HC Deb 02 July 1923 vol 166 cc139-47

Rule 2 of the Rules applicable to Cases I and II of Schedule D (which relates to the assessment and charge of weekly wage-earners) shall have effect as though after the word "quarter," where that word secondly occurs, there were inserted the words "less any cost of travelling to and from their place of employment."—[Mr. T. Williams.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

During the War an allowance was made to meet expenses incurred in travelling to and from work, and it seems to me the right hon. Gentleman ought to use the Cabinet Minister's great influence to see that this concession is forthcoming. I can give many typical examples of men having to live in a town because there happens to be no housing accommodation near the colliery they work at, and they have perforce to pay travelling expenses, to and fro. We have cases where miners are compelled through no fault of their own to travel distances varying from four to 20 miles per day, and the cost is sometimes as high as 8s. per week. In many instances workmen are called upon to pay increases up to 150 per cent. over and above what they had to pay prior to the War. At this moment, with wages so low, there ought to be no indirect reduction because men cannot secure housing accommodation near their work. One only needs to remind hon. Members of the Housing Bill to realize that men cannot live where they like. The housing shortage is a reply in itself to any submission that could be made that men should live nearer to their work. They cannot live near their work because housing accommodation is not available. We have the contradiction that where an employer is good enough to contribute towards the travelling expenses of his workmen, a rebate is made for that amount since it happens to be allowed in the expenses of his industry, but the proportion that the man is compelled to pay is liable to Income Tax; therefore, if only from that point of view it seems to me that this concession ought to be granted and the Government ought not to be seeking further to reduce the very meagre incomes of a large number of people. When this Clause was moved last year the Solicitor-General referred to the case of a solicitor who might be travelling all over the country, and to a director who might be a director of many firms. This new Clause only applies to workmen whose Income Tax is calculated on a quarterly basis, so the point of the solicitor and the question of the director's fes do not enter into the argument at all.

The present Solicitor-General, who was a private Member last year, suggested that wherever workpeople were called upon to pay travelling expenses they ought not to seek a rebate from Income Tax, but they ought to call upon their employers to increases wages. We should welcome any assistance the right hon. Gentleman can give us in that direction, but, having had some little experience of attempting to persuade employers to do this, we recognise the futility of that argument. Moreover, the Government, which should set the example to employers, are not prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's own philosophy. On 19th June the hon. Member for Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) asked a question about 75 men who had been transferred from Woolwich to Pimlico and had to pay 7s. 6d. per week out of their wages for travelling expenses, and he asked the Minister to make up the expenses they were put to. The hon. Gentleman in charge of the Department said in reply: I am aware of the circumstances. I regret that I cannot accept the principle that wages should be increased on account of the distances travelled by the employés concerned."—[OFFICTAL REPORT, 19th June, 1923; col. 1175, Vol, 165.] To that there is little or no hope of persuading employers to meet these travelling expenses since the Government themselves refuse to meet the expenses of their employés. They are not only losers to the extent of the travelling expenses, but they are actually called upon later in the year to pay Income Tax on money they have never received except that they have merely received it to hand it over to the railway company. Another excuse submitted last year was that to grant this concession would be to place the workers in a privileged position. That argument is simply ridiculous. Instead of placing the workers in a privileged position, obviously it would remove a real grievance, because the expense to which the workmen are put in going to and from their work is a reduction in wages. If we examine the case of various individuals in professional spheres we shall find that, although all expenses are not exempt from Income Tax, a very large proportion of them are. I know of managers of collieries who have motor-cars purchased for the purpose of conveying them from point to point. I do not object to that because, in many instances, it is necessary, but the purchase of the motor-car is part of the expenses of that particular industry, and the wages of the individual who drives the car come from the colliery office, and are tabulated as expenses. The petrol, upkeep, and all sorts of things that go towards making it possible for the manager to move from point to point are calculated by the colliery company as expenses, and incidentally they become exempt from Income Tax.

Consequently, from the point of view of equity, the right hon. Gentleman ought to make this concession. When we talk about no preference in Income Tax, we are reminded that in the present Bill a person with an income of £500 a year, with an average family of three children, is granted a rebate, by the reduction in Income Tax, of £1 13s. 4d., while a person with £150,000 income is given a concession of £3,734. From the point of view of equity and of removing a real grievance, this concession should be granted. It may not seem a great deal, but for the person who is merely able to carry on 30s. a year is a very large sum, and if he wished to buy a pair of boots it would enable him to do so. The concession would remove a grievance under which many people are suffering. As they are taxed upon nearly everything they eat and drink, and almost on the air they breathe, it should be granted, especially to those who have to travel miles to their work, because private enterprise or some thing else has refused to provide adequate accommodation in their own parish.


