§ Mr. HANNON
I beg to move, in page 35, line 9, at the end, to insert the words:Provided that no collector of taxes appointed by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue shall distrain in respect of the tax due and payable under any assessment except with the consent of the general commissioners for his area or division.
§ Captain BOURNE
On a point of Order. May I respectfully draw attention to the fact that on this Clause, at the bottom of page 34, words are printed in italics, and that the only Financial Resolution we have had dealing with the expenses of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue is strictly limited toany expenses incurred by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue or remuneration payable in connection with any valuation of land for the purposes of any tax on land value charged under any Act of the present Session relating to finance.There was a previous Ruling of yours last year, Sir Robert, which I do not want to quote at length, in which you said that when words are in italics they cannot be put from the Chair unless a Resolution has been passed by the House giving validity to those words. I should like to know whether you will put this Clause with or without the words in italics?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Usually when the words of a Clause are in italics, it is an indication that those words are covered by a Money Resolution. In this case I have looked into the matter and I find that the Money Resolution covers the land taxes and the other part of the Clause is covered by a Section in the Income Tax Act. It is the habit or, rather, it has been the custom of the Public Bill Office, whenever there has been a doubt, to put the words into italics in case it is found afterwards that it is necessary to have a Money Resolution. In this case the words were put in italics but italics are not necessary. The Public Bill Office have 290 since made a correction in the Table copy, but to save the expense of reprinting the alteration has not been made in the other copies.
§ The CHAIRMAN
They have corrected the Table copy by a note indicating that the words should be in Roman type, but to save printing the words are not put in Roman in the other copies.
§ Captain BOURNE
I thank you. In view of the Ruling that you gave last year that italicised words without a Financial Resolution are not visible to the Chair, it is a matter of great inconvenience to Members of the Committee when the information which you have now given to us is not made available to the House as well as to you. We look at the Financial Resolution and we see these words in italics, and we, not unnaturally, assume that these words cannot, in point of fact, be put from the Chair. We were not aware of the fact, because we do not see the Table copy, that the alteration had been made in the Table copy, which, of course, is the official copy and the one by which you are bound. I would ask for your guidance whether something cannot be done so that when these alterations are made in future a notice may be given to the House similar to that given to the Chair.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that it is not within my competence to give an instruction of that kind. That practice has been adopted in the past. For instance, in connection with the Local Government Bill in 1928–29 the same thing occurred. There was a Clause partly printed in italics which was found not to be covered by the Money Resolution. No new Money Resolution was introduced, but the Clause was amended to agree with the original Money Resolution. The Public Bill Office have erred on the side of caution by putting the words in italics and not in Roman. It is probably better that as a precaution the Bill should be over-italicised than not, and 291 thus save expenditure in reprinting and avoid delay in the progress of a Bill.
§ Mr. HANNON
The Amendment which stands in my name and the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Ramsbotham) will soften the effect of Clause 32, if it becomes law, in relation to the collection of Income Tax in many districts. I am glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is present, because I should like to make a special appeal to him in relation to this matter. The long established custom in relation to the collection of Income Tax, under the Act of 1842, has been that those who were assessable for Income Tax were assessed and the tax was collected under the neighbourly consideration of the General Commissioners, the position being that those responsible for the collection locally should have intimate knowledge, as far as possible, of the people pursuing their avocations, before they became assessable for tax. The General Commissioners in the 750 districts of the country have been unpaid bodies who have discharged their many duties with great efficiency and great success for a long period of years. The effect of the Clause will be, unless the proviso that I am seeking to insert can be accepted, to relieve the General Commissioners of any function.
The whole purpose of the Clause is to leave the assessment and collection of Income Tax entirely under the control of the Accountant-General of the Board of Inland Revenue. That is obviously the intention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I would recall the fact that when the Revenue Bill was introduced some years ago there was a very strong, feeling manifested throughout the country that these powers should not be conferred on any central authority, and after a good deal of exchange of views on all sides of the House the Bill was withdrawn. The assessments made in future will inevitably come under the control of the central department if this Clause becomes part of the Bill. During all the time that the General Commissioners have been carrying on their duties I do not think there has been a single complaint as to the way in which they have discharged the obligations imposed upon them in connection with the collection of taxes. There have been rare cases of complaint of under- 292 assessment, and very rare cases of complaint of under-collection.
