HC Deb 14 June 1955 vol 542 cc417-9
37. Mr. Janner

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will now consider taking steps to remove Purchase Tax from crash helmets, in view of the recent recommendation of the British Medical Association and the fact that some £4½ million a year is involved in treating injured people in hospitals who are unable to afford to buy this article.

39. Mr. Awbery

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will now take steps to remove the Purchase Tax on crash helmets for motor cyclists.

40. Sir F. Medlicott

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that each year upwards of 1,300 motor cyclists die and 18,000 are seriously injured on the roads in Great Britain in accidents in which the absence of crash helmets is a contributory factor to the injuries sustained; and if he will now remove the Purchase Tax on these articles.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. R. A. Butler)

This is a matter which I have considered very carefully in view of the representations made to me. But I am not yet convinced that motor cyclists are deterred from using these articles by the few shillings tax involved.

Mr. Janner

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that some 1,300 deaths a year are caused by these helmets not being worn? Even if the persons themselves are not prepared to purchase the helmets, does he not think it the duty of the State to afford facilities for these helmets to be used?

Mr. Butler

I hope that people will wear these helmets, but I am not at present in a position to remove the tax.

Mr. Attlee

Can the Chancellor say the amount derived from the Purchase Tax on these crash helmets? Is it such a large sum that he cannot afford it?

Mr. Butler

This Government has, of course, restored prosperity to such an extent that it is not so much a matter of what we can afford but the very real difficulty here of picking out these special crash helmets for exemption—as, I believe, my predecessors in office also found.

Sir F. Medlicott

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that Purchase Tax was originally imposed partly to discourage people from buying things? Is it not time that we removed this particular discouragement from this very valuable and life-saving article?

Mr. Butler

There are other forms of very important protective clothing which are still taxed, and I am afraid that I cannot go further in my answer today.

Mr. S. Silverman

Can the Chancellor say whether he has provided himself and his colleagues with the necessary crash helmets in order to anticipate the coming crash in the autumn?

43. Mr. Remnant

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury the annual yield of Purchase Tax on motor cycle crash helmets.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Henry Brooke)

Traders are not required to make separate returns of the tax paid in respect of all the many classes of goods in which they deal, and therefore I regret it is not possible to say how much tax is collected in respect of specialised articles such as crash helmets.

Mr. Remnant

In view of the undoubted fact that the amount involved must be comparatively small, can my right hon. Friend reconcile the levying of tax on these motor cycle crash helmets with the fact that there is no tax on miners' helmets, both of which are designed for the same purpose, namely, the saving of life?

Mr. Brooke

I think my right hon. Friend the Chancellor made it clear that the difficulty about crash helmets is not the amount of money involved, but the arguments that there are against complicating the Purchase Tax schedules by very large numbers of special exemptions.