HC Deb 30 April 1919 vol 115 cc206-7

I turn now to Death Duties. The last alteration in the scale of the Estate Duty was made in the first Budget of 1914, and it has not been altered during the War. I think that my predecessors were right in so doing. Death Duties are not a suitable instrument for meeting a temporary emergency. It requires a generation for all the property subject to the tax to pass under it, and accordingly it is only when you are considering a permanent increase of revenue that the Death Duties ought to be raised. We have come to the time when we have to consider permanent increase of revenue, and I propose to ask the Committee to sanction such an alteration in the scale as is estimated to produce, in a full year, a sum of £10,000,000. Hon. Members will find particulars of this scale in the explanatory White Paper which is being circulated today.

I will only say here that no change is made in the case of estates not exceeding £15,000 in value. Estates between £15,000 and £20,000 which now pay at the rate of 5 per cent. will in future pay at the rate of 6 per cent. The present rates rise from 6 per cent. to 9 per cent. in respect of estates of between £20,000 and £100,000. A corresponding rise in the new scale would be from 7 per cent. to 14 per cent. At present an estate of £250,000 pays 12 per cent. I propose in the future that it shall pay 20 per cent. The rate is now 16 per cent. on estates of £500,000, and the proposed new rate is 25 per cent. The maximum rate on the existing scale is 20 per cent., applicable to estates of over £1,000,000. I propose that estates between £1,000,000 and £1,250,000 should in the future pay 30 per cent., estates between £1,250,000 and £1,500,000 32 per cent., and between £1,500,000 and £2,000,000 35 per cent., and that estates of over £2,000,000 should pay 40 per cent., or double the existing maximum rate.

I do not conceal from myself or attempt to hide from the Committee the fact that these are very onerous rates of duty. They constitute, taken in conjunction with the Income Tax, a further differentiation between wealth derived from continuing personal exertion and wealth derived from accumulated capital. But they are more than that. They are an insurance for the safety of capital. Montesquieu said that taxation was that part of his wealth which each citizen gave to obtain the secure possession of the remainder.