HC Deb 19 June 1935 vol 303 cc433-53

7.3 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 15, line 31, after "words," to insert: 'sixty pounds' were substituted for the words 'fifty pounds' and as if the words. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), in relation to the last Amendment, referred to the fact that he was not desirous of seeking a simple restoration to the situation which existed prior to the Budget of 1931. It will be obvious to the Committee from the terms of the Amendment I now move that I do not seek a mere restoration, for the effect of this Amendment will be an improvement in the conditions of those people for whom we now seek to obtain an additional grant. Prior to the emergency of the autumn of 1931 the position in respect to the grant for children was £60 for the first child and £50 for a second. Then in the emergency Finance Act of that period the figures of £50 and £40 were substituted. In Clause 20 of this Finance Bill it is proposed to introduce a uniform figure of £50. In our Amendment we propose to substitute for that uniform £50 a uniform £60. That, I think, makes clear the position we seek to obtain. It will not be necessary to elaborate at any great length the deserving character of the section of the community that will be affected by this proposed Amendment. It is undoubtedly true to say that this would be the hardest hit section of the taxpaying community at the present time.

There is a failure generally to appreciate what the liability of children imposes on them. In terms of Finance Acts children ought naturally to be an asset to the community, but to the parent they become something in the nature of a liability when estimation of what it costs to maintain a child is reduced to one of maintenance. There is a complete failure to appreciate what the parent himself would like to make of his child and what, indeed, he is obliged as an honourable parent to provide by way of education and so forth. Even in proposing this additional grant of relief to the extent of £60 per head of the children we do not feel we are going to the extent to which we ought to go in a, reasonable estimation of what the liabilities of a parent may be. While a great deal has been said on previous Amendments about the hardships imposed on this class of taxpayer, I feel that the case is far from being exhausted and one could dwell at very great length on the burden imposed upon them. But this has already been forcefully put elsewhere. I want to press on the Chancellor of the Exchequer the reasonableness of giving some serious consideration to the claims of this class, and to appeal to him, if it is in any way possible, to permit this minor Amendment, in the interest of this most deserving section.

7.8 p.m.


I would like to support this Amendment, though I admit I do so more in the hope, which other Members have expressed, that we shall succeed in eliciting from the Chancellor of the Exchequer some expression of his intentions for the future, than in any great expectation that we shall obtain this concession, modest though it is. Other hon. Members have dwelt upon the general position in which the family man is living, so I only want to add a few words. The position, as I see it, is this: Last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer laid very great stress upon the statement that the principle on which he was operating was restitution in proportion to sacrifice; that is to say, that those who had made a sacrifice in the national emergency in 1931 should, as far as possible, receive back again proportionately. But in actual fact the result of the restitution of the standard rate of Income Tax, unaccompanied by any restoration of family allowances, was the very negation of that principle. Right through the scale we found that the man with children dependent upon him received in restitution less in proportion to his sacrifice than the man with no children dependent upon him, and the small taxpayer received less than the large taxpayer. The figures were so striking that I think they were brought home to every Member of the House.

This year we admit with some gratitude that a step has been taken towards restoring the position of the family man. The three concessions made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer should really be taken in combination to realise their effect, and, taking them in combination, so far as I can gather from the examples I have worked out—they, of course, vary according to the particular case—it amounts to this: that the cuts in the family allowances made in 1931 are, roughly speaking, restored to the extent of about one-half, or rather less; that is, when you take into account at the same time the lowering of the exemption limit. But in spite of that, the family man is still paying just about double what he paid previously to the 1931 Act. To take a single example, a man with £500 a year—I find I have not the particulars, so I will let the example go by, but I am sure the facts are familiar to the right hon. Gentleman. I think I remember them—a man with £500 a year, with a wife and three children to support, paid before the present Budget £13 10s. That is reduced, as a result of the three concessions made, to £6. Before 1931 that man paid only £3. Therefore, he is paying just double what he paid. I think these figures are right, but I know the proportions are about right. Passing from the case of the family man as compared with a bachelor, the present proposals are surely a very imperfect realisation of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that he intended to make concessions to the smaller taxpayer.


