HC Deb 22 June 1925 vol 185 cc1199-212

Section thirty-two of the Finance Act, 1921 (which provides for exemption of superannuation funds from Income Tax), shall have effect as though at the end of paragraph (b) in Sub-section (3) of that Section there were added the words "or, in case of death, for their widows, children, and/or other persons entitled to benefit."—[Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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

I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not deny that the organisation of a widows' and orphans' fund is, in principle, precisely similar to that of a superannuation fund. Not only will the Chancellor of the Exchequer agree with that, but I think the entire House will be in agreement on the point. Let us see what the Royal Commission on Income Tax had to say with regard to superannuation funds? They put forward certain recommendations, and founded them on these premises. They said: We consider that when an employer makes an irrecoverable contribution to a recognised fund for the benefit of his workpeople, his contribution shall be regarded as a business expense, and allowed as a reduction, in computing his profits. Secondly, we consider also that the contributions the employé makes to secure a future pension should be allowed as a deduction from the income upon which his Income Tax would otherwise be charged. Thirdly, the income arising from the investment of the funds should also, we think, be exempted from the tax. These recommendations were adopted by the Government, and were incorporated in the Finance Act, 1921, and I and those who are associated with me desire to see the same treatment extended to widows' and orphans' funds. It is not a very large concession that we ask, and to a certain extent it is already recognised by the Board of Inland Revenue. For instance, the employers' contributions to widows' funds are admitted to rank as an expense in the assessment for Income Tax. The effect of the present claim would be, first, to legalise that position, and, secondly, to obtain relief from tax on the interest on the investment of the funds. In their Memorandum to the Royal Commission, the Board of Inland Revenue admitted that a superannuation fund was merely a channel, and they gave their reasons. I will read them to the House. They said: A superannuation fund exists for the sole purpose of paying pensions, and not for making profits or accumulating unnecessary funds. Secondly, pensioners are, for the most part, exempt from tax. Thirdly, where they are not exempt, the pensioners are taxable on their pensions when they receive them. These considerations apply with equal force to pension funds for widows and orphans. Moreover, as all the moneys received by the funds are wholly paid to the annuitants, who bear tax, the taxation of interest on the investments and on the deposits of the funds becomes, as the House will see, a double tax. The liability of the State under the Old Age Pensions Act is very substantially decreased by reason of the benefits provided by these funds, and the expenditure under the Poor Law is also reduced, and I think it will be allowed that if this concession be made it will materially assist the Bill now before the House with regard to pensions for widows.

It would be thought there could be no objection whatever to granting this concession, but in conversations I have had with the Treasury on this matter they have put forward objections. Whether those objections will be repeated by the Chancellor to-night I do not know, but I would like to mention them. The Treasury say this concession may lay the Inland Revenue Department open to similar requests from bodies which they think are, or which may be thought to be, in a like situation. If that were a sound objection, there would be a great deal to be said for not granting the concession: but is it sound? I submit most humbly that it is not a sound objection, because the Clause I am moving is so worded as practically to limit the exemption from Income Tax to those funds which provide annuities for the widows and orphans of deceased employés. The safeguards provided by the Finance Act of 1921 remain intact. There are four safeguards. First, the funds must be properly established under trust; secondly, the sole purpose of the fund must be the provision of annuities; thirdly, the employer is to be a contributor to the fund; and, fourthly, the fund is to be recognised both by the employer and by the employed. So long as these widows' and orphans' funds are surrounded by these safeguards there cannot, I submit, be any danger whatsoever of any extension.

