HC Deb 08 July 1924 vol 175 cc2199-209

In charging under Schedule E the salary, fees, wages, or profits of a person appointed to exercise the office of Recorder (required to hold Courts of quarter sessions otherwise than in and for the City of London) there shall be allowed such person by way of deduction such reasonable sums in respect of travelling expenses between his place of business or residence and the place where the said Courts of quarter sessions shall be held by him, and also such incidental expenses and expenditure of money wholly, exclusively, and necessarily incurred and expended by him in the performance of the said duties, as may be allowed by the Commissioners having jurisdiction.—[Sir Herbert Nield.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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

It is unfortunate that I should have to address the Committee at 20 minutes past four on a subject which can only be said to be one of the greatest injustices produced by the working of the Income Tax Act. Nobody has ever dreamt of this Amendment of mine. [Interruption.] I am sorry, I made a mistake. A great number of Members have dreamt and have paid no attention to the Debate. What I want to express is this, that the revenue has never sought to make this deduction until the present time. I think I am right in saying that the deduction in practice has never been made, although the decision on which the case was decided last week is some 20 years old. A commercial traveler traveling for his firm is entitled to deduct his expenses from the profits made, but when you get to Schedule E of the Act of 1918 which is a question of service—[Interruption.] Will hon. Members be serious? No wonder lawyers and Courts have difficulty in deciding what this House means when it makes the laws. Rule 9 of Schedule E says: If the holder of an office or employment of profit is necessarily obliged to incur and defray out of the emoluments thereof the expenses of travelling in the performance of the duties of the office or employment, or otherwise to expend money wholly, exclusively, and necessarily in the performance of the said duties, he may claim as a deduction from the emoluments to be assessed the expenses so necessarily incurred and defrayed. The cost of travelling between the place of residence and the place of employment is not allowable. One would have thought that the travelling expenses of His Majesty's Judges appointed for dealing with the minor offences against the law would have come within that Statute, but no. According to the decision come to in 1900, it was decided that a clerk could not deduct his travelling expenses in making his return. That decision remained unacted upon until quite recently, and it has never been levied until rather more than a week ago, when the case was decided which raised this issue. The Recorded asked exemption of his traveling expenses and other details, which I will not discuss. The Judge in giving judgment said: The Recorded must by Statute be a barrister of five years' standing, and that meant in nine cases out of ten that he must travel from London to perform his duties. I am quoting from the "Times" Law Report, as the official Report has not yet been published. The Judge goes on to say: The Statute did not say that he must be a practising barrister, still less did it say that he must be a barrister practicing in London, and where he practised was at his own discretion to select. In whose circumstances there was only one decision which could be given. Rather earlier in his judgment he said: Although the case did raise a question of hardship and the position was unreasonable in that the expenses sometimes might more than eat up the emoluments which were not allowed to be deducted, yet on the authorities judgment must be given for the Crown that a man could not charge the expenses of travelling from his residence to his office. That is the expression of the learned judge who has to deal with the case before him last week. Where is the sense of it? It is based upon a decision which is based upon the traveling of a clerk to and from his residence to his work. But surely Recorders are not in the position of clerks? I want to point this out to the Committee that a Recorded is bound to go to his town four times a year by Statute. It might be said that the only answer is that he must live in the town, but it was clearly undesirable that a Judge of the Court of Session should live in the town in which he has to act as judge. There is at the moment before the House the Criminal Justice Bill which is down for Second Reading and which proposes to give a very much enlarged jurisdiction to the Courts in order to ease His Majesty's Judges at the Assizes. Then we must have men appointed as recorders who can claim by their position at the Bar to be perfectly competent to discharge these duties. You must have a practising barrister, and having him you ought to allow him to deduct from his Income Tax the actual cost of his expenses travelling backwards and forwards. Does the House appreciate that the Re- corder of Berwick-on-Tweed has to go 300 or 400 miles four times a year to his town, that the Recorded of Penzance has also to go 300 miles, that there are 16 Recorders who travel more than 300 miles, 2 over 250 miles and 72 who travel over 100 miles. To try to apply to these officers who go backwards and forwards to their duties the case of a clerk was a violent misinterpretation of the intention of the Statute. There are 119 Recorders in all, and of these 109 only travel 50 miles or upwards four times a year. Those of Liverpool, Birmingham and the large centres have to hold more frequent Sessions, and therefore the hardship is increased. I hope the Committee will realise that there is no real substantial difference between paying His Majesty's Judges the full travelling expenses and the County Court Judges the full travelling expenses of their circuit, and to deny travelling expenses to these Judges who are compelled to perform the relative duties to the County Court Judges only on the criminal side of the Judicature.


