HC Deb 01 July 1935 vol 303 cc1649-64

9.58 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 18, line 7, to leave out from "is" to the end of line 8, and to insert: calculated to increase the production of the national wealth. It is not my intention to dwell at length on this Amendment, but I wish to make its purpose as clear as I can. This Clause is, as far as I know, the first of its kind ever inserted in a Finance Bill, and if I am not mistaken the marginal note introduces for the first time in a legal formula the word "rationalise." It seems to me that this word, having crept into the marginal note to this Clause, will ultimately find its way into the legal vocabulary of our country. It is a comparatively new word but I do not think it is necessary for me on this occasion to attempt to explain its meaning. Frankly we have fastened upon the words proposed in our Amendment, as the result of a debate which took place during the Committee stage of the Bill. The Financial Secretary has told us more than once of the intention of the Clause, and I am interested in it because it appears to me that the first industry which will be dealt with under its provisions will be the textile industry of Lancashire. To-day notice was given by the President of the Board of Trade of the introduction of a Bill on these lines in relation to the textile industry. The Financial Secretary during the debate on this Clause on the Committee stage used these words: These people"— that is to say, any group of people who apply to the Board of Trade for this remission of taxation consequent upon a scheme of rationalisation— have to persuade the Board of Trade on a great many points, and above all they have to persuade the Board of Trade that the scheme is in the national interest and in the interest of the industry as a whole. That is the fundamental point. Any scheme that is in the interest of the industry as a whole must be in the interest of the work-people engaged in that industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1935; col. 466, Vol. 303.] Speaking as a trade union official of 29 years standing I suggest that a proposal which is in favour of an industry as a whole, need not of necessity be in the interest of the workpeople engaged in that industry. I have seen some schemes which did not work out in that way. The wording of our Amendment is, in part, a tribute to the language used by the hon. Gentleman on that occasion. We are not satisfied that the qualification for remission of taxation set forth in the Clause covers the purpose which we think the Government ought to have in mind, and that is serving the national interest. The textile industry of Lancashire gives a practical example of what we aim at in this Amendment. Here we have an industry which is obviously suffering from depression. It is suffering, in the main, because of international competition. It has no competition worth talking about in the home market, because the quotas, duties and tariffs set up against similar commodities from foreign countries have rendered that industry practically immune from competition in the home market.

I ask the House to remember that the industries of this country have already been relieved, in a great measure, of payment of rates by the de-rating Act. It is now proposed to offer them an inducement to rationalisation by remitting a part of the taxation which they have hitherto paid. That remission is offered an an inducement to rationalise and to remove redundant machinery in order to secure efficiency, but although that proposal may be good for the industries concerned, it is not of necessity, in the national interest. It does not follow, because you encourage an industry in this way that such encouragement will, of itself, make for the production of national welfare.

It seems to me that nothing is inserted in this Clause to take into account this important fact—and this would apply to any other industry such as shipping, for instance. We have an objection to this proposal of rationalisation, because it does not say that the rationalisation of industry shall do away merely with inefficient machinery. All it says is that the machinery shall be deemed to be redundant. What does redundancy mean? Take Lancashire. I have been called to order by some Lancashire Members for saying what I am going to repeat now. I want the Government to bear in mind that redundancy in Lancashire may mean, not the scrapping of second-hand machinery, machinery that has been used, but new machinery. We have sent second-hand machinery to Eastern countries, where it is now competing with our own machinery at home. Indeed, apart from partisan politics, it is a problem for a Government of this country to consider very carefully, whether it is wise to induce the Lancashire textile industry to do away with redundant machinery and witness that very machinery exported to the East to manufacture the same commodities that the same machinery used to produce in Lancashire. I say, therefore, that there is a point in the Amendment, because we say that the scheme of rationalisation ought to be calculated to increase the production of the national wealth. Hon. gentlemen who spoke on this issue on the last occasion went into the merits of the collective system of society versus capitalism. This Clause will have no meaning at all to the several collective schemes of industry in this country. Take the municipal water supplies, tramway, gas and electricity undertakings. I cannot conceive of any scheme of rationalisation coming from a municipal undertaking to take advantage of this Clause. It seems to me, therefore, that the Clause is deliberately designed to prop up the capitalist form of society. Hon. Members opposite smile at that remark, but surely that is the object of this Clause. The Government will probobly reply to me by saying that they were returned to Parliament for that purpose. Finally, I would say that we are very much concerned indeed that no group of people, no group of capitalists, shall be entitled to take advantage of the provisions of this Clause for their own aggrandisement without any regard for the national welfare. That, I think, is a case that ought to be supported by Members of all parties.