All the work with which they are charged, including the hearing of appeals and the examination of local cases of difficulty, has been carried out with a kindly spirit and in the interests of the State and the taxpayer, and if this machinery is removed and you bring into operation a central authority, with all the paraphernalia of officialdom and bureaucracy, great injury will be inflicted on the taxpayer and upon the State by the feeling of antagonism which will be aroused in the mind of the taxpayer that he is not to have that consideration and sympathy which he has had from those who understand his local conditions. The object of the Amendment is to ask that a distraint for the non-payment of taxes shall not become operative without the approval of the general commissioners. Sub-section (3) of this Clause says:There shall be delivered by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue to every collector of taxes, whether appointed by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue or otherwise, a warrant for collecting and levying the tax charged, and every such warrant shall extend to the collection of the sums specified in all duplicates of assessment which may from time to time be delivered to the collector, and to any arrears of tax due at the date of the warrant.That means that when a collector receives a warrant he is bound to distrain, and there is no means by which the general commissioners may intervene in order to prevent what may be a great injustice being inflicted upon the taxpayer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer smiles; when he smiles, he is very dangerous. I think I am correctly interpreting the Clause as it stands. Everybody acquainted with the collection of Income Tax knows that people are not able to discharge payment at the moment, and there may be a question as to the justice of the assessment. The general commissioners were always available, and their services were always utilised to the advantage of the State and of the applicant who may be temporarily embarrassed. In the case of the Rent Restrictions Act a landlord cannot enforce a distraint without the authority of the county court, and all we are asking in this Amendment is that there should be some intervening authority who will 293 prevent action being taken before the collector distrains against the taxpayer. I hope it will not be out of place for me to say a few words on the general effect of the Clause.
§ Mr. HANNON
That may mean more speeches when the Clause comes before the Committee, but I will only say this, that to endow the local collector of taxes with a power to distrain against a taxpayer whose circumstances may be peculiarly difficult at the moment, is not a power which ought to appeal to the Committee. We have had an overdose of bureaucracy for many years; all parties have been guilty alike. Bureaucracy ought not to be so buttressed and strengthened as to enable it to inflict distinct hardship upon the taxpayer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has clung with phenomenal tenacity to the old traditions of the Act of 1846. We are pleading for the principles of the Act of 1842 and, therefore, I hope he will respect those principles just as much as he respects the principles of the Act of 1846. The whole Clause is objectionable, and if it is to become part of our administration we want the taxpayer to be protected against what may be an act of cruelty on the part of officialdom. Moreover, if the Clause becomes effective, it is all the more necessary that the general commissioners should have the power to intervene, because the taxpayer may be placed in a position where a distraint may be executed without his having a single opportunity of protesting against his assessment. I hope the Committee will regard this Amendment as an act of justice to the taxpayers of this country, whose interests have been jealously guarded by the general commissioners for generations past.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Philip Snowden)
The hon. Member's speech is based upon a misapprehension of the existing state of things. He seems to assume that in those districts which are not centralised and where the collectors are appointed by the general commissioners, the taxpayer cannot be distrained upon without the authority of the general com-missioners. That is not the case. The hon. Member quoted the words of the 294 Clause about the appointment by warrant of the tax collectors. That is precisely the nature of their appointment to-day. They are appointed by this warrant; and by the warrant they are instructed to collect these amounts. There is no appeal at the present time by the collector to the general commissioners before a warrant for distraint is issued. The hon. Member in his concluding words said that a person may be called upon to pay without being given any opportunity to make a further protest. The method of procedure is very generous indeed. The taxpayer gets a first notice, and then he gets a second demand note, and the general practice, after the issue of the second demand note and where no payment has been made, is for the collector to make a personal call upon him. As a matter of fact, the greatest consideration is shown to the taxpayer, and in no case is a warrant for distraint issued or a person brought into court until every chance has been given him to make payment. The collector proceeds without approaching the general commissioners at all. He acts under his general warrant.
After the second notice the taxpayer is given a final notice and allowed further time in which to make payment. Then, again, it is the general practice of the collectors in the centralised districts, as well as in those under the control of the general commissioners, not to proceed to final action until a further personal call has been made on the defaulting taxpayer and an inquiry made into his circumstances. In no case does the collector proceed to distrain or prosecute without consulting the local inspector of taxes in order to be sure that there is no appeal lodged against the assessment, and that there is no outstanding complaint against the amount of the assessment. Therefore, if the Clause is passed, the practice will be exactly that which takes place at the present time, and the taxpayer will have exactly the same protection that he now enjoys. I must, however, enter a protest against these constant aspersions upon the conduct of collectors of taxes. They are quite unwarranted. When you have millions of taxpayers concerned it is quite possible that occasionally a case may arise where there has been an apparent but unintentional conduct on the part of the collector which may be regarded as 295 harsh, but upon the whole the generosity shown to taxpayers in unfortunate circumstances, and the general way in which the taxes of the country are collected, is a credit to the hearts as well as to the heads of the collectors.
§ Mr. HANNON
I made no aspersions against the collectors of taxes. I was referring to the attitude of a collector of taxes acting under a bureaucracy, which the right hon. Gentleman wants to set up by this Bill.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
It is well known to those who have taken an interest in these matters that at the present time the collection of taxes is in the hands of the Commissioners in Scotland. That is so in Northern Ireland also, and in nearly a score of the larger centres in this country, and you would not find a Scotsman who would be willing to change the system which has been in operation in Scotland for generations for the system which now exists in other parts of England. But I must protest against the discrimination that has been made between the centralised officers and those who are appointed by the general commissioners.