The right hon. and learned Gentleman who has put forward this proposal is himself, I believe, a Recorder, and therefore he can speak with sympathy. I do not think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has established a case at all for the concession which he asks the House of Commons to give. Hon. Members of the Committee will remember that in the early stages of yesterday afternoon we discussed a proposal that an allowance should be made from Income Tax of travelling expenses to persons whose income was below £500 a year. The House of Commons by a large majority rejected that proposal. There is a very close analogy between the case put forward yesterday and the case which the right hon. and learned Gentleman put forward just now. It is the established practice that a person is not entitled to travelling expenses between his residence and his place of business. The reason for that is that the man selects his own house. There is no reason in the world why the right hon. and learned Gentleman should not go to live at York or within a reasonable distance.


Did the right hon. Gentleman hear me quote the rule of the Home Office?


Let us take a Judge in the High Court. I suppose there are very few Judges of the High Court who live in London—at any rate, they live a considerable distance away from the Law Courts—but they are not entitled to charge their travelling expenses or to get deductions from Income Tax upon their travelling expenses between the place in which they may live in the country and the Courts of Justice. That is a perfectly analogous case. But I would like to point out that the right hon. Gentleman's proposal goes very much further than travelling expenses. There was not only travelling expenses, but also such incidental expenditure of money wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred or expended by him in the performance of his duties. That means he would be able to charge the whole of his maintenance expenses, as well as his travelling expenses. The right hon. Gentleman knows what has been the practice in the past, now confirmed by the decision of the High Court. When Recorders took their appointments, they knew perfectly well what were the conditions.


I think the opening sentence, with which the right hon. Gentleman commented upon the perfectly justifiable speech which my right hon. Friend (Sir H. Nield) made, was intolerable. I have never been a Recorder, I am never likely to be a Recorder, and I have no interest in this matter. So I am not bound to the most unjustifiable taunt of the right hon. Gentleman. Let me request him to abstain from taunts of that sort.


I shall not require any advice from the hon. and learned Gentleman. I go further, and say that I think it was not in the lest seemly that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield) should have raised a question in which he is so directly and personally interested.


Whether the right hon. Gentleman will take the advice which I offered is entirely a matter for him, but when he proceeds to add to what he has said the statement that my right hon. Friend did something which was wrong in raising this question because he is a Recorder, he seems to have forgotten that he himself and his party did not think of that objection when they discussed the payment of railway fares for Members. I would not say a word about a mater which might be discussed without any heat if the right hon. Gentleman had not thought fit to introduce heat into it, and I shall say what I please without the leave of hon. Members opposite. [Interruption.] The suggestion was made by the right hon. Gentleman that it would be perfectly proper, and indeed, natural for anybody who wishes to avoid travelling expenses to go and live in the neighbourhood of the town of which he was the Recorder. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that to a large extent the community is largely dependent upon the proper administration of justice by the Recorders of this land, and my right hon. Friend has pointed out there is an increasing burden in the administration of justice which is being placed on the Recorders to relieve Assizes. It would be most undesirable that any Recorder, who has been charged often with the duties of Recorder for twenty years, should not be familiar with the everyday administration of the law. How any Recorder is to keep himself abreast of the practice of the law in order that he may administer justice and yet live in some out-of-the-way village or place where he is unable to practice his profession, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman could not say. Hon. Members opposite may raise a groan about that, but let any hon. Member, if he can forget for the moment the prejudice which the heat may have caused, ask himself whether he would like himself or his trade union, or any society or friend or comrade to be tried by a man whose knowledge of the law and practice of the rules of evidence was rusty and absolete and old-fashioned. Let me ask whether it is satisfactory that any Recorder should administer justice without keeping himself abreast of the administration of the law, and in the next place whether it is possible for him to keep himself abreast. Nearly every Recorder so far as I know, is living in the place, or near the place, where he may carry on his profession, namely, in London. A few of them live in the neighbourhood of great centres of population where there is a legal bar, such as Liverpool or Birmingham or Bristol, and where there are opportunities of keeping abreast of the practice and study of the law. In those cases the traveling expenses would be from those places to the place where the Recordership is held and carried on. There is much more analogy between the position of Members of Parliament and Recorders than any other case that has been cited.