We are not now having a general discussion on the allowances to the small taxpayers. I have been waiting for the hon. Lady to relate her argument to the Amendment now before the Committee which specifically refers to children.


I said that it was difficult to take this Amendment out of relation to the previous concessions made, in fairness to the right hon. Gentleman. The object of the Amendment is only to make a restitution of family allowances, and that taken alone is only going a very little way along the path towards the goal I am placing before the right hon. Gentleman—that he ought at least to bring back the position of the man with dependent children to a position not less good than under the Act of 1931; otherwise, how can he say that he is carrying out his oft-reiterated principle of restitution in proportion to sacrifice? The judge, the Cabinet Minister, the Member of Parliament, the higher paid civil servant—have all had restitution made to them of the whole amount of their sacrifices in 1931. The poor small Income Tax payer, with a dependent family, has had a restoration of the sacrifice he then made to the extent of about one-half or less. I do not see how it can be maintained that the principle of restitution in proportion to sacrifice is being carried out. If you take the married man with three children, if his income is £600 a year he is now paying 37 per cent. more than he did in 1931, but a man with a similar family and an unearned income of £2,000 is paying only 5 per cent. more than he paid in 1931.


I must ask the hon. Lady to keep to the Amendment.


I will say no more about the question of restitution in proportion to sacrifice, though I did think it was relevant to point out, as part of the case for this Amendment, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer laid down that principle. May I, as the Amendment refers specifically to children's allowances, make one more point? I noticed with very great interest and with a, glow of satisfaction that in the Budget Speech the Chancellor had been moved to make concessions to the family man by the anxiety he felt as to the steady decline in the birth-rate. He said he regarded that with some apprehension. Indeed, he well may, when we bear in mind that according to a very cautious expert this country at present fails to replace itself by about 25 to 30 per cent.; that is to say, at the present rate of decline the population will decrease by between 25 and 30 per cent. in 30 years. That has alarmed the right hon. Gentleman, and he wants to put a brake on the decline in the birth-rate, but it is a very modest brake, and it will not hold. In effect, after the first child, he increases the amount on which the family man gets exemption by £10 in respect of each child. As far as I can calculate, the real value of that concession is something like 10d. a week per child, and I wonder how many potential parents will be encouraged to indulge in the adventure of parenthood by the prospect of paying an average amount of 10d. a week less in taxation in respect of each child. I hope that at any rate the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to give us some assurance that if he occupies the place which he now occupies by the time the next Budget is introduced, we may look to see restoration of the whole of the sacrifices made in 1931.

7.17 p.m.


It is a new doctrine, but one which has been repeated several times during the discussion of the last few Amendments, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in discussing the Finance Bill of the year, is expected to give pledges as to what he is going to do in the Budget of the following year. I utterly decline to reveal to the Committee at this stage what I am going to do when I bring in my Budget proposals next year. I do not at present know what the conditions may be, and of course I cannot be quite certain whether I shall be Chancellor of the Exchequer next year. All I can say is that the considerations which have been put before me in connection with the partial restoration of Income Tax allowances will no doubt not be lost sight of by me when I do come to frame my next Budget. I am not going to follow the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), who has just addressed the Committee, on the question of how far I have fulfilled promises or pledges which I gave in the course of my speeches on this Budget or on the Budget of the preceding year. I would ask her not to pick out particular phrases or particular portions of my speeches and rely upon them alone, but to read the speeches as a whole, and I am confident that she will not find anything that is inconsistent with those speeches in the action which I am now taking. I have always been careful not to pledge myself either to make an exact restoration of the sacrifices called for in 1931 or to make such restorations as I could make at any particular period of time.