§ Mr. BEAUMONT
I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer quite appreciates the point which lies behind the Amendment. It is true that at present no such power as is asked for by this Amendment exists. I speak as a general commissioner, and I feel that there is very little ground for taking away the power they have of appointing and dismissing these collectors. If, however, the Chancellor of the Exchequer wants to do that I do not think it is a matter of such tremendous importance, but there is, rightly or wrongly, a widespread feeling of distrust of the central organisation in regard to the Board of Inland Revenue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that it is unjustifiable, and has protested against it. I am not quarrelling with him on that point, but the fact remains that there is this feeling of distrust, and with taxation as high as it is at the present time everything should be done to keep the goodwill of the taxpayer who has to pay these high taxes. When this proposal was first mooted I was surprised to find the strong feeling in favour of some such power as is proposed by the Amend- 296 ment being given to the general commissioners, and I suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it would be an act of grace, and one well worth doing, if he accepted the Amendment.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
I do not think that my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment really conveyed the suggestion with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer credited him. It is obvious from the Acts which govern the matter that the rights of the taxpayer under this Bill and as they exist under the law are absolutely parallel. It is the rule at present that the collector can levy distress without any further authority from the Commissioners than a warrant for that purpose delivered to him on his appointment. It occurred to me when that statement was made that that was a very grave power to give to a collector of taxes. But it could be mitigated by the reflection that the collector has had it for 40 or 50 years, and, as far as I know, no particular hardship has been felt by the taxpayer. That is the present position. The rights of the taxpayer and of the collector to levy distress are the same as they have been for 40 years and are not affected by this Bill. But the practice will be affected by this Bill, despite what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said. If it were not so the object of taxation of this kind would be surely not so much to secure a condition of affairs in which the taxpayer in practice has no grievance, as a condition of affairs in which under the law the taxpayer can have no grievance. That is the distinction which I am glad to see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer appreciates.
As the Bill proposes to change the law the collector can, as he has done hitherto, levy a distress on a warrant which he will receive from the Inland Revenue, from the central authority, instead of from the local authority. Whatever may be the result, the taxpayer himself will certainly not feel the same security and the same possibility of generous treatment as He has felt in the past. The Chancellor says that the local commissioners never have anything to do with these distress warrants, that in no circumstances are they approached by the collectors as to whether or not a distress warrant should be issued. I am surprised to hear that statement. I should have thought that 297 when a collector was in doubt as to whether or not to issue a distress warrant, he would approach the local commissioners. They have the local knowledge; they know the circumstances in which a man is situated; they know whether it is a genuine case of misfortune or whether it is a deliberate desire to keep back money from the Revenue. If it is not the duty of the collectors to consult the local commissioners it is high time it was made their practice.
My hon. Friend quoted the analogy of the Rent Restriction Acts, under which a landlord cannot issue a distraint without the consent of the county court. I believe there is a similar feature in the Income Tax Act, where, in police proceedings for summary recovery, the proceedings cannot take effect without the consent of the magistrates. In this case it seems to me that the Amendment will put the law on precisely the same footing. These distresses should not issue without the assent of a man's fellow citizens, who know his position and the local circumstances. For these reasons I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will turn a friendly gaze upon the Amendment. I assume that the Amendment to follow will not be successful, in spite of the rather kindly expression on the Chancellor's countenance. But whether successful or
§ not this Amendment has a great deal of common sense and equity to recommend it.
§ The weapon of distress is a terrible weapon. It is a most drastic weapon, almost a mediaeval weapon. It is possible to go into a man's house, to take his furniture, and to sell it to the highest bidder. Under the Taxes Management Act I read that the Commissioners can actually give a warrant to the collector to break a house open in the daytime for the purpose of satisfying the demand of the Inland Revenue. It is a very severe weapon and should be used only with the greatest care. I am not satisfied that the collectors of Income Tax, even if it is the existing law, should, on the bare possession of a warrant, be able to exercise this distress without reference to the commissioners or anyone else. The taxpayer has a right to further protection than he has at present or than he has had for 20 or 30 years. Under the Bill not only do we appeal to the judge, but the judge is also the executioner and has a direct interest in the process of the execution.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 206; Noes, 267.301
|Division No. 342.]||AYES.||[6.37 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Ferguson, Sir John|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Fermoy, Lord|
|Albery, Irving James||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A.(Birm. W.)||Fielden, E. B.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Chapman, Sir S.||Fison, F. G. Clavering|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Christle, J. A.||Ford, Sir P. J.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Forestler-Walker, Sir L.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Colfox, Major William Philip||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Colville, Major D. J.||Galbraith, J. F. W.|
|Atkinson, C.||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Ganzonl, Sir John|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cowan, D. M.||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Cranborne, Viscount||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Balniel, Lord||Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Bilndell, James||Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Dalkeith, Earl of||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Boyce, Leslie||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Bracken, B.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hanbury, C.|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Broadbent, Colonel J.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Brawn, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Heneage, Lieut.-Col Arthur P.|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||England, Colonel A.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)|
