HC Deb 29 October 1920 vol 133 cc2149-64

  1. (1) The Parliament of Southern Ireland or of Northern Ireland shall have power either to impose an additional Income Tax or Super-tax (hereinafter referred to as a surtax) on individuals resident in Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland respectively in respect of the total income of those individuals from all sources, or to grant relief from those taxes or either of them to such individuals, and the surtax may be imposed or the relief given either generally to all such individuals or to individuals whose total income exceeds, or is less than, such amount as may be determined by the Act imposing the tax or granting the relief, and in the case of the imposition of a surtax, whether or not the individuals are liable to Income Tax or Super-tax.
  2. (2) The Act imposing the surtax may provide for its being levied and collected in like manner as Super-tax, and in such ease for applying the provisions of the Income Tax Acts as to the levying and collection of Super-tax.
  3. (3) Such relief as aforesaid shall be granted, by way of repayment of any part 2150 or the whole of the Income Tax or Super-tax paid by the individuals to whom the relief is granted, and the Act granting the relief may provide for the amounts so repayable being repaid in like manner as other repayments under the Income Tax Acts.
  4. (4) The levying and collection of any such surtax and the making of such repayments shall rest with the Government of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland, as the case may be, and the proceeds of the surtax shall be paid into, and the repayments shall be made out of, the Consolidated Fund of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland, as the case may be: Provided that the Commissioners of Inland Revenue and other authorities and officers by whom Income Tax and Super-tax are levied and collected may at the request and at the expense of the Government of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland, as the case may be levy and collect such surtax or make such payments on behalf of the Government of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland.
  5. (5) Sums collected or paid under this Section, whether or not collected or paid by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, shall not be taken into account in determining for the purposes of this Act the amount of the Irish share of reserved taxes.

Amendment made: In Sub-section (1), after the word "resident" ["on individuals resident in Southern Ireland"], insert the words "and domiciled."—[Sir L. Worthington-Evans.]


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1) to leave out the words "from all sources" and to insert instead thereof the words "arising in Southern and Northern Ireland, respectively."

Under the Clause as it stands a man domiciled in Ireland can be subject to Income Tax and Super-tax imposed by the Southern or the Northern Parliament in respect not only of property in Ireland, but in respect of the whole of his property and income from all sources. That is open to great objection. In the first place it is a double Income Tax—an Income Tax leviable in Ireland in addition to the Income Tax leviable in England. That in itself is undesirable. What I might call a full-blooded Income Tax, levied on all a man's possessions, wherever situated, ought not to be levied by a subordinate Parliament, such as these Parliaments in Northern and Southern Ireland undoubtedly are. Think of the effect. A man domiciled in Ireland with a very small amount of property there might be taxed in England for Super-tax and Income Tax up to 10s. or 12s. in the £. If the Clause stands as it is he might also be taxed by the Southern or Northern Ireland Parliament to exactly the same extent, or even more, if that be possible, and he might pay in addition to the 10s. or 12s. of United Kingdom Income Tax a further 10s. or 12s. to one of these Irish Parliaments. In other words, he might be taxed out of existence. That is an impossible suggestion. If these subordinate Parliaments are to be given any power at all of imposing Income Tax or Super-tax I suggest that it would be only reasonable to say that the tax should be levied only on the income which arises in Ireland. There might be some difficulty in working out the amount of that income, but the Joint Exchequer Board is confronted with an exactly similar problem, and I believe it would be possible for the Treasury to frame regulations. I do urge right hon. Gentlemen to make this concession. I do not think it would be reasonable to give these Parliaments power to tax a man out of existence, either in the North or the South. I am quite certain they would not do so in the North, but from other actions which have occurred in the South it is by no means improbable that the new Irish Southern Parliament might not hesitate to inflict punishment of that sort on persons with whom they disagreed. Unless my right hon. Friend can meet me to a certain extent I shall feel bound to move to leave out that Clause. If it is granted in that limited form I suggest perhaps it might be wise to leave it in as a concession or sort of sop to Southern Ireland to come in.