As to the Amendment now before the Committee, the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) very fairly recognised that this was no question of restoration to the pre-1931 position, which is another illustration of the practice of the Opposition to which I have drawn attention, whereby they seek to secure an increase in each of the concessions that I have found it possible to propose. The children's allowance is £50 for the first child and £40 for the second. I propose to make it £50 for each child. To put down an Amendment to make it £60 for each child has no justification on any other ground except that of adding £10 to the particular proposal contained in the Bill. I may recall the report of the Royal Commission in 1920, when the cost of living was considerably higher than it is to-day. The recommendations they made for allowances in respect of children were, I think, only £36 for the first child and £27 for the other children. I do not think it can be denied that an allowance of £50 for each child is a generous one in its effect on the taxpayer with a small income. If we are to have any sort of regard to the actual increased burden upon the household by reason of the fact that there is a child to support and maintain, I say that in the case of the small income £50 is a generous allowance. To make that allowance £60, as proposed, would cost another £2,000,000 a year.

7.21 p.m.


I want to correct one thing that the right hon. Gentleman has said. It is not quite right to say that there is no argument here except for adding £10 to what the Government have done. I think I am right in saying that the 1931 figure for the first child was £60, and, therefore, so far as the young married couple with one child is concerned, which is the case that is often taken, the Chancellor of the Exchequer's concession does not put it back to what it was in 1931. When you get to two children or more, the position is never as good as it was in 1931, but it is nearer when you average it out over a number of children than it is when you merely take the first child. Therefore, although this Amendment goes beyond the 1931 position by giving £60 for the second child instead of the £50 that was then laid down, it is an attempt, by utilising the same principle that is in the Bill, and without altering that principle, to put back the allowance as regards the first child to the position that obtained in 1931. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman can say that in 1931 prices were so different from what they are today, or that the allowances were so

extravagant that there was no justification for them. Surely the experience of four years has not been to make people think less of the allowances that are necessary for children. I should have thought that all the experience of the last four years had rather emphasised the necessity for generous allowances in regard to children. We therefore say that this is another instance where the cleaning of the slate has not occurred, where you are not getting back to the 1931 level. Although the Income Tax payer with the tax at 4s. 6d. has got back to it, this is one of the cases where people who have to pay Income Tax deserve it more than any others, and we shall therefore vote in favour of the Amendment.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 53; Noes, 238.

