HL Deb 30 April 1947 vol 147 cc242-3

2.54 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the second question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

[The question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government what were the imports of chewing gum base from the United States during 1946; what was the value of any such imports; whether the amount of any such expenditure was defrayed out of the American Loan; and, if so, what were the reasons which necessitated any such expenditure of dollars.]


My Lords, the noble Earl is as tenacious on this subject as the chewing gum about which he asks these questions. A total of 356 tons of chewing gum base, valued at £193,199, was imported from the united States in 1946. It is impossible to distinguish dollars drawn from the American credit from dollars otherwise available; the dollars paid for this commodity come from our general resources. Chewing gum base is the raw material used for manufacture into chewing gum in this country. (I see by their laughter that noble Lords appreciate the lucidity of this answer.) It is sold as part of the sweet ration, and not to import it would involve unjustifiable discrimination against those who use chewing gum as a substitute for tobacco, including people like miners who cannot smoke at their work.


I am also one who enjoys a piece of chewing gum when I am in an aeroplane, when I feel seasick, or when I am in a motor race and do not want my mouth to get dry. May I ask the noble Lord whether he thinks his answer coincides with the answer given to me by the then Secretary of State for India and Burma on March 18, and printed in column 400 of Hansard. The answer was as follows: My Lords, there is some misunderstanding here. His Majesty's Government have not sanctioned any expenditure on chewing gum. I agree that the expenditure was not on chewing gum, but when we distinguish between chewing gum base and chewing gum, are we not rather splitting hairs? I submit to the noble Lord that that was not a very accurate answer to give across the floor of the House.


I have given the noble Earl the best answer I can to the question which he has addressed to me this afternoon. I would suggest to the noble Earl that chewing gum base, which is a raw material imported into this country for the purpose of making into a sweetmeat, is quite different from the complete, manufactured article, with which his first question dealt.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend if he will be good enough to represent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a good hefty tax might be placed on this commodity?


I will draw the attention of my right honourable friend to it.


My Lords, could the noble Lord enlarge upon what he meant about a substitute for the sweet ration, because it appears to convey an innuendo which, possibly, might be justified.


With respect to the noble Lord, I think the answer is sufficiently clear.