HC Deb 19 June 1935 vol 303 cc509-13

Section nineteen of the Finance Act, 1920 (which, as amended by section twenty-two of the Finance Act, 1924, and section eight of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1931, makes provision for a deduction in respect of relative or other person taking charge of widowers' or widows' children or acting as housekeeper), shall be extended so as to apply to a person resident with an unmarried person in the capacity of housekeeper, and in the said section the expressions "widower" and "widow" shall be deemed to include, respectively, a husband living apart from his wife and a wife living apart from her husband.—[Mr. E. Williams.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

11.42 p.m.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

It must be common knowledge to all of us that a great deal of hardship is sustained by married men who have left their wives and by wives who have left their husbands, in that they have to pay Income Tax because they cannot be designated as widows or widowers. Then there are the large number of cases of spinsters who are occupying premises and are obliged to engage housekeepers. Surely there is a case for persons in that category to have the same consideration as widows.

11.43 p.m.


I am afraid that the Government cannot accept this new Clause. This is another instance of how one concession leads to the demand for another, and how the more is given the more is asked for. An extension was made not very long ago to widows and widowers, even though they had not to support children. The reason for the differentiation between married people and unmarried people was that the married people, besides having incurred the misfortune of the loss of the spouse, had undertaken certain responsibility, had set up a house which they were reluctant to leave or could not leave because they could not find suitable quarters elsewhere. They had undertaken a certain way of living and for sentimental or practical reasons were obliged to carry on, and they could not carry on without someone to look after their affairs. The same reasons do not apply to single persons. If the new Clause were accepted it would have an effect which I am sure was not present in the mind of the hon. Member. It would lead directly to the position that it would be to the advantage of husband and wife to separate. They would be much better off each living under a separate roof and each employing a housekeeper, than they would be if they remained together. I do not suggest that anybody would be induced to take such a drastic step by such a temptation but the proposal of the new Clause would produce anomalies and create a not very desirable position. For those reasons the Government cannot accept it.

11.46 p.m.


I am surprised at the remarks of the Financial Secretary. I have heard many excuses offered for the rejection of new Clauses on the Finance Bill but never the suggestion that because of some proposed Income Tax relief, there might be collusion between husbands and wives to separate.


I never suggested it.


But the hon. Gentleman rather flirted with the idea. Last year a similar Clause was rejected on the ground that it would encourage a bachelor to have a female in his house under the designation of a housekeeper, for whom he would be entitled to claim the allowance. Whether this new Clause is drafted rightly or wrongly I want the Financial Secretary to pay some attention to what I regard as an unjustifiable anomaly in the case of unmarried women who are maintaining houses. If a widow or widower has a housekeeper an allowance is made for that housekeeper in the calculation of Income Tax. But in the case of an unmarried person who has a house and is compelled to employ a housekeeper, no allowance is made. I have here a letter from a lady in my constituency, who, as far as I know, is not a supporter of my party, and she expresses the hope that the Government will do something to deal with the case of spinsters who are in a position similar to her own. She happens to have a little more money than the average spinster and she is compelled by the size of her house to have a housekeeper. But because she is unmarried she receives no allowance in respect of the housekeeper. I hope the Financial Secretary will give some consideration to cases of that kind.

11.48 p.m.


I, also, appeal to the Financial Secretary for a reconsideration of this matter. I think there is something in the objection that if this new Clause were accepted in full, it would lead to some anomalies in cases of husbands and wives living apart and in certain circumstances it might make it profitable for them to live apart. But if that is the only objection, it can be met by dropping the second part of the Clause and dealing only with the case of the unmarried person. I assure the hon. Gentleman that this grievance is acutely felt by unmarried women and, very likely, it is also felt by unmarried men. Why should this distinction be made between the position of unmarried persons in this respect and that of widows and widowers? There was some common sense in the method adopted, so long as the allowance only applied where a housekeeper was in charge of children. The hon. Gentleman was quite right in saying that this is a case in which one concession inevitably leads to the demand for another, and that is because there is no logical half-way house, once you have departed from that rule, as to the children. There is no logic in stopping just where the present rule stops. Once you cease to make it necessary that the housekeeper should look after children, there is no logic in differentiating between the married and the unmarried.