Some hon. Friends and myself have given notice to leave out that Clause, and we intend to put forward our views on this Amendment. I agree with what the hon. and learned Gentleman has just said as to the danger of what is in effect a double Income Tax. It seems to me that even with the insertion of this Amendment the disadvantages of the Clause would be exactly those which the right hon. Gentleman, speaking on an earlier Amendment, said would arise if you allowed Ireland to collect its own Income Tax. The Primrose Committee of 1911, which has been referred to on several occasions, referred to this matter. That was a body composed of financial experts and of men who were really acquainted with the financial position of Ireland. The report says: It would unfortunately be necessary to provide against the payment on one and the same income of Income Tax to both Exchequers. That applies to this Clause. If you give power to impose this surtax a man may be paying Income Tax to both Exchequers. In the recommendations of the Primrose Committee it is stated: We recommend that 'double Income Tax be awarded, and that each country should bear one-half of the cost that the concession will entail.' The suggestion of a surtax is a most dangerous one, and I am surprised that the Government, contrary to the views expressed on a previous Amendment, should have put forward such a proposal. Many of us who proposed to give greater responsibility to the Governments of Northern and Southern Ireland are unable to support this proposal. You may have a sweeping surtax imposed on a man who will be already paying a heavy tax under the ordinary law. I submit the proposal is a dangerous one, and one which does not seem to be very necessary to the financial clauses or principles of the Bill. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he can amend this Clause on Report. We are considering the Clause to-day in a very thin House, and I am bound to say that I feel if it were discussed in a fuller Committee it would have been found that a large number of Members in all quarters who cared for what I call financial probity and the honour of the country would not agree to a proposal which might have the effect of being used as a method of extermination of political opponents.

2.0 P.M.


We have had two very interesting speeches dealing with very different subjects. I do not complain of that, as it is for the convenience of the Committee that we should get the whole thing in perspective. The hon. and learned Baronet (Sir J. Butcher) moved an Amendment which would limit the power of surtax or the grant of relief to the incomes arising in Ireland. My noble Friend (Earl Winterton) wanted to omit the Clause altogether, but failing that he would like to see it cut down in the way proposed by the Amendment. The Amendment proposes that the only income which should be subject to this tax is that which arises within the jurisdiction of the Irish Parliament which sought to place the tax upon it. I have already moved an Amendment to the Clause as printed which limits it to the power to tax those who are domiciled in that particular part of Ireland; that is to say, those who are making that their real home. Is it to be suggested that the local State Parliament, as regards those who are domiciled within their jurisdiction, should only have power to tax revenue arising from that territory? A professional man's whole income would be subject to this surtax. If he were a doctor or a barrister, or otherwise earning his living, his whole income would be subject to the surtax, but a man ten times as wealthy, deriving a relatively small income from that territory, but deriving a large income from outside, would only have perhaps a tenth of his income subject to the surtax, and that, surely, is unfair and not practicable. Remember that the question is now confined to those who are resident and domiciled within the jurisdiction of the Parliament, and surely for those people it is right that the Parliament should have power to tax any income, from whatever it might be derived. Again, would it be possible to distinguish between income which was derived partly from one source and partly from another? Take a shareholder in a bank. The bank's profits might be derived from the North or from the South of Ireland, or from both, or partly from the United Kingdom and partly from elsewhere. You could not follow to the extent at least of saying that the tax should apply to the countries from which he profits were derived. You might say, if the bank were domiciled in the North of Ireland, then all income derived from that bank should be treated as income arising from the North of Ireland, but that would be a very arbitrary division.


Does not this very difficulty arise in the case of the Joint Exchequer Board in considering contributions?


I do not want to belittle the difficulties of the Joint Exchequer Board, as I realise that they will be considerable, but that is quite a different question. You have got it chiefly in Customs and Income Tax, but I can quite conceive the Joint Exchequer Board laying down rules that this class of income should be treated as being from Ireland, and that class of income should be treated as arising from England, which would equalise over the whole field that they are to cover. I admit that it is going to be difficult, but at the same time for a long time past an endeavour has been made in that direction in connection with the Financial Relations Return, and there has already been built up a quite considerable practice which has been tested over a series of years. Without pretending that that is absolute, I do believe the Joint Exchequer Board will be able to lay down a general principle which will work out fairly over a series of years and over the broad area over which they will operate. This, however, is quite a different question. You have got first of all to make up your mind whether it is really desirable, if you give a power to surtax at all, to limit that power so that the citizen who invests money abroad shall be free of surtax, and the citizen who invests his money at home to assist his home industries shall be subject to the surtax. I really do not believe my hon. and learned Friend will think it worth while to pursue the Amendment.