It might just as well be said to any hon. Member that he is bound to live in London instead of near his constituency. I think the answer would be perfectly good that it is right and proper that a Member of Parliament should be in or near his constituency in order to be familiar with the needs of is constituency [An HON. MEMBER: "Carpet beggers!"] That taunt cannot at any rate be made against me. I was both born and educated in my constituency, but a Member of Parliament lives near his constituency because it is necessary for him to be there for the proper discharge of his duties. That is the theory of the travelling expenses. For the same reason a Recorder lives in London, where the law is practiced, where he can keep abreast of his profession, where he can keep abreast of his profession in order that he may better discharge the duties of his position. I think this House would be doing credit to itself if it allowed this perfectly ridiculous sum. There are 119 Recorders, many of whom would charge no expenses at all, because they are Recorders of districts near London. The House would be doing itself credit and honouring a body of the whom it has no reason to reproach for failure to perform their duties if it allowed this Amendment to pass into law.


I would like to remind the hon. Member who has just spoken when the Finance Bill of last year was under review. I than moved an Amendment which would have had the result of granting an allowance to work-people who were compelled to travel to and from their daily work, not through any fault of their own, but very largely due to the failure of past Governments to supply them with houses near their employment. Many of these men were called upon to pay from 5s. to 10s. a week in travelling expenses out of wages varying from £2 to £3 a week. The than Government, of which the hon. and learned Member was one of the leading Members, refused to make any concession whatsoever.


Were these people liable to pay Income Tax.


Obviously, or the concession would have cost the Government nothing. Now an appeal is made for slightly over 100 well-paid people, worthy of the remuneration they receive, but infinitely better off then the work-people I was referring to. The fact that they have only to travel four times a year seems to me not only to justify the refusal of the concession, but if there are any concessions to make in that direction they ought to have been made when the last Amendment was moved, namely, to grant a concession when the income is less than £500 a year.


Might I call attention to just one point in connection with the analogy the Chancellor of the Exchequer attempted to draw between this case and the case of a High Court Judge living out of London and going up to the Courts day by day. Such a Judge when traveling the country in assize gets the Recorder's job. It is a part-time job and he only goes for a few days four times a year to a distant part of the country. He is not paid a salary which will keep him for a whole year there. [HON MEMBERS: "What is the salary?"] The salary is in the region of £200 a year.


The great majority of the salaries of Recorders are under £25 to £75 and to £100.


The whole thing affects the work to be done. If it is to be done as efficiently as it is at the present time at so small a salary, and if practically the only place in which barristers can make their living is London, this journey has to be undertaken in the interests of the office held, and is comparable to the journey of a High Court Judge on Assize. If it is necessary to divide the Committee. I hope to have the support generally of the Committee in protesting against a change in custom on the part of the Revenue after years in which they have apparently never thought it was proper to disallow this deduction. All at once, for some unknown reason, they do this which they were quite competent to do for 20 years. If we have come to the time that the Revenue has got the thick-skinnedness to

act in this way, it is time Parliament put the matter right.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes, 85; Noes, 164.

