HC Deb 17 December 1981 vol 15 cc441-2
10. Mrs. Knight

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what duty is payable on each heart valve used in open heart surgery imported into the United Kingdom; and under what circumstances this duty is paid.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

The Customs duties chargeable in the United Kingdom are those established in the Customs tariff of the European Communities. Heart: valves are currently liable at either 8 per cent. or 9.1 per cent. according to their type, and this duty is payable on importation from most countries outside the European Community. An application for suspension of duty has recently been approved by the Council of Ministers and some heart valves will become free of duty from 1 January 1982.

Mrs. Knight

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that his answer is only partially satisfactory? Will he confirm that the amount of duty payable is £50 per heart valve and that that is a tax on life itself? Does he accept that this is not a commodity in the normal sense of the word as it is useful only to surgeons and their patients? Will he confirm that the valves come from specially reared pigs in the United States and that if they could be produced in the EEC or in Britain no duty would be payable?

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I understand that the suspension which has been announced will apply to bioprosthetic heart valves, which I believe have caused anxiety in my hon. Friend's area. Duty on those will be suspended from the beginning of next year.

I remind my hon. Friend that Customs duties afford protection to Community producers, and it is right that producers of heart valves or of any other medical supplies should have some protection, in common with most other industries. I should point out, however, that although tax is applied to medical supplies it is taken into account in the financing of the Health Service and compensated in that way.