§ Where the owner of tithe rentcharge attached to a benefice holds more than one benefice (whether united for ecclesiastical purposes or not so united) he shall, in respect of any rate made on or after the first day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-two, be entitled under Sub-section (2) of Section one of the Ecclesiastical Tithe Rentcharge (Rates) Act, 1920, to such relief or abatement only as he would have been entitled to if the several benefices were one benefice and any tithe renteharge attached to any of the several benefices were attached to that one benefice and the total income arising from the several benefices arose from one benefice.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I beg to move to leave out the word "holds" ["holds more than one benefice"], and to insert instead thereof the wordsshall, after the passing of this Act, become the holder of".The proposed new Clause which has been disallowed would, I think, have proved the solution of some of the evils about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) has spoken. As I am not able to move it, I want to move the further Amendment which is on the Order Paper. The object of this is to prevent the Bill having a retrospective effect. We heard a good deal the other day during the passage of the Finance Bill of the evils of retrospective legislation. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Inskip) spoke very eloquently on the subject, and he had the support of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as representing the Government, and, I think, of my right hon. Friend who has just spoken and who introduced this Bill. The effect of this Bill as it now stands is retrospective.
§ Viscount WOLMER
In regard to what has just fallen from my right hon. Friend on the general question, I note he has taken the House back to ancient history. He did not take the House quite far enough back. If he was going into ancient history at all, he might have gone to the Act of 1840 and the interpretation which has been put upon it in relation to the parson's income. There is a very good reason for believing that the present is altogether a misinterpretation of the law, and that the parson's income ought not to be subject to rates at all. But that is a very big question.
The situation as we find it to-day is this: the clergymen of this country for many years were paid a tithe. Directly the tithe started to rise it was limited by Act of Parliament, in 1918. My right hon. Friend admitted that that had caused a considerable loss to the clergymen. He did not, however, tell the House how much. By the operation of the 1918 Act, the clergymen of this country have already lost over £2,000,000. Their tithes, instead of being 170 stand at 109. As he says, the Act of 1920 was introduced in order to redress that evil. It has only partially redressed it. The clergymen are still over £1,000,000 down. The result of the combined operation of these two Acts—as everybody in the House knows—is that a great many have been practically put into a position of semi-starvation, and have had to submit to a rate which no trade unionist would for a moment accept. What happens? The extent to which relief is given by the Act of 1920 has been a matter of dispute in the Courts, and for the first time in the whole of this long story the clergy have got a decision to the effect that a man holding a united benefice ought not to be assessed on the combined income, but on each income separately. My right hon. Friend says that that is not the intention of the Act of 1920. Whether or not that was the intention, it certainly is what the Act says, and surely Parliament must be held responsible for its own Acts! My right hon. Friend comes down and asks the House not only to reverse the Act of 1920 in this respect, but also to reverse it retrospectively.
§ Viscount WOLMER
Well, I venture to differ. Under the Bill as it now 1576 stands, the clergyman who has accepted a second benefice, with all the increased responsibilities, worry, and cost, under the belief, as he had every reason to believe, that the law was that he would still be able to gain some benefit from the Act of 1920, now, by the action of the present Bill, as it stands, will be put in a position he never contemplated when he accepted the second benefice. The object of this Amendment is to limit the scope of the Bill to those cases where a parson takes two benefices together in the future, so that he should do so, if he wishes, with his eyes open, and knowing what the state of the law is.
I maintain it is altogether unjust that a man should have been allowed to undertake this work and this responsibility, carrying with it, as it does, increased cost in many cases, without a just equivalent. If a man has tried to be the parson of two parishes instead of one, and very likely has had to engage a curate, to keep a pony and trap, or a motor bicycle, or something of the sort, and to maintain, it may be, two mission rooms, and have the ultimate responsibility for the cost in these matters, it is not fair to say to that man: "It is quite true you have reason to believe that you would still secure favourable terms under the 1920 Act, but when we passed that Act we did not mean what we said, and we propose to reverse it, and we propose to treat you as if that Act had never been passed." Therefore, I maintain that in that respect the Bill of my right hon. Friend has a retrospective effect, and is not fair to the clergy.
On that point I should just like to say that I do hope the House of Commons will never forget that the clergy are the only class who are excluded by law from membership of this House. Therefore I think this House should be particularly jealous of the manner in which they are treated. They are not here to speak for themselves. They cannot be here. Therefore we ought to be snore especially scrupulous in the way we deal with them. We here have the case of men who are pursuing an honourable, a very honourable avocation—most honourable, I think—men who are admitted to be grossly underpaid, who have included in their numbers some of the poorest in the land, who never got relief during the hard times, and when the scale turned in their favour, had their income limited by Act 1577 of Parliament. You here have a Bill to reverse the judgment which turned in their favour for the first time, and which in regard to individual clergymen has a retrospective effect. I therefore hope very much that the House will agree to the Amendment.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I am sorry that I cannot accept this Amendment. I do not know quite what the Noble Lord means by this Bill being retrospective, because no clergyman will have to repay anything. Of course, it would be quite improper in the case of a clergyman who has had the benefit of the judgment that he should repay any benefit that he has already received. What he calls being retrospective is, that a man who has had the benefit of the judgment, or has recently accepted a living, will find that when this Bill becomes an Act, there will be an Act of Parliament adversely affecting him. This House often passes laws which surprise people a good deal, and they sometimes find that they have to pay sums of money which they never expected to pay. But you cannot call that retrospective. If the Noble Lord can show me any way in which this Bill is retrospective, I shall be most happy to amend it.
