§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to extinguish tithe renteharge and extraordinary tithe rent-charge, and for other purposes (hereinafter referred to as 'the said Act') it is expedient to provide—
For the purposes of this Resolution the following expressions have the meanings hereby assigned to them, that is to say:
'Agricultural proportion' means, in relation to the amount of a rentcharge, the proportion which ninety-one pounds eleven shillings and twopence bears to one hundred pounds;
'Present value' means, in relation to any contribution towards losses of rating authorities issued out of the Redemption Annuities Account on any date, the value of that contribution at the first day of October, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, determined on the basis of interest at three per cent. per annum;
'Redemption annuities' means annuities in respect of all land out of which rentcharge issued before being extinguished by the said Act, such annuities being charged for a period of sixty years, at an amount—
'Redemption Annuities Account' means an account to be established under the said Act into which are payable all sums received on behalf of the Crown in respect of redemption annuities;
'Redemption stock' means stock to be issued for compensation in respect of rent-charges extinguished by the said Act up to an amount in the case of extraordinary tithe rentcharge, equal to the capital value thereof, and in the case of tithe rent-charge such an amount as will yield interest equal in amount to the aggregate of the gross annual value of all such rent-charges, less deductions in respect of cost of collection and management, land tax, rates and uncertainty of collection, and any additional stock to be issued for compensation in respect of rentcharges which were free from Income Tax;
'Rentcharge' means tithe rentcharge and extraordinary tithe rentcharge, but excluding any tithe rentcharge or extraordinary tithe rentcharge where, immediately before the second day of October, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, it and the land out of which it issued are vested in the same person, having been so vested on the twenty-sixth day of February, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, and continuously thereafter;
'Urban proportion' means, in relation to the amount of a rentcharge, the proportion which one hundred and five pounds bears to one hundred pounds;
'Capital value' means, in relation to extraordinary tithe rentcharge, the capital
value thereof as ascertained under the Extraordinary Tithe Acts, 1886 and 1897;
'Gross annual value' means, in relation to a rentcharge which issued out of land which comprised agricultural land. the agricultural proportion of the amount thereof, and in relation to a rentcharge which issued out of any other land—
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. MICHAEL BEAUMONT
On a point of Order. Before we discuss this Resolution, I should like to ask for your guidance, Sir Dennis, and to suggest that it might facilitate discussion if you could inform us which Amendments are in order and which you propose to call, and, in particular, whether the Amendment in the name of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman), to leave out lines 48 to 109, is in order or not, and if not will you give some reason?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that perhaps it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I indicate, as far as I can at. this stage what Amendments I propose to call. I am afraid that at present some of them are a little difficult to understand, and I contemplate the possibility that I may call an Amendment, and that, when hon. Members have proceeded with it some way, I may discover that it is out of order. At the moment, the first Amendment that I propose to call is the second one on the Order Paper, in the name of the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman)—in line 9, leave out from "stock," to the end of line 10. The next two Amendments—in line 10, leave out "October, nineteen hundred and ninety-six," and insert "April, two thousand and five," which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Central Leeds; and in line 10, leave out "ninety-six" and insert "seventy-six," which stands in the name of the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt)—if necessary, can be discussed on the first Amendment of the hon. Member for Central Leeds, and one of these two might be divided upon. The Amendment at the top of page 1954, in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens)—leave out lines 15 to 1115 21—is, I think, in order. The next Amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton)—in line 18, leave out from "present," to end of line 21, and insert "contributions to the rating authorities in respect of tithe."—is not in order.
The next Amendment, in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Ashford, to leave out line 22, will be called. The further Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton—in line 22, after "pounds," insert:to those who have since nineteen hundred and twenty-six made sinking fund payments in respect of their tithe rent-charge under the Tithe Act, 1925 andis out of Order. The Amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), to leave out lines 23 to 28, is in Order. There are no other Amendments in Order, or at least there are no other Amendments which I propose to call, until we come to the Amendment in line 60, to leave out "of," and insert "exceeding," which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Central Leeds. The further Amendment to line 60, which also stands in the name of the hon. Member for Central Leeds—after "sixty," insert "and not exceeding sixty-eight and a-half," is consequential, and we can take these two Amendments together. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) asked me whether, if I proposed to rule out of order the Amendment of the hon. Member for Central Leeds to leave out lines 48 to 109, I would tell him the reason for so doing. I am not sure about ruling that Amendment out of order at the moment, but I do not propose to call it unless the hon. Member presses me to do so and so explains it as to persuade me it is in order, because for the time being I do not see how the Amendment will make sense. If I am correct in what I think is in the hon. Member's mind, I fancy that I shall rule the Amendment out of order, as increasing the charge, but we will deal with that matter when we come to it.
