HC Deb 07 July 1927 vol 208 cc1565-70 Section nineteen of the Finance Act, 1920 (which makes provision for a deduction in respect of relatives taking charge of widowers' or widows' children), as amended by Sections twenty-one and twenty-two of the Finance Act, 1924, shall be extended so as to apply to a person resident with an unmarried person in the capacity of housekeeper where the unmarried person proves that his income from all sources does not exceed five hundred pounds.—[Mr. T. Williams.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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

This Clause deals with a very small point, and is designed exclusively for the purpose of removing an anomaly. One thing that emerges from these discussions is that the Financial Secretary is not empowered to make any concession so far, but I am hoping that since this particular Clause deals only with the case of the unmarried woman, perhaps he will reserve a few pounds for this purpose. The position is this. The existing allowances are granted to a widow or widower with one or more children who has female domestic assistance, and to an unmarried person who has for domestic assistance his mother or sister. They are able to obtain an allowance to the extent of £60 under Section 19 of the Finance Act, 1920, as amended. The one person, however, who is unable to obtain this £60 allowance is the unmarried woman. For example, the unmarried woman who follows the profession of school teacher is out of her house for many hours during the day, and is called upon to undertake a good deal of study during the evening. If she takes a house on her own account she must, of necessity, have someone to perform the domestic duties. It seems to me that that person should be enabled to obtain the allowance. I do not know what the exact cost of the concession would be, but it seems that there are these anomalous cases in almost every district. For the sake of the unmarried woman who has acquired some profession, who earns her own livelihood and probably keeps one of her sisters to perform the domestic duties of the house. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer should accept this Amendment. A limit of £500 income is inserted in the Clause in order to keep the concession, if it is granted, within measurable limits. I hope the Attorney-General, who is in charge of the Bill at the moment, is going to remove this anomaly and secure equitable treatment between all kinds of people who are in exactly similar circumstances.

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Douglas Hogg)

The hon. Member has suggested that the new Clause is designed to remove an anomaly, and to put the unmarried woman in the same position as the unmarried man or any such other persons who are entitled to the allowance. He has mistaken, first, the existing law and, secondly, the effect of his proposed new Clause. The existing law is not that an unmarried man without children is able to get the housekeeper's allowance.


I did not quite make that statement. I said that a person who keeps his mother, or his sister or a female relative, to look after one small boy or girl can get the allowance, although unmarried.


And so can a widow in a like condition. The position is that the new Clause instead of applying only to unmarried ladies who want to have domestic help would, in fact, apply equally to unmarried men who at present have no such allowance, and who by this Clause would be given an allowance which was originally designed to assist widows and widowers if they had some female person to reside with them as housekeeper. I do not think that is desirable, and it is certainly inconsistent with the history of the Clause. When the housekeeper's allowance was first conceded in 1918 it was confined to widowers and widows who had children, the object being to assist a widower or widow who got some woman to look after their children: that they should still have an allowance to cover that expense. It was suggested at that time that the concession should be extended to widowers who had no children, and the matter was fully investigated by the Royal Commission on Income Tax, and They recommended in their Report of March, 1920, that the allowance should be confined to widowers or widows with children. That was intended to provide for the person who had to get in some woman to look after young children whom he or she could not care for personally owing to the loss of a husband or a wife. In 1924 a, concession was made by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he was careful to limit that concession, and although he extended the allowance to cases where there were no young children to be cared for, he still confined it carefully to a widower or a widow.

The present proposal is an illustration of the danger which results from granting a concession in order to meet some particular hard case because the concession granted is at once made a stepping stone towards some further concession which removes the original alleviation far from the case it was designed to meet. The object of the original concession here was to enable a person who had lost husband or wife to find someone to take care of young children so deprived of a natural protector. As I say, in 1924, in response to considerable pressure from some hon. Members who now sit opposite, an extension was made to the case where a widower or widow had no young children, and now it is suggested that wherever an unmarried person keeps a housekeeper, he or she, should be entitled to the allowance, provided his or her total income does not exceed £500. It would produce a remarkable anomaly because the concession, in the case of the widower or widow, is not confined to people with any particular income. You would have the result that the unmarried person who had been a husband or wife would get the allowance, whatever the income, whereas the person who had always been unmarried would only get the allowance if the income was not more than £500. It would also have the odd result that in some cases the person with the larger income would have to pay more in extra Income Tax than the difference between his or her income and the income of a person who would come under the new Clause. For instance, a person with an income of £505 who therefore would not get the allowance, would have to pay £14 more than the person, in like condition, who had an income of £495. Therefore although he would have an extra £10 income, he would be £4 worse off. That illustrates some of the anomalies which would be created and on the grounds that the concession is one which the Royal Commission definitely reported against; that it would create these anomalous positions, and, that it is divorcing the housekeeper allowance from the purpose which it was originally designed to meet, the Government are unable to accept the proposed New Clause.


Is the Attorney-General's explanation regarding a widower with children complete? Is it not the case that, where a widower with young children sends those children to his mother who has a home of her own, before the Income Tax authorities will allow him anything in respect of the education and nurture of those children they insist upon him having a woman resident in his home? Does not that make for a very curious anomaly and is it not perhaps an insistence on some more or less immoral relationship which the Government contemplate? Will he say if it is the case that the Income Tax authorities do rigidly insist upon that condition that the woman must be residing in the widower's house?


I think it is quite true that before you can claim the housekeeper's allowance you have got to prove that you have got a housekeeper. That anomaly, if it be one, would still remain under the proposals in this Clause.


It may be that the whole thing is so complicated that one can be very dull in putting a plain statement of facts, but I would like to ask the Attorney-General this: Is it not true to say that under existing legislation a widow with one child who spends four-fifths of her time in an educational institution can have some female to perform her domestic duties and obtain the allowance of £60? If that be the case, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what the anomaly would be if an unmarried person who is performing her professional duties away from home several hours during the day employed her own sister to perform the domestic duties of the household and if she obtained the same allowance as is granted to the widow? Further, is it not the case that an unmarried male person who has got one small boy or girl dependent upon him and who may for four-fifths of his time be in an educational institution can engage a female to perform the domestic duties and obtain the £60 allowance? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer!"]

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


As the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not in his place and, also, as I am sorry for the reason, I do not propose to move my new Clause (Exchange and issues of securities).