These proposals are intended to carry out the intention of the House, and it is not a question of voting money for the benefit of the clergy. What is now suggested is a question of taking a burden off the clergy and putting it on the very poor ratepayers in the poor rural parishes. It is in the poor rural parishes where this applies, and in those parishes the income of the clergy is very often larger than any other individual in the parish. This deals with a burden of sometimes over 2s. in the £ caused through an unfortunate error in the drafting of the Bill of 1920, and I do not think the agricultural community ought to suffer that injustice any longer. Therefore, whilst sharing my Noble Friend's view as to the desire of the House to treat the clergy fairly, and recognising that they are not represented in this House, I may say that I have had letters and representations from the clergy themselves strongly in favour of this Bill, and if a ballot took place they would recognise that this was an error in drafting, that it is against the interest of the rural districts, and that it is unjust that the 1578 ratepayers should be treated in this way. I think, even in the interests of the Church itself, it would be better that this Measure should be passed in the form in which it is presented to the House.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I have listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend with great interest, and I heard with some surprise his doctrine that the clergy are, as compared with other ratepayers, wealthy persons. In that contention I think he is mistaken, because there are very few large farmers who are not a great deal better off than many of our rural clergy. Therefore, I think it is not possible to deal with this question by that sort of appeal. The Amendment is to the effect that where a clergyman has taken a living on a certain understanding of the law, he should not be placed unexpectedly in a worse position than that in which he already finds himself. Where the class we are dealing with are defenceless and very poor, this is a consideration of no little weight. If we were considering a comprehensive Measure dealing with all the anomalies which concern tithe rent-charge, if we were going to re-open the whole question, what my right hon. Friend says would be a very important relevant consideration. My right hon. Friend, zealous and sympathetic as he pretends to be in regard to the interests of the clergy, nevertheless proposes to do nothing in their interests, and he is simply favouring the class to which he himself belongs. He is a large rural ratepayer, and naturally smypathises with them. He sees their grievances very vividly, and he is intervening to relieve a single anomaly, or what he calls a mistake in drafting.
I should imagine that any provision of which one might disapprove might be called a mistake in drafting. Even in respect of this one thing which he thinks ought to be altered the right hon. Gentleman leaves everything which tells in favour of the class he is benefiting, and I think that is an unworthy act. I am glad to see the Minister of Agriculture present, and I hope the Government will bring forward a comprehensive Measure dealing with the whole of these grievances, because that would be a perfectly proper thing to do. We have been told that we cannot even extend this Measure a little further in order to make it a more comprehensive and a little less purely partial 1579 in the interests of one of the classes concerned. To select a single class and deal with it in a partial Clause of this kind is not worthy of Parliament. At any rate, we might start afresh and declare that the law shall remain as it stands for the present. That would not inflict the injustice of coming down unexpectedly on people and placing them in a different position to what they find themselves in at the present moment. I think we should start afresh on this matter, because that course would not affect the arrangements which have been made on a certain understanding of the law, and it would not place them in a different position.
§ Major BIRCHALL
I regret that on this matter I cannot see eye to eye with my right hon. Friend the Noble Lord (Viscount Wolmer). No one is more anxious to help the poor clergy than I am, and no one advocates more strongly than I do that they ought to be relieved of these charges. This Bill suggests that the Act of 1920 shall not apply where one man holds two or more livings. I am inclined to think that that would have been the view even of the supporters of the Act of 1920, which was especially an Act to assist poor individuals and remedy some of the grievances as they affected poor individuals. We are now told that the individuals who are to be relieved are not necessarily the poorest individuals. Some of these clergy may hold two livings each amounting to £290, and they will get relief on the whole of the tithe because both livings come under £300. I do not think that the clergy desire to take advantage of anything that was not the intention of the Act. When we come to the Bill before the House I am inclined to support it.
With regard to the Amendment proposed by the Noble Lord, I fear that it will make still more grievances. If you create another class of clergy, those whose benefices have been held previously and subsequently to this Act, there is no reason at all for that distinction in equity, and therefore I think that will make a further grievance. After all, the whole business is to be reconsidered in1926, and my impression is that the clergy, although not fully equitably dealt with, have yet had a large measure of relief granted to them. The large 1580 majority of them are quite content with that relief, and do not desire to press the Act unduly, as apparently they are entitled to press it by a decision in the Courts unless this Bill be passed this morning. Therefore, I hope that this Amendment will not be pressed. If it be pressed, I am afraid that I shall have to vote against it, and I believe that a large number of clergy themselves do not desire it to be carried.
The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Sir Arthur Boscawen)
This is not a Government Bill, but it is based upon an Act passed by the Government two years ago, and, therefore, I ought to say something about it. It is perfectly true, as has been said, that by the Act of 1920 we did intend to give relief to the poorest of the clergy. We did intend to relieve altogether from the payment of rates on tithe those clergy who had less than £300 a year and to halve the rates in the case of those whose incomes were less than £500 a year, but we never for a moment intended or thought that it was possible where a man was receiving £600 or £700 a year because his income was derived from two beneficies, he should get the advantage of the Act that a man who received a smaller income from one benefice did not get. It is perfectly true that this little Bill, strictly limited as it is, does remove a grievance which is felt in a great many country districts by other ratepayers. It removes the advantage of an unexpected windfall enjoyed by certain clergy, which, so far as the Government are concerned, was never intended for them at all. I am sure that my Noble Friend and others will not accuse me of any want of sympathy for the clergy. I would gladly, in my personal capacity, have done a great deal more for them than was done by the Act of 1920, and I agree that the time must come very shortly when the whole of this matter will have to be reconsidered. The present Act is a temporary one, and we shall have to reconsider the whole matter before 1926. This particular Bill, for which I am not responsible, deals with one limited point and in the interests of the Church, apart from everything else, I do advise my hon. Friends not to oppose it and not to try to whittle it away.
