HC Deb 12 February 1953 vol 511 cc590-2
37. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that there is dissatisfaction in the North-East of Scotland caused by the imposition of Purchase Tax and import tax on gift parcels sent from overseas to persons in North-East Scotland; if he will define clearly the authority for and principle on which such impositions are made; and if he will take steps to discriminate between such gift parcels and ordinary purchases from abroad.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The law makes no distinction between imported gifts and other imported goods. The hon. and learned Member is, however, probably aware of the general concession relating to gift food parcels and to the concession covering small value gifts sent home by members of the Forces serving abroad. It would not be practicable to exempt gift parcels generally, since these cannot be easily distinguished from other parcels.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Minister aware that that answer is ambiguous and not understandable? Will he not realise that gifts are not purchases, and distinguish between gifts and purchases and not charge Purchase Tax on things which are not purchases?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think that when the hon. and learned Member reads my answer in HANSARD he will have remarkably little difficulty in construing it. The practical difficulty, of course, is that it is not possible at the ports to say whether a particular parcel is a gift or has been ordered from abroad.

40. Mr. Janner

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will exempt from Customs duty and Purchase Tax gift parcels up to a value of £3 or thereabouts sent from the United States of America and Canada by American and Canadian brides to their parents and relatives in this country.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

No, Sir. It would be neither equitable nor practicable to discriminate in favour of a particular class of gift on the basis of the special relationship between donor and recipient. Nor would it be fair to single out gifts from the North American continent for specially favourable treatment.

Mr. Janner

Would the Minister say why he considers it impracticable and unreasonable? Does he not think that elderly parents and people of that kind should have the right to receive gift parcels from their relatives? Is he not aware that in Canada and America there are concessions of this nature? How does he expect pensioners to be able to pay duty on these parcels? How does he know on which parcels Customs duties are being paid? Does he not think that it is better to have a clear-cut issue on this matter?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The object of the present ruling is to have a clear-cut issue. In reply to the first part of the hon. Member's question, certain parcels can be received tax free, they being the ones which I have already described in answer to the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes).