HC Deb 24 May 1962 vol 660 cc647-9
7. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that, following the 15 per cent. tax on chocolate, some retail chemists have raised the price of chocolate for diabetics from 1s. 8d. to 2s. 4d. for a three-ounce block, an increase of 40 per cent.; and if he will take special steps by legislation to stabilise the price of diabetic chocolate.

Mr. Barber

The answer to the second part of the Question is "No, Sir". With regard to the first part, I have made inquiries and my information is that, in general, the increases in price have not been as suggested in the Question.

Mr. Allaun

If I can produce evidence that there are such cases, would not the hon. Gentleman think that a good way of avoiding such overcharging would be to remove the 15 per cent. Purchase Tax from all chocolates and sweets and then there would be no pretext for this increase?

Mr. Barber

We have already spent many hours considering that very question. I think the hon. Member knows the view of the Government on it very well. If he will let me have details of the particular case he has in mind, I shall certainly be glad to look at it.

Sir H. Linstead

Is it not a fact that at present there is a substantial remission of Purchase Tax on a large number of medicaments? Could that not be extended to diabetic foods and other requirements of diabetics to help them to lead a normal life?

Mr. Barber

We considered very carefully whether this type of product should be excluded from the scope of the new tax, but we came to the conclusion that if we were to do so it would inevitably lead to anomalies and disturbance in the trade. For these reasons, we decided that we must include it.

Mr. Callaghan

If the Minister will not take the special steps proposed, what other steps does he propose to take to control the price of these commodities, which enter into the cost of living? Is he aware that since we last debated the matter there has been a marked increase, of two points, in the cost of living and that it has gone up more in the last 12 months than at any time since the end of the war, except in the year of the Korean War? Is he aware that a man's wages of £15 a week are worth 18s. a week less than a year ago? How does he expect to sustain the pay pause in that situation?

Mr. Barber

I thought I had made it clear already that, as a result of this Question beiing on the Order Paper, I had made inquiries and that the information I have is that in general the increase of prices is not as is suggested in the Question. As to whether we should take special steps by legislation to deal with the price of this particular type of chocolate, I would only say that the Government of which the hon. Member was a member tried price control and it was hardly an unmitigated success.