|Butler, R. A.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Everard, W. Lindsay||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Falls, Sir Bertram G.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Somerset, Thomas|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G.(Ptrsf'ld)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Hunt, Sir Gerald B.||O'Connor, T. J.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||O'Neill. Sir H.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Peake, Capt. Osbert||Stanley, Hon. O. (Westmorland)|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Penny, Sir George||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Stewart, W. J. (Belfast South)|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Perkins, W. R. D.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Lamb, Sir J. O.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Thompson, Luke|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Latham, H. P. (Scarboro' & Whitby)||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Preston, Sir Walter Rueben||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Pybus, Percy John||Train, J.|
|Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Llewellin, Major J. J.||Remer, John R.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Lockwood, Captain J. H.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|McConnell, Sir Joseph||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecciesall)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs, Stretford)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Margesson, Captain H. D.||Ross, Ronald D.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Marjoribanks, Edward||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E.||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Millar, J. D.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Milne, Wardlaw-, J. S.||Sassoon. Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Savery, S. S.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfast)||Wright, Brig.-Gen. W. D. (Tavist'k)|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Morris, Rhys Hopkins||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Mr. Hannon and Mr. Ramsbotham.|
|Muirhead, A. J.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (File, West)||Dalton, Hugh||Harris, Percy A.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Altchison, Rt. Hon. Cralgle M.||Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Haycock, A. W.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hayday, Arthur|
|Angell, Sir Norman||Day, Harry||Hayes, John Henry|
|Arnott, John||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Devlin, Joseph||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Ayles, Walter||Dukes, C.||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Duncan, Charles||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Ede, James Chuter||Herriotts, J.|
|Barr, James||Edge, Sir William||Hicks, Ernest George|
|Batey, Joseph||Edmunds, J. E.||Hirst, G. H. (York, W. R., Wentworth)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Hoffman, P. C.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Egan, W. H.||Hollins, A.|
|Benson, G.||Elmley, viscount||Hopkin, Daniel|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Foot, Isaac.||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Freeman, Peter||Hunter, Dr. Joseph|
|Bowen, J. W.||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Jones, Llewellyn-, F.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Bromfield, William||Gibbins, Joseph||Jones, Rt. Hon Leif (Camborne)|
|Bromley, J.||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Brooke, W.||Gill, T. H.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Brothers, M.||Gillett, George M.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Glassey, A. E.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Gossling, A. G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Buchanan, G.||Gould, F.||Kinley, J.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Kirkwood, D.|
|Calne, Hall-, Derwent||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Knight, Holford|
|Cameron, A. G.||Gray, Milner||Lang, Gordon|
|Cape, Thomas||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Law, Albert (Bolton)|
|Chater, Daniel||Groves, Thomas E.||Law, A. (Rossendale)|
|Clarke, J. S.||Grundy, Thomas W.||Lawrence, Susan|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lawrle, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C)||Leach, W.|
|Compton, Joseph||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)|
|Cove, William G||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Lees, J.|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Harbord, A.||Leonard, W.|
|Daggar, George||Hardie, David (Rutherglen)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Lindley, Fred W.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Lloyd, C. Ellis||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Phillips, Dr. Marion||Sorensen, R.|
|Longbottom, A. W.||Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Longden, F.||Pole, Major D. G.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Potts, John S.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Lunn, William||Price, M. P.||Sullivan, J.|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Quibell, D. F. K.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Mac Donald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Rathbone, Eleanor||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)|
|McElwee, A.||Raynes, W. R.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|McEntee, V. L.||Richards, R.||Tillett, Ben|
|McGovern, J. (Glasgow, Shettleston)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|McKinlay, A.||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||Tout, W. J.|
|Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Riley, F. F. (Stackton-on-Tees)||Townend, A. E.|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Ritson, J.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|McShane, John James||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Vaughan, David|
|Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Romerll, H. G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Manning, E. L.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Mansfield, W.||Rothschild, J. de||Walker, J.|
|March, S.||Rowson, Guy||Wallace, H. W.|
|Markham, S. F.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Watkins, F. C.|
|Marley, J.||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Marshall, Fred||Sanders, W. S.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Mathers, George||Sandham, E.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Matters, L. W.||Sawyer, G. F.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Maxton, James||Scurr, John||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Messer, Fred||Sexton, Sir James||West, F. R.|
|Mills, J. E.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Westwood, Joseph|
|Milner, Major J.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||White, H. G.|
|Montague, Frederick||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Morley, Ralph||Sherwood, G. H.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Shield, George William||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Mort, D. L.||Shillaker, J. F.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Muff, G.||Shinwell, E.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Muggeridge, H. T.||Simmons, C. J.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Murnin, Hugh||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Noel Baker, P. J.||Sinkinson, George||Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Oldfield, J. R.||Sitch, Charles H.||Wise, E. F.|
|Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley)|
|Palin, John Henry||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Palmer, E. T.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Mr. Paling and Mr. Thurtle.|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. HANNON