Division No. 240.] AYES. [7.25 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding) Pickering, Ernest H.
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Grundy, Thomas W. Rathbone, Eleanor
Attlee, Rt. Hon. Clement R. Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd) Rea, Sir Walter
Banfield, John William Harris, Sir Percy Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Janner, Barnett Salter, Dr. Alfred
Cleary, J. J. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Cove, William G. Kirkwood, David Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)
Dagger, George Leonard, William Thorne, William James
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Logan, David Gilbert Tinker, John Joseph
Dobbie, William Lunn, William West, F. R.
Edwards, Sir Charles Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) White, Henry Graham
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) McEntee, Valentine L. Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Gardner, Benjamin Walter Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Mainwaring, William Henry Wilmot, John
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Mallalieu, Edward Lanceiot
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Milner, Major James TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Grenfell, David Rees (Giamorgan) Owen, Major Goronwy Mr. John and Mr. Groves.
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Paling, Wilfred
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Caporn, Arthur Cecil Dower, Captain A. V. G.
Albery, Irving James Carver, Major William H. Drewe, Cedric
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel
Apsley, Lord Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Eady, George H.
Aske, Sir Robert William Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Eales, John Frederick
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Eastwood, John Francis
Atholl, Duchess of Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Clayton, Sir Christopher Emrys-Evans, P. V.
Balille, Sir Adrian W. M. Cobb, Sir Cyril Entwistle, Cyril Fullard
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Essenhigh, Reginald Clare
Belniel, Lord Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Fleiden, Edward Brocklehurst
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Cooper, A. Duff Ford, Sir Patrick J.
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Cooper, T. M. (Edinburgh, W.) Fraser, Captain Sir Ian
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Fremantle, Sir Francis
Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Cranborne, Viscount Fuller, Captain A. G.
Boulton, W. W. Craven-Ellis, William Ganzoni, Sir John
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Gibson, Charles Granville
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Gillett, Sir George Masterman
Brass, Captain Sir William Cross, R. H. Gledhill, Gilbert
Broadbent, Colonel John Crossley, A. C. Glossop, C. W. H.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Cruddas, Lieut-Colonel Bernard Gluckstein, Louis Halle
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Dalkeith, Earl of Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir John Gower, Sir Robert
Browne, Captain A. C. Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John
Burghley, Lord Davison, Sir William Henry Grigg, Sir Edward
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Denman, Hon. R. D. Gunston, Captain D. W.
Burnett, John George Denville, Alfred Guy, J. C. Morrison
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Salt, Edward W.
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Maitland, Adam Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Harbord, Arthur Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney)
Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Sandys, Duncan
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Martin, Thomas B. Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.) Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Sir Cuthbert Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Unv., Belfast)
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.
Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division) Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Holdsworth, Herbert Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dine, C.)
Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Hornby, Frank Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Horsbrugh, Florence Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Howard, Tom Forrest Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.) Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Munro, Patrick Spens, William Patrick
Hume, Sir George Hopwood Nail, Sir Joseph Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)
Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. O'Connor, Terence James Stones, James
Jamieson, Rt. Hon. Douglas O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Stourton, Hon. John J.
Jennings, Roland Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton) Peake, Osbert Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Pearson, William G. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Penny, Sir George Templeton, William P.
Kimball, Lawrence Percy, Lord Eustace Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Kirkpatrick, William M. Perkins, Walter R. D. Thomson, Sir James D. W.
Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Petherick, M. Thompson, Sir Luke
Law, Sir Alfred Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.) Pickthorn, K. W. M. Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Leech, Dr. J. W. Pownall, Sir Assheton Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Lees-Jones, John Procter, Major Henry Adam Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Pybus, Sir John Turton, Robert Hugh
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Levy, Thomas Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Lewis, Oswald Ramsbotham, Herwald Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock) Ramsden, Sir Eugene Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Lindsay, Noel Ker Reid, David D. (County Down) Watt, Major George Steven H.
Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe- Reid, William Allan (Derby) Wayland, Sir William A.
Lloyd, Geoffrey Romer, John R. Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall) Wells, Sydney Richard
Loftus, Pierce C. Robinson, John Roland Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Ropner, Colonel L. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Rosbotham, Sir Thomas Wills, Wilfrid D.
Mabane, William Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)
McCorquodale, M. S. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Runge, Norah Cecil Wise, Alfred R.
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Bassetlaw) Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy) Withers, Sir John James
Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Womersley, Sir Walter
McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside) Worthington, Sir John
McKie, John Hamilton Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury) Wragg, Herbert
Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Salmon, Sir Isidore TELLER OF THE NOES.
Mr. Blindell and Mr. James Stuart.

7.35 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 15, line 34, at the end, to add: and as if after the words 'is receiving full-time instruction at any university, college, school, or other educational establishment' there were inserted the words 'or is serving an unpaid apprenticeship to any trade or occupation'. In 1920 the House of Commons decided that the parents of children sent to a university, college, school or other educational establishment should have special privileges in respect of Income Tax. I take it that that was because the parents would not be getting any gain from them and would be put to some expense in order to further the children's education, to prepare them for the future, and to make them of some use in the community. That is a sound principle. In moving this Amendment, we have in mind another kind of child who may not be able to go to a university, whose parents put him to an apprenticeship or article him to a profession. In some cases parents have to pay a premium, and the child does not get any payment by way of wages. The purpose we have in mind is to give the child a better chance in life. If the desire of the House of Commons in 1920 was to help parents to further the education of their children, we would be well advised to give relief to parents who put their children to apprenticeships which will help them in later years. I cannot inform the Chancellor what the cost of this concession would be, but I do not imagine it would be very much. I do not think there are many people in my class who are able to put their children to apprenticeship, for they have to start earning early. It applies mostly to the middle class. As this Amendment furthers the principle to which the House has agreed, I think that it will be acceptable to all parties.

7.38 p.m.


