HC Deb 12 March 1959 vol 601 cc1446-7
38. Mrs. Mann

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, when granting concessions of Purchase Tax, he will seek assurances that these concessions are passed on to the consumer.

Mr. Erroll

No, Sir. The hon. Lady is, I think, aware of my right hon. Lady is, I think aware of my right hon. Friend's view that this is a matter which must be left to the free play of competition.

Mrs. Mann

Is the Minister aware that his free play of competition has been going on since 1951 and with it an increase in the cost of living all the time? Is he aware that he will be appealed to on behalf of retailers to reduce Purchase Tax while at the same time they are circulating a memorandum, a copy of which I have here, giving a £9 reduction to retailers on condition that the reduction is not passed on to the consumers? Is not it imperative in the circumstances that we should speed up any concessions in Purchase Tax and see that they are passed on to the consumers?

Mr. Erroll

I shall be grateful if the hon. Lady will let me see the paper to which she has referred. I can only say that the free play of competition worked very well last year.

Mr. H. Morrison

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether it is intended when a Purchase Tax reduction is made that the benefit should be brought to the consumer? If that be so, is not the responsibility on the Government to see that the benefit to the consumer is received and that it is not merely left to what he calls the free play of free competition?

Mr. Erroll

This is a complicated plan to administer since the tax is levied at the wholesale stage. In view of our experience last year, we are able to say with real justification that free play of free competition does result in reductions, last year's having been passed on to the consumer with the minimum of delay.