HC Deb 10 May 1962 vol 659 c630
32. Sir B. Janner

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the correspondence between himself and the hon. Member for North-West Leicester regarding the imposition of Customs' duty on tobacco sent to an old age pensioner in the North-West Leicester constituency, if he will instruct Customs officers to waive charges on gifts of tobacco and spirits of small value sent to old-age pensioners in this country by relatives and friends abroad.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Anthony Barber)

No, Sir. Tobacco and spirits are liable to very high rates of Customs duty; any concession for imported gifts of this kind would lead to gross inequity and would be open to widespread abuse, resulting in heavy loss of revenue.

Sir B. Janner

Is the Economic Secretary aware that he is talking about a man who reaches his seventieth birthday soon, an old-age pensioner, who has been charged £6 11s. for 28 ounces of tobacco worth three dollars, the tobacco having been sent to him by his own sister? Surely we are not sufficiently mean as not to allow a concession in an exceptional case like that? Will he reconsider the matter and ensure that on future occasions we do not act in this mean way?

Mr. Barber

If the hon. Gentleman himself considers the matter more carefully, I am sure that he will appreciate that there would be very great practical difficulties in distinguishing between gifts and purchases and also between parcels for old-age pensioners and parcels for other people. Further, to do what he suggests would really amount to a benefit in kind for pensioners who are fortunate enough to receive gifts of tobacco and liquor from abroad. I do not think that this is a proposal which we should take further.