Our intention in moving this Amendment is to bring in the same category as the child now enjoying full-time instruction after the age of 14 the child who is serving an unpaid apprenticeship, which is really another form of education. While a child at a school or college is being educated and prepared to be equipped for some walk in life, the child who is apprenticed to a trade is being similarly prepared for the technical side of life and will presumably, all other things being equal, make the same contribution to society in general. Taking the two classes, perhaps the greater sacrifice is made by the parents who enable their child to take an unpaid apprenticeship, for in the majority of cases they belong to the artisan class, and they can ill afford to do without the wage that might in other circumstances be brought in by the child. They need some consideration and sympathy because of the sacrifices they are making in the interests, not only of the child, but indirectly of the country as a whole. In consequence of the greater sacrifice, there is greater need of relief.

In many cases it is not only an unpaid apprenticeship, but money is actually paid by way of premium and articles. For a period of three or five years, and sometimes seven years, the children receive no financial recompense, but the parents pay a premium for the technical and expert knowledge that is given. By paying a premium the parents are on all fours with the parents whose child's education is being paid for in a secondary school. The law differentiates between the class in which the child is being kept at school after the age of 14 and the class where the child is sent to a trade and no wage is received, but the latter child, in the same way as the other child, is receiving some kind of education and in many cases is paying for it.

The plea in the Amendment is for simple justice. I find it difficult to appreciate that any solid argument can be made against the Amendment. We expect an argument in reply to our case will be made on financial grounds, but we also hope an argument will be made to meet our case that there is unfair differentiation against those parents in thousands of families who allow their children, for the benefit of the children and, indirectly, for the benefit of the country, to receive a technical education but no wages. They should be treated in the same way as children who are kept at school and who only receive in another way education similar to that which is given through the unpaid apprenticeship system.

7.44 p.m.


I hope that the Chancellor will favourably consider this very modest request. It will help those who are deserving of it. The fair and modest way in which the hon. Members put their case should appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. It is not a great concession to ask. It is a long time since the right hon. Gentleman has made any concessions. I have supported the Chancellor, at times in opposition to my own leader, in regard to allowances, but I do think that this is a case where he might make a graceful concession to most deserving cases.

7.45 p.m.


I would like to put a question to the Chancellor on how wide an interpretation is to be given to this Amendment. I take it that if accepted it would embrace not only those engaged in the professions but also those occupied in industry. If that is so, I should like to say that I have yet to learn that in the marine workshops we have indentured apprentices who are not getting paid, and I do not think there are many unpaid apprentices in industry. In the case of the professions, however, we have this situation: the son of poor parents, after a promising career at a secondary school and afterwards at a university, may wish to enter one of the professions. In many cases he will receive no pay whatever and in some cases a premium will have to be paid, and the parents will find great difficulty in maintaining their son during the period of his professional training. It is particularly hard that a boy with special qualifications should be debarred from entering a profession by reason of the poverty of his parents. In such cases it is of little use to him to have received a good secondary school and university education.

7.47 p.m.


I would urge that this Amendment raises a principle which merits very careful consideration, though it may not provide the best means of giving effect to the views which have been put forward. There is a complaint these days of a shortage of skilled workers, and while that shortage is mainly due to the depression which has existed in certain trades it is accentuated by the constant drift of the children of manual workers into black-coated or non-manual occupations, and at a time when it is desirable to induce intelligent lads to take up manual occupations it would surely be wise to encourage parents to put them into trades where they will acquire skill and craftsmanship and in which an increasing degree of intelligence will be required as time goes on. It is obvious that in some industries the need to increase the number of skilled craftsmen will become acute, and the more we can encourage intelligent youths to take up skilled manual work rather than unskilled ocupations in offices and the like the better it will be for industry. I urge my right hon. Friend to give sympathetic consideration to the principle behind this Amendment.

7.50 p.m.