I beg to second the Motion. There is a double hardship on most men who have to travel to work, because in pre-War days the workman who used to pay 1s. has now to pay 3s. a week. That is to say, where he formerly paid £2 10s. in pre-War days, he would now pay, for the same journey, £7 10s. a year. That means an additional expense of £5 a year, and for bearing that with a degree of quietness, the Government comes along and says, "If you are a single man, earning more than £135 a year, you will have to pay me 11s. 3d. on that £5. If you are a married man, earning more than £250, you will have to pay the same sum if you have no children." The workman has not only to pay on the £5, but he has to pay additional taxation. Last year there was a rebate, and I cannot see what the Government has got out of the imposition of this tax, except a great deal more of dissatisfaction and unrest amongst the working people than existed before. There is a grievance amongst the workmen who cannot get a house near their work, and I hope, if possible, the Government will grant this concession.


This question, like so many others which have been discussed many times in this House, really results from the decision of the Exchequer last year not to continue the War exemption. There was a War exemption for the expenses of workmen going to and from their work, and I think there was quite reasonable ground for giving it. When the War was over, however, and things got more settled, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), came to the conclusion that it was no longer desirable to make this inroad on the general principle of the Income Tax law, and he brought the exemption to an end. I think, on general principles, he was right.


He was only premature, insomuch as the railway companies had not got the fares.


Of course, there is something to be said from the point of view of the wages of the railway Workers, but I am quite sure the hon. Member would not like to take them into consideration in regard to the question of the high fares at all. There is, in principle, no reason why this concession should be made to workmen, rather than to the middle classes—to the clerks and small employers who have to travel in the same way. If you give it to one, you must give it to all, and the hon. Gentleman is perfectly fair and candid in the matter. He sees where it would go. An Amendment was put down to this effect on the Committee stage, and we felt it impossible to accept it. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment was quite fair in giving us the figure of the workmen's wages. Take the average case of a workman, with a wife and three children—a normal family. No working man is taxed unless he has an income of £315 a year under those circumstances, and that means a regular income of £6 a week. The hon. Member referred to the miners, but from what one hears to-day about miners' wages, it makes one think—


They are not all married with three children.


I agree, but they are the people with whom one has sympathy. After all, the unmarried man, with an income of £2 10s. or £3 a week, is not really the man who ought to come to this House for concessions. If you consider the average married man, with a wife and three children, he would not be taxed on his travelling expenses unless his income were over £6 a week, and if he has an income of, say, £8 a week in weekly wages, which is fairly high, he would still only be taxed on £2 a week, because he would get a previous exemption for his wife and children, and so on. Under those circumstances, I do not think there is a real grievance. The grievance put by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment was that the workman should not be compelled to pay his own fare, but that it should be paid by the employer. That is quite a different position, and I am not here to express an opinion, one way or the other.


I suggested that the present Solicitor-General submitted that argument last year, but now the Government, of which he is a Member, will not carry out his suggestion.


I must confess that the real position we are discussing under the Amendment, of a weekly expenditure amounting, as I think the Seconder of the Amendment said, to £5 a year, and involving a tax of 11s. 3d., would not fall heavily on the average weekly wage-earner. That is to say, if a married man, whose wages are £6 a week, had to pay 11s. 3d. in tax, it would not be a very great sum for him to contribute towards the taxation of the

country. That is the real principle, and though it is very difficult for one in my position to keep on saying "No, no" in these cases, the taxes have got to come in, and the Government of the country must be carried on. Therefore it is impossible for me to make this concession.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 147; Noes, 227.

