§ Mr. REMER
I beg to move, in page 17, line 17, at the end, to insert the words:Providing that this sub-section shall not apply where the said person is acting as a trustee and the sums due are payable by him on behalf of other persons.The Committee will observe that this Sub-section provides for amending the law relating to the recovery of Income Tax, and it seems to me that inconvenience might be caused if in certain circumstances, where a man had several accounts of his own, and, at the same time, had other accounts for which he was trustee and in which he had no pecuniary interest, he had these accounts mixed up with those of his own. It is for that reason that I think that these words which I propose should be included in this Sub-section in order to make it clear that a, man who is a trustee should not have the accounts mixed up with his own accounts.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I think the hon. Member is probably under a 675 misapprehension in this matter. The main advantage of this Sub-section is with the taxpayer, because these are amounts which have already been assessed and a taxpayer has to pay; for in 99 cases out of 100 the decision of the court in such cases is unfavourable to the taxpayer. To enable the collector to put all these into one summons is a very much cheaper procedure, and although it is an advantage to the collector to have that simplicity of procedure, the major advantage falls to the taxpayer. If the Amendment were carried, a trustee would be debarred from getting the reduction of costs which would follow upon the procedure provided for in the Clause. In these circumstances, I think the hon. Member will see that his Amendment would not be an advantage. The case he had in mind is a case where there are two accounts, and where the taxpayer pays twice, once in regard to his own accounts and once as a trustee. The matter might go further than that, but even in that case, though it would be unlikely that such a case would arise, I do not think any difficulty would occur, and in such a rare case the advantage would be to the taxpayer. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will see his way to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
I beg to move in page 17, line 18, to leave out Subsection (2).
I do so in no unfriendly spirit, but in order to obtain from the Financial Secretary an intimation of the real purpose and scope of this Clause. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer painted it in too rosy colours when he said that it was a concession to taxpayers to avoid the cost of litigation in High Courts and to give him the great advantage of summary jurisdiction. I frankly did not believe the right hon. Gentleman when he said that he was stating the whole of his case, for I have no doubt the suggestion comes from the revenue 676 officials, and it is more for their convenience than for the convenience of the taxpayers. The procedure in a, court of summary jurisdiction makes it easier for revenue officers to get their money than does the procedure in the High Court. There is this point. The provision for recovery which was originally intended for small sums under £50 is now going to be extended to larger sums. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that is an advantage for the taxpayer. I venture to disagree. It may well compel the slow and unwilling taxpayer to pay up sooner, but I do not think it can be said to be an advantage to the taxpayer. For summary procedure is now to be extended to sums of £50 where they are part of larger sums paid by instalments, which is a very different thing. One can see that the taxpayer could make an agreement with the revenue authorities to pay by instalments, and then the authorities could come down on him under this summary procedure. I am not being unduly critical, but this is what I conceive to be the situation. The principle of this Clause is to extend summary jurisdiction from very small sums of money to larger sums where they are paid by instalments. Whether this is justified is a matter for the Committee to decide.
There is one reference which I would like to make. I think it is undesirable that this Committee should be asked to pass Amendments without knowing what they are about. There is a reference to Section 22 of the Finance Act of 1928. That looks like any other reference, as if there was nothing uncommon about it, but, as a matter of fact, there is something very peculiar about it. It provides the extension to Northern Ireland and I hold that Members for Northern Ireland with their tradition of Never Surrender should at least be apprised that this does apply to that country. It is a somewhat long Section, and I will not read it. It refers to three or four Acts of Parliament relating to Northern Ireland, and, if any Northern Ireland Member, now that his notice has been brought to the matter, wishes to discuss it, I would be willing to lend him this edition of the Statute.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I understand that the hon. Gentleman did not put down the Amendment because of any hostility, but in order to elicit from me 677 some explanation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that this was an advantage to the taxpayer and that it can quite easily be shown that it is. The hon. Member presumed that it was also of some advantage to the Inland Revenue. It is in the sense that anything which works towards simplicity and enables these matters to be cleared up more easily is an advantage to the collection of the revenue. For that reason, we should like to see this Subsection carried.