What would be the effect of this Amendment? It would mean that if the 1581 clergyman had been appointed before the passing of the Act and had two benefices from which his income might be £600 or £700 a year, he would still have the advantage of this unexpected windfall which he got by the Act of 1920, but another clergyman, appointed after the passing of this Act and in precisely the same position, would not get it. My Noble Friend suggests that it is wrong that we should do something that has an element of retrospectiveness about it. I suppose he means that these clergy accepted these united benefices knowing that they would have this advantage. Does anybody really suggest that they did so? In any case, it would apply only to those appointed since 1920, and the Amendment would release from the provisions of this Bill not only those appointed since 1920 but all those appointed before, and who, as I say, have got an unexpected windfall. Does the House realise that when the construction of the Act came to be considered, the Central Board of Finance of the Church of England felt that where benefices had been united under the Statute the clergy were not to have this particular advantage. It was only because of a case taken in the Law Courts that, quite unexpectedly, these particular clergy got the advantage. They did not expect it. I venture to say that by insisting upon an unexpected advantage, which really accrued from an error in drafting, we are not doing the Church any good. We did want to help the poorest of the clergy Some who are not the poorest happen to have got the advantage, and it has been the cause of a great deal of criticism. The thing that we ought to aim at above everything else is goodwill between tithe-payers and tithe-owners, because, otherwise, serious damage is done to the interests of the Church. Therefore, because I think it is seeking to whittle away this Bill and extend for two or three years more an unexpected advantage, I shall vote against the Amendment.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I am afraid that I find myself in acute opposition to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think that he realises in the least the injustice that has been done to the clergy by his predecessor and by himself in regard to this matter.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I was not responsible for the Act in 1918. I was responsible for the Act of 1920, from which they get some advantage.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I agree that they get some advantage, but as I said at the time, it is very slight. The utmost they got was that those who held benefices under £300 should have exemption from rates and that those who held benefices under £500 should have partial exemption. If it had been a question of income, it would have been said that a person who had an income of less than £300 should be entitled to it, and that those with an income of more than £300 should not be entitled to it, but it was perfectly well known that a person with a small benefice might have private means. Some of them have private means, and they get the benefit and were intended to have the benefit of the Act. I do object to Members of the Government coming down and talking about an error of drafting in an Act for which they are responsible, which the House of Commons has passed after careful consideration, and upon which the Law Courts have given a decision. The right hon. Gentleman brought in that Act and was responsible for it. It was a very small concession to the clergy, and I said so at the time. We have now got a decision upon it in favour of exemption, and the right hon. Gentleman says that he is going to vote against the Amendment; which really means that where two or three small benefices are joined the holder shall get this advantage quite irrespective of his private income. My Noble Friend who spoke just now is no doubt equally with myself opposed to the whole Bill. This Amendment simply says that if this is to he the rule in the future, and it never has been so in the past, the Bill shall apply only as from to-day. I submit that that is a perfectly fair point to put forward. The fact remains that if a man did last year take a joint living which had been a separate living before, he undertook all the responsibilties attached to it, and he also took it on the basis that the parish would have to find a residue of the rates on the tithes. This Bill alters that position. It does not deal with the position of the person who has a vested interest, so to say, at the present time. This is a concession which 1583 is only a small concession even to a man with two livings. It does not necessarily follow, because he has two livings, that he is a rich man. He has the expenses of the two livings to keep up. I wish we could deal with the whole question, but that is not likely to be attempted for some time to come, and having regard to the loss which the poorer clergy sustained by the Act of 1918, and the very narrow nature of the concession made by the Act of 1920, I suggest that it is a wrong policy to now attempt to whittle away that concession. The Bill should be made to apply only to those who took livings knowing what the law was going to be. Under the circumstances I shall support the Amendment.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I do not see how the Amendment alters the Clause. I should have thought that the meaning of the two was exactly the same. My Noble Friend who moved the Amendment spoke of the Clause as being retrospective. I do not wish to pit my opinion against that of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) who has just spoken, but, personally, I do not think the Clause is retrospective. I am sorry I did not hear the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil). He appears to have referred to the necessity—and I entirely agree with him —for a larger dealing with this subject than can be undertaken in any Amendment of the Act of 1920. The whole question of the rating of tithes is a very difficult one. It is an anomaly, really, that tithes should be subject to rates at all. That goes back to historical causes which we cannot enter into at the present time. Apart from that, I really do not see that this Bill, which has been brought in to deal with the Act of 1920, is unjust. I do not agree with my hon. and learned Friend who has just spoken that it involves the whittling away of the very small concession which appears to have been given by the Act of 1920.
It is quite true, if you look at the series of Acts going back to the 1891 and 1896 Acts, as well as the 1918 and 1920 Acts, considerable injustice has been done to the clergy who depend on tithes, and it certainly would be taking a wrong view of those Acts to say that the clergy, having had to endure great privations during a 1584 long period of years when the tithe was very low, should, now it has risen to par or above, be deprived of the compensating advantages which might have accrued to them in fat years and which might be set against their privations in the lean years they have gone through. Still for the reasons which my hon. Friend who introduced this Measure gave earlier in the afternoon, it was found to be in the interests of the clergy, as well as of the tithe payers, that there should be a rearrangement, and that was come to in one of the earlier Acts. That being so, the whole question, it appears to me, is whether or not the Act of 1920 was intended to have the effect given to it by certain decisions of the Court. I remember that when that Act of 1920 was before this House—speaking entirely for myself, and I may have taken a wrongful view of it—it never occurred to me that any incumbent would get an advantage by being able to split up two separate benefices which he might hold at the same time. From a rating point of view that is a mere technicality. It is not very often common knowledge whether a benefice held by a clergyman is a united benefice or not. The only material fact is what he derives from the tithe in the cure of souls which is in his charge. He may have an income of 1600 a year, but it is no concern of anyone whether it is derived from a single benefice or from united benefices. That, I repeat, is a mere technicality and I do not think any incumbent would take advantage of it.