I am sorry that I must detain the Committee a little longer in opposing the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." This Clause is an attempt to establish a sheer autocracy, on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The present Socialist administration has been remarkable for many acts of autocracy in its direction of public affairs since it came into office, but this assumption of complete control through the Accountant-General and the. Board of Inland Revenue, over the fortunes of the taxpayers of the country is an act of autocracy which will stand alone even in their bad record. The President of the Board of Trade took a very active, constructive and helpful part in the deliberations of the Royal Commission on Income Tax, and he will recall that in that Commission's recommendations, it was agreed that the In 302 come Tax commissioners should remain, and that in rural districts at all events, in the collection of Income Tax the practice which had obtained for a long period should not be disturbed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, truly, on the previous Amendment that a collector could distrain and my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Ramsbotham) has quoted the Taxes Management Act to that effect, but the actual practice for more than two generations has been that the collector did not distrain without the approval of the general commissioners, and a universal understanding of give and take, had been set up between the commissioners and the Income Tax payers, which made the collection easier and more comfortable both to the State and the taxpayer.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer now proposes that the Accountant General and the Board of Inland Revenue shall become autocrats par excellence in relation to the collection of Income Tax. He is going to disturb the friendly re- 303 lations which have existed for so long, and to introduce the methods of Civil Service administration in the collection of taxes. He claimed, no doubt quite rightly, that in those districts in which the collection of taxes is now under the direction of the Board of Inland Revenue there has been little or no complaint, but what we fear is that, if the Board gets control of the whole administration, methods of Civil Service bureaucracy will be introduced into every part of the country. The system of tax collection contemplated in this Clause cannot be carried out without a large scheme of centralisation and the taxpayer in rural areas will be placed in the inconvenient position of having to find access as best he can to a taxing authority in a selected centre. I think that will be a most unfortunate arrangement particularly in the case of the small Income Tax payer.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the taxpayer at present had all the means of adjusting his relations with the collector and had no trouble whatever in that respect. I wonder whether that state of things will continue when the whole machinery of collection is directed by a Civil Service bureaucracy. That is the real fear in the minds of many of us who regard this Clause as reactionary and as against the best interests of the State itself.
§ Mr. HANNON
I do not understand the significance of that interruption unless the hon. Member wants to travel a long distance in order to adjust Income Tax difficulties with his local collector. Probably, if he has to travel several miles in order to adjust his assessment or plead his case for postponement of payment, he will find that a little pain will have to be endured before he can reach a settlement. Many of us feel strongly on this subject and there has been a great deal of correspondence for many weeks past with regard to it. I make no complaint at all against the collectors of taxes or against the collection of taxes in the districts under the direct control of the Inland Revenue, but in all rural areas there is a wholesome dread of coming under the control of a bureaucratic machine which will treat the individual taxpayer with in- 304 difference to his personal welfare and will disregard accommodations which may have been established, in regard to the payment of taxes and which are so essential, especially to small industries, small firms and individuals. It is our plain duty here to protect the rights of the smaller units of our commonwealth and the rights of individual citizens, and to prevent any enlargement of the inroads of bureaucracy. For reasons of justice and fair play, and appealing to the practice of the past as a justification for its continuance, we feel strongly that this Clause ought not to be embodied in the Bill.
§ Colonel RUGGLES-BRISE
I wish to speak on this matter from the point of view of a general commissioner in a widely scattered agricultural district. The proposal of this Clause, to substitute for the local collectors and assessors we have known for so long a new class of civil servant, is one involving a great change in our system of Income Tax collection in the rural areas. There can be no doubt that a great deal of that local touch, which has been of such great value in the past to the Inland Revenue, will of necessity be lost if the proposal is carried out. If a man in a rural area wishes to see the local inspector it means a considerable journey. If he wishes to see his local collector he will find that official in his own home village, and that applies to a large number of willing taxpayers—willing in so far as their ability permits them to be willing. They may now have to travel great distances and give up a great deal of time which probably they can ill afford, in order to have some small adjustment made in their assessments or to ask for some postponement of payment. I believe that the Inland Revenue will be the loser by the change.
It is not as if there were any charge or complaint against the honesty or efficiency of the local collectors. I understand that it is an accepted fact that the way in which they do their work is beyond reproach and that their integrity stands comparison with that of anybody in any branch of the Civil Service. Had it been possible to prove to this Committee that the collection had been inefficient, that there had been undue defalcations or anything of that sort, there might have been ground for the proposed change, but no charge of that sort has been brought against the local collectors 305 at all either here, or, as far as I am aware, in any other place. Therefore there is no good reason for the change on that ground. Why, then, is it proposed? There must be some purpose, some sort of guiding force behind the proposal. I can see only one reason for it. Bureaucracy is like an octopus. It cannot tolerate any part-time servants of the State hovering, so to speak, on the fringe of the bureaucratic machine. It must stretch out its tentacles and absorb within itself everybody who has any direct or indirect connection with it. That is, perhaps, natural, and were I a bureaucrat—which Heaven forbid—I daresay I should share that view, but being an individual representing, I hope, the thought of a great many individuals, certainly in my own constituency, I can say that we value very highly the fact that we as taxpayers have some local administration connected with both the assessment and the collection of this tax. It is impossible for anybody ever to speak highly enough of the Civil Service in my view, but it should be remembered that the Civil Service is the servant and not the master of the community. This change may seem small and possibly unimportant, yet it invades a fundamental principal which has obtained in our Income Tax administration for generations, and because it invades that principle I shall vote against this Clause standing part of the Bill.
