§ Order read for Consideration of Bill, as amended.
§ Sir DENNIS HERBERT
I beg to move,That the Bill be re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House in respect of Part III.4.0 p.m.
I can explain my reasons for moving this Motion, which stands in my name and the names of other hon. Members, in a very few sentences. The House will remember that this Part of the Bill is to enable the Revenue to obtain Estate Duty in cases where a deceased person has, during his lifetime, through the medium of a company, endeavoured to avoid liability to the duty. The method which is adopted in this Part of the Bill is to make the Estate Duty payable by the company through the medium of which the recently deceased person acted. As the Bill reads at present, the demand for Estate Duty is made upon companies of a certain type, which include foreign companies, and, as the Clauses are worded, it includes foreign companies which are not in any way under the jurisdiction of the courts of this country. It seems to me that there are two alternatives, one of which must be followed in this matter. The first—an easy course—would be to amend these Clauses in such a way that they would not purport to apply to companies or persons who are outside the jurisdiction of this country. The other form would, I am afraid, necessitate a complete re-drafting of these Clauses, so as to legislate against the man himself who is in this country, instead of against the company which is outside the jurisdiction of this country.
There are two Amendments on the Order Paper, one in my name and the names of other hon. Members, to strike out the words "wheresoever incorporated." But that, I agree, would go unnecessarily far, because there are foreign companies which carry on business in this country and are liable to Income Tax. My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Major Nathan) has an Amendment, which, I think, would include all the foreign companies 1500 which can come under the jurisdiction of our courts, and, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be satisfied to accept an Amendment which would limit this to companies over which we have jurisdiction, then I should not desire to press this Motion. But may I remind the House that I have got, I think, very good reasons for asking that one of the two alternatives may be accepted because—and I think the Chancellor will agree here—it would not do for us to pass an Act of Parliament which appeared to impose a liability to taxation on a company entirely outside the jurisdiction of our courts. It is perfectly true that it could only be ineffective, but there is a danger, because not only do we legislate against these companies, but also against anyone who may be a director of a foreign company, whom we could not get at; but, under the law as the Bill stands, if a foreigner who is not a subject of this country came over to this country on a temporary visit, and he happened to be a director of that company, he would be technically, at any rate, liable to a penalty, because his company had not supplied information. I only wish to see cleared up a position which might possibly make us ridiculous, and if the Chancellor is prepared to limit the effect of these Clauses to companies which come under the jurisdiction of our courts, then I should have no wish to press this Motion.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Philip Snowden)
The hon. Member's Motion is to re-commit in respect of the whole of Part III, which, of course, covers a great deal more ground than he covered in his remarks. I think his purpose in submitting this Motion is to secure consideration of one particular point, and that is to restrict the Bill to companies which are within the jurisdiction of our courts. That matter was discussed at very considerable length during the Committee stage of the Bill, and I fail to see what useful purpose would be served by further discussion in Committee, because the Report stage will provide all the opportunities that the hon. Member needs.
§ Sir D. HERBERT
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to explain for one moment? I am afraid I moved this 1501 Motion rather in a formal way to get this explained by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but my point about re-committing was that if the Chancellor wants, or considers it possible, to deal with the case of a man who is acting through the medium of a foreign company outside our jurisdiction, it is necessary to re-draft the whole of this Part of the Bill.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Speaking not as a lawyer, I should not think that if the House thought it desirable to incorporate such an alteration as the hon. Member suggests it would mean a new Clause. But the point is this. I think the matter could be quite as adequately discussed on Report as in Committee. I cannot at the moment, of course, say what attitude I should take to any Amendment that the hon. Member might move upon this matter, but, as I said, we can deal with this point on Report. There are not a great many Amendments to Clauses 32 to 36. A number of those are in my name, and a number are merely what might be called of a drafting character. Therefore, I think when we come to the consideration of those Clauses the point which the hon. Member wants to raise will be adequately discussed.
§ Sir D. HERBERT
In those circumstances, with the permission of the House, I will withdraw this Motion, merely saying that my only reason for moving it was in case the Chancellor of the Exchequer might wish to take a course which, quite obviously, he does not.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill, as amended, considered.