HC Deb 12 July 1950 vol 477 cc1334-5
20. Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Air what prices have to be paid respectively for airmen and officers for the following items ex-Royal Air Force stores: shoes black leather, reference number 22D/431; trousers battle dress, new pattern, reference number 934; and blouses battle dress, new pattern, reference number 913.

The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Arthur Henderson)

The prices paid are: Shoes—airmen, 22s. 6d., officers, 41s.; trousers—airmen, 19s. 11d., officers, 41s. 5d.; blouses—airmen, 22s. 7d., officers, 54s. 9d.

Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

Why is there, in the case of officers, this difference, amounting to nearly double, on an article which comes from the same source?

Mr. Henderson

Officers have to pay Purchase Tax, which is paid by the Government in the case of the clothing for other ranks.

Mr. George Ward

Why should officers have to pay Purchase Tax when other ranks have not to do so?

Mr. Henderson

The hon. Gentleman knows quite well that for many years past the practice has been that other ranks receive what is called an upkeep allowance calculated to meet the full cost of maintaining the kit, whereas officers receive an element in their pay because of the obligation which has always been imposed upon them to maintain their uniform out of their pay.

Air-Commodore Harvey

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that this discrimination does not take place in the Navy, and that it is this sort of thing which is hindering recruiting? Will he undertake to go into this matter, reconsider it and make a statement later?

Mr. Henderson

What the hon. and gallant Gentleman said in the first part of his question is incorrect. A statement explaining the general position in respect of the three Services was made in the House on 30th November last year by the Minister of Defence, who said quite specifically that what I have said applies to other ranks and ratings.

Mr. McAdden

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that officers are prepared to pay the full cost, but they object to paying tax on top of that? Is he further aware that the articles enumerated in this Question, which are subject to Purchase Tax, are necessities, not luxuries?

Mr. Henderson

I have a great deal of sympathy with the officers who have to pay Purchase Tax, as I have for all of us who have to do the same.