I wish to support the case which has been put up for this Amendment. As a man who served his apprenticeship and who has always believed that much of the greatness of our country is to be attributed to the skill and craft of our workers, I feel that it would be a very fine thing if the Chancellor of the Exchequer could see his way to accept this Amendment. The other day I heard the Lord Provost of Glasgow declare at a meeting that one of the greatest difficulties with which they were faced on the Clyde at the moment arose from the fact that they had neglected to keep up the number of apprentices during the last seven or eight years. As a result they were feeling the effects of a lack of that workmanship and craftsmanship which is so desirable. It would be well worth the while of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the national interest, to make a gesture to parents to persuade them to put their boys into skilled trades, so that ulmitately we might reap the benefit of having more of those first-class workmen for which this country was famous for so many years. The apprenticeship system has been slowly dying over the last 20 years. When I was apprenticed to my trade it was the usual thing for apprentices to serve for three or four years, and there was no pay during that time, but we were taught a trade and we were turned out as workmen. To-day, as a result of the neglect of the apprenticeship system, young people entering industry do not get the care and attention bestowed on them which they used to get in my day, and it would be a thousand pities if we were to bring up a generation of young people with no particular craft occupation at all but merely machine minded, merely left to pick up a trade or calling as best they could. In the long run that would not be to the interests of the nation, and that is a point which I hope the Chancellor will take into consideration. I do not think the concession we ask would cost very much, but the gesture would be of the utmost importance. We are talking of safeguarding young people between 14 and 16, we are talking of sending them to learn something—I do not quite know what—at technical schools if they are unable to get jobs. It would pay the nation a jolly sight better to see that they learned something that was really worth knowing. I hope we shall receive some sympathy from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

7.55 p.m.


I have no difficulty in giving plenty of sympathy in response to the appeal of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield). I agree with him that apprenticeship has been dying out for a number of years, and that that is a great misfortune for the country, but what I have to consider is whether this particular proposal would revive the system of apprenticeship, and I think the hon. Member would admit that he would be stretching his imagination considerably if he ventured to maintain that this proposal would really have any serious effect on the position one way or the other. Of course, this is not a new proposal. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) mentioned the legislation of 1920, when the allowances were extended to children over 16 who were undergoing full courses of education in various institutions. But I wonder whether he remembers that on that occasion an Amendment was moved to extend the allowances to apprenticeship. It was moved by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. T. Griffiths) and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer who happened to be my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) replied to it. He said: Last year, in deference to a widespread sentiment in the House … I made a concession in the Bill on behalf of the children pursuing their general education. So long as they were pursuing their general education the concession applied. We resolved, in case of doubt as to the efficiency and character of the education, that the question must be decided in consultation with the Board of Education, and the Inland Revenue authorities were given the right to apply to the Board of Education to help them to decide the matter. The whole object was general education. It was not apprenticeship. The latter is entirely apart. I really cannot agree to extend the concession which was made to encourage general education to those who are undergoing apprenticeship."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1920; col. 1538, Vol. 131.] Thereupon the hon. Member for Pontypool withdrew his Amendment, an example which I commend to the hon. Member opposite. I fear it will be necessary for me to say a little more than my right hon. Friend did on that occasion if I am to induce the hon. Member to withdraw this Amendment. The concession was made to encourage the education of children, and there is a distinction between education and apprenticeship. The hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Cleary), in his very reasonable speech, described apprenticeship as merely another form of education. In a sense, no doubt, that is true, but one's education goes on for a very long time. Some of us, no doubt, are enjoying a form of education in being Members of this House, but we do not on that account get allowances in respect of Income Tax. But, really, the hon. Member will admit that the form of education does not depend upon one's being an apprentice. His argument would apply in the same way to any child who enters industry for the first time and thereupon begins to learn something about how to do the work in that industry, at which he is earning wages. That is really the whole difficulty, or one of the difficulties, of this Amendment, that you cannot make a distinction between apprentices and others. What is an apprentice? The hon. Member spoke about young persons being articled to solicitors, but he has not defined what he means by an apprentice. An apprentice does not mean a man articled to a solicitor, nor is he going to put that into his Amendment. You have to say what you mean by an apprentice.