I doubt if any incumbent ever imagined that he would get an advantage, and it was only a mere accident, which often does occur in the interpretation of an Act of Parliament, that it turned out that, lurking in the Statute, was an opportunity for this advantage to be gained. That being so, why should there be any attempt by this Amendment, if it effects any alteration at all, to whittle away the effect of this alteration of the Act of 1920, which is really a correction of a piece of bad draftsmanship? My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) rather twitted the Minister for Agriculture with the fact that, as he was responsible for the Act, he should be the last person to seek to prevent the correction of a piece of mistaken draftsmanship. After all, however, I think that very few of the Acts passed by this House do 1585 not in course of time reveal points on which the Law Courts have detected some method of interpreting them which was certainly not contemplated either by Parliament or by the chief interests concerned. Although, therefore, I am very much alive to the injustice which has been done by the whole method of dealing with tithes in regard to the clergy of the Church of England, I do not think that this particular provision is an instance of an injustice being done to them. As I support the Bill and as I think that what is being attempted in this Amendment can only be done by a much larger revision of the whole system of local rating, I am unable to support the Amendment, and if it goes to a Division, I shall have to vote against it.
§ Mr. ROYCE
I hope the Noble Lord will withdraw this Amendment. I am quite sure that, in his endeavour to help his Church, and he is most sincere in that respect, he is unwittingly desiring to continue an injustice to a great many other ratepayers. The Noble Lord referred to the rich farmer in the parish, and made a special allusion to the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill. There are, however, other ratepayers in the parish besides the rich farmer, even assuming that the rich farmer exists, and I am not quite sure of that in a good many parishes. So far, however, as the other ratepayers are concerned, their awakening was a very rude one when the 1920 Act was put into operation. They felt that a great injustice was being done to them, because, having been accustomed to pay a certain amount of rates, they suddenly discovered that by the operation of the Act they were called upon also to pay the parson's rates, as they expressed it. To the Nonconformist element that was a very great grievance indeed. I hope that, since one section is left, at any rate, the opportunity of receiving benefits under the 1920 Act, the. Noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment.
Mr. S. ROBERTS
In this matter I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for North East Leeds (Mr. Birchall). He has, as the House knows, taken a very active part in doing what he can for the poorer clergy, and I in my humble way have also made some endeavours in that direction. In this case, however, I cannot see that I can do other than oppose this Amendment. I am one of those who 1586 think it is an anomaly that the parson should pay rates upon his tithe, because, as everyone knows, he pays rates upon his vicarage and so on in the same way as any other householder. Everyone who is rated in respect of land has a similar grievance, in that they are rated upon the raw material of their trade, as no one else is. The other ratepayers have been receiving, in respect of tithe, the benfit of getting rates paid by the parson which the parson ought not to be called upon to pay at all. He has been paying something for which he has been receiving no benefit whatsoever. That, however, is a bigger question outside the present one. Those who pay in respect of land—and the tithe is simply rated because it is a hereditament which is supposed to come out of land—are all suffering the same grievance, because land is rated more highly and in an unfairer way than anything else. With regard to this particular injustice which has fallen on the other agricultural ratepayers, that, as I think is admitted by anyone who really knows anything about it, was a mistake in the drafting of the Act. I know with what surprise, and in some cases joy, incumbents found that they were going to receive a benefit from this mistake. Of course, it was very pleasant to them, but at the same time it was a surprise and a mistake. I do not see that there is anything to be done except, as far as we can, to put that mistake right, because, although it was very fortunate for the time being for those who received the benefit, it did throw a very heavy burden upon the other ratepayers, who were also paying rates in respect of land.
§ Sir THOMAS BENNETT
I should have been glad could I have supported any of the Amendments which have been presented, but, as a whole-hearted supporter of the Act of 1920, I am anxious that it should be applied loyally 'in the spirit and in the letter. The object of that Act was to relieve the poorer categories of clergy. It was not meant to relieve clergy whose aggregate income came to more than £500 a year. As the Act stands, however, it will obviously do what was never intended. For instance, it was never intended that a clergyman with an income of £550 a year should be let off rates entirely. It was not even intended that he should be let off with 1587 half rates. But if the Act remains as it stands, a man holding two benefices of £275 each, and who, therefore, gets an income of £550 a year, will benefit. It seems to me that this Bill is an honest and an inevitable Measure, if the purpose of the 1920 Act is to be carried out. I do not think there is any danger of the Bill acting retrospectively. If there were I should support the Noble Lord in any Amendment he might make with a view to preventing that. The Bill, as it stands, seems to me to be an honest attempt to carry out the intentions of the Act of 1920, and therefore I support it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. R. McNeill) said that this Amendment would have no effect on the Bill, but I think it would have considerable effect. The Bill, as I read it, is certainly not retrospective, that is to say, it will not compel those clergymen who have succeeded in getting a reduction in their rates to make up the arrears of the rotes which they would have had to pay if the Bill had not been in existence. As I understand the Amendment, however, its effect would be this: Supposing that I were a clergyman and held two of these livings, for the future I should be exempt from rates in the way intended by the Act of 1920. But supposing that my hon. Friend were to take those two benefices in a year's time, then, if this Amendment were passed, he would have to pay. That is the effect of the Amendment. The Amendment would reserve to those clergymen who are already enjoying the benefit of this omission the right to enjoy that benefit as long as they remain holders of the benefices; but, if a new clergyman were instituted to two benefices, that new clergyman would have to pay the rates which the prior occupant would not have had to pay. I think that is the exact position. I generally have a fairly clear view of, at any rate, what I think is right, but really, at the present moment, I do not in the least know what to do. I can see the difficulty, and I am not quite sure that the Amendment will not cause hardship. I am not at all sure that I am impressed by the argument which has been used about the ratepayers. After all, speaking broadly, there is no class of the community, especially in the country, whose incomes 1588 are so small and who find it so hard to live and to keep up appearances as country clergymen Every other class in the country except the landlord has benefited recently. Whatever may he the position of the farmer at present, I do not agree with the hon. Member opposite that there are no rich farmers.