§ Mr. M. BEAUMONT
I am only putting these points now in order to endeavour to facilitate discussion. It may be necessary in regard to the last Amendment to which you have referred to go into the whole question of the procedure on this 1116 Financial Resolution. To do that I understand that it will be necessary to move "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," and I should desire to take that course either now or at such time as you may think desirable for the convenience of the Committee.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is a matter for the hon. Member. If he desires to move to report Progress and he satisfies me that it is a proper Motion for me to accept, of course, I shall do so, but the way that he put the question to me was rather asking for guidance. I might therefore perhaps suggest to him that it would be well if the Minister made his opening speech in introducing the Resolution. Then the hon. Member and all of us might have a clearer understanding than we have at the present time of the meaning of the Resolution.
§ Lieut. - Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE
With regard to the third Amendment on page 1,955, which stands in my name and in the names of two of my hon. and gallant Friends—in line 73, leave out "one-third," and insert "one-fifth." I understand that that is likely to be ruled out of Order because it may impose a charge upon the public. Suppose the Amendment of the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) at the bottom of page 1,954—in line 60, after "sixty," insert "and not exceeding sixty-eight and a-half" is carried and the money required is increase, would that not make my Amendment in order?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am prepared to consider that point when we come to it, but the hon. and gallant Member's argument is dependent upon whether or not a previous Amendment is carried.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Elliot)
It is dear that it will be possible, even on the Amendments which you have indicated that you intend to call, to raise all points of principle, and I am in hopes that I shall satisfy the Committee that on several points it will not be necessary to move those Amendments or, at any rate, to carry them to a Division. I hope to be able to satisfy the Committee fully as to the extent to which their rights am safeguarded in the Financial Resolution which we have put down and the Amendments which will be possible in Committee, if the Resolution 1117 is carried substantially in its present form. It will be remembered that only last week the House gave a Second Reading to the Tithe Bill, which enshrines several important principles. The main principle which the Bill enshrines is that it was the opinion of the House that tithe as at present understood should finally determine and come to an end. That was unanimously agreed in all parts of the House, and the only matters for discussion during the Debate were the conditions under which that should come a bout.
The essential conditions are financial. The Financial Resolution which I now have the honour of moving is the Resolution which is necessary to carry out the will of the House as expressed on division on the Second Reading, and does not, I submit, go in any way beyond that, or tie the hands of the Committee subsequently in any respect in which the hands of the Committee ought not to be tied. That may seem a somewhat strong statement in view of the admittedly long and intricate nature of the Financial Resolution which we have before us, but the long and intricate nature of the Financial Resolution is fundamentally clue to the intricate nature of the subject which we ask the House to consider. I say further that it is a striking example of the merits of the financial procedure of the House of Commons that only in this way and under this procedure could that finance properly be considered.
Each of the points which are set down in the Financial Resolution as subsequently not to be overturned by a decision in Committee of this House are points which hang together closely with other points and can only be considered as a whole. It would not be possible to consider these points piecemeal, and for that very purpose I was more than astonished in going over the Financial Resolution with a view to loosening it as far as it could be loosened. It was only then that I began to appreciate the full merits of the procedure of this House of Commons, worked out as it has been for so many years and with such close attention to the rights of the whole House over finance, and the reluctance of the House to part with any of its rights to any of its Committees, however important those Committees might be.
1118 It is very desirable that I should indicate what the Resolution does not do. The Resolution is a stage in a remit of this Bill to a Committee upstairs, and it is vital for the purpose of my argument and for the purpose of convincing the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) that it is not necessary for him to move his Resolution. to report Progress, to show that important Amendments such as those which the House desires to discuss by a Committee upstairs can be fully discussed under the procedure which is here being adopted. I hope to be able to give examples forthwith to the Committee of points on which the Committee upstairs will be completely free to discuss, assuming that the Financial Resolution is passed in its present form, and then I will come to the other points upon which the House will bind, and I submit rightly, the Committee upstairs.
Out of all the points under discussion on the Second Reading two stood out. First, the desire, more particularly of the, tithepayer, that the Treasury should not, make any profit out of the scheme; that the whole of the proceeds should be set to the advantage of the tithepayer in order that the grievous burdens upon him might be reduced as far as possible and removed altogether as soon as might be. I have been pressed more particularly on the point raised in Clause 13, Subsection (6) of the Bill, as to whether the two-thirds allowed for deduction of Income Tax is or is or is not a fair sum. A discussion on that will in no way be prejudiced by the passing of the Resolution. It will be open to hon. Members to move a modification of that sum. I have given the closest attention to this point in connection with the Treasury, who have been most helpful in the matter, in pursuance of a pledge I gave the hon. and gallant Member for Maldon (Sir E. RugglesBrise) that, no profit should be made by the Treasury; and we shall sympathetically consider Amendments which may be moved to the advantage of the tithepayer. I am giving this as an example of the way in which the Committee will be free to consider these important questions.