10.9 p.m.


The Clause as it stands, with the words: that the scheme is in the national interest and in the interest of the said industry as a whole reads very well and sounds very well. It seals to me, though, that it all depends on the interpretation of those terms. I can imagine a certain policy being good for a certain industry and yet being very bad from the point of view of the country as a whole. It may be a good thing for the coal industry to close down pits in Yorkshire or Lancashire, but although it may be good in certain areas from that industry's point of view, it may be shockingly bad from the point of view of the miners employed, who would thereby become redundant. Perhaps some hon. Members think the words, "the scheme is in the national interest," safeguard the position, but again it depends on what you mean by the national interest. On different sides of this House we have different ideas of what the national interest means. A famous Conservative statesman a long time ago wrote a book in which he discussed the true national interest, and I can imagine to-day that if we were to ask Members opposite and Members of my own party what they conceived to be the national interest, we should have almost opposite and conflicting ideals.

For example, 10 years ago or so members of the Conservative party generally believed, I think sincerely, that it was in the national interest to go back to the gold standard, but although it may have been in the interest of certain sections of this country, it proved to be very much against the interest of the vast masses of the people of this country. A certain policy may be a very good thing for doctors and a shockingly bad thing for patients. A policy that is very good for undertakers may not thereby be a good thing for the general public. If I were to advocate a certain policy that would be supported enthusiastically by Boots, the chemists, and the undertakers, I can imagine many Members here not being too keen about the same policy. I shall be surprised if I do not find supporters of the Government very keen about this Amendment, which uses the words: calculated to increase the production of the national wealth. If there be one thing more than any other about which I should expect Conservative Members to be keen, it would be that phrase about increasing the production of national wealth. I know there have been all kinds of remedies put forward by Conservative Members since the War to cure our industrial evils, but perhaps some hon. Members will remember that about 10 years ago the most popular remedy was more production. We were told on every platform, at every street corner, and by every Conservative journal that the way to make this country happy and wealthy and to make the working people really prosperous was to produce more. It was more important than lowering wages or lengthening hours of labour. It was going to cure all our troubles and miseries. I can remember going to lectures by professors of economics, who said that if only the people would put their backs into their work, if only they would work harder and produce more wealth, there would be a big national cake, and that as there was a bigger national cake, everybody could have a bigger piece of it. But unfortunately, when they produced that bigger national cake, the same old people had the cutting up of that cake, and the poor workers discovered that, no matter whether they produced a big or a small national cake, they were only given a very small slice of it. It made no difference to them how hard they worked or how much they produced.

I have no doubt that most hon. Members on the other side, seeing this Labour Amendment to increase the production of national wealth, will feel rather keen about it and give us their support. I look upon anything that discourages production as wrong until we have reached satiation point from the consumption point of view. It may be good in the industrial interest to close down 20 coal mines, but I believe that there is an enormous home demand for coal, as for cotton, if only the people of this country had the power to demand it. Millions of homes have to go without coal fires or with very poor fires, not because they do not want more coal, but because they have not the wherewithal to buy it. I agree, therefore, that to discourage the production of wealth as this Clause does, by giving an allowance to those people who close down works or sell redundant machinery, is going against national interest. I believe that this Clause is a back door and petty method of tackling great industrial evils, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will support the Amendment.

