§ 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.