Take another point, the protection of life interests. Many hon. Members have stressed the importance of the protection of life interests and have begged me to, do something in regard to it, or. at any 1119 rate, to ensure that the hands of the Committee are not tied by the terms of the Financial Resolution. I am in the position to say that we can meet the House fully on that point, and that an Amendment can be submitted in Committee. If the Financial Resolution is passed such an Amendment will be submitted on behalf of the Government, which will fully protect all existing life interests of incumbents. It is clear that the hands of the Committee are not being tied in these enormous and important considerations. Certain Amendments have been put down to the Financial Resolution to prolong the period of payment of the annuities and compensate these incumbents' interests by increasing the amount to be paid by the tithepayer. I shall have to resist such Amendments strongly; and I must say at once that the Government find this solution impossible to accept. Similarly we find it equally impossible to contemplate introducing a charge on the general taxpayer for this purpose. We have, however, found it possible to meet fully the life interests of existing incumbents in another way.
It is proposed that the Church authorities should be enabled to devote part of the stock which is to be issued to Queen Anne's Bounty, in compensation for the extinguishment of tithe, to the preservation of the life interests of all existing incumbents. The diminution of the reversionary interests involved is not substantial, and the life interests of individuals who derive their income from tithe rentcharge owned by ecclesiastical corporations will he protected in a similar manner. Further, I may say that these proposals meet with the full approval of the ecclesiastical authorities with whom I have conducted the negotiations. But the hands of the Committee upstairs arc not in any way bound, if Amendments are so moved, to alter these arrangements, increasing or diminishing the arrangements, and consequently I beg the House to realise that in passing the Resolution they are not fettering the hands of their Committee in this most important matter.
A further point raised was whether deductions were possible for collection. This too can be reviewed by the Committee upstairs, if it so desires. They can be diminished or altered in any way, but I must warn the House that I shall resist attempts to do so. The finance 1120 of the Bill has been so closely calculated that as at present advised I cannot see any way in which these results could be altered without wrecking the Bill. But it is the privilege of hon. Members to press Amendments even if they think they will do injury to the Bill or damage the Bill in any way. I am not attempting to resist that procedure, but I am concerned to show that the legitimate rights of hon. Members to miter and amend the scheme laid down in the Bill will be as fully safeguarded after the Financial Resolution is passed a, s they were before. Therefore, I hope it will not be necessary for the hon. Member for Aylesbury and his friends, who are rightly jealous of the rights of the House and its Committee, to press a Motion to report Progress, which he has suggested.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
We are much obliged to the right lion. Gentleman for the way in which he is dealing with the Resolution. He is anxious to meet the Committee's point of view, but I would ask him to consider this point before he leaves the general position; that many Amendments to the Resolution are being ruled out of order on the ground that in one form or another they would increase the charge on the subject. We are really concerned with the manner in which the Resolution is drawn, and I hope he will address his mind to that problem.
§ Mr. TURTON
I have an Amendment on the Order Paper to alter the deductions. It has been moved out of order on the Financial Resolution, and I should have thought that if it was out of order on the Financial Resolution it must also be out of order to move it in Committee.
§ Mr. LOFTUS
May I ask whether the Committee upstairs will have power to deal with possible reductions to Schedule B to a lower scale because that is the key of the whole Bill?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
No, Sir, and that question shows how necessary it is that these matters should be discussed and decided by the whole House. Clearly the purpose of the action of the House of Commons is to maintain the control of finance on the Floor of the House, and older Members will agree that control of finance properly rests with the Committee of the Whole House.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The right hon. Gentleman has appealed to older Members of the House. The gravamen of the charge is that the way in which Financial Resolutions are now framed makes it impossible for the House to exercise its authority. More and more the draftsman is framing the Financial Resolution in such a way as to give the Chair no option but to rule Amendments out of order.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I think the Noble Lord is perfectly entitled to make a general observation such as that, but, I think he must await the detailed exposition of the Financial Resolution which I am about to give before he can conclude that the discretion of the draftsmen has been improperly exercised on this occasion. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) and the hon. Member for Thirsk and Walton (Mr. Turton) raised certain points. I have given the Committee my assurance that the amounts properly chargeable for deduction could be altered in Committee upstairs, although I have indicated that, as I am at present advised, to do so would be to insure the Bill. That, however, is a diversion from the main question, which is whether the discretion which the Government must necessarily exercise on a Financial Resolution has been improperly exercised on this occasion. I trust to be able to show the Committee that it has not been.