Let me describe the effect. At the present time, if one of these instalments is under £50, the collector can take summary proceedings to endeavour to obtain the collection of that amount. If, however, the two instalments are over £50, then, unless he has already collected the first, by the time that the second instalment becomes due, he is unable to use the summary procedure in order to collect the second, because the amount owing by the taxpayer is over £50, and he has to go to the High Court instead of to a summary court. The effect of that is this. He will press the taxpayer at an earlier stage, because he will try to collect the first instalment before it becomes too late. If, however, this Sub-section stands, he can, if he think it desirable, give the taxpayer a little more latitude, and he will not mind the first instalment running into the second half of the year, but, if he now gives the taxpayer a little bit of grace which runs into the second half of the year, and finds it necessary after all to take proceedings, he has to go to the High Court.
This Sub-section will enable him to give the taxpayer a little longer in certain cases to pay, and, in the second place, if it is still necessary to proceed, he will be able to do it at smaller expense which, in the great bulk of cases, falls on the taxpayer. The hon. Member will see, therefore, that, although it is an advantage to the collector to take this course, there is also an advantage to the taxpayer in the procedure suggested. The Government therefore cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Major LLEWELLIN
If, as the Financial Secretary has said, there is some advantage to the taxpayer, it is not really a very apparent one in this new summary procedure. If it were such an advantage to the person who owes the money to have the money taken in this 678 summary way, I should have thought there could have been included also in this Clause a converse provision that, where a rebate is due from the commissioners, as it often is, the subject should be able to recover that summarily from them. There are a number of instances which I have in mind where it has been very difficult to get that refund paid at all by the Income Tax authorities. Possibly the Financial Secretary might bear that in mind, and make some such provision if it really is for the advantage of those who owe the money.
§ Major ROSS
The latter part of this Sub-section, although it is a camouflaged piece of drafting, refers to Northern Ireland, because it extends the mischief of Section 22 of the Finance Act, 1928. I must refer to the Acts with which we are concerned. Section 22 of the Finance Act, 1928, applied the system of recovery of Income Tax by summary proceedings to Northern Ireland, and overruled an Act called the Small Debts (Ireland) Act, of 1859. I look on this further extension of that principle with a great deal of anxiety and suspicion. The Small Debts (Ireland) Act, although it is not a modern Act, was drafted with particular reference to and knowledge of the conditions in Ireland, and of the capacity of the courts of summary jurisdiction. I should like to read a portion of Section 5, to which reference is made in Section 22 of the Finance Act of 1928, which dealt with the powers of courts of summary jurisdiction in Ireland as to deciding civil disputes, and which limited those powers very drastically. In the prologue, it says:It shall be lawful for any justice or justices at petty sessions to hear and determine certain disputes concerning any sums due for wages, or for hire of any horse, or for tuition, and to make such Order as they shall see fit for payment, provided the sum shall not exceed ten pounds.We have here a definite type of dispute. Compare that with the general jurisdiction which is limited to £2. The Section goes on:That it shall be lawful for the justice or justices at petty sessions to hear and determine causes for the recovery of debts between party and party under the value of two pounds, where the right to recover such debts shall have accrued within twelve calendar months before the day of the date of the process hereinafter mentioned.This Section goes, on for another page.
I must point out that we are discussing a specific practice and not a general practice.
§ Major ROSS
I cannot surely be more in order than when I am referring to a Statute, namely Section 22 of the Finance Act, 1928, which is referred to in this Clause.
The only thing involved in this Sub-section is Income Tax due. It does not cover any other kind of debt, and I cannot permit the hon. and gallant Member to go over the whole field of how other forms of debt are recovered. This Sub-section exclusively and distinctly concerns Income Tax due and its recovery.
§ Major ROSS
If you had permitted me to reply to the point which you raised, I do not think that you would have questioned the propriety of what I said. We have in the Sub-section under discussion a reference to the Finance Act of 1928, and to Section 22 in that Act. That Section is an overriding Section. It says:Notwithstanding anything in Section Five of the Small Debts (Ireland) Act, 1859,and it over-rides that Section of the 1859 Act. If that Section were not overruled, it would not be possible to apply Sub-section (2) of this Clause at all, and, in my submission, there can be no question that I was in order, and I was trying to keep my remarks within reasonable compass, and, for that reason, I read only a small portion of the Section which was definitely relevant.
