HC Deb 01 March 1955 vol 537 c1868
21. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in order to reduce tea prices, he will abolish the duty of 2d. per lb. at present imposed on certain imported teas.

Mr. R. A. Butler

The purpose of the duty is to maintain the margin of Imperial Preference. It falls on only the small proportion of tea not entitled to preference and has no appreciable effect on prices. It is unusual at this period of the year to give final answers on Questions of this order, but it would be unwise for the hon. and gallant Member to rely on this proposal as one likely to achieve the end he has in mind.

Lieut-Colonel Lipton

Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that we expect only very small and niggardly concessions from him, and that this is one of them? Is the financial situation so unsatisfactory that he must continue to filch about £3,000 sterling a week from the unfortunate tea consumers of this country? Why not encourage the process of bringing down the price of tea?

Mr. Butler

The element of duty involved in this Question is about one-eighth of a penny per pound on the average, and I do not think that that figure would have the effect that the hon. and gallant Member believes. Furthermore, the proportion of foreign to Commonwealth tea is so small that I do not think the proposal Would have the effect that the hon. and gallant Member thinks. Therefore, I do not think it is a very good idea.