My Noble Friend says this power to surtax may be made a political instrument which might be brought to bear upon political opponents oppressively. In one sense all taxation, as I think we have seen from time to time, may be directed towards certain classes of persons rather than towards others, and to that extent my Noble Friend's argument must be admitted, but not specially this surtax. After all, what the Government has done has been this; to preserve the single system of Income Tax and to give with it, subject to that, the greatest possible liberty of taxation to the State Parliament. It has been done in America, and no difficulty has been found there. There have been State Income Taxes, and there is the Federal Income Tax in America, and I see no see no reason why it should not work perfectly equitably here.


It presses very heavily on businesses in America.


Of course, Income Tax presses heavily, but I do not know that my Noble Friend can possibly say that the American surtax presses specially hardly—the State Income Tax presses specially hardly—because as a rule, I believe, it is a very light tax, and I do not anticipate that this is likely to be a very heavy tax. But after all, the State Parliament under this proposal is given the liberty without breaking up our single system of taxation. If we were not able to give this liberty under Clause 23, I frankly say that I should have had very much greater difficulty in dealing with the Amendments which propose to transfer Income Tax and Super-tax to the two Parliaments, but we can refuse that because we are giving this liberty under Clause 23 and because on balance it is better both for Great Britain and for Ireland that the single system of taxation should be maintained, provided you give a reasonable liberty. This does give a reasonable liberty, and therefore I am afraid I cannot accept the Amendment.


This point seems to me to exemplify in a very direct manner what we have been trying to say during the last few days. The right hon. Gentleman has said that they have put in these powers of surtax because they could not give the Irish Parliaments control over the other sources of taxation, and they had to give them some liberty. That seems to me to be a very curious way of treating the problem. It would have been much better to have given the full powers of taxation and to have avoided the possibility, and in my view the almost certainty, of unfair taxation being imposed under this Clause. I am inclined to think—I speak as an Englishman in ignorance of Irish conditions—that the Amendment that has just been passed at the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman inserting "domicile" into this Clause is going to make the danger even worse, for observe what will happen. The surtax will be imposed upon the Irishman who is actually domiciled in Ireland. That means that the rich man with houses in other parts of the United Kingdom will escape, and the man who will be at the mercy of the Southern Parliament will be the man who actually lives there and has his property there. That is the man whom by this inverted process of taxation the Government pro pose to hit. He is a man who, as a rule, will have a certain amount of property, and will therefore be liable to surtax.

I am given to understand that the people of means in Ireland, no doubt possibly due to their greater understanding in political questions, are in many cases Unionists in the South and West. Political lines go hand in hand with economic lines, and the result will be that in giving this measure of liberty to the Southern Parliament you will be merely inviting them to retaliate against the scattered Unionists in that part of Ireland, and at a moment when party feeling will be very bitter. I am afraid one must face the fact that for some time at least party feeling in Southern Ireland will be very bitter. As the result of this Clause, in order to give some sort of eye-wash to the Southern Parliament in the matter of finance, we really invite discrimination and persecution against the scattered Unionists. I therefore very much hope the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider what he has said, and that between now and the Report stage will think over again what has been said by the hon. Baronet opposite, and that when we come to discuss the Bill on the Report stage this very objectionable Clause will be removed altogether.