The hon. and gallant Member must permit me to decide that. I am quite prepared to allow him to state his case fully, but I must state definitely that the only question involved is Income Tax due and the proposed method of recovering that Income Tax due. The hon. and gallant Member must not go outside the provision of the Sub-section.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
On that point of Order. Surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman was referring to that part of the 1859 Act which applies to Income Tax only. He was merely using the illustration of the 1859 Act, and his intention was only to refer to it where it applies to Income Tax. That is not a modern 680 Act and its phraseology may sound strange, but I would like you to realise that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was only referring to the Income Tax part of it and not to the general collection of debt.
The hon. and gallant Member may have meant that, but he did not confine his remarks to that.
§ Major ROSS
I say with the greatest respect that I have merely read a Section of an Act which is being repealed or limited in its effect by the Sub-section under discussion. I am entirely in your, hands, and I bow to your Ruling, but it is beyond me to understand why I cannot refer to an Act which is being definitely, limited by this Sub-section. However, as, you say I must not discuss it, I will not deal with it further, and will pass on to, the general position. The jurisdiction of, small Courts is being extended. Very large sums of money, if dealt with piecemeal and bit by bit, can be decided by Courts of summary jurisdiction which are accustomed to dealing with more trivial problems. Those responsible for this Subsection must realise that in a Court of summary jurisdiction in Ireland we have not a Court of very wide experience of business or finance, and if points of technical difficulty were to arise the parties would be at the mercy of a bench of magistrates who had not been appointed with the idea that they would have to deal with such problems, but appointed, rather, as persons who enjoy the confidence of their neighbours in dealing with the minor affairs of life.
I would like the Financial Secretary to tell me whether this Sub-section has been settled in consultation with the Finance Minister of Northern Ireland, and has his assent. He is the authority most closely concerned and is conversant with the whole problem from the Northern Ireland point of view. If it is his view that this is an appropriate tribunal, and that tax collecting can be properly and adequately carried out by it I shall be perfectly content, but unless I have that assurance I must oppose this Sub-section. It is of the utmost importance that we should know whether the Finance Minister of Northern Ireland approves of this Sub-section or not.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
There is an objection to this Clause on a matter of principle which I should like to point out. Under the Act of 1924, if Income Tax to an amount less than £50 is owing it can be recovered summarily; but where you have £40 owing under one instalment and £40 under another instalment, the total owing being £80, summary proceedings cannot be adopted. What this Sub-section says is that although a man may owe more than £50 for Income Tax the Revenue officer can split the debt into two and first take summary proceedings to recover one instalment and then take proceedings to recover the other instalment. In other words, where the sum due is payable by instalment, and the amount of an instalment is less than £50, that can be recovered summarily, although the total debt exceeds £50. Surely that is wrong in principle.
County Court jurisdiction is limited to sums of £100. Supposing A owes B £150, payable by two instalments, and that they are both due. The person to whom the money is owing cannot split his debt and claim half of it in the County Court one day and the next day issue another summons for the other half. There may be instalments of Income Tax covering two years. Say a man owes £40 for Income Tax in January and £40 in July last year, and £40 for January and £40 for July this year. That would make a total of £160. Under the present law he could not be sued by summary process, because he is owing £160, but what the Income Tax officials would do would be to issue four summonses one after the other each for a separate instalment. That would be driving a carriage-and-pair clean through the provision's of the Act of 1924.
It may be said that this Sub-section is an advantage. But is it an advantage? It is only points of law that really arise on these proceedings for the recovery of Income Tax. There might be a question of fact as to whether the sum had been paid, but usually, if there is any defence, it concerns a matter of law. The system of appeal from courts of summary jurisdiction is a very complicated one. You have to get the magistrate to state a case and then go to the Divisional Court. You have to have those two hearings before you are able to get a point of law properly argued. If the 682 revenue officer goes to the High Court, as he has to do now where the sum owing is more than £50, he takes out a summons for judgment under what we call Order 14, and it comes before the Registrar, and if any point is raised the parties can go at once to a Judge in Chambers, appearing by a solicitor or personally and get the point in dispute dealt with in the cheapest and the most rapid way possible.