The second objection is with regard to the cost of the concession. I have no doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to tell us the cost in respect of superannuation funds, but he cannot, of course, say exactly the cost of the concession with regard to widows' and orphans' funds. I think he will allow, however, that these funds are substantially less than one-tenth the number of superannuation funds. Equally, their constituent membership is much smaller. They are of more recent establishment, and, consequently, the invested moneys are smaller in amount, while the benefit given by way of annuity is, in the main, less than that given by superannuation funds. All these considerations indicate very clearly to my mind that the cost of the concession must be a trifling matter. I have had some inquiries made, and have myself gone very carefully into this question, and my information shows that in the case of 31 widows' and orphans' funds the net cost to the Inland Revenue would be £22,000 per annum. Some allowance must, of course, be made for the few other societies' funds which I have not examined, but even when allowance is made for these the expense to the revenue would not be very much larger than the sum I have quoted. But let us put it at £25,000, and I think that may be considered to be the highest amount which the Inland Revenue would lose. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer will agree that that amount is trifling, at any rate in comparison with the benefits de-rived from funds which are doing such very good work, and not only that but doing it on the very lines which it is the policy of the Government to encourage. It is for these reasons, and these reasons alone, that I ask the Government to accept the Motion which I have moved, and allow this new Clause to be adopted.

In conclusion, I wish to say that if it is not possible—I hardly like to commit myself to such an indiscretion, although the Chancellor of the Exchequer may have some other reason for not giving me this concession—if by any chance the right hon. Gentleman has some reasons which he wishes to give to the House, and in regard to which it will not be within my power to argue on the present occasion, I appeal to him, and I ask him to examine very carefully the arguments I have adduced against the objections which I have heard advanced on other occasions to my proposal. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal with the question of the cost, and I ask him to confer with the experts and the people who are responsible for these funds. I ask him to discuss with them these questions and see exactly what the cost will be. If he finds out that the cost is not more than I have stated, then I hope that at any rate he will say, "Although I cannot give this concession now, you may rely upon me giving it every consideration," and I hope that on the next occasion the right hon. Gentleman will be able to grant this concession.


I should like to say a few words to commend this new Clause to the House, and to the sympathetic consideration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This new Clause provides for the extension of the exemption of superannuation funds from Income Tax in the case of death for the widows, children and other persons entitled to benefit. I agree that once you begin to recognise the right of superannuation funds generally to exemption from Income Tax and take up a definite line, you will find it very difficult to know exactly at what precise point to stop. I submit to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Government have one foot over that line already, in fact they are astride it, and therefore it is only natural and right in the interests of the widows and children that they should bring the other foot over.


I need scarcely say that I find it an ungrateful task to resist the arguments which have been so engagingly put forward in the concise and forcible speeches of the hon. Members who moved and seconded this Motion. There are two aspects of this question. First of all, the merits of the actual proposal, and secondly, the consequences of adopting it. On the merits of the actual proposal I feel that the Mover and the Seconder have made out a case which has much to recommend it. When I come to the question of adopting it, I find myself upon a slippery slope, and every step taken in this direction only justifies the request for another step, and every advance made makes it more difficult to resist further pressure. When the Royal Commission on Income Tax was sitting, the Treasury with some misgivings withdrew their opposition in the case of superannuation funds, and no sooner had they agreed that the superannuation fund should be relieved than the result occurred which we are now witnessing, and proposals were made to exempt the widows and orphans funds. The Royal Commission, however, was very clear that superannuation funds stood on a dif- ferent basis from thrift and provident funds and a fortiori from widows and orphans funds. They recommended In the case of these funds also we are of opinion that the employer's contribution, which is in its essence a business expense, should be allowed as a deduction in arriving at his Income Tax assessment, but we are unable to recommend that the contributions of an employé to a provident and thrift fund, which contributions are in all cases returned to the contributor with interest, should be exempted. Nor do we consider that it would be possible to exempt from assessment the interest earned by the investment of the employer's and employés' contributions. I am sure if we were now to extend the exemption to cover the case of orphans funds we should undoubtedly be compelled to go forward and treat provident and thrift funds in the same way. From the provident and thrift funds it would be a very easy step to go as far as the exemption of the investment income of life insurance companies, and, indeed, the exemption of the income from the savings of individuals generally, within certain moderate limits. I am not saying at all that these are not matters which should, in their proper time and place, be considered, though it is to be observed that they all tend greatly to complicate the general working of our already very voluminous Income Tax law and practice. But I am quite clear that it is not possible to decide on one of these steps, as has already been shown by what has followed in the path of the superannuation fund, without having in mind at the same time the other consequential steps. Moreover, I am told that in the case of many of these widows and orphans funds, particularly those where the contribution of the employer is on an actuarial basis, it would not be possible to ensure that the relief which it is now proposed should be granted would reach the actual beneficiaries of the fund, but that in quite a number of cases it could be absorbed entirely by the employer. That is a very serious consideration to bear in mind.

