate, some hope of a concession in the near future.


If the hon. and gallant Member's constituents get this concession, will they pass it on to the consumer because I want cheaper tomatoes?


They will pass it on to the consumer, and they will also give more employment.


My hon. and learned Friend said that this relief was given to factories in respect of vibration. If it can be proved that there is no vibration in a particular factory does that factory receive no relief?

10.22 p.m.


That would involve the application of a very expensive test. The procedure is that factories are deemed eligible to receive this allowance on the assumption that they will suffer from vibration which in the great majority of cases causes depreciation. I venture to suggest to my hon. and gallant Friend that the other kind of depreciation to which he referred, due to changes of weather and temperature, are met by the provision enabling those repairs to be treated as trading expenses.


Would not contraction and expansion have much the same effect as vibration?

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.

First Schedule (Iron and steel goods in respect of which orders may be made removing or reducing additional duties) agreed to.