HC Deb 04 June 1934 vol 290 cc705-7

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

10.24 p.m.


I wonder if a representative of the Treasury will be good enough to give an explanation as to why this provision is inserted in the Bill. If I gather its purpose, it is designed to provide for relief in case of excessive assessment for the purpose of excise licence, and gives an opportunity for the individual concerned to apply, either in respect of the past year or the current year, or both, for a reduction of the assessment if information justifying it is adduced. I can understand a proposition of that sort, although I may have my own views about it. My difficulty is this: why is a provision of this sort made in this particular Clause for certain taxpayers when other classes of taxpayers have assessments made upon them, based upon the condition of their trade, which they must accept for the year for which the assessment is made? What special cases are there here? I can only assume that it is on the ground that their trade may have deteriorated in some respect and that that may justify a change in the assessment. If that is assumed to be the ground for an inn keeper or hotel keeper having a reduction of assessment, what justifies their being treated exceptionally as compared with drapers, grocers or other people in regard to their local assessment? A Clause of this sort which differentiates in such a manner calls for an adequate explanation, and I should be glad if the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would give it.

10.27 p.m.


The purpose of the Clause is a mere matter of machinery. Some retail licensed premises are assessed for licence under Schedule A and some are assessed under a special scheme provided for in the Act mentioned. Where they are assessed under Schedule A the matter can be revised by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, but when there is a special assessment there is no provision in the Act for revising the assessment. The Clause seeks to put both classes of assessment on exactly the same basis, namely, that when certain circumstances become disclosed in the course of the year which were not known at the time the assessment was made, there can be redress. The Commissioners of Customs and Excise can rectify the injustice. This is a pure matter of machinery to put both classes of assessment on exactly the same basis.

10.28 p.m.


Surely this is making a special provision with regard to particular premises other than the usual procedure as to appeal under the Section. After the time for appeal has run out the Clause will enable these people to get consideration of their assessment, although an ordinary person is not able to get that. This provision is something which gives preferential treatment for the occupiers or owners of licensed premises. It is limited to the occupiers or owners of licensed premises, who are given rights after they have failed to appeal which other people do not have. That is how I understand it. Therefore, surely it is a preferential position. Other people have to be satisfied with their right of appeal, whereas these people if they fail in their right of appeal have still open to them another means of redress which is not open to others.

10.29 p.m.


I understand the point of the hon. and learned Member. The fact is that even after the time has elapsed those assessed under Schedule A can obtain redress from the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, whereas those specially assessed, as the law now stands, cannot get redress. We are therefore giving to those specially assessed the same rights as are possessed by the others. That is all, and the hon. and learned Gentleman may have that assurance.