HC Deb 19 June 1935 vol 303 cc501-4

11.13 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 22, line 7, at the end, to add: and as if, in the case of a widow's annuity from a superannuation fund established in connection with her husband's employment, no duty were chargeable. This is the last Amendment to the last Clause but one of the Bill, and I am not going to detain the Committee more than a minute or two. But there is a case to be put forward for this Amendment, and I am going to invite the Chancellor to amend the law more than he has done in the Clause as it stands now. I think it is 40 years since it was first decided that Estate Duty was payable on the capital value of certain pensions, but I understand that this Estate Duty was not imposed until recent years. It has caused considerable hardship in many cases where it has been imposed. Take the case of a man who is entitled to a pension or to superannuation, and who, having more regard for his wife when he is gone than some other people may have, decides to allot a certain amount of that pension to her. If he allots more than £25, Estate Duty is levied on the capital value of the pension. This has caused considerable annoyance, and several organisations took up the matter. The Trade Union Congress listened to arguments and ultimately decided to request a deputation, which met the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few months ago upon this matter. I would like to quote the words which were used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he made his Budget speech. He said: The Finance Bill will contain a small concession in the Estate Duties. Where a deceased person has provided during his life for an annuity at his death for the benefit of his family or others there is exemption at present, under the Finance Act of 1894, for annuities which do not exceed £25 a year. It has been represented to me that that limit of £25, fixed 40 years ago, is now too low. I agree, and I propose, therefore, to extend the exemption to annuities not exceeding £52 a year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th April, 1935; col. 1626, Vol. 300.] It is rather unusual for me to be thanking any member of the Government, but on this occasion, on behalf of the organisations concerned and of myself, I thank the Chancellor. We appreciate very much what he has done in the Clause in improving the position of widows who have been allotted pensions by their husbands. The deputation put before the Chancellor the point that even £52 did not meet the case and that he ought to put the figure at £100. I am now asking him to consider extending the amount mentioned in the Clause to £100, or, if he cannot see his way to go so far as that, to graduate the amount that should be paid from £52 to £100. The Amendment suggests that Estate Duty from pensions allotted to widows as a result of superannuation should be abolished altogether, and that is what I should like to see done. I hope that the Chancellor will be able to go further than he has already gone.

11.18 p.m.


Those who will benefit from the concession which has been obtained will be grateful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Trade Union Congress for having brought the improvement about. There is a further point, however, which is overdue and which would cost very little money. I would like to urge that the Chancellor should exempt from Estate Duty altogether widows' annuities which come to them as a result of a superannuation scheme established in connection with their deceased husbands' employment. These annuities are very small and concern only small people, and it would be an act of justice that the State should cease to take a toll from them by way of Estate Duty. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have a further opportunity of employing his histrionic arts, I am sure he would not like to feel that any part of the surplus he may have has come from such a source as this. I sincerely hope he will round off that piece of good work by granting this concession.

11.20 p.m.


The hon. Member has mentioned that the Trades Union Congress was interested in this affair. I think it right to say, however, that the first representations I received on the matter came from the Association of Superannuation and Pension Funds, who communicated with me as long ago as last July. They were interested in all kinds of annuities, not only for widows, but for dependants. The deputation which I received from the Trades Union Congress confined itself more particularly to the case of widows and the Amendment deals only with the case of widows' annuities. I do not quite understand why it should be thought that the exemption should be confined to widows. The proposal in the Bill, which deals with all kinds of annuities, seems to me to be more humane and logical than the proposal of the Amendment. The Amendment does not put any limit upon the amount of the annuity to be exempted, but would apply to any annuity from a superannuation fund. I do not see why it should be suggested that there should be exemption in the case of an annuity of a substantial amount. The hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot) said that these are all small annuities received by small people, but it is these small annuities of small people that I have endeavoured to deal with in the Bill. I was certainly impressed by the argument that the figure of £25, fixed as far back as 40 years ago, was out of keeping with the conditions of to-day, and in making the figure £52 it seemed to me that I was dealing with the small annuities. If I were to extend it as the Amendment suggests, it would mean a substantial loss of revenue, and therefore I am afraid I cannot accept the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 32 ordered to stand part of the Bill.