10.16 p.m.

Commander COCHRANE

I have some difficulty in understanding the purpose of this Amendment, because the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) concentrated on the question of the increase of national wealth, whereas the hon. Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. West) related all his remarks to the subject of production. I cannot help thinking that the Amendment would have more truly represented the views of the mover had the words "the production of" been left out, and had it referred only to those proposals calculated to increase the national wealth, because in the concluding sentence of his speech the hon. Member for West-houghton dropped the word "wealth" and used the wider term "well-being." He said that what he wanted was that this Clause should be in the national well-being. I hope that my right hon. Friend will reply to that aspect of the Amendment, because there is no doubt that considerable apprehension exists as to whether this Clause is likely to be for the national well-being or not. I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for North Hammersmith into his speech on the question of production, because I do not think that that enters into this Amendment. The hon. Member for Westhoughton gave a much wider and truer interpretation of the Amendment when he asked that the Clause ought to be regarded as in the national well-being. I hope that it is so, and that the Government will be able to assure the House that the Clause either with or without the Amendment, will be interpreted, and can only be interpreted, in such a way as to carry out the national well-being and to increase the national wealth, using that word in the broadest sense.

10.19 p.m.


The House will be agreed that the words which it is proposed to insert in the Clause are in themselves extremely attractive. In fact, were it not that it is a proposed Amendment to Clause 24, it seems to me that the Amendment is so drawn that the House could have one of those debates, which seem to be so enjoyable, covering the whole controversy between capitalism and socialism. I came in particularly to listen to the supporters of the Amendment in the hope of hearing some definition of their interpretation of national wealth. It seems to me, listening to the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment and to the seconder, that there is a certain amount of confusion of talk, even between them, on the matter. We had from the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) an admirable dissertation on the necessity of schemes of this kind benefiting not only the employer but the work-people, but that was followed by a rather curious speech from the hon. Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. West) which, if it meant anything at all, was a condemnation of the Coal Mines Act passed by the late Government which was expressly designed for the purpose of restricting the output of coal and was known at the time as the "Dear Coal Bill." I am bound to say that the purpose behind it was a humane one, an endeavour to prevent a reduction of the wages of coalminers, and as such I do not think we can condemn it.

But the "increased production of national wealth." I can imagine the adherents of Major Douglas—I do not think there are any in the House—saeading themselves upon those words; I can imagine many of those who follow strange economic gods giving their own definition of the term "national wealth," but I think those who sit on this side of the House, I cannot speak for hon. Members opposite, see in this Clause an attempt to give some assistance to those industries which are prepared to help themselves in these difficult times. It may be said and I think there would be a good deal in the theory, that this ought not to be a Clause inserted in a Finance Bill, that the matter is so important and so wide that it deserves legislation of its own. But if the Opposition mean by these words that such benefits as may be derived from the passing of this Clause should result, not only in the rehabilitation of industry and increased dividends, but also be reflected in the pay envelope and in terms of employment, I think the House will agree that it is an objective we should all have in mind.

It has been a great satisfaction to some of us to see the building up, behind a tariff, of better conditions in the steel industry as the result of the opportunities given there for reorganisation, to have seen some of the big steel firms restoring wage cuts. I only wish the co-operative societies would do something of the kind. If what the hon. Member for West-houghton has in mind is that this Clause would be acceptable if it were reflected not only in the dividend but in the pay envelope, then I feel the words bear an interpretation of which none of us can complain. I think we shall be told from the Treasury Bench that this is what the Government have in mind, that they are anxious to give assistance to those who are prepared to assist themselves, and that being so, whatever may be the theory about this Clause appearing in a Finance Bill, I believe it to be a step forward along the path of sane planning for which the country is ripe and which we shall support.

10.24 p.m.