My right hon. Friend has pointed out the difficulty in the way of my proposal, but he has not answered at all what I conceive to be the strength of my proposal, namely, the injustice which might be perpetrated on individuals if this Clause stands as drawn. The injustice I refer to is this. If a man is to be taxed first of all in the United Kingdom upon the whole of his income, from whatever source, to the extent of 10s. or 12s. in the £, and is then to be taxed in Ireland also to the extent of his whole income by another 10s. or 12s., surely my right hon. Friend will say that that is a state of things which ought not to be permitted, and the possibility of which ought not to be conceded by this Bill. He has offered no answer to that at all. He has only said there are difficulties in the way. May I suggest two ways to avoid the injustice, if he will not accept the principle involved in my Amendment? He might do one of two things. He might either limit the power of these two Parliaments in Ireland with regard to imposing Income Tax and Super-tax to a certain specified amount. For instance, if a man is paying the full rate in this country, then I think it would be reasonable to say that the Irish Parliament should not be allowed to impose full Income Tax upon him at more than a certain figure, which might be provided by the Bill. Perhaps he will consider that before the Report Stage as a means of avoiding what might be a very gross and glaring injustice upon a man resident in Ireland. There is another way in which this injustice might be got rid of. The Bill might provide that if a man pays a double Income Tax a similar method might be adopted as in the case of a man paying double Income Tax here and in the Dominions, namely, that a portion of the Income Tax might be remitted in this country or vice versâ.

Unless the right hon. Gentleman meets that case in one of two ways, I say you put into the hands of the Southern Irish Parliament the power to commit very flagrant and gross injustice upon persons who happen to be resident in the South. Let us make no secret about it. I believe Irishmen under this Bill domiciled in the North will have nothing to fear. I believe the Northern Parliament will treat them in every way fairly, but I am expressing the feeling of every Irishman who knows the country, who knows the present opinion in the South and West of Ireland, when I say there is danger as to what will happen to Loyalists in the South and West of Ireland under this Bill, and my right hon. Friend, by this Clause, is putting in to the hands of the Southern Parliament a weapon which, in the present temper of the majority of the people in the South, they may use most harshly, in a manner which will create great injustice to the loyal population of the South of Ireland. I speak here as coming from the South of Ireland. I have many dear friends there, many men who have done their duty in Ireland and elsewhere, and I say these men ought to be protected. I grant you that when you set up this Parliament in Ireland it will be impossible by legislation to prevent every individual form of hardship and injustice upon these loyal men in Ireland. But I do say it would be a very grave scandal if my right hon. Friend were to sanction a Clause in this Bill, and a Clause prepared by himself, which would put a direct weapon in the hands of the Southern Parliament to injure their opponents. I do beg of him between now and the Report stage to discover some method, either one of those I suggest or some other, for the purpose of relieving the inhabitants of the South of Ireland from what might be a very grave menace and a very grave disaster.

Lieut.-Commander HILTON YOUNG

I trust the right hon. Gentleman will not weaken in respect of this Clause. I am certainly no lover or admirer of the Clause. I think it is a most extraordinarily cumbrous scheme, and will inflict great inconvenience on the taxpayer. I do not think it is necessary to protect the principle of collecting at the source a tax which can be collected in some other way; but the principle being so, I do value the proposals of the Clause as giving a substantial and a practical measure to the Irish Governments by which they will be able in important particulars to adapt their fiscal system to their own particular need, and that, throughout the discussion, has been the principle which has been considered most desirable to confer. As regards the argument expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare), I confess I agree with him rather in his earlier and more optimistic mood, when he desired responsibility to be extended to the Governments of Ireland, than in his later attitude, when he appeals for responsibility to be reduced.

Colonel NEWMAN

There is an old proverb which says, "Let the galled jade wince, our withers are unwrung." That may be said in respect of this question of the hon. and gallant Member. He does not happen to be resident in Ireland, and will not be called upon to pay this Super-tax, and is quite satisfied that it should be imposed upon people like myself I do not see why, having been taxed and super-taxed by Parliament, I should be super-super-taxed under this particular Clause, and I am undoubtedly speaking for every sensible loyalist in the South of Ireland. This Clause is objectionable. It is a Clause to which no Southern Irish loyalist would agree, and I cannot help thinking that the Members of the Government who are in charge of this Bill must know that very well. There are two Members, I understand, on the Front Bench at this moment in charge of this Bill—the President of the Board of Education and the Minister without Portfolio. Now I used to regard the Minister for Education as my opponent, and the Minister without Portfolio as my friend. As a matter of fact, I regard them both at the moment as my opponents, and I appeal to them as opponents on this particular Clause. What would the Minister without Portfolio have said to this Clause in 1912, supposing the then Government in the present Home Rule Act had put down a Clause similar to this? He would have fought for all he knew, and he would have fought it justly. This is bringing into the Bill of the Government a most objectionable and unfair Clause. I heard the end of the speech of the hon. Baronet below me. I suggest and urge the Government to accept some sort of suggestion put forward by him. We who are resident in the South of Ireland and who have paid our Income Tax and Super-tax up to the full amount—why should we be charged any more? I suggest that there should be a provision inserted to that effect on the Report stage.