Division No. 260.] AYES. [7.57 p.m.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hastings, Patrick Ponsonby, Arthur
Attlee, C. R. Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart) Potts, John S.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hayday, Arthur Pringle, W. M. R.
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff) Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill) Rees, Sir Beddoe
Batey, Joseph Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.) Riley, Ben
Bonwick, A. Herriotts, J. Ritson, J.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Hill, A. Roberts, C. H. (Derby)
Broad, F. A. Hillary, A E. Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich
Brotherton, J. Hinds, John Rovce, William Stapleton
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Hirst, G. H. Saklatvala, S.
Buckie, J. Hodge, Rt. Hon. John Salter, Dr. A.
Burgess, S. Hutchison, Sir R. (Kirkcaldy) Scrymgeour, E.
Burnie, Major J. (Bootle) Irving, Dan Sexton, James
Buxton, Charles (Accrington) Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Shakespeare, G. H.
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) John, William (Rhondda, West) Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)
Chapple, W. A. Johnston, Thomas (Stirling) Shaw, Thomas (Preston)
Clarke, Sir E. C. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Shinwell, Emanuel
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock) Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Collins, Pat (Walsall) Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Cotts, Sir William Dingwall Mitchell Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Snell, Harry
Darbishire, C. W. Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East) Snowden, Philip
Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln) Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools) Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Kenyon, Barnet Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.
Davies, J. C. (Denbigh, Denbigh) Lansbury, George Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lawson, John James Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Leach, W. Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)
Dudgeon, Major C. R. Lee, F. Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Duffy, T. Gavan Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley) Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Dunnico, H. Linfield, F. C. Thornton, M.
Ede, James Chuter Lowth, T. Trevelyan, C. P.
Edge, Captain Sir William Lunn, William Turner, Ben
Edmonds, G. MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon) Wallhead, Richard C.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) M'Entee, V. L. Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)
Entwistle, Major C. F. McLaren, Andrew Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Falconer, J. Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Foot, Isaac March, S. Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.
Gilbert, James Daniel Marshall, Sir Arthur H. Westwood, J.
Gosling, Harry Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.) White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)
Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central) Middleton, G. Whiteley, W.
Greenall, T. Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz Williams, David (Swansea, E.)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Morel, E. D. Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Mosley, Oswald Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Groves, T. Murray, John (Leeds, West) Wintrinqham, Margaret
Grundy, T. W. O'Grady, Captain James Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Oliver, George Harold Wright, W.
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Paling, W. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Hardie, George D. Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry
Harney, E. A. Pattinson, S. (Horncastle) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Harris, Percy A. Phillipps, Vivian Mr. Ammon and Mr. Morgan
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Brass, Captain W.
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East) Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive
Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark) Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)
Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks) Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W. Berry, Sir George Bruton, Sir James
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Betterton, Henry B. Buckingham, Sir H.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Birchall, Major J. Dearman Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew
Banks, Mitchell Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester) Burney, Com. (Middx., Uxbridge)
Barnett, Major Richard W. Blades, Sir George Rowland Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North)
Barnston, Major Harry Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Butt, Sir Alfred
Becker, Harry Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Button, H. S.
Cadogan, Major Edward Harrison, F. C. Pilditch, Sir Philip
Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. B. Harvey, Major S. E. Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray
Cautley, Henry Strother Hawke, John Anthony Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South) Privett, F. J.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Rae, Sir Henry N.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Raine, W.
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Hewett, Sir J. P. Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.) Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank Remer, J. R.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Hiley, Sir Ernest Remnant, Sir James
Churchman, Sir Arthur Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Rentoul, G. S.
Clarry, Reginald George Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P.
Clayton, G. C. Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)
Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K. Hood, Sir Joseph Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Cohen, Major J. Brunel Hopkins John W. W. Robertson-Despencer, Major (Islgtn, W.)
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Rothschild, Lionel de
Colvin, Brig-General Richard Beale Houfton, John Plowright Roundell, Colonel R. F.
Conway, Sir W. Martin Hudson, Capt. A. Ruggles-Brise, Major E.
Cope, Major William Hughes, Collingwood Russell, William (Bolton)
Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South) Hume, G. H. Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North) Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.) Sanderson, Sir Frank B.
Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend) Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Sandon, Lord
Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton) Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead) James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Shepperson, E. W.
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H. Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor) Shipwright, Captain D.
Davison, Sir W H. (Kensington, S.) Jephcott, A. R. Skelton, A. N.
Dawson, Sir Philip Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)
Dixon, C. H. (Rutland) Johnson, Sir L. (Walthamstow, E.) Smith, Sir Harold (Wavertree)
Doyle, N. Grattan Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Du Pre, Colonel William Baring Joynson-Hicks, Sir William Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furn'ss)
Edmondson, Major A. J. Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.
Ednam, Viscount King, Captain Henry Douglas Stanley, Lord
Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark) Lamb, J. Q. Steel, Major S. Strang
Ellis, R. G. Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R. Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th) Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.
Erskine-Bolst, Captain C. Lorden, John William Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M. Lorimer, H. D. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Falcon, Captain Michael Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.
Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.
Fawkes, Major F. H. McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury) Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Flanagan, W. H. Makins, Brigadier-General E. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)
Ford, Patrick Johnston Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.) Titchfield, Marquess of
Foreman Sir Henry Margesson, H. D. R. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Forestier-Walker, L. Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K. Tubbs, S. W.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Mercer, Colonel H. Turton, Edmund Russborough
Furness, G. J. Milne, J. S. Wardlaw Wallace, Captain E.
Galbraith, J. F. W. Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden) Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)
Ganzoni, Sir John Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)
Gardiner, James Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Wells, S. R.
Garland, C. S. Moreing, Captain Algernon H. Weston, Colonel John Wakefield
Gates, Percy Murchison, C. K. White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)
Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R. Nesbitt, Robert C. Whitla, Sir William
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Goff, Sir R. Park Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Winterton, Earl
Gould, James C. Newson, Sir Percy Wilson Wise, Frederick
Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.) Newton, Sir D. G C (Cambridge) Wolmer, Viscount
Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Nield, Sir Herbert Wood, Rt. Hn. Edward F. L. (Ripon)
Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Gwynne, Rupert S. Paget, T. G. Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward
Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Parker, Owen (Kettering) Yerburgh, R. D. T.
Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l,W.D'by) Pease, William Edwin
Halstead, Major D. Pennefather, De Fonblanque TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham) Perkins, Colonel E. K. Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Perring, William George Gibbs.