I feel that the speech of the hon. Member for the Hillsborough Division (Mr. G. Braithwaite) is rather a warning as to how far we may be led if this discussion continues along the lines he has suggested. He says that it might raise the whole question of Socialism. He himself wandered sufficiently far from the Amendment to suggest that this was a Clause which should not be included in a Finance Bill, which showed that he must have forgotten that this is a Clause dealing with Income Tax.


I said it might be said so.


In what kind of Bill a Clause dealing with Income Tax could be included if not in the Finance Bill I cannot imagine. We are led into this danger by the fact that we are arguing about the meaning of words, and as we all place different interpretations on the words about which we are talking, there really might be no end to this discussion. The first word which the hon. Member who moved the Amendment objected to was the ward "rationalise." I am as good a Conservative as he; I am not fond of new words, and I deplore their production. Here I think is a word which we can understand, and which we can define very simply as the reform of industry in a reasonable way. There is not an easier or a quicker word to explain that than the word "rationalise." What we mean by a reasonable way may be a matter upon which we should part company, and if we were to discuss what is the more reasonable way to reform industry, we should remain here until the small hours of the morning.

The hon. Member for Westhoughton said that he was not so well versed as some of his colleagues in theories of Socialism and Capitalism, but in defending their position they usually put forward the point that, under the present system, there is a great deal of wasteful competition of which they are anxious to get rid. Let us admit that there is something in that argument. We are prepared to do our best to get rid of wasteful competition, and that is one of the kinds of reform which are included in rationalisation. The hon. Member also said that we were attempting to prop up the capitalist system, but I do not think I need be ashamed of that charge any more than he would be ashamed of the charge of attempting to smash it. I cannot think that the words in the Amendment are any better than those which are already in the Clause. In his speech the hon. Member hardly mentioned the words "the production of the national wealth," which are in the Amendment. He continued to use the words which actually stand in the Clause "in the national interest." The best judge which you could have of the national interest in the matter of trade is neither he nor I, but the Board of Trade. He suggested that a matter might be good for industry as a whole, but not in the national interest. There I must differ from him profoundly, because I cannot imagine any reform which would be to the advantage of British industry as a whole, improving it and making it more efficient, which was not also in the interests of the country as a whole.

When the hon. Member says "production of the national wealth" he does not mean, any more than I do, that the national wealth is increased by the production of any amount of goods. Goods are of no value unless you can sell them, unless there is a market for them; national wealth is of no use unless there is a market for it. The Amendment would merely limit the powers which the Clause is proposing to give to the Board of Trade. Suppose an occasion arose—everybody recognises that it might easily arise—in an industry when the immediate effect of a reform was to reduce production. The hon. Member might argue that this was not an increase of production of the national wealth, and therefore did not come under the Clause. The best words which could be found stand in the Clause: in the national interest and in the interest of the said industry as a whole. Even if it were possible to be in the interest of an industry and not of the nation, it would be covered by the Clause, because the words inserted cover both the national interest and the interest of industry as a whole. There is nothing to suggest that the wording which the hon. Member proposes would accomplish the object which he desires any better than the words which now stand in the Clause.

10.30 p.m.


The hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Braithwaite) raised some very interesting points, which, if pursued, would extend the discussion into the small hours of to-morrow morning. I do not propose to yield to that temptation, but I should like to point out that the Financial Secretary has at last admitted that the function of this Government is to try to prop up the capitalist system. That, of course, admits that it is falling down, which is what we have been saying for a long time, and now it is admitted by a Minister on the Front Bench to be true. We do not believe, however, that, even for the purpose of propping up the capitalist system, very good words have been chosen here. This is apparently an attempt to make what the Chancellor of the Exchequer called in another association a contribution by way of allowance to certain industries provided that they have a scheme the primary object of which is to eliminate redundant works, machinery or plant from use in an industry in the United Kingdom. That is the well known method of scarcity planning, based on the belief that you can, by reducing the volume of production in an industry, so increase prices that you may increase the profit. That method is certainly not calculated to increase the production of national wealth.