Many unmarried women who have to employ housekeepers are very hard pressed and are very often in receipt of much lower salaries than the married people. They do not see why they should bear a tax of this kind when people better able to pay it are exempted. I hope, even if nothing should be done about it this year, that the matter will be reconsidered in reference to future years.

11.50 p.m.


I only want to make one suggestion to the Government in connection with this new Clause which may possibly be of value if they are prepared to look into the principle of the Clause between now and next year. I do not think that the Clause, as drafted, is workable, but there is a good deal to be said for the theory laid down in it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will find if he makes inquiries that in various parts of the country public assistance committees have been faced with very much the same situation, and they have been able to arrive at a system and a formula for dealing with this question of the housekeeper when deciding the needs of a household which have got over the main difficulty. In Sheffield that was so operated for a considerable time without even the social consequences which the Financial Secretary seems partially to have feared, and I think that that machinery might be of value if the Government were prepared to consider it.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 36; Noes, 153.

Division No. 244.] AYES. [11.50 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll) Rathbone, Eleanor
Banfield, John William Harris, Sir Percy Rea, Sir Walter
Cleary, J. J. Holdsworth, Herbert Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Janner, Barnett Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Daggar, George Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Leonard, William Tinker, John Joseph
Dobbie, William Logan, David Gilbert White, Henry Graham
Edwards, Sir Charles McEntee, Valentine L. Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Mainwaring, William Henry Wilmot, John
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Milner, Major James TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Grundy, Thomas W. Pickering, Ernest H. Mr. John and Mr. Paling.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)
Apsley, Lord Bilndell, James Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y)
Aske, Sir Robert William Boulton, W. W. Browne, Captain A. C.
Balley, Eric Alfred George Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Burghley, Lord
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Broadbent, Colonel John Burnett, John George
Carver, Major William H. Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Castlereagh, Viscount James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Ramsden, Sir Eugene
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Jamieson, Rt. Hon. Douglas Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring) Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.) Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Colman, N. C. D. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Robinson, John Roland
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Ropner, Colonel L.
Conant, R. J. E. Levy, Thomas Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Cooper, A. Duff Lewis, Oswald Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward
Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Lindsay, Noel Ker Runge, Norah Cecil
Craven-Ellis, William Llewellin, Major John J. Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Lloyd, Geoffrey Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Cross, R. H. Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liv rp'l)
Crossley, A. C. Loder, Captain J. de Vera Salmon, Sir Isidore
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Loftus, Pierce C. Salt, Edward W.
Culverwell, Cyril Tom Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney).
Dalkeith, Earl of Mabane, William Sandys, Duncan
Dickie, John P. McCorquodale, M. S. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.)
Eillston, Captain George Sampson McKie, John Hamilton Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dlne, C.)
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Macmillan, Maurice Harold Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Everard, W. Lindsay Martin, Thomas B. Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Ford, Sir Patrick J. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Stones, James
Fraser, Captain Sir Ian Mellor, Sir J. S. P. Stourton, Hon. John J.
Fremantle, Sir Francis Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Fuller, Captain A. G. Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf' & Chlsw'k) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Glossop, C. W. H. Morgan, Robert H. Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Graves, Marjorie Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Thomson, Sir James D. W.
Grimston, R. V. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties) Thorp, Linton Theodore
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Gunston, Captain D. W. Nunn, William Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Guy, J. C. Morrison O'Donovan, Dr. William James Turton, Robert Hugh
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Peake, Osbert Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Harbord, Arthur Pearson, William G. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Penny, Sir George Watt, Major George Steven H.
Heligers, Captain F. F. A. Percy, Lord Eustace Wells, Sydney Richard
Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division) Perkins, Walter R. D. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Petherick, M. Wills, Wilfrid D.
Hornby, Frank Pickthorn, K. W. M. Wise, Alfred R.
Horsbin, Ian M. Procter, Major Henry Adam Womersley, Sir Walter
Horsbrugh, Florence Pybus, Sir John
Howard, Tom Forrest Raikes, Henry V. A. M. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.) Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward
and Major George Davies.

Question put, and agreed to.