Although there may be opportunities before the Report stage, I am afraid they will not be made available by the Government to adopt the suggestion he has just made, and in view of the discussion which took place yesterday afternoon. This must be my apology for detaining the Committee with the further consideration of the insertion of the word "domicile" and what my right hon. Friend said before, increases very much indeed the objection to this Clause. The right hon. Gentleman is no doubt familiar with the difficulties which arise when the question of domicile arises. It taxes very great lawyers to say when a man is and when a man is not domiciled. I am not going to enter into a discussion of that question; but I would remind the Committee there is all the difference in the world between residence and domicile—that you can obtain your residence without any trouble, but domicile may be a question of years and intention, which only can be discovered by references to a long course of events as to whether or not you are still domiciled. The position that will arise if these words are inserted and added to the present proposal in the Clause as now drafted, will lead to this situation: that a man who in better circumstances had a house in the South of Ireland or in the North of Ireland, and spent his holidays there and brought up his children there, and came to London or England for the conduct of his business affairs, and has now left the country in consequence of the troubled condition of it, will now be liable to a sur-tax upon the whole of his property because he is domiciled in the South or North of Ireland, and it will be unable to be proved that he is not domiciled there.

That grave objection, it seems to me, would be very much removed if the surtax be limited to his property in Ireland, because, at any rate, he would retain the liberty at any time of disposing of the property which he continued to hold in that country. Here he is at the mercy of the Parliaments for a time and a period which he cannot bring to an end. I cannot altogether suppose that the Parliaments will behave dishonestly or act with a desire to reap vengeance upon those who may be their political enemies. But I think it would be an exceedingly difficult matter for the Inland Revenue Officials to decide who is and who is not domiciled in Ireland, having regard to the fact that such a large number of persons have houses in Ireland in which they spend their holidays or a portion of their lives.

I assume, however, they will act honestly. But surely it seems rather a monstrous position, that a man brought up in Ireland, who may have the hope some day of returning there when the country becomes more happy, should be subjected to the possibility of having the whole of his property, whether derived from sources in this country or other parts of the world, liable to a sur-tax, in addition to the super-tax in this country! I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered c r advised the report of a Committee as to the difficulty which may arise on this question of domicile. At any rate, when he considers these difficulties and complications, surely he will appreciate how "monstrous "—I was going to say—it is there should be so much uncertainty in a Clause of an Act of Parliament which should, of all Clauses, be certain in its incidence and clear in its construction. There will be the utmost uncertainty in the mind of a great number of people as to whether they come or do not come under this Clause because of their uncertainty of domicile, and in that state of uncertainty they will be subjected to an overwhelming tax upon their property wherever it may be. I think this Committee can hardly contemplate that state of things with equanimity. I regret the whole Clause.

It has, I think, been pointed out long ago that one of the most separating things that you could do is to give the powers of taxation in the matter of such taxes as income tax to different parts of what is intended to be one united kingdom. I voted last night for the Government upon the amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman behind me with some little doubt; I rather wish now I had voted with my hon. Friends in support of their Amendment, because I think that would have been far preferable to this cumbrous, difficult, and uncertain Clause, which has become more uncertain and more unfair, in my humble opinion, by reason of the words inserted by my right hon. Friend, and by reason of the retention of words which he is determined to retain, instead of accepting the very reasonable Amendment suggested. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will realise the difficulty of this Clause as it stands at the present time. It is not a question of unfairness. It cannot be unfair that the Irish Government should only have power to tax income that arises from property in their own country? If it is not unfair surely it is also convenient that it should be limited. If the right hon. Gentleman will consider the Clause as it is affected by the insertion of the words which he himself has proposed to put into the Clause I am sure he will appreciate that the balance of argument rests with those who support the Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS

In the second reading debate the Government, when they were putting in this provision as following Imperial precedents, did not think, in view of the experience of the Dominions, that it was likely to be used at all, or at all events not used in an oppressive manner. But in no country do political lines so closely follow income tax limits as in Ireland. Therefore there is no doubt amongst the scattered Unionists of the South and West that a very great anxiety is felt about this particular proposal. The case against double income tax is far stronger now than it was in 1911. In those days Income Tax and Super-tax together did not reach 2s. 6d. in the £. Now they are standing at nearly five times that amount. If, in the opinion of the Primrose Committee, it was not just that British subjects should be subjected to double Income Tax, it is far less just at the present time. I only want to say this one word further: in the earlier stages of these Debates the Government expressed much sympathy, and this especially applies to the First Lord of the Admiralty—a sympathy which I am sure he felt—in regard to the future position of the Southern Unionists. He promised to give the most favourable consideration to any safeguards which they might suggest. So far, not a single safeguard has been vouchsafed by the Government. By the alleged safeguard which has been inserted the position of the Southern Parliament is made worse. In view of these facts I hope the Government will reconsider the matter before the Report stage, and in any case I hope my hon. and learned Friend will not leave the matter where it is, but bring it up again if he dons not receive some further consideration.


I join in the appeal to the Government to reconsider this question. I was very much struck with the suggestion that it should be considered on the Report stage, but that docs not give us sufficient security. After listening to and carefully weighing the arguments on both sides on this question, I voted yesterday with the Government, although I had deep sympathy with my hon. Friends who moved their Amendment, and I did so because it seemed to me they were making a proposal which might be attended from a fiscal point of view with great danger, and would introduce dangers which I thought ought to be guarded against. The proposal we are now considering is quite different. The Minister without Portfolio thinks he has safeguarded the position, but my hon. Friend has shown that, even as regards those who are not resident in Ireland, the loss is very great, and it still leaves the injustice with those who reside in Southern Ireland, because they are liable to an arbitrary and, it may be, a hostile and inimical surtax being put upon them by those who have been their bitter political opponents.

There is another point in regard to these people. We talked yesterday as to how far you could give fiscal autonomy to Ireland within their own borders. As this Clause stands, it gives much more than fiscal autonomy, for it gives to Ireland the power of taxing property in this country. Therefore you are giving to a separate Irish Parliament the power of imposing taxation, not only in this country, but all over the Empire. Is that not an exaggeration far greater than was proposed by the Amendment of yesterday? It is for that reason that I shall use any influence I have to press upon the Government the necessity of reconsidering this matter. This is a question of fundamental justice, and you have no right to give to these two Parliaments the power of imposing hostile and inimical taxes, not levied upon property in Ireland at all, but on property in this country and all over the Empire. If this proposal goes to a Division I shall certainly support it.


I do not see why the whole of this Bill should no go through all its stages this afternoon. I have been much amused at the nervousness of certain hon. Gentlemen in connection with the establishment of a Southern Parliament for Ireland. I should like to offer them a little comfort. I think we may take it that there never will be a Southern Parliament in Ireland, and even if there should be, the Government have already provided that they must all be Loyalists. I think that fact ought to be kept in view, because all Members must take the Oath-of Allegiance. I think it would be too bad to think that a Parliament of Loyalists would inflict such injustices as have-been mentioned upon their fellow Loyalists in Ireland. The hon Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) said he had no fear as to what would be done by Parliament in the North of Ireland, and I notice two or three hon. Members opposite shake their heads. We all know the social and radical advance in the opinions of the working men of Belfast, and I agree that you are far more likely to have this sort of super-taxation imposed upon the wealthy in the North than those in the South. You will have no powers at all in regard to those in the South of Ireland in this Bill, and if you do they will all be Loyalists.


I do not think it is likely that Irishmen will be unfair in con- nection with this Clause, but I am afraid that it will introduce great complications If it can be maintained so as to limit its extent and have connection with income derived from Ireland, I think it would make the proposal more simple.

Amendment negatived.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.