I will turn to the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), who asked whether the Amendments which had been ruled out of order did not indicate that the Resolution has been so drawn as to limit the discretion of the House. My reply is "No," because the scheme in essence is one of redemption and extinguishment in which the ultimate liability is borne by the general taxpayer, and therefore it is the duty of the Government, in drawing the Resolution, to make sure that the charge upon the general taxpayer is not increased. It is not a question of the burden being added to on one side or on the other, but a question as to whether the burden laid upon the general taxpayer will be increased. The first to resent an increase in the burden on the general taxpayer for the purpose of relief of particular agricultural interests would be hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Therefore, 1122 I say that in drawing the Resolution as it has been, I have drawn it with a strict and meticulous observance of the rights of the House as a whole and the rights of the taxpayer as a whole, all the more so because I represent a constituency in the Kingdom of Scotland, which will derive no benefit from any of the provisions of this Bill, but which might easily suffer injury therefrom. Consequently, it is very necessary, in the interests of my own constituency, apart from any other reason, that I should carefully see that no prejudice should be caused by this Bill to the interests of the general taxpayer.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
As I have understood the selection of the Chair, Amendments which have nothing to do with the general taxpayer as such, but which, from our point of view, give less to the Church and more to the tithe-payer, have been ruled out of order because, I take it. such Amendments would mean an increased burden being placed upon those who are incumbents of the Church of England. I would like to be clear on this point, because some of the Amendments which have not been called would 'have enabled us to meet certain claims of the tithe-payers.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
We shall be able to discuss those points when the discussion on the Amendments takes place. The Amendments in the earlier stages certainly dealt with the terms of issue of the stock which would, of course, have nothing whatever to do with increasing or decreasing the burden on the taxpayers. So far as I understand, they have not been ruled out of order for that reason. However, it is not for me to give the reasons for which the Chair may or may not call Amendments. I repeat that the scheme of finance of this Bill is the result of very long and patient work and is interlocked so closely that it is impossible, in my contention, to say that in pulling one stick from the heap one would not upset the balance of the whole heap and frustrate the intention of the House on Second Reading, which was that the scheme of extinguishment should be framed and carried out without any burden being placed on the general taxpayer.
Let me now explain as briefly as I can the Financial Resolution. It is worth attention. After all it covers some 1123 £70,000,000 of public money and it covers, let us hope, the solution of a problem which for centuries has vexed the life both of the national Church and of our countryside. It follows the report of a most authoritative Commission which was able to give time and thought to the problem in circumstances which may not recur again for many years, and to bring forward a scheme for a solution at a time when, because of the cheapness of money, we are able to attack the problem with some chance of success, a chance which may not always be present.
When we issued the White Paper in February, we described the scheme, which I shall not go over again, because time is short; but I would draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that since that time we have made certain modifications. We have followed the desire of the Royal Commission by including within the scheme the extraordinary tithe rent-charge, and that increases both the amount of the redemption annuities to be received and the stock to be issued. These items on each side of the ledger will balance, and no charge will be laid here upon the scheme or upon the general taxpayer. We also decided to fix the redemption annuities in the case of land liable to tithe rentcharge at the rate of £105 per cent. for non-agricultural land and £91 lls. 2d. per cent. for agricultural land. I discussed that on Second Reading. I think it commended itself to the sense of justice of the House then, and I think it will commend itself to the sense of justice of the Committee now, because no Amendment has been put down to destroy that differentiation, nor was it the subject of any adverse criticism on the Second Reading of the Bill.
It is suggested, however, that in some way or other the Exchequer might make a profit out of this. I say again with the utmost emphasis that I can command that the Exchequer will make no profit out of it, and there are no hidden reserves in the scheme which will enable it to be varied for the purpose of providing, on the one hand, more compensation for the tithe-owner or, on the other hand, more relief to the tithe-payer, either by reducing the amount of the redemption annuities or by shortening the period during which such redemption annuities will be payable. In fact, the 1124 scheme must be regarded as a whole, and as the Government cannot contemplate that any additional charge should fall on the Exchequer, it was necessary to draw the Financial Resolution in the terms in which it is drawn.
To deal now with the various items of the Resolution, paragraph I (a) covers the payments out of the Consolidated Fund. I want to make it quite clear that it is anticipated that the receipts from the redemption annuities, added to the Exchequer contribution of £685,000 referred to in paragraph I (c), will be sufficient to meet the outgoings on the scheme. This £685,000 is the existing Treasury contribution to rates on tithe rentcharge of £550,000 per annum and an added sum of £135,000 per annum, the anticipated saving on the administration of the existing Tithe Acts and increased receipts from Income Tax as a result of the change of system. It is almost unprecedented that the Treasury should agree to bring into the ambit of a scheme, hypothetical gains such as these. These are estimates and it will not be possible, as I think will be agreed, for a final balance to be struck for some years. We worked out these estimates very carefully because it is impossible to forecast accurately how they will work out finally. I can only say that by including these and by the fact., as I say, that under Clause 13, Sub-section (6), I hope to be able to modify the scheme to the benefit of the tithe-payer, the Treasury has implemented the declaration made by the Government that it did not desire to draw any profit out of the scheme which is now before us.