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If the hon. Member said that at present the farming industry was in a bad position I should agree with him, but they have done well in the past and there is no reason why they should do badly in the present. But the clergyman received no benefit whatever during the War. The labourer did. His wages were more than doubled. The clergyman's stipend was not increased in any kind of way. The landlord was practically in the same position. So I think it is hardly right to say the ratepayers will have to pay and therefore we should put this burden upon the clergyman in order to relieve the ratepayer. After all, the ratepayer is very largely responsible for the enormous increase of the rates. If he chose to vote properly he could stop the increase and reduce his rates, whereas the clergyman by himself has no power in any direction. I have little sympathy with the ratepayer because it is his own fault that the rates have been increased in this enormous way. I am not quite certain how I shall vote. I should like to hear on the Third Reading what the ideas of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) and the Noble Lord opposite, are. If there is a division I should be inclined to take no part in it.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Viscount WINDSOR
I was not a Member of the House when the 1920 Act was passed and, therefore, it is difficult for me to judge what was intended. I can only judge by what the Act actually says. I cannot accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. R. McNeill) that it is a mere technicality as to whether this tithe is derived from a single or a 1589 double benefice. To my mind it makes a very large difference indeed. The holder of a double benefice has a great many more expenses and a vast number of other responsibilities which make a very great difference to him. But there is one aspect which I do not think has been touched upon. I know from experience that, as the result of this Act of 1920, in certain parts of the country the parsons are being re-assessed on their vicarages and anything else they have to pay rates on very much more highly in consequence of the fact that they have derived benefit from this 1920 Act, and that is a point which ought to be taken into consideration. It is true, perhaps, that this 1920 Act was, to them, a surprise and came to them as a very small windfall, but, in consequence of that Act, they are in some cases being re-assessed much more highly, and any benefit they may have derived from the Act is going to be annulled in a very short time. I really think this question might have been left over until the whole matter was considered. I have no doubt which way I shall vote. I shall support the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Sir R. NEWMAN
I beg to move, after the word "benefice"["holds more than one benefice"], to insert the words "the joint net incomes of which exceed four hundred pounds."
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill is desirous to be quite fair to the clergy as well as to the agricultural community. I think he will see at once that the effect of a clergyman holding two livings often very much increases his liabilities, and, at any rate, his responsibilities. If you went to an ordinary clergyman and asked him whether he would take a living of £300 a year, a single benefice, or if he would take two benefices of £150 each, there are very few, unless the circumstances were very exceptional, who would not take the one benefice. Very often when two parishes are held by one clergyman, there are two schools and two churches, and there are responsibilities, perhaps, for the upkeep of the chancel and other incidental expenses attaching to it. My Amendment really does not go very far. It is, perhaps, rather a rough and tumble one. 1590 All it says is that if a clergyman holds two livings, and they do not exceed £400 a year, he shall retain the benefit he receives at present. The question has been raised of a clergyman holding benefices of the value of £600, £700, or more. I only ask for a maximum of £400, when there are two benefices, whereas the Act only applied to a single benefice of £300. There is an Amendment later on in the name of my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), but I suggest that mine is the better of the two, because it is a plain, fair statement of £400, whereas the other calls upon the incumbent to prove a certain part of his expenses, and so on, which is often rather difficult.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I beg to second the Amendment.
I hope the promoters of the Bill will respond to my hon. Friend's appeal. The whole case for the Bill has been that the Act of 1920 was intended to give relief to poor clergy, and that, by the interpretation which has been put upon it, that relief may be extended to a class of clergy whom it was not intended to relieve. That is the whole case for the Bill, as I understand it. The point raised in this Amendment is very germane indeed. My hon. Friend asks the House to say that where a man holds two benefices the relief shall be given up to the extent of £400. I think this is a very reasonable demand. In the 1920 Act total relief is given up to £300. If this Bill were carried as it now stands the person holding two benefices at, say, £170 each would not get that total relief, because his income would then be £340. When a man holds two benefices there are a number of expenses to which he is necessarily put which he would not incur if he held one benefice, and if you say, as the Mover of the Bill is prepared to say, that it is reasonable that the man enjoying one benefice should receive total exemption up to £300, it is equally reasonable that a man who holds two benefices should be relieved up to £400. This is a simple, straightforward, and honest proposal. I have tried to meet the same point in a different Amendment, but I do not know whether the right hon. Member is going to accept that or not. He has not accepted anything yet.