§ Mr. ARTHUR MICHAEL SAMUEL
I wish to ask a question. In the last lines of Sub-section (2) of this Clause there occur the words:and shall be paid such remuneration as the Treasury may determine.What does the word "such" mean in that connection? Then I notice that Subsection (6) of the Clause provides:This Section so far as it relates to collectors of taxes shall be construed as one with the Income Tax Acts.7.0 p.m.
Evidently there has been some oversight in the drafting of the Clause, because I observe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has an Amendment on page 2239 of the Paper to the Third Schedule which relates to enactments repealed, proposing to insert after 87, the words "Sub-section (1) of." I turn to the Third Schedule, and I find there repealed, Section 88 of the Income Tax Act, 1918, and there, I think, there must again have been 306 a mistake. There is no Section 87, "Subsection (1)" of the Income Tax Act, 1918. If Section 87 of the 1918 Act is referred to, it deals with the remuneration of collectors and not with the limitation. Is there not some drafting error? Why Section 87? Unless something else is intended by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I think that what is meant is Sub-section (2) of Section 88, which reads:The aggregate amount of the remuneration of an assessor or collector. … shall in no case exceed the sum of one thousand pounds.We cannot let the words "such remuneration" without limitation remain in the Clause as it stands, in any case. But, if the Clause is to be amended there should be some reference made, either in the Amendment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on page 2239, or in the Third Schedule, to Section 88, Sub-section (2) of the Income Tax Act of 1918. I am not being hostile or provocative, and I suggest that better than that would be to put, in Clause 32, the words:but limited by the terms of Section 88, Sub-section (2) of the Act of 1918.Provided the Chancellor of the Exchequer really means to limit the remuneration in accordance with the terms of that Subsection, he should say so, to make it clear in the body of Clause 32.
§ Sir WALTER GREAVES-LORD
I hope the Committee will accept this Clause and that nobody will ever think, from anything I have done in public life or otherwise, that I have the smallest sympathy with bureaucracy. I have a strong feeling, however, that those who serve the State and who do an essential service of an important character should have a definite and defined position, and that that position should be one of certainty commensurate with responsibility. We have been extremely fortunate in our history that matters of this kind have been conducted as well as they have been in the past, but it is impossible for any-one to say, looking at the system in a business way, that our present system of appointment of collectors of Income Tax and the system under which they hold their office is in any way a satisfactory one in a business country. I hope that we shall not hear on occasions of this kind, where there is no justification for it, any suggestion of 307 autocracy or bureaucracy or abuses of that kind. Everyone, who has had anything to do with the administration of Income Tax or has seen anything of its administration, knows that those who are the servants of the State and responsible for this administration are extremely kindly and long-suffering people. If I may give another illustration, one would very much rather, in most cases have to deal with an appeal before the special commissioners of Income Tax, who, after all, are servants of the State than before the general commissioners. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly, that is my experience and it is the experience of most members of my profession who have ever had to deal with appeals of this kind. I hope that we shall keep this Debate free from exaggeration and give deserving servants of the State a status they ought long ago to have had.
§ Mr. P. SNOWDEN
I hope the Committee will take the advice of the hon. and learned Member and deal with this question from a business point of view. I make no reflection at all upon the local collectors, either in regard to their honesty or to the way in which they treat the taxpayers, but the system itself is quite unsatisfactory. The commissioners of Inland Revenue referred to are bound by the terms of their appointment to be responsible to the Crown for the collection of the King's taxes, and it therefore follows that the collection of those taxes should be in the hands of those directly responsible to them. There are at the present time something like 3,000 local tax collectors, and about 750 of these are under the direct control of the commissioners of Inland Revenue. About 2,000 of these local collectors are part-time collectors. In the case of half of this number the remuneration does not exceed £l a week. However anxious these men may be to perform their duties efficiently, you cannot get men of great efficiency for a remuneration like that. A great many of them are very old, 10 per cent. of them are over 70 years of age, and their ages run as high as 86. In the absence of Civil Service pensions, of adequate remuneration for their services, and of any provision for them, they hang on long beyond the time that they are able to do their work as efficiently as younger men.
308 Two of the hon. Members, who have spoken from the other side, have raised the old bogy of bureaucracy. So far as bureaucracy is concerned, I cannot see the difference between a Government official, who is appointed by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, and an official to do the same work who is appointed by somebody else. It is quite a popular thing to object to some proposal on the ground that it is going to extend the tyranny of bureaucracy, but the hon. Member, who emphasised that point, completely gave his case away. After he had been adumbrating the evils which would follow from handing over these appointments to a bureaucratic collector, he went on to say that he had no complaint to make about the way the collection was carried on in those districts already under a central authority. It is very well to put forward these fears. We cannot argue those fears. The only thing one can say is that one does not believe they will ever materialise. I have just as much justification for saying that I am certain, when the change is made, the interests of the taxpayer will receive just as much consideration as they do in existing circumstances, as the hon. Member has for anticipating all these terrible pains and penalties that are going to be inflicted upon the taxpayer by heartless bureaucracy.
