HC Deb 14 February 1957 vol 564 cc1421-2
14. Sir W. Anstruther-Gray

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that, owing to a new ruling by Customs and Excise, the tax on Highland dancing competitions has been raised from 2½d. to 6½d. on a 2s. 6d. seat; that this compares unfairly with the rate charged at ballet dancing, variety entertainment or the Welsh Eistedfodd; and whether he will give the matter his attention.

30. Mr. Pryde

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why competitive Highland dancing is now classified under Scale 2 of the Entertainments duty.

Mr. Powell

Scale 2 of Entertainments Duty covers admissions to watch such dancing as cannot be regarded as ballet or as variety entertainment. Whether Highland dancing competitions can be so regarded depends upon the circumstances of each case, and the classification of a particular competition may have been altered as a result of changes in its programme.

Sir W. Anstruther-Gray

Yes, but is my hon. Friend aware that in many cases the classification turned out unfortunately? Would he be prepared to look into this matter again, because Highland dancing is a very desirable pastime?

Mr. Powell

The classification is, of course, a matter of law. As I pointed out, it may well be that the character of an entertainment changes from one year to another, but I will gladly look at any case which my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind.

Mr. Pryde

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Ellen MacGregor and Rob Roy won every competition from the Mull of Galloway to the Mull of Kintyre without being asked for one penny piece of taxation and that this tax in Scotland today is a tax to finance the Government's misadventures in Egypt?

Mr. Powell

I cannot say whether the performances of the artistes to which the hon. Gentleman refers would properly be classified either as ballet or as variety entertainment.

Sir A. Gomme-Duncan

In view of the fact that Highland dancing is immensely superior from a cultural point of view to ballet in the ordinary sense or variety—

Mr. Nabarro

Or rock 'n roll. It is much better than that.

Sir A. Gomme-Duncan

—will not my hon. Friend give this matter very careful attention to see whether he cannot do something about it?

Mr. Powell

Certainly I will look at any case which my hon. and gallant Friend brings to my attention.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is not this a very short-sighted policy from the point of view of the Exchequer, for a large quantity of whisky is consumed at these meetings? Would it not pay the hon. Gentleman to take off this tax and thus catch more whisky drinkers?

Mr. Powell

Not unless the whisky were consumed inside rather than outside the enclosure.

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