We wanted, therefore, to put into this Clause a reservation that the national wealth, which consists of commodities and not of money, should be regarded as one of the primary considerations when such schemes are under review, and that, unless it can be proved that the scheme,

Division No. 256.] AYES. [10.35 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes)
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Croom-Johnson, R. P. Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)
Aske, Sir Robert William Curry, A. C. Heligers, Captain F. F. A.
Atholl, Duchess of Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir John Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
Balley, Eric Alfred George Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Denman, Hon. R. D. Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Dickie, John P. Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. Leslie
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Drewe, Cedric Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.
Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Duckworth, George A. V. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
Blindell, James Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Hume, Sir George Hopwood
Boulton, W. W. Eastwood, John Francis Iveagh, Countess of
Bower, Commander Robert Tatton Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Jamieson, Rt. Hon. Douglas
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Elliston, Captain George Sampson Jesson, Major Thomas E.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Emrys-Evans, P. V. Joel, Dudley J. Barnato
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)
Broadbent, Colonel John Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) Ker, J. Campbell
Brown, Rt. Hon. Ernest (Leith) Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Everard, W. Lindsay Kerr, Hamilton W.
Burghley, Lord Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Kimball, Lawrence
Burnett, John George Ford, Sir Patrick J. Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) Fraser, Captain Sir Ian Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley) Fremantle, Sir Francis Leckle, J. A.
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Ganzoni, Sir John Leech, Dr. J. W.
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Gluckstein, Louis Halle Lees-Jones, John
Carver, Major William H. Goff, Sir Park Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Castlereagh, Viscount Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Lennox-Boyd, A. T.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Gower, Sir Robert Liddall, Walter S.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Graves, Mariorle Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)
Colman, N. C. D. Greene, William P. C. Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-
Conant, R. J. E. Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Llewellin, Major John J.
Cook, Thomas A. Grimston, R. V. Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)
Cooper, A. Duff Gunston, Captain D. W. Loder, Captain J. de Vere
Craven-Ellis, William Hales, Harold K. MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. Sir Charles
Critchley, Brig.-General A. C. Hammersley, Samuel S. MacAndrew, Major J. O. (Ayr)
Crooke, J. Smedley Hanbury, Sir Cecil McCorquodale, M. S.
Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)

in some other industry or in some other way—say by offering re-employment in another useful occupation to the men engaged in the industry—will lead to an increase in the production of the country, the scheme should not obtain the assistance of the Government through this contribution by way of extra allowance. It is clear in our view that the Clause as it stands is but another device to attempt to bolster up the profit fund in capitalist industry, and that that is what will be regarded as the national interest, as it always has been under other schemes put forward by the National Government; while those matters which we believe to be really matters of national interest, such as the planning of some method by which the abundant supplies of material now available can be distributed widely among the nation, will be put on one side, and a much narrower, more dangerous, and, we believe, more vicious conception of the national interest will be adopted. That is why we have moved this Amendment.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, [...]94; Noes, 35.

Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dlne, C.)
McLean, Major Sir Alan Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Magnay, Thomas Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Ramsbotham, Herwald Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Ramsden, Sir Eugene Spens, William Patrick
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Rankin, Robert Stones, James
Marsden, Commander Arthur Rea, Sir Walter Storey, Samuel
Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.) Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Stourton, Hon. John J.
Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham- Strauss, Edward A.
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Reid, William Allan (Derby) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Mellor, Sir J. S. P. Rickards, George William Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Roberts, Aled (Wrexham) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Milne, Charles Robinson, John Roland Sutcliffe, Harold
Moreing, Adrian C. Ropner, Colonel L. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.) Rosbotham, Sir Thomas Thompson, Sir Luke
Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Ross, Ronald D. Tree, Ronald
Nail, Sir Joseph Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Norle-Miller, Francis Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
North, Edward T. Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l) Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermline)
O'Donovan, Dr. William James Salt, Edward W. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Orr Ewing, I. L. Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Patrick, Colin M. Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Penny, Sir George Sandys, Duncan Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Petherick, M. Selley, Harry R. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Pickering, Ernest H. Shakespeare, Geoffrey H. Wise, Alfred R.
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Power, Sir John Cecil Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Procter, Major Henry Adam Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Sir Walter Womersley and Dr.
Radford, E. A. Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D. Morris-Jones.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Parkinson, John Allen
Attlee, Rt. Hon. Clement R. Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding) Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)
Banfield, John William Grundy, Thomas W. Tinker, John Joseph
Cleary, J. J. Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) West, F. R.
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Daggar, George Lawson, John James Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Leonard, William Wilmot, John
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Logan, David Gilbert
Dobbie, William Lunn, William TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Edwards, Sir Charles Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Mr. Groves and Mr. T. Smith.
Gardner, Benjamin Walter McEntee, Valentine L.

