§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I could not at this stage give an estimate.
§ Mr. Lewis
If the right hon. Gentleman cannot give an estimate, may I put it to him that surely he is aware that production is falling off, that workers are being stood off and that unemployment in this industry is growing? Will he, therefore, not reduce or abolish this tax, at least for the period of the Suez crisis, to keep these people in work? Surely, it is better to have them in work producing cars, particularly for export, than to have them unemployed.
§ Mr. Brooke
The hon. Member is asking me to anticipate my right hon. Friend's Budget, and he knows that that I cannot do.
§ Mr. H. Brooke
I have no precise information on this point, but the amount must be very small. The Answer to the second part of the Question is, "No, Sir".
§ Mrs. Mann
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why, if he has no information, he should give the reply, "No"? Is he aware that every local authority pays tax of 30 per cent. on the clothes poles which it erects on the drying greens, and that his right hon. Friend insists on 1038 the local authorities reducing their capital expenditure? Will he not reconsider this angle again?
§ Mr. Brooke
I did not say I had no information. I said I had no precise information about the amount, which must be fairly small. The hon. Lady seems to me to be asking that the Chancellor shall make a concession in favour of local authorities which would be denied to housewives, and I do not think that that would be fair.
Mr. H. Wilson
Can the right hon. Gentleman see the implication of what he has just said? Why is it that the right hon. Gentleman a few moments ago said he could not give any answer on a tax question because he could not anticipate some Budget statement, but on this Question gives a flat "No" to the proposal of my hon. Friend? In view of the entire failure of the financial policy based on the autumn Budget of last year, will not the right hon. Gentleman now reconsider the whole position and take off this tax on household essentials, whether in respect of local authorities or of housewives?
§ Mr. Brooke
I do not think that we can reconsider the whole of the autumn Budget on a clothes pole. The previous replies which I gave were on major tax questions. I would not suggest for a moment that either a reduction or an increase in the tax on clothes poles bought by local authorities would unbalance any Budget.