§ MR. SANDFORD
rose to move—That, in the opinion of this House, incomes not exceeding £300 per annum should be exempted from the payment of Income Tax.The hon. Gentleman remarked that, considering the exemptions proposed by Mr. Pitt, Sir Robert Peel, the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), he did not think it was too much to ask the House to exempt incomes up to that amount. He believed the income tax was a proper tax if fairly levied, and if it were repealed the revenue would be mainly derived from the Customs and Excise duties. The burden would then fall almost exclusively on the shoulders of the working classes. If there were one class more than another interested in the maintenance of the income tax, it was the county Members. Now, if they endeavoured to shift the burden of local taxation and place it on the Imperial Exchequer, he believed such a system would not be tolerated for one moment. While the working classes at any period of national prosperity shared that prosperity by a rise in wages, people with fixed incomes suffered by the rise in prices. To repeal the income tax on incomes not exceeding £300 a-year would, he calculated, not cost more than £300,000 or £350,000 a-year, and he did not know how relief could be so largely afforded to a suffering class by any other similar remission of taxation. He did not appeal to this House on behalf of any wealthy classes or interests, but for a class upon whom direct taxation pressed most severely, and he hoped that he should not appeal in vain. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Resolution.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, incomes not
exceeding £300 per annum should be exempted from the payment of Income Tax,"—(Mr. Sandford,)
§ MR. HERMON
must oppose the Motion, fearing that it would put recipients of £300 a-year to much trouble and vexation in proving their exemption, and would be as bad as paying the tax. The chief objection to the income tax was its inquisitorial character. Apart from this objection it was a fair tax.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he did not object to the discussion of financial questions at whatever time seemed convenient to hon. Members; but it would be very inconvenient for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to enter prematurely into these discussions, raising as they did many important points connected with Imperial taxation. With respect to the principle involved in the Amendment of the hon. Member, it was a principle which had been admitted ever since we had an income tax—that was, that there should be some limit of income below which people should not have to pay the tax. The precise limit, however, raised a question of a very delicate and difficult character, and one which ought to be approached with sufficient preparation, and at a time when the attention of the House was directed to subjects of this kind. He thought that at the present moment the House was hardly prepared to enter into a full consideration of all the points which had been raised; and therefore he hoped his hon. Friend would feel that it was from no want of respect to him or appreciation of the importance of the question that he asked to be excused from entering now into any discussion of the question. To adopt such a Resolution as had been proposed was, in the first place, rather to anticipate and settle the question as to the permanence of the tax itself, a question to be discussed at the proper time; and, secondly, it raised a great number of questions which ought to be discussed when the whole finance of the country was before the House, and they could deal with the subject as a whole. He hoped, therefore, that the House would consent now to proceed with the business of the Navy Estimates, and that his hon. Friend would reserve any other discussion on this subject till the 15th of April, when practical proposals would 1617 be submitted on the part of the Government, and that of his hon. Friend might be brought forward in opposition to or in competition with them.
§ MR. HANKEY
said, that, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the time being, Motions like that submitted by the hon. Member were never submitted at the right time. When brought forward before the Budget they were too soon, and after the Budget they were too late. Having acted for many years as an Income Tax Commissioner in the City of London, he did not agree with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hermon) that there would be much practical difficulty in proving the exemption. He trusted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would, before making his Financial Statement, give the question his serious consideration, with a view to bringing about some relief from the tax. What he would himself propose would be to exempt everybody up to a certain point, which he thought would be a very equitable mode of dealing with the matter.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, the circumstances were very different when the limit of exemption was fixed, and therefore the minimum below which incomes were not charged ought to be raised. He trusted the Chancellor of the Exchequer would take this matter into serious consideration in making his financial proposals.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 213; Noes 77: Majority 136.