HL Deb 01 February 1949 vol 160 cc417-8

2.36 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government whether they will consider the removal of Purchase Tax levied upon articles of compulsory uniform for officers of the Services.]


My Lords, His Majesty's Government see no reason for a Purchase Tax discrimination in favour of officers of the Services, particularly in view of the revised rates of outfit allowance announced by the Minister of Defence on January 19. The new rates are designed to cover the full cost (including Purchase Tax) of officers' uniforms on first commissioning, subject to prescribed scales and standards.


My Lords, arising out of that reply, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is not aware that his answer really amounts to an expression of the old policy of giving with one hand and taking away with the other? Is the noble Lord aware that the answer of the Minister of Defence on January 19 referred to the first commissioning and presumably to the first cost of a uniform? Is the noble Lord aware that in the case of a naval officer the first cost of a uniform reefer is £16 4s. 4d., on which Purchase Tax is £3 4s. 10d., and on a pair of trousers the Purchase Tax is £1 13s. 9d., making about £5 Purchase Tax in all? Is the noble Lord also aware that no naval officer is going to look smart or in any way a credit to the Service if he gets only one monkey jacket a year? Would it not be well that this aspect of the question should be studied carefully? After all, an officer must have more than one monkey jacket and one pair of trousers.

Further down in the answer of the Minister of Defence it is stated that, with regard to the Navy, "the whole matter is under consideration." How long will it be under consideration and when will it be possible for a further answer to be given? May I ask whether the noble Lord is aware that in the case of a naval officer the amount of Purchase Tax on a uniform comes to over £14? That seems to be the average. Does the noble Lord not think that it may still be possible to give further consideration to this matter, and not to shut the door as he appears to have done by the answer which he has just given?


The noble Earl has asked me whether I am aware of a dozen or so different things. I am nor aware of most of them. I must study later on some of the matters to which he has referred in detail in the course of his speech, to see whether what he says is accurate or not. I will gladly undertake to study matters which the noble Earl has raised and to communicate afterwards with him, while at the same time holding out no hope whatever of granting his request.


Does not the noble Lord think that even if he is a bit "sticky" about monkey jackets, having regard to the incidence and the accidents of service a second pair of trousers might at least be conceded?


I think there may well be a great deal in what the noble Viscount has said. Even as the result of sitting on these Benches, we sometimes require a new pair of trousers. I would point out that Service officers have a special Income Tax allowance for the maintenance of uniform throughout their service. To use a phrase which has been endeared to us by reasons of its use by the noble Earl—is the noble Viscount aware of that?

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