The next difficulty is unpaid apprentices. Either he or another hon. Member spoke about premiums being paid by parents for their children to enter the offices of accountants or solicitors or other professional people. In such cases a nominal salary is sometimes paid to the pupil; it is really only part of the premium being paid back. Is such a one a paid or an unpaid pupil? We run into a great number of difficulties of that kind. Take the case, now rather rare, I admit, of a youth who is apprenticed to manual work in a factory and who receives as pay some quite nominal amount. Are we to make a difference between the case in which the youth is getting nothing and the case in which he is getting, say, half-a-crown a week? I do not see any stopping place if we once begin in this way, and we should ultimately come to the position where all children who were either being educated or, if not being educated, were entering industry would form the subject of a claim by their parents, and the moment we get to that point we are destroying the original basis of the concession, which was made for the encouragement of education. I began by saying that I should be very glad to see the system of apprenticeship revived, and if it is not revived we shall have to find something to take its place, but I do not think this Amendment is the way to set about it, and I do not see any way in which this Amendment could be so amended as to become practicable.

8.0 p.m.


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to give the Amendment a little more consideration. I do not think he does himself justice when he discriminates between one form of education and another. There are, of course, some people who devote themselves to scientific discovery or to philosophic or historical study, but the bulk of the people who continue their education in the way of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke just now do so in order to fit themselves for earning their living in one way or another. When the right hon. Gentleman was at the Ministry of Health he must, have received from boards of guardians applications to enable them to pay maintenance grants for the children they apprentice. It must be a very serious burden to a working-class parent, or one who comes within the lower scale of Income Tax, to maintain a boy or girl during a period of unpaid apprenticeship. The right hon. Gentleman said they may pay a premium and get it back in small wages, but he knows perfectly well that that is paid by the parent.


My point was that, if the parent had paid a premium and part of it was returned in the shape of a nominal salary, under the Amendment the pupil might be disqualified.


If the parent has put down a, premium first of all and then gets back something weekly, he has already paid. The right hon. Gentleman says that that raises a difficulty because it would then appear that it was not an unpaid apprenticeship. I should have thought that was perfectly easy to decide because the parent has paid the money that is coming back week by week and, therefore, it is still an unpaid apprenticeship. If the parent finds the money for the small weekly allowance, you cannot say that the employers pay it. The parent has paid it. I should have thought if the right hon. Gentleman really wanted to meet us that sort of difficulty could be overcome. May I point out, too, how unfair it is at present to some working-class children as against others? As I understand it, the allowance goes to a boy or girl who is getting advanced education, but that boy or girl may have earned a scholarship grant which will enable the parent to keep him. I have always tried, and am still trying, to get parents to make the sacrifice necessary to enable their children to have some real trade or occupation at their disposal, and one great thing is that in the artisan class a boy or girl should be able to say, "I have served my time and have come out qualified for a job." I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to dismiss all the difficulties and take the Amendment on its merits, and ask his experts to consider how we can best put this into proper words and bring up a proposal on Report. I know he will say that I do not mind how much it costs. I do not believe it would cost very much money, but I believe the value of it to a poor household, though it might only be £2 or £3 a year, is very considerable when you are dealing with boys and girls of this age.

8.6 p.m.


I think the matter needs further consideration than it has yet received and, before it passes from the Committee, I should like to add a few observations. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that when it was discussed in 1920 the then Chancellor dismissed it by saying that the concession that had been made was for general education, and this was not general but specialised education, and consequently outside the scope. That is, surely, a, very inadequate answer. Why should it be limited to general education? Take two families in similar circumstances with similar incomes, each with a son. In one case the son is going to become a clerk. The family hope that he will go into a bank, or some other commercial establishment, and when he leaves the elementary school he is sent to a secondary school. That boy is regarded with favour by the State and his father, who has to maintain him during his secondary education, receives an allowance of £50 and is not taxed on that sum. The other family considers that it would be better to put the son into some skilled occupation, perhaps a very highly skilled occupation, making scientific instruments or becoming a dental operative or any work of that sort which requires a long technical training. He is sent to complete his education not to a secondary school but to some employer engaged in the occupation. He receives for some years no salary, but is trained to become a skilled artisan. He is looked upon by the State without favour and his father has to maintain him and has to pay Income Tax on the £50, which presumably is the amount that is regarded as the proper maintenance for the boy. I do not see why there should be that discrimination between the two cases, and I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman should say that the Income Tax allowance should be made in the first case, of general education, but not in the second, of specialised industrial education. When he says it is difficult to draw the line between paid and unpaid, I do not agree, because obviously where a boy is paid a salary and is already of value to his employer, and is not merely learning his occupation, the household has the benefit of the wage that he receives and consequently there is income coming in to set against the outgoings. But where there is no payment being received there is a case for the consideration of the Treasury and of this Committee.