Furthermore, there is a further Treasury guarantee. Although we anticipate that these sums will be sufficient to meet the outgoings of the scheme, including interest and sinking fund on the redemption of stock, in order to make it clear beyond doubt that the Government are implementing their undertaking to guarantee the interest on and the redemption of the stock it is necessary to make this provision for payment out of the Consolidated Fund, and although it is anticipated that no ultimate call will be made on the Consolidated Fund the guarantee is here. Sums will be required for the payment of interest on stock and to be set aside for the purpose of the sinking 1125 fund in advance of receipts from redemption annuities. The interest on the stock will fall due on the same day as the annuities will fall to be collected, and of course it is not to be expected that payment of annuities in full will be made on that date. As to the payment towards making good the losses to rating authorities that is to he found in paragraph 1, sub-paragraph (b) (i). There the scheme is charged with an annual payment of £600,000 per annum for 60 years, and there is also the sum of £131,000 expenses. These are not flat rate sums running right through the whole period of the annuity. They will clearly be very much larger in the early stages tapering off as the scheme proceeds. The expenses will, of course, taper off to a very much smaller sum and the expenses of the local authorities will start, not at the sum of £600,000 given here, but at a sum in the neighbourhood of £1,000,000. Therefore, in its earlier stages the scheme will undoubtedly be heavily in deficit. It is in the later years that the receipts from the annuities will begin to redeem the outstanding deficiencies and finally balance the scheme at the end of the period.
Then there is the sum of £2,000,000 to be paid to Queen Anne's Bounty, the reason for which is explained in the White Paper. It does not correspond to any particular receipts, but is provided out of the general finance of the scheme. This is a capital payment, although shown in the White Paper statement of estimated income and expenditure in terms of a 60 years annuity. Therefore, it will be necessary to borrow from the Consolidated Fund in order to enable payment to be made in advance of the credits to the scheme out of which, as I have explained, it will finally be met. This is another item in regard to which, by placing the credit of the community at the back of the scheme, we may advance towards and perhaps finally achieve a solution of the problem. But it is a reason why this Resolution is so long and intricate. It concerns vast sums and sums which are devoted to the solution of a problem affecting one set of taxpayers only, so that for the protection of the rest of the community it is vitally necessary that this Resolution should be drawn in close and careful terms.
1126 Sub-paragraph (b) (iii) indicates the sums that will be paid to Queen Anne's Bounty in respect of additional receipts from non-agricultural land. These also will be issued in the form of a lump sum and that again involves making payment in advance of the receipts from the corresponding annuities. Sub-paragraph (b) (iv) relates to payment to the tithe-owners in respect of taking over by the State of their rights to collect arrears of tithe rentcharge outstanding on 1st April, 1937. As the Committee knows the intention is that the arrears then outstanding shall be subject, if the tithe-payer desires, to review on the ground of hardship by a committee established for the purpose and that these arrears may be reduced, paid by instalments, or remitted if the Arrears Investigation Committee so decide. The expenses of the Exchequer and the Bank of England will commence to operate as from the inception of the scheme and in sub-paragraph (b) (v) there are provisions which indicate that the expenses there will need to be met by borrowing because there will be no surpluses at that stage in the Tithe Redemption Account. Sub-paragraph (c) refers to the Exchequer contribution to the finances of the scheme which does not involve a net additional charge upon the Exchequer.
Paragraph II gives power to borrow in order to make advances out of the Consolidated Fund to the Redemption Annuities Account and is required consequent upon the features already mentioned in paragraph I, subject of course to the repayment into the Consolidated Fund of such advances at a later date. Paragraph III indicates the provision for the payment of the expenses of the Tithe Redemption Commission and the Arrears Investigation Committee out of moneys provided by Parliament. That is in order to ensure Parliamentary control over the operation of the expenses of those bodies and that Parliamentary control is fully maintained. Yet these sums will not become a charge upon the Exchequer because the Parliamentary Vote which bears these expenses will be reimbursed from the Tithe Redemption Account upon which the expenses will ultimately fall. The bearing of the expenses upon a Parliamentary Vote is only for the purpose of enabling the expenses to be reviewed and criticised by the House of Commons.
