HC Deb 23 October 1945 vol 414 cc1886-8

It is against this general background that I have had to consider the present level of taxation and the extent to which I can offer the taxpayer any relief from his burden. In this connection I must begin by reminding the Committee that, as I announced last August shortly after taking up my present office, no further instalments of the War Damage Contribution will be levied. This recognition that the last V-bomb had fallen, even though claims for war damage might still come in, even though the last claim had not yet been filed, seemed to me to justify, by way of giving a psychological fillip to those concerned, the determination and finality of this series of War Damage Contributions. They have now ceased, and reliefs to an amount of some £40,000,000 a year have, therefore, already been granted to a very large number of taxpayers who were previously paying this contribution.

But before I proceed to make my principal proposals for the future I will first of all deal with one or two minor matters.

Hydrocarbon oil is a most important substance for the future of our industry, and the Finance Bill will include provisions to give effect to the recommendations of the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Committee, whose report was published as a Command Paper last April, that imported hydrocarbon oils should be free of duty when used as raw materials in chemical synthesis, as it is called, and that an equivalent allowance should be made in respect of oils produced in this country and used for a similar purpose.

Then, as regards spirits, I propose to move a Resolution, in the terms accepted in April this year, covering the repeal of certain excise allowances on industrial alcohol and exported spirits, which have been granted for many years largely in compensation for certain restrictions, imposed in the interest of the Revenue, upon the operations of distillers. The Finance Bill will contain a provision to modernise the Revenue control of distilleries, and the old restrictions, which war-time experience has proved to be unnecessary, will be swept away. The details of these proposals are explained in a Command Paper published last April, which, of course, is still available. I have also considered certain provisions in the Finance Act, 1942, which were due to expire with the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, that is to say in February, 1946. Section 8 of the 1942 Act which provides for a rebate of duty on heavy hydrocarbon oil used for farm tractors—a most desirable rebate in the interest of agricultural production—will be renewed in this Finance Bill.

Finally in this group of topics, I intend to continue, until the present severe shortage of liquor is somewhat eased, the abatement of the Liquor Licence Duty provided in Sections 13 and 14 of the 1942 Act. We shall be in time, as regards this matter, if we include a suitable provision in the Finance Bill of next year, and I give notice now to all those concerned, that this will be done.

Mr. Churchill (Woodford)

What is the cost of this concession?

Mr. Dalton

A trifle. The major things come later. We are still in the region of de minimis