That is a very great advantage to the litigant. It is not a question of calling evidence in these eases. The point is always something technical, and in the one case you have to go before the magistrate and get him to state a, case and then go to the Divisional Court, before three judges, where you are bound to appear by counsel; and in the other case the matter comes before the Registrar and any point of law can be taken at once to a Julge in Chambers. You can do that at very little expense, and you can do it very quickly. If the amount owing is more than £50, proceedings have to be taken in the High Court before a judge. It is all very well to take summary proceedings where there is no defence, and in that case the man must pay. If there is a defence, the High Court proceedings are quicker than proceedings before the magistrate, and the point at issue only arises where there is a defence. The procedure which is provided for under this Clause is not an advantage to the taxpayer or to the revenue officer, because in both cases they want matters decided speedily, and therefore they should be decided by a High Court Judge wherever that is possible. It is not a fair way of dealing with these matters to split up the proceedings for small debts in this way, because by that process you deprive the taxpayer of the right of going before a judge, which he could do at very little expense.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I am a little suspicious in regard to the statement made by the Financial Secretary, because he talked a good deal about more latitude being given to the taxpayer by this Clause, and he said that all the Clause did was to enable the Income Tax authorities to press for payment at an earlier stage.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Although the Financial Secretary used a good deal of verbiage which will probably hide his meaning, that is, in effect, what he said, and that is why my suspicions have been aroused. Now we know that by this Clause the Government are proposing to do something that may increase the burden placed upon the taxpayer. When we hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer stating that this is a helpful Clause we must be a little suspicious. I do not say that the Financial Secretary realises that what I am stating is going to happen, but it has been pointed out clearly and legally that the actual effects of this Clause will be that more direct pressure will be placed upon the taxpayer. I think that is clear to every Member of the House.
I would like to ask the Financial Secretary to make us a slight concession. If the hon. Member believes that this Clause will only have the effect which he has described, may I ask if he would be willing to insert a proviso during the Report stage to the effect that this proposal will not be used where there is any technical point of law involved. I think that is a proviso which the staff of the Department could easily draft in order to provide that Sub-section (2) of this Clause could not be used where there was a really technical legal point involved. My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Major Ross), who is one of the representatives of Northern Ireland raised an important point in connection with the Small Debts Act of Ireland, 1859.
I am not a lawyer, and I do not intend to go into the technicalities of that Act, but the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry ought not to be passed over very lightly because we are dealing with an important Act which repeals another Act. I think it is only right that an English Member should say that nothing should be done under this Sub-section to offend the feelings of the people in Northern Ireland, whose services to this country we all greatly appreciate. I think we should insist upon knowing, before a vote is taken upon this Amendment, whether the approval of the Finance Minister of Northern Ireland has been obtained on the point dealt with in this Sub-section. Perhaps the Financial Secretary is prepared to accept the suggestion which I 684 have made in order to make this Subsection a little more clear.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
I want to put one or two points to the Financial Secretary. In the first place, I should like to ask why it is necessary, in 1930, to put this provision into the Finance Bill at all. Income Tax, and the recovery of debts in connection with Income Tax, have been proceeding for 100 years or more. Will the Financial Secretary tell us what the difficulties have been—in what cases there has been a difficulty in collecting money due as a debt, because the amount was too small or too large, in certain courts which in normal cases deal with these debts, and what is happening to make it necessary for us to consider this matter now? We are not likely to oppose a Clause which gives to the Revenue the right and opportunity of getting that to which it is entitled, or to put any obstacle in the way of an enactment which will give effect to that object. But we are here to protect the taxpayer from the inclusion of what we consider might be harassing and unfair pressure put upon him by the Inland Revenue Department.
I have taken part in debates in which Ulster has been affected in this House, and I believe that on one occasion, in the last Parliament, I was in charge of a Bill, dealing with pensions in Northern Ireland, I remember that it was a most delicate position with which we had to deal. Again, there was a question, I think under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, of some agricultural land grants or purchase assistance for Ulster which we had to get carried forward. The hon. and gallant Member for Londonderry (Major Ross) has raised a point which the Financial Secretary cannot allow to go by without giving us a definite answer. We cannot allow anything to pass which might give offence or might work an injustice to the people of Ulster, and, therefore, I would ask the hon. Gentleman to tell us quite definitely whether he has consulted the Northern Ireland authorities, whether they are in agreement with the action that he is now taking, and what effect this enactment will have on the taxpayers in Northern Ireland in connection with Income Tax.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I quite appreciate the spirit in which the various 685 points on this Sub-section have been put forward by the Opposition, and I will do my best to deal with them as they have been raied. With regard to the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Londonderry (Major Ross), as to whether the Finance Minister of Northern Ireland was consulted, the Finance Minister of Northern Ireland was consulted with regard to the Finance Act of 1928, in which the main principle with which we are now concerned was included; and this very slight alteration which is now introduced in Sub-section (2) was not considered to be of sufficient importance to render it necessary to consult him specifically about it.