1591 This Amendment is different from my Amendment in this respect, that it leaves no doubt about the matter. I have tried to say in my later Amendment that any expenses which a parson is put to in holding two benefices should be a legitimate reduction. In some cases it is rather difficult to say what those expenses are. A man may, for instance, have to have a pony cart or a motor bicycle. It is rather difficult to prove that if he had not two benefices he would dispense with the motor bicycle. Any solution on those lines leaves a certain measure of unsettlement. My hon. Friend in his Amendment has put forward the suggestion that a man who holds two benefices should be given total exemption up to £400. That is a definite proposition about which there can be no manner of mistake. It is very fair, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill and my right. hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture—who sympathises, at heart, with the clergy, and who if he were not in his present official capacity would take a somewhat different attitude from that which he now takes—will accept the Amendment. It is a reasonable request. It answers the promoters of this Bill out of their own mouth, it confines the scope of the Bill to the relief of cases of real poverty, and I do not see what objection there can be to it. It is absurd to say that £400 a year is not a miserable wage for a man who has to run two parishes. That. £400 may be worth only £200 or £250 pre-War, and there are a great number of deductions that have to come out of the parson's pocket, as anybody who knows anything about the matter will admit. Therefore I hope my right hon. Friend will give us a concession in this matter.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I have great sympathy with the argument put forward by my hon. Friend and by my Noble Friend, but I am afraid that I cannot accept this Amendment, because this is the scale which Parliament has given, and the object of the Bill is merely to give effect to what Parliament agreed to in the 1920 Act. I quite understand that £400 a year is a small income, but the limit fixed by Parliament was £300 a year. This Amendment is interlocked with the last Amendment on the Paper, standing in the name of the Noble Lord, but there is a great deal of difference between that Amendment and the Amendment now proposed, which 1592 would continue to place the burden upon the ratepayers. The other Amendment deals with Income Tax, which is a matter to be dealt with by this House. If the later Amendment were necessary I should certainly be glad to accept it, but I hope to show, when the time comes, that that is already within the Income Tax rules and that full allowance will be made. It often happens that united benefices which are only nominally two, and in which exemption has been obtained, really only have one church and one school, and, therefore, no additional expense is imposed. There are, however, other parishes where a claim for extra expenses does occur.
§ Sir R. NEWMAN
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that there are many united parishes which have only one church and school?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Yes. I have cases in my own district. There are a great many cases of that kind. On the other hand, there are united benefices which do involve more expense, more work, and more time, but that is already allowed for under the Income Tax Acts. I have every sympathy with the general arguments put forward by my hon. Friend, and if Parliament had agreed to a scale of £400, instead of £300, I should have raised no objection to the Amendment, but all that this Bill does is to put right what has now been established as a drafting Amendment in the Act of 1920, and I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
My right hon. Friend says that the Income Tax Acts provide for this case, but the Income Tax Acts do not provide for the difficulty in regard to rates. As I understand it, the Amendment now moved provides that where a person has two benefices, that the advantage given in regard to the payment of rates should be given to him, provided that the joint incomes of the two benefices do not amount to more than £400 a year. My right hon. Friend replies that the Income Tax Acts provide for certain allowances, but that is only in regard to income. They do not provide for the difficulty in regard to rates. The Amendment is, that a clergyman who, owing to the fact that he has two benefices, has to incur extra expenditure, should receive some allowance. Otherwise, as I understand the argument, that 1593 particular person will be in a worse position than his fellow clergymen who happen to have only the one benefice. My right hon. Friend says that there are cases of two parishes with only one church, but I should think that those are very rare cases. But whatever legislation you pass, you cannot prevent certain hard cases arising. In this case we might, perhaps, benefit one or two people who really ought not to benefit. On the other hand, there would be the danger of doing injustice to a considerable number of men. Therefore, what we have got to consider is whether what we propose is going improperly to benefit a few people, while at the same time we are properly benefitting a much larger number of people. To secure that result I shall certainly support the Amendment.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD
I would ask the promoters of this Amendment to appreciate the seriousness of the proposition which they are making. When it comes to a question of rates, the taking into account of the expenses of earning income does not arise, and they are introducing for the first time the question of the expense of earning your revenue as being a subject to be considered in legislation in paying local rates. That is a principle that can be extended later on. The claim made by one section of the community for relief of rates on this ground may be made by other sections, and I think that that is a most dangerous thing.
That is one of the matters that were referred to when the Act of 1920 was under discussion. If he is paid one-tenth of the produce of the land, the tithe owner is in a position of the actual tiller of the soil. But you do not make this exemption in the case of the other people who till the soil and take the other nine-tenths of the produce, and I could not at that time understand why this exemption should be made in the case of the titheowners. I am not sure whether I did not divide the House on it at the time. And now when that principle is so much in dispute, and the attempt is being made under cover of this Bill, the excuse for which is, I understand, to rectify some blemish in the Act, the 1594 Noble Lord and those whom he represents are seeking to give a much further extension to that principle. That is against public policy, and ought never to have been included in a private Member's Bill which is discussed on Friday. While one can sympathise with the objects which they have in view, I feel certain that the introduction of an innovation with reference to rates and abatements of rates is one of which we should not approve. No ratepayer can be relieved of his responsibility with regard to rates, as in that case other sections of the community will be trying to get the same relief for themselves, and once the principle has been conceded it will be very difficult to oppose it being extended to other classes of the community. For that reason I shall vote against the Amendment.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The hon. Member, I think, is not correct in the suggestions he has made. As the law stands at present, a clergyman holding joint livings for £170 a year each, which may be £340 in all, gets exemption in paying his rates. This Bill proposes to alter that, and says that those people shall be liable to that extent. All that this Amendment suggests is that that alteration shall not be carried out in its full effect, and that it shall not apply in cases where 2400 is received. There is no new principle involved in the Amendment. The Amendment merely says that the alteration of the law shall not apply to the full extent, but only, as it were, to a half-way house. The question of principle has nothing to do with the Bill at all. The question of expense in earning incomes applies to Income Tax, and you cannot extend this principle to the question of rates beyond the case of tithes, because the only person who has to pay rates upon his income is the clergyman. The Amendment is merely a modification of the Bill, and to that extent I shall vote for it, because I am opposed to the Bill.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I would like to point out what would be the effect of this Amendment. What would happen would be that one man would be exempt from his rates altogether because his income is under £300. Another man will get a similar exemption because his income happens to be £400, and yet there would be no real distinction. It might be in some cases that the union of bene- 1595 fices does cause additional work. On the other hand I know many cases in country districts where two small parishes lying together have been united and where there is much less work than there may be in the case of a single parish of a very large character. In that case the man who happens to have two small parishes will receive an advantage over the other man who is really doing more work. A further point raised was that the extra expense should be taken into account. The House should remember that under the Act of 1920 the amount of the income obtained, whether there was an exemption or not, has to be arrived at by statutory declaration which is to be calculated according to the rules of the Income Tax, and it is laid down in those rules that any expense to which a clergyman is put in the discharge of his duty, and which is necessary in order that he may earn his income, may be deducted. I agree that if a clergyman is put to extra expense in consequence of a union of benefices there is a case for drawing the line higher as the Amendment proposes, but the income is arrived at in accordance with certain rules.