This subject has been discussed on several occasions. It was discussed last year, and, under the stern guidance of the party opposite, who then occupied these benches, it was negatived. I am bound to say—


They regretted it.


I regret it, too. I do not think anyone can accuse us, nor did I in any way accuse them, of not being sympathetic towards the case of the widows and orphans. Indeed, the greatest feature of the whole of our legislation this year is the far-reaching provision which we are making in regard to widows and orphans, which will secure to possibly as many as 6,000,000 wives, after the 4th January, the certainty, in the event of their husbands dying, that they will have behind them at least £25 a year; and it is certainly proper to take that into consideration at a moment when we are forced to resist a concession that has been put forward with so much force. That is an advantage which will be given to a great number of those whom my hon. Friend has in his mind, which far exceeds anything that could arise from an alteration in the treatment of these funds from the point of view of Income Tax.

Therefore, I am afraid I am not in a position to agree to incorporate this proposal in the Budget. The expense would be appreciable, but if the expense stood alone it would not necessarily be decisive. It is the need of a thoroughly systematic examination of all the reactions that is my principal argument in resisting the proposal. But, if we are not able to concede it, I can promise that I will fall in with my hon. Friend's suggestion, and will make an examination of the matter in the interval between now and the bringing forward of future Budget proposals; and I will make an examination of it, not only in conjunction with Members of the House who are interested in the matter and have taken it up, but will also consult with the experts of these particular societies and see whether it is possible in the future to draw some line which would meet this point without committing us to an almost indefinite extension of the principle. If that would meet the views of my hon. Friend, I can certainly give him that undertaking. Although similar undertakings on this and other subjects have been given in every one of the last three years by my predecessors in this office, those undertakings could not be carried out because, almost immediately after the passing of the Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government were pole-axed, and were not able to give con- sideration to the various matters with which they had dealt. That happened three times in succession, but I have already expressed the hope to the House that such occurrences, so detrimental to the efficiency of our institutions, would finally cease.


I shall not detain the House for more than a few moments, but I am bound to put one or two points, in view of the speech which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just made It is quite true that in the last year or two many of us have hesitated to support a Clause of this kind, because it did appear to make an inroad upon what we believed to be the programme, in regard to superannuation, of the Royal Commission on Income Tax of 1919. I confess, however, that, on looking into the matter more closely in recent times, it appears to me to be a very simple proposal to try to cover a small part of the schemes in relation to superannuation which was left uncovered by the provisions of the Act of 1921, which gave exemption to contributions to funds of that description. All that we are pleading for here is that one section or part, and a small part at that, of those superannuation funds, which already enjoy exemption in large measure, should be relieved of this burden where it falls upon that rather tragic part of the fund which deals with widows and orphans. I quite recognise the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer about repercussions. It is the argument which everyone representing the Treasury employs when trying to stave off difficult and awkward Amendments. But there is one point about the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, namely, that he has not condescended upon any figure at all in regard to the cost. It has been put as high as £250,000—


I should have stated that our estimate of the cost, in the case of widows and orphans funds alone, apart from the potential reactions, is £200,000.


£200,000 is now offered as the potential cost, but, after all, the very careful recent inquiry showed that only about 31 of these funds were distinguished. Allowing that the inquiry was probably not quite complete, there would not be more than a few in addition to that number, and we have the very best reason, from people who have worked these schemes all their lives, for believing that the cost would not exceed about £25,000 per annum. It is very-difficult to reconcile that figure with the £200,000 which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has suggested, and I think that on the whole a case has been made out for this Amendment. Accordingly, I hope that the promoters of the Amendment will take it to a Division. I do not think we can ride off on an undertaking to make further investigation, because this matter has been investigated already, and everyone knows all about it. There-is no more information to be obtained, and this proposal merely seeks to put a small part of the scheme in the position

that is now occupied by the larger part, to which this concession has already been granted.

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

The House proceeded to a Division.


(seated and covered): On a point of Order. After the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I do not myself think it is necessary to go to a Division.

Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)

That is not a point of Order.

The House divided: Ayes, 120; Noes, 242.

Division No. 197.] AYES. [8.33 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Hardie, George D. Saklatvala, Shapurji
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Harris, Percy A. Scrymgeour, E.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Mayday, Arthur Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Ammon, Charles George Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Attlee, Clement Richard Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Hirst, G. H. Smillie, Robert
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Barnes, A. Hore-Belisha, Leslie Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)
Barr, J. Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Batey, Joseph Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Snell, Harry
Beckett, John (Gateshead) Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) John, William (Rhondda, West) Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Stamford, T. W.
Broad, F. A. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Stephen, Campbell
Charleton, H. C. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Sutton, J. E.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Taylor, R. A.
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock) Kelly, W. T. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Connolly, M. Kennedy, T. Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)
Cove, W. G. Kenyon, Barnet Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Dalton, Hugh Lansbury, George Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Day, Colonel Harry Lawson, John James Thurtle, E.
Dennison, R. Lowth, T. Tinker, John Joseph
Duncan, C. Lunn, William Varley, Frank B.
Edwards, John H. (Accrington) Mackinder, W. Viant, S. P.
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.) MacLaren, Andrew Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Forrest, W. Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Warne, G. H.
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. March, S. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Gillett, George M. Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley) Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Gosling, Harry Montague, Frederick Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Morris, R. H. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Westwood, J.
Greenall, T. Naylor, T. E. Whiteley, W.
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Oliver, George Harold Williams, David (Swansea, E.)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Palin, John Henry Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Groves, T. Paling, W. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Grundy, T. W. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Windsor, Walter
Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Potts, John S. Wright, W.
Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Riley, Ben
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Rose, Frank H. Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Hayes.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Barnett, Major Richard Blades, Sir George Rowland
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Barnston, Major Sir Harry Blundell, F. N.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. Beamish, Captain T. P. H. Boothby, R. J. G.
Astor, Viscountess Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Bourne, Captain Robert Croft
Atholl, Duchess of Bennett, A. J. Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish- Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Berry, Sir George Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.
Balniel, Lord Bethell, A. Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive
Banks, Reginald Mitchell Betterton, Henry B. Briscoe, Richard George
Brittain, Sir Harry Gunston, Captain D. W. O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Hall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. (Dulwich) Pennefather, Sir John
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Penny, Frederick George
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Harland, A. Perring, William George
Buckingham, Sir H. Harrison, G. J. C. Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Pilditch, Sir Philip
Burman, J. B. Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Preston, William
Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D. Haslam, Henry C. Price, Major C. W. M.
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Hawke, John Anthony Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Reid, Capt. A. S. c. (Warrington)
Caine, Gordon Hall Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Reid, D. D. (County Down)
Campbell, E. T. Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P. Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Cassels, J. D. Henn, Sir Sydney H. Rice, Sir Frederick
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.) Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A. Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Rye, F. G.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.) Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Salmon, Major I.
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Homan, C. W. J. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Christie, J. A. Hopkins, J. W. W. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Sanderson, Sir Frank
Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N. Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Clarry, Reginald George Howard, Capt. Hon. D. (Cumb., N.) Savery, S. S.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W)
Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K. Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n) Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)
Cohen, Major J. Brunel Hume, Sir G. H. Shepperson, E. W.
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Hurst, Gerald B. Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Cooper, A. Duff Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's) Skelton, A. N.
Cope, Major William Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Courtauld, Major J. S. Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.) Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe) Jacob, A. E. Smithers, Waldron
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Jephcott, A. R Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Spender Clay, Colonel H.
Crook, C. W. Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William Stanley, Col. Hon. G.F. (Will'sden, E.)
Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend) Kennedy, A. R. (Preston) Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Kidd, J. (Linilthgow) Storry Deans, R.
Crookshank, Col. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro) Kindersley, Major Guy M. Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry King, Captain Henry Douglas Strickland, Sir Gerald
Curzon, Captain Viscount Knox, Sir Alfred Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Dalkeith, Earl of Lamb, J. Q. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Dalziel, Sir Davison Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Col. George R. Tasker, Major R. Inigo
Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd) Leigh, Sir John (Clapham) Templeton, W. P.
Davidson, Major-General Sir John H. Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th) Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Croydon, S.)
Dawson, Sir Philip Loder, J. de V. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Dean, Arthur Wellesley Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Vaughan-Morgan. Col. K. P.
Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert MacAndrew, Charles Glen Waddington, R.
Doyle, Sir N. Grattan McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus Wallace, Captain D. E.
Drewe, C. Macintyre, I. Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Eden, Captain Anthony MacMillan, Captain H. Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Edmondson, Major A. J. Makins, Brigadier-General E. Warrender, Sir Victor
Elliot, Captain Walter E. Malone, Major P. B. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Margesson, Captain D. Wells, S. R.
Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith Merriman, F. B. Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.
Everard, W. Lindsay Meyer, Sir Frank White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Milne, J. S. Wardlaw- Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Fielden, E. B. Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Winby, Colonel L. P.
Finburgh, S. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Fleming, D. P. Moore, Sir Newton J. Wise, Sir Fredric
Ford, P. J. Morden, Colonel Walter Grant Wolmer, Viscount
Forestier-Walker, L. Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Womersley, W. J.
Foster, Sir Harry S. Murchison, C. K. Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)
Ganzonl, Sir John Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Gates, Percy Nelson, Sir Frank Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Young, E. Hilton (Norwich)
Goff, Sir Park Nicholson, O. (Westminster)
Greene, W. P. Crawford Nuttall, Ellis TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Grotrian, H. Brent Oakley, T. Mr. F. C. Thomson and Lord
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton) Stanley.