The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) asked me what was the whole object of this Sub-section. The object is that of simplification generally, and I think it is quite reasonable that we should attempt to simplify in every way possible, as we go along, the working of the Income Tax laws. With regard to the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson), I do not think that the position is quite as he presents it. The tax collector has the right to take summary proceedings for any instalment below £50 within a specified time——
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
If there is only one instalment owing, and that is below he can, up to a specific date—I think the 30th June—take proceedings to recover it summarily. The effect of not carrying this particular Sub-section would be, not to give the taxpayer greater grace, but to hurry up the summary proceedings, because the tax collector, in order to get the summary process, must take it before a certain date. Therefore, the effect of the law as it stands is to force the tax collector who wants to make use of this machinery to act, it may be, unnecessarily precipitately or unnecessarily harshly in order to secure the payment of the debt summarily. The effect of carrying this Sub-section will be, in a great many cases, to give the taxpayer a little longer time, and I should have thought that for that reason it was mainly for the benefit of the taxpayer. Therefore, I do not think that the difficulty and hardship which the hon. and learned 686 Member seems to imagine will arise correctly represents the facts.
It is not a question of splitting up one debt into four parts, because the tax collector already has the right, in the first six months, to take proceedings summarily for the first instalment, and, having collected that, he can, in the second half-year, take summary proceedings for the next instalment. The only effect of this Sub-section will be that he will be able to delay taking summary proceedings for the first instalment until a little later, when he would be able at the same time to take summary proceedings for the second instalment. In the great majority of cases, at any rate, and I should have thought in all, that would give an advantage to the taxpayer, because the tax collector who thinks he will give the taxpayer the benefit of the doubt, and let the matter run on for a little time, will not feel that he must take action at once, lest, if he once allows the taxpayer to get out of his grasp, he may be driven out of summary proceedings into High Court proceedings, which will be more troublesome. Therefore, I still adhere to my view that this Subsection is really in the nature of an advantage to the taxpayer, because it is a simplification of the procedure.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The Financial Secretary has appeared in a new role this evening, as a sort of advocate and friend and sympathetic adviser of the taxpayers of the country. When he says that in his official capacity, I rather suspect him. If he were speaking to us in his capacity as a private citizen, I should have the greatest confidence in his statement; but, as I understand it—and this will be a matter of interest to the hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight)—the Financial Secretary is really out to delay the obtaining of the ordinary revenue from the taxes of the country. This Subsection is commended to us as giving further time, so that this provision, instead of causing the revenue to be collected quickly, will afford means whereby the collector of taxes can delay obtaining payment from the citizen who is affected by this particular Clause.
I wonder whether that is the real reason for this Clause. If so, I cannot understand the Inland Revenue authorities and the Treasury urging the Financial Secretary to include this provision in the 687 Bill. I should have thought that all the reasons, both from the Inland Revenue point of view and from the Parliamentary point of view, would have been against it. Once again the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in this Sub-section, is overloading his Bill. So far as I have been able to understand it, there is no immediate necessity for it except to give some further consideration to the poor taxpayer. Really—I will put this as politely as I can—it needs a little further consideration from the Committee. I think the Inland Revenue officers conduct their disagreeable duties fairly and justly, but this is the first occasion I have heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Financial Secretary say on the Finance Bill that this is really for the benefit of the poor taxpayer. That is the view the hon. Gentleman has put before the Committee, and a very extraordinary view it is. But is that the real reason and object of the Clause? The right hon. Gentleman said the Finance Minister of Northern Ireland has been consulted so far as Clause 22 of the Act of 1928 is concerned. That is quite a proper and useful provision, but it is rather different from the proposals contained in this Clause. Is it not rather that the tax authorities require that, when a consider-siderable sum is payable by instalments, they want a summary method of obtaining judgment and execution if the amount is not paid? I suppose the reason of the Clause is to give a further weapon to the authorities to obtain early payment by a, quick method of sums alleged to be due. Does the hon. Gentleman really think there is any particular desire to show further consideration for the taxpayer? At present the taxpayer has certain valuable rights of going to the Courts, and they are to be taken away. Why should these Clauses be incorporated at present? It is said that representations were made to the Finance Minister of Northern Ireland in 1928. That is a good many years ago. At a time when so many burdens are being imposed on the taxpayer, some little consideration might be shown him and some loophole to escape from the meshes of the Treasury might be permitted him, and he might be allowed a chance of running away from the financial grasp of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
