HC Deb 04 February 1913 vol 47 cc1968-70

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, under Sections 20 and 24 of the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910, proprietors of minerals and mineral rights in England paid Mineral Rights Duty for the three years 1909–10, 1910–11, and 1911–12, on the net amount only after deduction made for county and parish rates payable in England not by the proprietor but by the tenant; whether, during those three years, proprietors in Scotland had to pay the Mineral Rights Duty on the gross amount without deduction for public burdens which, in England, are by law a charge on the tenants, and in Scotland are charged on the landlords; whether during these three years the proprietors in Scotland have in consequence been taxed relatively higher than proprietors in England; and whether he will take the requisite measures, now that this inequality of taxation for Mineral Rights Duty has been rectified for future years in favour of Scottish proprietors by the Finance Act of 1912 (Section 11), so that he may order a refund for the three years, 1909–10, 1910–11, and 1911–12, of what may be just and reasonable in respect of the inequality of the levy, and so follow the precedent set forth in the Taxes Act (chapter 80) of 1856, passed for granting relief in assessing the Income Tax on lands in Scotland in respect of certain public burdens charged thereon, which Act provides for both abatement from the assessment and repayment of Income Tax by the Commissioners of the Inland Revenue under regulations made by them in that behalf?


The answers to the first three parts of my hon. Friend's question are in the affirmative; with regard to the last part, my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension in suggesting that Section 1 of the Taxes Act, 1856, was retrospective in its effect, the provision for repayment in that Section being merely an alternative method of granting relief in future cases where circumstances render that course necessary. Section 11 of the Finance Act, 1912, follows the precedent of Section 1 of the Taxes Act, 1856, and I do not propose to take any steps to render either Section retrospective.


What is the objection to giving back to Scotchmen the money which belongs to them which the Government have now got in their possession?


If the Treasury has got any money erroneously, do they not consider it their duty to pay it back?


I do not at all agree with my hon. Friend that we got money erroneously. After all, amendments to Finance Acts, Income Tax Acts, and others, have never been followed by a return of the money collected under the unamended Acts. Otherwise the finance of the country would be impossible.


Did the right hon. Gentleman not acknowledge that it was rather hard on Scotland that it had not been remitted?


I agree, but my answer is still the same. The constant amendment of the Income Tax Acts is reason that they ought to have been amended before, but that is no reason for the return of the money.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the sum is a comparatively small one, and should he not consider the desirability of repaying the amount, as there has been a good case made out?


I agree, but the principle is the same, and if you once acknowledge this principle I am perfectly sure it would be impossible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer in future not to follow it. The sum is small, but it establishes a very large principle indeed.


Does the right hon. Gentleman not know very well that although the principle is the same the application is not the same?


I did admit I agree, when the case was brought before me, it ought to be amended, and I assisted an Amendment, as the hon. Baronet knows very well, with regard to the Licensing Act, but we could not possibly start the principle of returning the money collected in circumstances of that kind.