I wish to raise a point of Order. When I arrived at the entrance to the Division Lobby, the passage was completely blocked, so that it was impossible either to enter the "Aye" Lobby or the "No" Lobby, with the result that I and others were unable to cast a vote in the Division that has just taken place. I ask your ruling as to whether the Division is a valid vote, since Members were unable to take part in it?


I am very sorry the hon. Member was deprived of the opportunity of recording his vote. Every effort is made to keep the various entrances to the lobby open, and there are several others besides the one to which the hon. Member has referred.


After the notice was given that the doors were locked, the crowd at the door melted away in a second or two, but while the doors were still open that bunch of Members were there definitely at the door as if they were really blocking the passage intentionally. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It is all very well—


I do not think this ought to develop into a debate. I understand that, unfortunately, several hon. Members found the crowd rather excessive at the entrance to the House. I do not think that often occurs. Perhaps another time the hon. Member will have better luck.


I did not wish to make it a matter of debate, but I am stating what appeared to be the facts in connection with the case. I want to know what your ruling is. There are other approaches to the Lobby, and when one has come to one of those definite approaches and allowed plenty of time to get into the Lobby, surely there is some remedy.


The hon. Member must realise that there are six minutes from the time the Question is put the first time until the doors are ordered to be locked, and hon. Members must do their best to enter the Lobby during that interval.


Is it not a fact that, if there was any obstruction, it was obstruction by the hon. Member's own friends.


I would not have raised this matter had it been just the ordinary difficulty in entering the Lobby that regularly occurs, but this was absolutely abnormal. So far from there being any other entrance, it was impossible to get there unless one came round and entered from behind the Speaker's Chair.


I was in the same difficulty. I was just in front of my two hon. Friends, the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), and I only managed to get through with the utmost difficulty. There was a great crush of Members who had voted in the other Lobby.


I do not think that there was any blame attaching to any hon. Member for what occurred. Time is allowed for hon. Members to get into the Lobby.


I do not want to be vexatious or to delay the Debate, but I want you to give consideration to the question as to whether the vote under these conditions is a valid vote of the House. I have it in my recollection that it is one of the Standing Orders that we pass at the beginning of every Session that a Member of this House shall not be delayed or obstructed in doing the necessary work of the House. We certainly were in that position to-night, and I ask you to consider whether it is a valid vote since hon. Members were definitely obstructed from casting their votes?


As far as I am concerned, all that I have to do is to carry out the Standing Orders of the House. The only rulings we can give from the Chair in regard to this question is that the approaches shall be kept clear.


Have the Whips any prerogative to include in the vote just taken the vote of any hon. Member if they are convinced that there has been unnecessary obstruction?


There is no power to do that.