The right hon. Gentleman, I think, is on firmer ground when he says it is difficult to give a definition of what is an apprentice, and that is why I think the matter requires further consideration. But I cannot believe that the difficulties in the way are insuperable or that it is impossible to provide, with consideration, an adequate definition. The Leader of the Opposition has agreed that possibly the form of the Amendment is not fully satisfactory and that there are cases that ought to be included which would not be included if the Amendment were put in as it stands. I would add my voice to his in asking that the matter should receive further and detailed consideration at the hands of those who are expert in these matters to see whether a definition could not be framed which, on the one hand, would give the concession that is desired by Members representing various points of view, while not being open to the objection to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. I think the whole country is concerned at the fact that apprenticeship has been dying out, and we see that our position in the world of industry and commerce must depend more upon the skill of our workers, and the enterprise of our manufacturers and merchants in producing goods of high quality in very specialised trades, since we cannot rely upon our being able to compete successfully in the more ordinary occupations which involve unskilled labour, and which lower-paid nations may be able to conduct with greater economy than we can. For these reasons, I trust that the matter may receive the further consideration which I suggest.

8.11 p.m.


The right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in showing how the present law is full of inconsistencies. There is no difficulty in doing that. The whole of our taxation is full of inconsistencies and illogicalities which have arisen from the fact that Members have moved Amendments and Chancellors of the Exchequer from time to time have accepted them. If I were to accept this, it would not put an end to anomalies and inconsistencies. It would give rise to a whole fresh series of them. I have pointed out some practical difficulties. I have not said anything about cost at all. I have not attempted to suggest the difficulty of the cost. The right hon. Gentleman has not shown how to overcome the difficulties that I have pointed out. The Leader of the Opposition has made an appeal to me. He has asked me to reconsider this and bring up a proposal on the Report stage. I am not going to undertake to do that. I do not myself see how we could make an Amendment of this kind properly workable. It may be that my enthusiasm, not being as great as that of the right hon. Gentleman, has not done justice to the subject. I am not going to offer to produce an Amendment which will carry out what he wants because I do not know how to do it.


Your men under the Gallery can help you.


They cannot perform impossibilities. I have pointed out what the difficulties are. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he and his friends should have another go to see whether they can think of some better form of Amendment and, if they will bring us a new Amendment on Report, I will certainly consider it with as nearly an open mind as any one can do in my situation, because I recognise that there is a good deal to be said for the idea behind it. But the difficulties that I have mentioned would have to be overcome before I could consider it.

8.14 p.m.


It is very easy to throw out a challenge to me and my friends to "have another go," but we have not the staff of experienced people. The Government have people who are adepts at getting over difficulties if the Government want them to get over difficulties. Will the right hon. Gentleman allow one of my friends to interview the gentlemen at the Treasury that he himself would consult if he wanted an Amendment of this kind dealt with in a satisfactory manner? I would rather he did it himself, but if he will not, and if he puts it on to me, perhaps he would let us have the assistance which he himself would have at his disposal if he wished to deal with this matter in the manner in which we want to deal with it, so that we may have the advantage of that skill, wisdom and advice. If the thing cannot be done, we will admit that that is so, but we want to have a try—not "another go"—with the very best advice advisable.


I made my offer in good faith, and I am perfectly ready to arrange that the experts at the Treasury shall put at the disposal of the right hon. Gentleman their ideas on the subject in order to see whether they will be able to help him.


Thank you very much.


In view of the understanding which has been come to, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 21 to 23 ordered to stand part of the Bill.