HC Deb 31 October 1947 vol 443 cc1279-81

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Purchase Tax (Alteration of Rates) (No. 2) Order, 1947 (S.R. & O., 1947, No. 2183), dated nth October, 1947, made by the Treasury under the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1940, a copy of which Order was presented on 20th October, be approved."—[Mr. Glenvil Hall.]

12.53 p.m.

Mr. Peake

I am sorry to trouble the Financial Secretary once more, but I think that the House ought not to pass Orders which are, on the face of them, incomprehensible. If hon. Members will look at the title of this Order they will see that we are told that it applies to fancy and ornamental belts. In the margin of the Order itself, they will see the words: reduction of rate of purchase tax on certain belts. When we read the body of the Order, we are told that the basic rate of Purchase Tax shall be substituted for the higher-rate in respect of belts falling within the following classes—fancy or ornamental articles of a kind suitable for personal or domestic use, including artificial flowers, photograph frames and paper weights. It is a curious definition, because very few paper weights are suitable for personal use. So far as these belts are concerned, I must confess to being extremely puzzled. I can understand a belt being for personal use, but I cannot understand a belt being for domestic use, unless it is used for giving one of the children "a bit of a strapping." It is not at all clear in this Order what kind of belts are to be affected by it. Are they belts worn by ladies; belts worn by men; are they what are known as surgical belts—what, in fact, are these belts? It is not at all clear, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to explain the matter to the House.

12.55 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

As I am sure the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Act of 1940 which brought Purchase Tax into operation, together with the amending Act of 1942, is a perfect jungle. Year by year since in Finance Acts we add to it, and make alterations, until now it is very difficult to know where one is. In the Schedules of the Act of 1940, certain broad categories and definitions were laid down as to articles, and there was one which covered fancy or ornamental articles of a kind suitable for personal or domestic use. It is not suggested that paper weights are articles of personal wear, but there was a lumping together of a number of all sorts of miscellaneous items, including certain things which could be worn on the person, among them belts. That explains the reference, because we have here to legislate by reference to the 1942 Act, to which the right hon. Gentleman has called attention.

Belts are of two kinds. One kind, known as haberdashery, and the other, fancy, normally worn by women. We want now to take all these belts and reduce the rate on them to 33⅓ per cent. except where the belt can still be said to be a fancy belt in the sense that it has certain precious metals in it, or semiprecious metals, or mother of pearl adornment or ornament or anything of that kind, which makes it not an ordinary belt in the accepted sense of the word. It has in the past been difficult to differentiate between one kind of belt and another. We hope that this change, which simplifies the definition, will make it easier for all concerned, and enable those people who want to buy ordinary belts to be able to do so at a cheaper rate. With that explanation, I hope that the House will grant the Order.

Question put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. R. J. Taylor.]