HC Deb 09 May 1963 vol 677 cc659-61
39. Sir T. Beamish

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the increased cost to taxpayers of carrying the whole of the cost of education at present borne by rates in the United Kingdom in terms of a graduated increase in income tax, the increased cost of a pint of beer, and the increased cost of a packet of 20 cigarettes, respectively.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster-General (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

On the assumption that the present cost to the rates of the education service is in the region of £350 million a year, this is equivalent to 11d. on the standard rate of Income Tax, with proportionate increase on the reduced rates.

It is theoretically equivalent to 10d. a pint on beer, or Is. 4d. on a packet of 20 cigarettes. This is, however, unrealistic for increases of this order would not raise this amount as consumption would be substantially reduced by increases of this order in the rate of duty.

Sir T. Beamish

My right hon. Friend will realise, of course, that I am not proposing in this Question that the whole cost of education should be borne by the taxpayer. Is he aware that there is a growing feeling that the present balance of 60–40 between taxpayer and ratepayer may not necessarily be the right one and that this has been highlighted by the recent revaluation and the very steep increases in some county rate poundages? If the balance were 70–30 or 75–25, that would not necessarily detract from the great responsibility of local authorities, but it would, at the same time, relieve ratepayers of some of the burden that they are at present having to carry.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I know my hon. and gallant Friend well enough not to have suspected what he feared I might have suspected. This is a complicated matter to discuss at Question Time. I thought, however, that what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government said the other day indicated that he had this very much in mind.

Mr. D. Smith

Nevertheless, does not my right hon. Friend agree that there is a very good case for transferring some of the cost of the education service to the National Exchequer?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am not certain that I can accept that when it is remembered that the rates take a smaller proportion of the gross national product than they did before the war.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he threatens to put 10d. a pint on beer the brewers will withdraw their subscriptions from Tory Party funds, and that this would be catastrophic for hon. Members behind him?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I did not so threaten, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the dire consequences he contemplates do not, therefore, arise.