1127 Paragraph IV relates to the payment into the Consolidated Fund from the Redemption Annuities Account as explained previously. This payment will be made in the later periods of the annuities payment as I have just stated when the Redemption Annuities Account will have the available credits. Paragraph V relates to the refund to the Exchequer of sums which are first paid out of the moneys provided by Parliament. The remainder of the Resolution deals with the definition of the terms used in the foregoing paragraphs and I can best explain these all together. The tithe-payer will be required to pay, in respect of agricultural land, £91 lls. 2d. per £100 of tithe rentcharge—par value—for 60 years subject to the remission of so much of the redemption annuity as exceeds one-third of the Schedule B value of agricultural land. It will be seen that finance is not merely the essence of these provisions, it is the whole of these provisions and therefore it would be impossible that any Committee upstairs should have the power of altering these provisions. The tithe-payer will be required, in respect of urban land, to pay £105 per £100 of tithe rentcharge for the same period. The Ecclesiastical tithe-owner is compensatd for the extinguishment of his tithe rent-charge by the issue of 3 per cent. stock sufficient to produce an income representing the gross annual value of the tithe rentcharge calculated at the reduced rate, less the deductions I have mentioned. In addition paragraph (2) provides for the payment of a lump sum representing the difference in the receipts from redemption annuities in respect of non-agricultural land at the rate of £105 instead of £91 lls. 2d.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I hope that the Minister will see quite clearly that under this last paragraph there is no real possibility of our side improving the position of the tithe-payers except by rejecting the Bill on Third Reading. On this our hands are completely tied. I hope that the Minister will face up to that.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I think that we faced up to that both on the Second Reading and now on the Financial Resolution. If the Exchequer is to find £70,000,000 the taxpayer must know what, sums are being paid into this account to balance these enormous outgoings which will begin 1128 from the date of the passage of this Bill. It is out of the question that the taxpayer should not be fully safeguarded, and these sums are necessary to balance the great expenditure which the State in the initial stages will be called on to undergo. Both for Ecclesiastical and lay tithe rentcharge it is of the essence of the scheme—to the main principles of which the House has already given its consent—that there should be annuities paid into the fund sufficient to balance the payments out and to give fair and reasonable compensation to the tithe-owner.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I am still very unhappy about this and I do not want any misunderstanding later. All we are asking for is that there should be lesser sums paid out, and the whole point that arises is whether by any process we may take, because it would lessen over all certain income of the Church of England, it could be regarded as increasing the charge on the rest of the community. Is that the reason why we cannot move an Amendment to safeguard the tithe-payer? If you cannot do that you may as well save time, as far as the tithe-payer is concerned, in Committee upstairs, and all that you can do is to vote against the Third Reading.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
There are provisions where it will be competent to vote against sums to the Church. I hope that the Committee will not refuse these sums, but it is not beyond the power of the House to divide on certain of these sums. I do not wish to go into the matter because there are Amendments, I understand, which the Chair is allowing to be called. The interlocking of the scheme of finance is such that if the Treasury is to make these great payments it must make them under a scheme with some prospects of finality, some prospect of redemption. It is not enough to pick and choose and to say that we will have all the benefit and not the liability.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Certainly it is possible. There are lump sums there which could be omitted. The hon. Gentleman could 1129 move an Amendment to that effect, and it would be quite in order for him to argue that he was not really injuring the Church, since it would be possible for them to reorganise their finances. I am sure that that would be in order, but it is not for me to usurp the functions of the Chair.
I have done my best to explain not merely the Financial Resolution, but to go a little wider—I hope with the agreement of the House—into the difficult questions of order which, I agree, are raised by such a long and intricate Resolution as this. The House is rightly jealous of the intricacies of finance and the procedure rightly lays down that after these intricacies have been considered on a Financial Resolution they should be laid before a Committee of the Whole House to be considered or rejected as a considered scheme, and as a considered scheme which has been long worked out, which is adequate to fulfil the purposes which the House laid down on the Second Reading of the Bill, a scheme which is capable of amendment and improvement, but which forms the basis of a settlement of this long and vexed question, I commend this Financial Resolution to the Committee.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Mr. M. BEAUMONT
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
Having now heard the Minister's explanation I desire to put to the Committee that this Resolution does, in fact, limit the opportunities of discussion on Debate, and that the object of the Government could have been achieved with full powers of discussion by another procedure. I have no objection to the actual provisions of the Bill. Points which excite some hon. Members do not excite me. I support the Bill. I am only making this Motion and putting this before the Committee in order to safeguard what all Members in all parts of the House value—proper discussion on all matters of finance. The right hon. Gentleman, whom I desire to thank most heartily for the manner in which he endeavoured to meet our fears and objections, though I am bound to say that in my case he has not done so, indicated matters which could be discussed in Committee if the Financial Resolution 1130 were passed. But he was not able to indicate the various important matters which could not be discussed in detail.
I wish to touch on three points only. First of all, there is the question of the one-third contribution referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus); then there is the point made by the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), that there were various Amendments which would have the effect of reducing the main charge as a whole, yet which could not be moved because they imposed an indirect charge; and then there is the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). These things cannot be discussed in detail. It is my contention that had this Resolution been founded on Standing Order No. 68, instead of on Standing Order No. 69, all these questions could have been raised in detail upon Amendments, most of which could, if necessary, have been divided upon. They could have been settled by the House, and yet the Minister could have produced a Financial Resolution which would have safeguarded the public expenditure and limited the amount of charge to be placed on public funds.