Division No. 145.] AYES. [4.57 a.m.
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Harland, A. Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent) Philipson, Mabel
Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.) Hartington, Marquess of Pielou, D. P.
Birkett, W. N. Harvey, C. M. B. (Aberd'n & Kincardne) Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton
Blades, Sir George Rowland Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury) Raine, W.
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Remer, J. R.
Burman, J. B. Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)
Chandwick, Sir Robert Burton Hope, Rt. Hon. J. F. (Sheffield, C.) Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon N. (Ladywood) Howard, Hn. D. (Cumberland, Northrn.) Ropner, Major L.
Clayton, G. C. Hughes, Collingwood Roundeil, Colonel R. F.
Cope, Major William Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L. Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East) Sandeman, A. Stewart
Curzon, Captain Viscount Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools) Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Dawson, Sir Philip Kay, Sir R. Newbald Shepperson, E. W.
Deans, Richard Storry Kindersley, Major G. M. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Dixey, A. C. King, Captain Henry Douglas Steel, Samuel Strang
Duckworth, John Lamb, J. Q. Thornton, Maxwell R.
Eden, Captain Anthony Lumley, L. R. Warrender, Sir Victor
Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel- Wells, S. R.
Ferguson, H. Makins, Brigadier-General E. Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)
Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H. Martin, F. (Aberdeen & Kinc'dine, E.) Wilson, Sir Charles, H. (Leeds, Central)
Gates, Percy Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R. Morrison-Bell, Major Sir A. C. (Honiton) Wise, Sir Fredric
George, Major G. L. (Pembroke) Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Gibbs. Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Nicholson, O. (Westminster)
Greene, W. P. Crawford Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Greenwood, William (Stockport) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh Mr. George Balfour and Sir
Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Penny, Frederick George Frederick Hall.
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Ackroyd, T. R. Gibbins, Joseph Kirkwood, D.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke Gillett, George M. Lansbury, George
Adamson, Rt. Hon. William Gosling, Harry Laverack, F. J.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome) Law, A.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central) Lawson, John James.
Ammon, Charles George Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Leach, W.
Aske, Sir Robert William Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Lee, F.
Attlee, Major Clement R. Grundy, T. W. Lessing, E.
Baker, Walter Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.) Linfield, F. C.
Banton, G. Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Loverseed, J. F.
Barclay, R. Noton Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) McEntee, V. L.
Barnes, A. Hardle, George D. Mackinder, W.
Batey, Joseph Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Bonwick, A. Haycock, A. W. Mansel, Sir Courtenay
Briant, Frank Hayday, Arthur March, S.
Broad, F. A. Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South) Marley, James
Bromfield, William Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)
Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby) Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfld.) Middleton, G.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Hillary, A. E. Mills, J. E.
Buckle, J. Hindle, F. Mond, H.
Charleton, H. C. Hirst, G. H. Morris, R. H.
Clarke, A. Hobhouse, A. L. Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)
Climie, R. Hodges, Frank Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Compton, Joseph Hoffman, P.C. Morse, W. E.
Comyns-Carr, A. S. Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton) Mosley, Oswald
Costello, L. W. J. Hudson, J. H. Moulton, Major Fletcher
Cove, W. G. Isaacs, G. A. Murray, Robert
Crittall, V. G. Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich) Murrell, Frank
Darbishire, C. W. Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Naylor, T. E.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) John, William (Rhondda, West) Nixon, H.
Dickie, Captain J. P. Johnston, Thomas (Stirling) Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)
Dickson, T. Jones, C. Sydney (Liverpool, W. Derby) Paling, W.
Dodds, S. R. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Palmer, E. T.
Dukes, C. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Duncan, C Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)
Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern) Kedward, R. M. Perry, S. F.
Egan, W. H. Keens, T. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Kennedy, T. Phillipps, Vivian
Potts, John S. Spence, R. Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.
Purcell, A. A. Spero, Dr. G. E. Whiteley, W.
Raffety, F. W. Spoor, B. G. Williams, David (Swansea, E.)
Rathbone, Hugh R. Stamford, T. W. Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Rea, W. Russell Starmer, Sir Charles Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Rhys, Hon. C. A. U. Stranger, Innes Harold Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B. (Kenningtn.)
Richards, R. Sturrock, J. Leng Williams, Maj. A. S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)
Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Sunlight, J. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Romeril, H. G. Tattersall, J. L. Willison, H.
Scurr, Jhon Terrington, Lady Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern) Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Sexton, James Thurtle, E. Windsor, Walter
Sherwood George Henry Tout, W. J. Wright, W.
Short, Alfred (Wednesbury) Vivian, H. Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)
Smith Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe) Wallhead, Richard C.
Smith, W. R. (Norwich) Ward, G. (Leicester, Bosworth) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Snell, Harry Watson, W. M (Dunfermline) Mr. John Robertson and Mr. Warne.
Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)

Question put, and agreed to.