688 This is another point, one out of many, which certain people have induced the Chancellor of the Exchequer to include in his Bill. I suppose that this is a protection to him, but, whether it is so or not, certainly on the statement made to us from the Treasury Bench there is no particular reason in this year of all years for adopting this proposal. When the country is suffering so much under the burden of heavy taxation and the influence of a Socialist Government, surely we might very well avoid this further attempt to penalise in one way or another the taxpayers of the country. Let the Committee reject the proposition which is being put forward by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that this is a Clause to do a good turn for the taxpayers of the country. I do not think that even Members on his own side of the Committee will accept that view.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Griffiths), who is sitting next to the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Mills), is, of course, of a more simple disposition than the hon. Member for Dartford, who agree with me that this provision is made with the view of obtaining further revenue for the Exchequer. The hon. Member for Pontypool is older and probably has a sweeter disposition, but those of us who have to face the ordinary rigours of life and the affairs of every day know that no Clause would be incorporated in the Bill unless it really was of some financial advantage to the Exchequer of this country. Let us put on one side the suggestion that by this means we are going to do a good turn and put something into the pockets of the taxpayers of this country. We cannot accept such a proposition. As that, apparently, is the only reason which the Financial Secretary can put forward for the acceptance of this Clause, I hope that hon. Members on this side of the Committee, and the hon. Member for Dartford, will join in attempting to reject this Clause.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The meaning of this Clause is tolerably plain. It is a Clause which, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) says, might well have been found in an Administration of Justice Bill rather 689 than in a Finance Bill. Its main provisions are changes in procedure. The first and the third Sub-sections are entirely due to defects which have been discovered in the existing rules of procedure. It is convenient where the revenue authorities are taking proceedings against an individual that they should be able to include their demands in one form of complaint and in one form of summons. Nobody really is going to object on behalf of the taxpayer to receiving one document of a particular colour rather than a sheaf of documents. On the whole, it is probably in the interests of the taxpayer, who, admittedly, under this Clause, owes money, that it is in one document or in one summons that the whole of the demands of the Revenue should be made. The third Sub-section is merely a defect arising out of a collector dying before the decision of the court——
§ Dr. BURGIN
I obey your ruling instantly. It was merely used by way of example. We are for the moment on the second Sub-section and the proposal is that it should be deleted from the Clause. That is really the only part of the Clause which raises a new suggestion. Down to the present time the summary remedy available to the Inland Revenue has been confined to cases where the total amount is £50 or under. The suggestion in this Clause is, that where an instalment is due and that instalment does not exceed £50, the summary remedy should be available to the Revenue for the collection of that instalment, although there might be due on another occasion sums which added together exceeded £50. That is the purport of the Sub-section which we are discussing. It is well that the Committee should understand the position. Broadly speaking, when there is money due, a summary remedy is of advantage rather than a disadvantage. During the time of the suffragette trouble, it became necessary to try at the Old Bailey every person who broke a plate-glass window exceeding in value £5, because there was no law which permitted a summary trial where the amount of damage exceeded £5. We had to have a Section of the Administration of Justice Act expressly to increase the limit from £5 to, curiously 690 enough, the figure contained in one of the Amendments to-night of £20. There is no one living who can say that the increase from £5 to £20 was not a definite advantage to the State, and therefore to every person living in it, because it enabled what was really a political demonstration to be tried summarily.
The proposal of His Majesty's Government in this Sub-section is that the old remedy available to the Inland Revenue authorities where the total amount due was £50 or under should be available where any one instalment does not exceed that figure. I think that if a taxpayer owes money to the Inland Revenue—that is the supposition behind this Clause—and if that sum is payable by instalments, and if those instalments do not exceed £50, it is not an undue extension to say that each of these is a separate debt, and that the summary remedy may be applicable. It is obvious that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer hold that that would be a desirable increase of summary powers of the Inland Revenue. We know a great deal of the expense of litigation and of the expense of recovery, and I think it would ill behove a legal Member of this House to object to a Clause which renders a summary remedy applicable for the recovery of an admitted debt. I think that this Sub-section, which gives to the Treasury a power which they admittedly possess where there is a debt of £50, might reasonably be held to be within their power if a debt is payable by instalments, and those instalments do not exceed £50.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The hon. Member has not told us whether he thinks that this Sub-section is in the interests of the taxpayer or not.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I should regard any opinion of mine on that subject as not being worthy of much consideration, but I should have thought that it was entirely in the interests of the taxpayer that a summary remedy should be available, and that the costs added to his debt were in consequence much lighter. I think that this Sub-section ought to receive the attention and the approval of the Committee.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."692
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 275; Noes, 137.693
The next Amendment I call is that in the name of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) in page 17, line 33, at the end, to add the words:Providing that due notice is given to the person sued that a successor has been appointed.