§ in that he cannot bear the least anomaly or the least injustice if it benefit the clergy. But as long as the anomaly or the injustice benefits the land-owning or farming class, he and his friends feel no scruples about it whatever. My right hon. Friend is very much shocked that we should draw an arbitrary limit of £400 a year, and he said it would be one more anomaly. If it were an anomaly from which he and his friends would benefit he would not feel the slightest scruple about it. What scruple has the right hon. Gentleman shown about any anomaly that affects his own class? I never heard him express the slightest reluctance to avail himself of any advantage that, the law gave him and his friends. But the clergy are in a different position. They are very poor and defenceless people, and accordingly neither my right hon. Friend nor the Government will consider their grievance. This Amendment reasonably proposes to exempt people under £400 a year. I hope we shall divide on the Amendment and leave to the right hon. Gentleman and his friends the mean discredit of opposing it.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes 32: Noes 126.1597
|Division No. 175.]||AYES.||[2.30 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Remnant, Sir James|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Ganzoni, Sir John||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G||Hopkins, John W. W.||Sugden, W. H.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Taylor, J.|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||White, Col. G D. (Southport)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Bruton, Sir James||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Windsor, Viscount|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Lorden, John William||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Mosley, Oswald||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Forrest, Walter||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Sir R. Newman and Mr. Rawlin|
|Foxcrott, Captain Charles Talbot||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||son.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Graham, R. (Nelson and colne)|
|Banton, George||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Dockrell, Sir Maurice||Hayday, Arthur|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Edge, Captain Sir William||Henderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwelity)||Hinds, John|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Hogge, James Myles|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith.||Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir.J. A. (Midlothian|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Entwistle, Major C. F.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Evans, Ernest||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Fell, Sir Arthur||Irving, Dan|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Finney, Samuel||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Forestier-Walker, L.||Johnstone, Joseph|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Galbraith, Samuel||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Gardiner, James||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)|
|Cockerlil, Brigadier-General G. K.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Kennedy, Thomas|
|Cope, Major William||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Kiley, James Daniel|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||O'Grady, Captain James||Thomas, Rt, Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Lawson, John James||Parker, James||Thomas, Brig,-Gen, Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Loseby, Captain C. E.||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Thomas, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Pearce, Sir William||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|M'Donald, Dr. Bouverle F. P.||Raeburn, Sir William H.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wallace, J.|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Mills, John Edmund||Robertson, John||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Mitchell, Sir William Lane||Rodger, A. K.||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Molson, Major John Elsdale||Royce, William Stapleton||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Warden, Col. W. Grant||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Morris, Richard||Samuel, At. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Morrison, Hugh||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Cal. L. O. (R'ding)|
|Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Wise, Frederick|
|Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Simm, M. T.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Stanley, Major Hon. G (Preston)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Myers, Thomas||Stewart, Gershom||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Neal, Arthur||Sueter, Roar-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Nicholl, Commander Sir Edward||Terrell, George (Wilts, chippenham)||Mr. Pretyman and Mr. George|
|Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)||Roberts.|
|Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
§ Viscount WOLMER
I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to insert the wordsProvided that in calculating the income arising from the several benefices there shall be deducted from the total any expense to which the incumbent is put by reason of holding more than one benefice.I understand the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill and the Minister of Agriculture both agree with the principle of this Amendment, but believe it to be unnecessary because the point is already covered by the Act of 1920. Whether that be the case or not, I think there is good reason for inserting these words and I hope they will be accepted. I do not see that it can possibly do any harm. If these words are put into the Bill it will make it perfectly clear, to every parson who reads the Bill, that he is entitled to make a deduction on account of any expense to which he is put by reason of holding two benefices. If we do not put in the words there is a strong possibility that a number of clergymen who hold two benefices will not claim all that they might claim. I desire to save the clergy from unnecessary legal expenses. Our taxation is so complicated that no man can fill up his Income Tax forms without. securing legal advice and assistance. I cannot do so in any case, and I have to meet a large lawyer's bill every year on account of the complexity of our taxing legislation. I wish to avoid that difficulty in the case of the clergymen by means of this Amendment and to notify every clergyman who has been put to extra expense by reason of holding two benefices that he is entitled to make a deduction on that account. It is not quite so simple a point as it seems at 1598 first sight. A man holds two benefices, and he finds he cannot work those two parishes without a motor bicycle or a motor car or some means of locomotion. [HON. MEMBERS: "A Ford car!"] It may be a Ford car. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or a Rolls-Royce!"]I think the clergymen who have Rolls-Royce cars are very few in number. He may, on the other hand, be put to the expense of having an extra mission, or the like. Supposing that man has just come from a benefice where he enjoyed the luxury of a motor bicycle, but where it was not absolutely necessary to him in doing his work, and therefore was never returned as part of his necessary expenses. if he comes to a cure where he holds two benefices, and where he could not possibly do his work unless he incurred this expense, a man in that position probably would not claim the relief to,which he is entitled unless his attention were drawn to the fact that he was so entitled. As my right hon. Friends do not disagree with the principle of the Amendment, I hope no opposition will be offered to it.