The matter is one of some substance, and the whole thin, is best put forward in a letter which appeared in the "Times" of Monday last from Sir Bryan Fell, a long-time servant of this House, who describes therein the procedure under Standing Order No. 68. He refers to the question asked of the Prime Minister by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) last Wednesday and the reply given by the Prime Minister, and he describes how in the old days Bills in every way as complicated as this Measure were nevertheless discussed fully under the older procedure. He says:Before 1922 Standing Order No. 68 governed the procedure, and under this the House, as a preliminary step, used to resolve that on a future day it would resolve itself into a committee to consider a motion for a charge on the people. This resolution, which was drawn up by the clerks in the Public Bill Office and not by the Treasury, was couched in quite general terms, and it was to this that the King's recommendation was signified. On a future day a motion was then made in Committee covering the italicised parts of the Bill and to this Motion any amendment might be moved, even though it increased the 1131 charge, provided that it was within the general terms to which the King's recommendation had been given. Once the financial resolution had been passed—This is where the Minister would be safe-guarded——of course, no amendment increasing the charge could be moved to the Bill. In other words, broadly speaking, the Crown recommended that a charge should be incurred for some purpose and left the House to decide the amount of that charge and the precise objects on which the money should be spent.I might amplify that by saying that it was the custom in days gone by to have a very broad Financial Resolution of this nature, and on its Report stage to insert a maximum sum, which then governed all the subsequent proceedings. So far as I know, no objection was made to that procedure on any of the grounds put forward in justification of this Financial Resolution by the Minister to-night. Standing Order No. 69, under which this Resolution is drawn, was moved for quite different reasons. It was originally moved in a time of emergency, and in a different form, in order to enable the Report and Committee stages of a Financial Resolution to be taken on the same day. When it was moved, the only person who objected to it was Lord Banbury, then Sir Frederick Banbury. What he must be thinking of this present Resolution I cannot imagine, but he objected to the new Standing Order on the ground that the procedure of having the Committee and Report stages on the same day would make the Resolution unduly wide and prevent the putting in of the limiting time. It was never contemplated that this new procedure would be used to tighten up Financial Resolutions or to bring into them matters like these enormous definitions which are essentially matters for the Bill and which, I understand, we are to be precluded by the Rules of order from amending.
This procedure was not used, as a matter of fact, until 1922, and when it was first adopted there was no objection of the sort which I am voicing to-night. The Financial Resolutions to which the King's recommendations were attached were drawn up by the Treasury and were drawn as broadly as under the old Standing Order, and the only difference was that in those days there was not the procedure of the two discussions. There was 1132 the opportunity for two discussions, one on the Motion to set up the Committee and one on the Resolution itself, and it was on the former that full freedom of debate was given to the House. Gradually, over a period of years—and I have seen it during the short time I have been in the House—these Financial Resolutions have been used to bring in more and more matters which are properly, as we say, within the scope of the Bill and which in any case should be the objects of detailed Amendments and discussion. It is no use saying that you can discuss all these points on the Committee stage of the Financial Resolution. You can discuss them on the Second Reading if it comes to that. The object of the Committee stage, whether of a Financial Resolution or of a Bill, is to get detailed discussion of individual points and replies from the Minister.
This is a growing evil, of which this Financial Resolution is a particularly glaring example, and I would remind the Committee that it has not escaped the notice of the Chair. On the 4th December, 1934, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Albery), Mr. Speaker himself said that in his view the limit had been reached, and he was not prepared to say that it had not been overstepped in this matter. I do not think anyone who has seen this Financial Resolution and several others which have been on the paper recently would say that any notice whatever has been taken of that comment by Mr. Speaker. I am willing to believe that Ministers do not want to fetter discussion in this House. I know how fatally easy it is to have it suggested to them that this is a better and simpler way to get things through and to have clearer definitions. It is not a question of this Government alone, because there were Financial Resolutions when the party opposite were in power which were just as had. It is a general governmental procedure. I do not believe that it is deliberate, but I do believe that it is dangerous.
Luckily, however, the House has the remedy in its own hands. It is urged in the letter from Sir Bryan Fell that the correct procedure would be to repeal Standing Order No. 69 and go back to the old procedure under Standing Order No. 68. That would be too drastic. Under Standing Order No. 68 you did waste a day, and there was no objection 1133 to Standing Order No. 69 when it was kept within reasonable bounds.