§ Mr. REMER
I am rather afraid that this Amendment has been put down under a misapprehension on my part, but I desire to move it formally in order to 694 have an explanation from the Financial Secretary. I understand, from an explanation which was given a few moments ago, that, if my Amendment is carried, it will be against the taxpayer, and, if that is so, I do not wish to press it. I put it down with the idea of helping the taxpayer.
I distinctly said that I was calling upon the hon. Member to move his Amendment in page 17, line 33, at the end, to add the words "provided due notice is given," etc.
§ Mr. REMER
I beg to move, in page 17, line 33, at the end, to add the words:Providing that due notice is given to the person sued that a successor has been appointed.Owing to the great difficulty of hearing you, Mr. Dunnico, because of the conversation that was taking place at the time, I thought that you were calling me to move my Amendment in page 17 to leave out the word "fifty" and to insert instead thereof the word "twenty." All I have to say is that I think due notice ought to be given to the person sued that a successor has been appointed.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
The principle of the Amendment is quite simple and satisfactory, and though I am not prepared to accept the identical words proposed, I should be prepared to accept the Amendment in the following form:In cases to which the sub-section applies notice of the change shall, as soon as may be, be given to the successor of the person against whom proceedings are pending.
Does the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) wish to withdraw his Amendment?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment made: In page 17, line 33, at the end, add the words:
In cases to which the sub-section applies notice of the change shall, as soon as may be, be given by the successor to the person against whom proceedings are pending."—[Mr. Remer.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I wish to raise a few points on this Clause for the reason 696 that I had an Amendment down which, I was given to understand, would most certainly be called. The first point I wish to raise is that, as far as I can see, there is nothing in this Clause which purports to be a concession to the taxpayer, or which in any way removes one of the greatest grievances which the taxpayer suffers at present. If he is a man, he suffers at present from the fact that he is liable, or may be in certain cases, for the debts incurred by his wife. I want to know whether, under this Clause which is for the recovery of debts, in all cases the husband is liable for the debts of his wife? That covers two or three different points. The first point I wish the Financial Secretary to explain clearly is this: Supposing a husband and wife are assessed separately, is there any case under this Clause where the husband can be made liable and summarily proceeded against for his wife's debts? Again, where they are assessed together, which is the other form of assessment——
There is nothing in this Clause which raises the question of husband and wife, and I cannot allow the hon. Member to discuss it.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I would ask, what does "one person" mean in the Clause? Surely that refers to a person who is assessed, and where there is double assessment and husband and wife are included. Surely that does enable me to bring in the question of husband and wife?
I understand that there is no such term as "double assessment," but only "assessment."
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
That is the point I was raising. It is a single assessment where two people are assessed as one. That is exactly the Ruling I wanted, and I ask the Minister to explain how under this Clause——
There is no such thing as double assessment, and, consequently, discussion as to husband and wife does not arise on this Clause. If the hon. Member wishes to raise that, he must raise it on some other question and at some other time, and not now.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
I understand you to say, Mr. Dunnico, that there is no 697 double assessment. I do not wish to disagree with your Ruling for a moment, but, in fact, there are double assessments always, except when a special assessment is applied for. If the question can be properly thrashed out now, it is proper that it should be, as the words "one person" are used in this Clause. In that case my hon. Friend and any of his legal friends will have an opportunity of explaining the extraordinary anomalies that arise in the double assessment of husband and wife. This is really a very great grievance, and I want to call attention to it, if I am entitles to discuss it. You said there was no such thing as double assessment. Not being a married person—I am only a bachelor——
So far as this Clause is concerned, it is not a question of double or single assessment. I am informed there is no such term as "double assessment," but whether that is right or not, the question cannot be raised on this Clause. My Ruling is quite definite and quite firm, and I refuse to move from it.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
With great respect, when you make a Ruling there is always some reason for the Ruling.