10.43 p.m.

Colonel ROPNER

I beg to move, in page 18, line 15, at the end, to insert: References in this Sub-section to an industry in the United Kingdom shall include references to the business carried on by owners of ships or of a particular class of ships, wherever the business is carried on, and in relation to that business references in this Sub-section to works or machinery or plant shall include references to ships. Sub-section (2) reads: The Board of Trade shall certify a scheme under this Section if they are satisfied— (a) that the primary object of the scheme is the elmination of redundant works or machinery or plant from use in an industry in the United Kingdom. I understand that the Parliamentary Committee of the Chamber of Shipping caused inquiry to be made at the Treasury whether the shipping industry came within the definition that I have just read out, namely, "an industry in the United Kingdom." It was thought that perhaps a shipping firm owning a single vessel, which vessel had traded for many years, say, in the Pacific Ocean, might not qualify for the relief which this Clause gives. I understand that the Treasury advised the Chamber of Shipping that the Clause was meant to cover shipping, and, in fact, did so, but since the Committee stage some doubt has arisen. The Amendment is meant to clarify the intention of the Government. I know that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have not supported this Clause, but I hope that they will not think that one industry should be penalised by reason only of this peculiar characteristic. I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will either give me an assurance that the Clause as it stands will cover the shipping industry, or else that he will be able to accept the Amendment which I have moved.

10.45 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment, and I hope that it will be accepted, because I cannot think that it was ever the intention of the Government to exclude so essential an industry as the shipping industry from the benefits of this remission of taxation. The shipping industry of necessity has ramifications all over the world. It extends its tentacles to every part of the globe, but its home is in this country. That is why we are the leading mercantile power. Seeing that the Government have been trying in various ways to help and to recussitate this depressed industry I cannot believe that they would exclude it from the benefits of this remission of taxation. I sincerely hope that if Members of the Labour party have been think of opposing the new Clause they will consider the matter carefully, because its non acceptance would seriously affect people in the industry in whom they claim to be interested. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see his way to accept the new Clause and include it in the Finance Bill.

10.46 p.m.


My hon. and gallant Friend has discovered a real and unintentional flaw in the wording of the Clause in the Bill. It is clear that, as drawn, the limitation of the operation of the Clause to industries in the United Kingdom would exclude shipping or, at any rate, a certain part of the shipping industry, and that was not the intention of the Government. The Amendment will rectify that omission, and I ask the House to accept it.

10.47 p.m.


Is the right hon. Gentleman sure that he is not accepting an Amendment which will include ships of all nationalities, the owners of which may be paying Income Tax in this country although they are of foreign nationality? There is no limitation in the Amendment as regards the nationality of the ships. It refers to the owners of ships, or of a particular class of ships, wherever the business is carried on That would include an American or French shipowner or anyone else who was prepared to come into some international scheme. I presume that this scheme will be limited to people who are British nationals.


May I suggest that the intention of the new Clause is to benefit companies that are registered in this country and the British Empire?


I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Member for calling attention to the point, I will certainly look into it.

Amendment agreed to.