HC Deb 06 August 1918 vol 109 cc1313-5

The simple Amendment which I propose is to substitute for Clauses 9, 10, and 11 of the Bill three very similar, though slightly different, Clauses which are set out in the Report of the Joint Select Committee. The reason for the Amendment may be quite shortly stated. The law as it now stands employs the word "person." The word "person" is ambiguous. Does it mean a real individual or does it include an artificial person? Does it include an unincorporated body of persons? And does it include corporations? That question is not an exhilarating one, I admit. The point has been decided with regard to unincorporated bodies of persons. The House of Lords has held that, for the purpose of exemption or abatement, the word does not include an unincorporated body of persons. The principle on which the House of Lords decided that case really involves also the case of corporations. What I now propose, therefore, is to substitute for this and the next two Clauses three Clauses which will make it clear that "person," so far as abatement and exemption from Income Tax are concerned, refers only to individuals and not to corporate bodies. The Amendment is conformity with the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Select Committee, for the purpose of declaring the law to be what it is and what in practice it has been interpreted as being. It is simply a statement of the existing principle of law and the existing practice. I will read from the Committee's Report the proposed new 9th, 10th, and 11th Clauses:

9. Belief from Tax Based on Total Income.— An individual who claims and proves, in the manner prescribed by this Act, that his total income from all sources for the year of assessment, estimated in accordance with the provisions of this Act, does not exceed the amounts in the six Sections next following stated shall be entitled to such relief as is mentioned in those Sections.

10.—Exemption.—Where the income does not exceed one hundred awl thirty pounds, the claimant shall be entitled to exemption from Income Tax.

11. Abatement.—Where the income, although exceeding one hundred and thirty pounds, does not exceed seven hundred pounds, the claimant shall be entitled to relief by way of abatement as follows:

  1. (a) if the income does not exceed four hundred pounds, relief from tax upon one hundred and twenty pounds; or
  2. (b) if the income exceeds four hundred pounds and does not exceed six hundred pounds, relief from tax upon one hundred pounds; or
  3. (c) if the income exceeds six hundred pounds and does not exceed seven hundred pounds, relief from tax upon seventy pounds.


I should inform the Committee that this Motion was brought to my notice about a week ago, and I thought it would be my duty to give it most careful examination as to whether this change did by any possibility involve a charge, and after that careful examination I came to the conclusion that the recommendation was merely declaratory of a change in the law and did not impose a charge on any person or persons not at present charged.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.

Clauses 10 (General Right to Abatement or Relief) and 11 (Abatements where Income does Not Exceed £700), negatived.

Clauses 12 to 239 inclusive ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clauses 9 (Relief from Tax Based on Total Income) and 10 (Exemption)—[for terms see Sir G. Hewart's speech on Clause 9]—brought up, read the first and second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 11 (Abatement)—[for terms see Sir G. Hewart's speech on Clause 9]—brought up and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."


I followed as well as I could, having regard to my defective hearing, the Clauses read out by the Solicitor-General, but the figures are substantially different in (a) and (b), and this is the disadvantage of having to deal with Clauses that are not on the Paper. I am not absolutely sure that there is no change in the scale of abatements, and I thought perhaps the scale of abatements were altered from the last Budget, or something of that sort.


I tried to follow the Clauses so far as my inferior intellect enabled me to do, and certainly I think there has been an alteration of the sums; but you have assured me, Sir, that you have studied the matter carefully and that the Clauses do not impose a charge. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman (Mr. King) will follow my example in accepting the assurance as satisfactory with respect to these Clauses.


I am quite willing to follow the right hon. Gentleman's advice.


I think, on the question of the figures, it is better for hon. Members to take the assurance of the Joint Committee than my assurance. My assurance was on the point of the difference between the words "person" and "individual." That was the point that was submitted to me, on which I gave a considered ruling.


May we have the assurance from the Solicitor-General, because the figures do differ?


I hope my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. King) will not blame any defect in his hearing, which does not exist, nor my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) any inferiority in his intellect—


Which does exist!


No; I was going to say, "which nobody perceives." It was a failure on my part to explain the matter. The figures are not altered. There is nothing of substance altered, but it is made plain that "person" means "individual," and does not, for this purpose, include a corporation.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause accordingly read a second time and added to the Bill.

Schedules ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported; as amended, considered; read the third time, and passed, with Amendments.