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I only speak on this Amendment because reference has been made to the view I hold on the matter, and also because I wish to point out the difficulties which will arise if this Amendment, is carried. In order to obtain the benefits of the Act of 1920, an incumbent must make a statutory declaration of his income. In arriving at that income, certain deductions are allowed. They are allowed in the case of 1599 clergy who take the benefit of the Act now. They will be allowed in the case of clergy who come under the operation of this particular Measure, and there is really no more reason for calling the attention of the clergy to the statutory deductions in this case than there is in the other case. I think it is most undesirable that we should have two separate systems for two separate classes. In each case I think the full deductions which my Noble Friend seeks to secure are allowed. In connection with the Act of 1920, deductions are allowed by Regulations issued by the Ministry of Health. A special Order, issued in the year 1921, has reference to this case, and among the various deductions allowed are the following:Any expense incurred wholly and necessarily in the performance of the incumbent's duties as a clergyman.Payment of a licensed curate.The only additional expenditure that a man could be put to because he holds two benefices instead of one is, in my opinion, covered by those words. He may be put to extra expense because he is carrying out the duties in connection with two benefices, and he is allowed to deduct that extra expense. It is laid down that this income for the purposes of the Act is to be ascertained in accordance with the rules that are set out in the, Schedule of this Act. I therefore submit that the matter is fully covered and that it is very undesirable to have different words applying to the cases of two benefices from those which apply where there is only one benefice. I think the Amendment is unnecessary, although I sympathise with its object, as I think it is right that all these expenses should be deducted. I think they are deducted, and therefore it is unnecessary to insert this Amendment.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The rules read out by the right hon. Gentleman are rules issued by the Minister of Health, and at any moment he can introduce fresh rules. I therefore think it is advisable to put the Amendment in the Bill, so as to make sure that these expenses can be deducted. As long as those rules exist, they would carry out the provisions of the Amendment and no difficulty would arise, but there would be no harm in putting the Amendment in the Bill, as there are a 1600 large number of people who have never beard of these rules of the Minister of Health. I confess I have never heard of them before.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
They are Orders issued by the Ministry of Health in accordance with the Act of 1920, for the purpose of calculating the amount of income in order to ascertain whether a clergyman is to obtain the benefit of the Act or not.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
As I say, I never heard of these Rules before, and therefore, if you put this Amendment in the Bill, it will be of advantage to people like country clergymen, a large number of whom are keenly interested in the Bill, as I know from my correspondence bag. They will then know that they are entitled to this relief; it is already set out in the Rules, but probably a large number of clergymen have never heard of them.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
As I understand, the objection of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, it is that this is already provided for by certain Rules brought in by the Minister of Health in accordance with the provisions of the Act of 1920, but if that be so, why should this Amendment not be put into the Bill, seeing that it does not alter what is already the practice? There is this advantage in putting it in, that a clergyman would then see that under the Act he is entitled to these exemptions. I quite agree with the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) that in all probability 99 people out of 100 have never heard of the Rules read out by the right hon. Gentleman, and how on earth is the ordinary country clergyman to get hold of them? Also, I think it is possible that, with the accession of another Minister of Health they might be so drawn as to have a different effect. It must be remembered that there is a very large number of people who do not really understand what advantages they may get under the Income Tax Acts. I myself, with some considerable Parliamentary experience, had a case where I thought a surveyor of taxes intended to charge me unjustly, and I found out that I was entitled to over£1,000 return. I had not the 1601 remotest notion of it before, and had not found it out I should never have claimed, but I have done so now. If an ordinary Member of the House of Commons commits mistakes of that sort, what can you expect a country clergyman to do who does not understand Parliament or know what is going on? I do not say the Income Tax officials are anxious to mislead people, but, on the other hand, especially in the last two or three years, they have not been distinguished by any great anxiety to point out to the taxpayers how they can reduce the payments they have got to make, and therefore I think it is extremely likely that the, surveyor of taxes will not point out to the clergyman that he is entitled to make these particular deductions. I cannot see any reason why, if this does not make any alteration in the custom, if it does not alter the Rules brought in by the Minister of Health, it should not be put in the Bill. I see the Minister of Health is on the Treasury Bench, and I should like to know what his opinion is. Does he object to these Rules being put into an Act of Parliament, because that is what it really comes to? I hope we shall go to a Division on this, and I shall vote for the Amendment of my Noble Friend.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I hope the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill will see the reasonableness of this Amendment. There is no point of revenue concerned, and, surely, if it were a working man's case, he would be entitled to say: "Make the law as simple as you can, so that I can understand it." That is, after all, what is involved, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman, who has given no reason against the Amendment, will see the reasonableness of giving an opportunity to any citizen to understand what he is entitled to.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
For the simple reason that by the system of rules the deductions allowed are laid down in the ordinary case of a clergyman with one benefice, and where there is a union of benefices a different system is to be adopted and it is to be stated in the Act. I cannot see why you should have 1602 one system in the ordinary case of a parson with one benefice and another system in the case of a parson with two benefices. An hon. Member said the Minister of Health might alter these rules and that, therefore, the substance of them should be embodied in the Bill, but that would deal only with these particular people with two benefices and would not affect the great majority, who have got only one benefice. We are always being twitted with making our Acts of Parliament complicated, and to insert this Amendment would, to my mind, be a quite unnecessary complication. Although I entirely agree with the object that underlies this Amendment, I must ask the House not to accept it.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Perhaps I may be allowed to make one other point. It is said that these clergymen will know nothing of the privilege. I regard it as very important, and if I thought this would help, I would gladly accede to it, but I am sure it would make no difference, because the clergyman who comes under the Act. of 1920 must, in any case, present his accounts, and therefore his attention must be called to it, and is called to it now. I thoroughly agree that we want to avoid complications. There are far too many complications already in the Income Tax law, and all that this would do would be to introduce another complication. In the interests of the clergy and everybody, I think it is best to leave the exemption where it is every clergyman must claim under the Act of 1920, and must know about it. Therefore, this Amendment is unnecessary.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Rill read the Third time, and passed.