When I was on my feet before, I mentioned that this had been the practice for generations in Scotland and that there were no complaints. I have received from accountants in Scotland, while this matter has been under public notice, letters expressing the highest appreciation of the system as it exists in Scotland and saying that, on no consideration, would they have any change in that system. The hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon) referred to letters which appeared in the Press on this subject. I was amazed at the practical absence of any correspondence at all on this subject. It is true that a few clerk's of the local general commissioners have written to the "Times" newspaper. One can well understand that this will take away a certain amount of patronage that the local commissioners have at the present time. May I point out one further objection to the existing system, that these men are appointed locally. I do not want to insinuate for 309 a moment that the local commissioners are abusing their patronage, but, especially in small rural districts, the friends of the commissioners must necessarily be appointed because everybody knows everybody there. What happens sometimes? A farmer is appointed a part-time man, or a local auctioneer or a local grocer is appointed. When I was a boy, the local collector of taxes in my village was the local grocer and he was quite incapable of doing the work. He did not understand it and he came to me and, as a matter of fact, although I was not sworn to secrecy, I did the whole of his work for him.
§ Mr. P. SNOWDEN
That is what happens. There is an objection, which I am quite sure hon. Members will appreciate, to having a man, who is in the same business as the people from whom he has to collect taxes, put in a position to know their private affairs. There would be very great advantages from the taxpayer's point of view in having this centralised Civil Service—this bureaucracy if you like—in charge of the collection. In the first place, there will be a separate office to which the taxpayer can go and make inquiries. I have already said that under this system the status of the collectors would be greatly improved. They would be put in Civil Service positions, and there is another important point from the collectors' point of view. There is no chance of promotion now under this system of appointment by the general commissioners. A man cannot, as a rule, go outside his own district. If he is appointed to a local position, he is stuck there for the rest of his life. If he was a civil servant, then he could look forward to a career and the most efficient men could naturally go ahead and look forward to becoming collectors in an important area. I have said sufficient to commend this proposal to the Committee, and I do ask them to take the advice of the hon. and learned Member who preceded me, and to look at this from a business point of view.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The hon. Member raised so many sections and schedules that it was extremely difficult to follow him, but I promise him I shall read tomorrow what he said and look into it carefully.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
There is only one reason why I welcome the intervention of the hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord) and that is that it shows the Committee that this is really not a party matter. It is a matter in which the House of Commons, which used to be described as the Grand Inquest of the Nation, should protect the public. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has just said that he makes no complaint, and that no complaint has been made as to the administration of the Income Tax in this country. Why then not leave well alone? It is quite true that, as in many of the institutions of this country, the administration of Income Tax in this regard is not strictly logical, but it has been administered in this way for a very long time, and it has the confidence of the public. The Chancellor will agree that the administration of the Income Tax, which is the backbone of our system of taxation, and the way that with practically no difficulty we get in these millions of money every year for the national finances, is the wonder and admiration of all the other taxing authorities in the world. I say again, why not Jet well alone.
Though it is not strictly logical, there is no doubt that this system has the confidence of the country. The country feels that by the appointment of these unpaid general commissioners the public in a way have the levying of this tax upon themselves, that the local commissioners know their difficulties, that they have authority to give little extensions of time and know why in a particular year a particular individual in a particular district is rightly assessed on a smaller sum than he was a year before because his business has not been so good. Unless there are any abuses—and no abuses have been suggested—it is a great pity to do anything which, to say the least, is not desired by a very large number of citizens. It may be only a matter of sentiment that the public like to feel that their system of collection over a great part of the country is under the super- 311 vision of local commissioners, but I believe that that is one reason why there is little or no evasion of the tax. It is an extraordinary thing, considering that the tax is levied on returns made by individuals, how very little evasion there is in the course of years.
Chancellor after Chancellor, under pressure of the chief officials of the Inland Revenue, have pressed this Clause on the House of Commons year after year. It is no party matter, and I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite to stand up for what great numbers of citizens consider is a safeguard and a protection. I know that it is not suggested in this Clause to disestablish the general commissioners or the assessors with one stroke of the pen, but it is an insidious way of undermining them by taking away the collectors, because, as the Chancellor indicated, the assessors, unless they are collectors as well, are very badly remunerated. Because the collectors and the assessors are badly remunerated is no reason for changing a system which has worked so well. It is a reason why the Treasury should assist the general commissioners in improving the status and salaries of the persons who have these responsible duties. It is no reason whatever for undermining and destroying a system which has been satisfactory for many years, and which is the admiration of other taxing authorities in the world.
