HC Deb 29 November 1966 vol 737 cc187-90
8. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, in view of the information supplied to him by the hon. Member for South Bedfordshire, he will now seek to make special arrangements for bigger exporters affected by the Selective Employment Tax.

Mr. MacDermot

My hon. Friend's information relates to a company which exports services and therefore does not qualify for premium.

Mr. Roberts

Would my hon. and learned Friend agree that it is high time to make the Selective Employment Tax more selective on the penalty and premium sides? Would he further agree——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must learn to put supplementary questions concisely. We want a fair distribution of time as well as of wealth.

Mr. Roberts

Would my hon. and learned Friend further agree that this type of firm plays a vital part in our export drive and in our technical and scientific advance?

Mr. MacDermot

I have already paid tribute to the work of this firm in the export field. All aspects of this tax have been kept under review, but I think that this suggestion might raise international difficulties.

Sir C. Osborne

In view of the previous question, would the hon. and learned Gentleman be careful not to give help to exporters who are already wealthy through exporting?

9. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are the results of his study so far of the effect of the Selective Employment Tax on the employment of disabled persons; and whether he will now bring forward remedial measures.

63. Mr. Cronin

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what information he has as to the employment prospects of disabled persons since the introduction of the Selective Employment Tax; and what measures he will take to assist disabled persons.

Mr. MacDermot

We are keeping a close watch on the effects of the Selective Employment Tax on the employment of disabled persons. As was anticipated there is little evidence so far of any adverse effects.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

But is it not a fact that the general employment situation makes much more difficult the employment of disabled people? Is it not essential to be absolutely certain that no artificial handicap is put in their way?

Mr. MacDermot

I do not think that there is any handicap here. But the statistics of unemployment in those industries which do not get the premium or refund show that there has been proportionately less effect on the disabled than on those who are not handicapped.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that this was the very first matter which caused concern on both sides of the House when his right hon. Friend's proposals were brought forward? He has received deputations from the British Legion and other people who have expressed their anxiety about the effect of this tax on the disabled.

Mr. MacDermot

I personally have not received deputations. The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that this was a matter which was discussed at great length during our debates. All that I am pointing out is that the results bear out what we said in reply to the suggestions in those debates.

22. Mr. Palmer

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimates he has made of the total amount of selective employment tax which will be collected from retail Co-operative societies in a full year and of the total amount of premium and refunds likely to be paid to the tobacco and brewing industries in a full year.

Mr. MacDermot

Very broadly, about £11 million in a full year. I cannot at this stage make reliable estimates of premium and refund payments to particular industries.

Mr. Palmer

But is my hon. and learned Friend happy about the distortion of true social values brought about as a result of the working out of the Selective Employment Tax? When he gets the figures and is amazed by them, will he think again?

Mr. MacDermot

I do not know whether my hon. Friend is referring to the contrast which he draws in his Questions as being a distortion of true social values. Both tobacco and beer are already subject to a heavy Excise Duty. This tax was designed to bear on services, and the retail outlets for tobacco and beer, like those for other manufactured goods, are subject to the tax.

Mr. W. T. Williams

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that about 80 per cent. of all the distribution turnover of the co-operative societies is in essential goods like food and fuel? Will he now —after all, he has had seven months to look at this—look at the way in which rebates are made and premiums given back, to restore what seems to many of us on this side a proper respect for proper priorities?

Mr. MacDermot

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend has undertaken to keep this tax under review and this is being done.

Mrs. Thatcher

As the hon. and learned Gentleman says that he cannot yet make an estimate, can he at least say when the premiums in the Question will be paid?

Mr. MacDermot

The premiums will begin to be paid in January.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is not this Government becoming the despair of the Co-operative movement? Is not this movement one which should not be attached to any political party and is it not a fact that many co-operators are turning to the Tory Party?

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. MacDermot

I am very glad to see the new-found interest of the hon. Member and other hon. Members opposite in the Co-operative movement. I can assure him that the movement is not despairing of the Government.

32. Dr. John Dunwoody

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will seek to introduce an additional element of selectivity into the Selective Employment Tax in order to assist the development areas.

Mr. MacDermot

We have the problem of the development areas very much in mind, but I cannot anticipate what changes may be made in this scheme.

Dr. Dunwoody

Would not my hon. and learned Friend agree that many of the development areas are facing a very serious situation indeed? In view of his right hon. Friend's Answer to an earlier Question—to the effect that consideration is being given to shielding these areas—will he give very serious consideration to the suggestion that S.E.T. should be used to differentiate between the development areas and the rest of the country?

Mr. MacDermot

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend made it clear in the Finance Bill debates last summer that this is a matter which he would study, and that is being done.