My Ruling is that it does not arise on the Clause now before the Committee. It is quite definite, and no point of Order can arise upon it. It is my final Ruling.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
I express great regret for having questioned your Ruling, but I understood you to give as a reason for it that there was no such thing as double assessment.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I certainly will not go further into the matter as to whether one person is two or not. I do not think there was really very much point in raising it, because I knew that the occupants of the Treasury Bench were perfectly incompetent to answer, but I thought I would give them a chance. I will leave it, because I have a number of other points to raise which, being simpler and less complicated, and not of a technical, legal nature, may be brought within the province of their ability to answer. On the first Sub-section of this Clause I wish to have information regarding certain points. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury was 698 fortunate enough not to be questioned particularly about this rather complicated Sub-section—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member opposite from the Clydeside seems to be endeavouring to take control of his subsection of the party, but in view of the Ruling which has already been given in reference to this Sub-section as to there being no double assessments I feel sure that a great many people will be interested to hear what explanation the Financial Secretary has to offer on this question. Here we have one assessment, but various sums can be included in the one order, warrant or other document. What has been confusing me, and what I would like the Financial Secretary to explain, is exactly what is meant by the following passage:every such document as aforesaid shall, as respects each such sum, be construed as a separate document and its invalidity as respects any one such sum shall not affect its validity as respects any other such sum."[Interruption.]
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
May I ask if it is in order in a discussion on the Question, "That the Clause stand part," for Members to read whole passages from the Clause?
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I understood the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) to state that this was disorganised interruption. That is not true; it is organised interruption.
I am sure that if the Committee will keep good-tempered and quiet we shall get on with the business much more quickly than if we have these interruptions.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am sorry that this complicated passage is so bad that it affects the voices of some hon. Members below the Gangway, but I assure them that if the Financial Secretary will only endeavour to explain this passage which we have not been permitted to discuss in any way, I shall not raise any other 699 point on this Sub-section. I think, however, we are entitled, as this Sub-section may involve penalties, to a clear explanation of it. In connection with the Subsection (3), it would appear that when a collector dies, or is removed, there is a distinct possibility that the taxpayer may have applications made by two separate officials, and I wish to know what is to be the procedure of the taxpayer in those conditions. Is it possible in the event of an accident of that sort for the position to be dealt with simply and easily? In the interest of the taxpayer that is a question which can reasonably be asked on this occasion. If I get satisfactory answers on these and the other points which I have raised in regard to this Clause, then my last remark upon it—or it may be my last remark upon it, if I am not subjected to further interruptions—is that I regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary have endeavoured to make it appear that this Sub-section to which I have referred is something different from what I suspect it to be.
§ Major ROSS
I wish to allude again to that portion of Sub-section (2) which refers definitely and exclusively to Northern Ireland. That is the passage which refers back to the Finance Act of 1928. The Financial Secretary has quite frankly told us that although the previous Government consulted with the Finance Minister of Northern Ireland as regards the provision inserted in that Finance Act, no such consultation has taken place with regard to the extension of that principle which we find in the present Bill. In my opinion that is a most unsatisfactory position in regard to a matter of such consequence. It may or it may not be that the Government of Northern Ireland would approve of the extension of the principle which was adopted in the Act of 1928, but they have not had the opportunity of doing so. The only authorities who have considered this passage—which affects Northern Ireland exclusively—have been the Government here, on which there is not one representative of Northern Ireland, and the civil servants of the Treasury who are not well seized of local conditions in that country. If this proposal is typical of the way in which the Government proposed to deal with their jurisdiction over that portion of the United 700 Kingdom, I think it is a very bad outlook and a most unsatisfactory situation. I wonder if it is not possible for the Financial Secretary to give a somewhat more hopeful statement as to the intentions of the Government with regard to this part of the United Kingdom, than he has given up to the present. I found his previous statement disquieting and most unsatisfactory.
§ Mr. REID
It is possible that if the right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with the Government of Northern Ireland in this matter, he may, by interfering in a summary jurisdiction subject to a separate organisation, be creating a practical difficulty. I am not objecting to this Clause, but we do not want these practical difficulties arising, and if the Financial Secretary can tell us that before the matter goes further he will consult the legal advisers of the Government of Northern Ireland, and see that no practical difficulty will arise out of this Clause, I shall be quite satisfied.