I want to put in a plea for the tax collector. Representations have been made to me by this important group of civil servants that their status is not so good as it should be, and they welcome the provisions of this Clause. Two parties are to be considered in this Clause. There is the tax collector, the man who is at present doing the work, who is not quite satisfied with his status in the important function that he is performing, and who sees the opportunity of a very material improvement of status under this provision. Another party to consider is the taxpayer. I cannot see that the plea has been sustained for the retention of the present loose, haphazard method, the "jack-of-all trades" methods such as was described by the Chancellor of the Exchequer under the present system.
I object to an important State function being carried out on a part- 312 time basis at a remuneration which is a scandal. The only way in which important work like this can be carried out is to enforce the provisions of this Clause. Further, it will be found that provision has to made under the Clause for an extension of the function of the tax collector. He has to do the work of collecting the Land Tax as well as the other part, and I congratulate the Chancellor on having made this provision, which has come all too late, for making the status, remuneration, pensions and all the conditions of service of the important men whom we call the tax collectors, what they should be. I wonder that a civilised community should have tolerated the loose and haphazard method which has gone on for so long. This Clause has not come a day too soon. If anything, I would rather extend than reduce its provisions.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
It is always pleasant to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a reminiscent mood and a human frame of mind. When I listened to his speech, everything that he said seemed to convince me he was wrong. I liked the idea of the Chancellor in his youth training himself up for his great future, and I liked to think of him helping the local grocer. But, apart from that, I do not think he quite sees the usefulness of the system which he attacks. It has been the principle for a long period in British taxation that the people tax themselves, and therefore I see every advantage in the local farmer and the local grocer being able to tax his fellow local farmers and local grocers. He knows the circumstances in which they are placed. The Chancellor, when he was a young man, was, I am sure, very human in his exactions and was able to show a merciful hand where necessary simply because he knew the local conditions. I do not think the trade competitor in England will exercise an unfair use of the knowledge he acquires in this way.
It is proposed to introduce a system of civil servants who are to be transferred from district to district, who will have no local feeling and will not understand the people or know their circumstances. You are going to introduce an inhumanity into the system of taxation which the previous system had not. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might well reflect on the op- 313 posite point of view and consider whether the old system has not great advantages, for, as my hon. Friend behind me said, the system of British taxation has been the wonder of the world. I should like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer why the City of London has been left out of this arrangement.
§ Mr. P. SNOWDEN
The reason why the City of London has been left out is that it is the largest tax-collecting centre of the country. One-sixth of the total Income Tax is collected in the City of London, and therefore they must of necessity have the most perfect organisation. I have no feeling in the matter, however, and, if it be the wish of the House to bring the City of London within the Bill, I am perfectly willing to do it.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
Far be it from me to speak for the City of London, but I am entitled to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he made the exception. It appears that in the City, where they collect one-sixth of the Income Tax, the old system works extremely well. We know that the City has been a strong opponent of this transference, and that the Chancellor has been persuaded by the City to make an exception, but no doubt their time will come and the Chancellor will introduce all over the country a system of a homogeneous kind. The Chancellor implied that the opinion of the tax collectors was on his side. Of course it is, because this is combined with an offer of an enormously increased position. It is only human that they should be on his side if they are offered so great an advantage in order to change their minds. They held a different view until 1927. It was only when his proposal was allied to a material advantage to their own career that they changed their minds.
I am not sure that I like the idea of the career of a tax collector; it is too
§ reminiscent of the old Roman days. I like the old part-time system in which the collector has no ideas of a great career which might come to him if he collected a sufficient amount of tax and if he screwed up the taxpayers sufficiently. I like the old system in which there is no advantage to be acquired by the local collector, who has his other business to attend to and who carries out the public duty of collecting taxes with sympathy for his fellow-taxpayers.
§ Sir DENNIS HERBERT
One argument which has been raised against the present system is that the present collectors are badly paid and hold an unsatisfactory position for that reason. That is no reason for abolishing the system. The Inland Revenue can well arrange to continue the present system and give the commissioners such support and such opportunity for paying these people as fairly and reasonably as you like. There is a great principle at the back of this system of taxing ourselves. The Government have recognised it by the way in which they have omitted the City of London from this change. If only the commissioners were able to employ collectors on proper and satisfactory terms with reasonable remuneration, the slight case which there is now for the change would disappear altogether. As a matter of fact, the part-time collector, if properly paid so that you can get efficient collectors, is a very satisfactory way of doing the work and a much less expensive way than the way which is now proposed. I must congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, while not giving way, has developed a most polite and persuasive manner which he showed in the way in which he dealt with this Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 278; Noes, 200.317
§ It being after half-past Seven of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 4th June, successively to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at half-past Seven of the Clock at this day's Sitting.
§ Clauses 33 (Repeal of s. 47 of 20 and 21 Geo. 5. c. 28); 34 (Amendment of s. 48 318 of 20 and 21 Geo. 5. c. 28); 35 (Exemption of savings certificates held by persons domiciled in Channel Islands or Isle of Man from estate duty); 36 (Prolongation of currency of savings certificates) and 37 (Construction, short title, application and repeat), ordered to stand part of the Bill.