All I ask the hon. Members on all sides to do is to make it clear to whatever Government is in power, they intend to safeguard their rights of Debate on every important point of detail. It may be that the Minister will say, "I cannot accept this; if you move it you wreck the Bill, and the Committee will have to decide on that point." No one could blame the Minister for taking up that attitude, but at least we would have an opportunity to move amendments and to get proper reasoned replies to them. I ask the Committee to say that to any Government and, failing compliance, to oppose any Financial Resolution which did not allow reasonable freedom of debate. I am in favour of this Bill and of the principles of this Resolution. I shall certainly in any Division there is to-night vote with the Government, but I have made my protest and I shall in future oppose any Resolution which I thing limits the freedom of debate, and I hope that I shall get a large amount of support from hon. Members in that action.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont), has raised so big a point that it is difficult to discuss it properly at this time of night. I think that the attitude he has taken, although some of my friends rather jeered when he said he would support the Resolution to-night but not further Financial Resolutions drawn in this way, is a logical attitude to take. I would like to bring one matter even more clearly than he did to the notice of the Committee as to the way in which we are limited. 'We all recognise how carefully the Minister has considered the Resolution in view of the criticisms so often made that these Resolutions are unduly limiting; how anxious he was that as many things should be left open for discussion upstairs as possible; and how he had tried confidently, in framing the resolution, to leave things open for a subsequent detailed Debate. In spite of all that, however, we find that the important matter of the remission to be given where the amount of tithe exceeds some proportion of the annual value of the land has to be dealt with in this Resolution. The Chair has indicated that 1134 it cannot call any Amendment dealing with that. We find that it cannot be dealt with, as the Minister said, upstairs and we find, therefore, that that matter, on which the actual payers of tithe are very much interested, namely, the amount of the tithe compared with the annual value of the land and whether they would be entitled to remission, can only be dealt with either by voting against the Second Reading of the Bill or by voting against the Third Reading of the Bill. The Chair has made it clear that no Amendment on that matter can be called. The Minister has made it clear that no Amendment will be in order upstairs, yet here is a matter which is extremely vital to all tithe-payers where we simply have to accept what is put in the Bill or vote against it, and where no real discussion of it is possible. Under the old procedure, which was looser, that matter would have, been open for the discussion of the House. Therefore it is legitimate for the hon. Member for Aylesbury to raise it to-night.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. TURTON
I support the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) for this reason. The Committee will have sympathy with me in the fact that I have nine Amendments on the Paper, every one of which is out of order. As it was not my intention to add a charge on either the Exchequer or the ratepayers, all the Amendments are out of order for the reason that I was attempting to alter the financial chain round this very difficunlt and contentious subject. The Minister who gave us a very careful and helpful exposition of the Financial Resolution told us some things that he said could be moved in Committee. I was the more surprised when I found that three of the things he said that we could move in Committee were the very subjects that I had tried to amend in the Financial Resolution, but with respect to which I had been met with the objection that they were out of order. The first one is concerned with the question of uncertainty of collection. The Minister said that all the deductions should properly be made from the redemption stock and they could be moved in Committee. Some of us think that in this Bill the tithe-owners, both Church and laity, are being rather injuriously affected by the reduction of 5 per cent. and 10 per cent. respectively in the uncertainty 1135 of collection. The Minister said that that could be argued upstairs. As my Amendment to the Financial Resolution has been ruled out of order, it will not be in order for me to move it on the Committee stage of the Bill.
Th. second question which the Minister said we could amend related to the gift of £2,000,000 to Queen Anne's Bounty. The Minister said that upstairs in Committee we could say that that sum should not be given to Queen Anne's Bounty, but should be given to the tithe-payers or some such other body. I have not tried to go as far as that, but I did want to try to give that £2,000,000 partly to Queen Anne's Bounty and partly in recompense of the £1,300,000 that, under the provisions of this Bill, is being stolen from the ecclesiastical tithe-payers. It is in respect of a sum they paid for sinking fund, and I ask at least that they might be given back their own money. I find, however, that a Member is not allowed, within the Rules of this House, to move that money which belongs to the King's subjects at the moment should be kept by them. That Amendment is ruled out of order, I have learned, because it would require the King's Recommendation for the money that belongs to the ecclesiastical tithe-payers to be retained by them. It appears that we cannot upstairs move that that £2,000,000 should be given to any other body than Queen Anne's Bounty.
The last point on which we are muzzled is in respect of the Minister's valuable promise on Second Reading, in answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maldon (Sir E. Ruggles-Brise), that if my hon. and gallant Friend can show that the Treasury has made any money out of this scheme the Government will do their utmost to return it to the scheme. It was our intention to-night to show the Committee where the Treasury were making money out of the scheme, and propose how it should be returned both to the tithe-payer and the tithe-owner, but that has been ruled out of order because it would be altering the chain of financial circumstances to which this Financial Resolution applies. For those reasons I think that we who are interested in this question are not receiving full justice by the rules of Order. We are muzzled and gagged. We are not trying to add to the charges on 1136 the Exchequer but trying to adjust the burden between the three parties to the dispute, the tithe-payer, the tithe-owner and the Exchequer, because we feel that the Exchequer is getting too much out of it.
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The first point I want to make is that it is very advisable when one is considering such intricate and detailed points of financial procedure to have present a representative of the Treasury. We have neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor the Financial Secretary to the Treasury with us. [interruption.] think that interruption is quite irrelevant. One cannot expect the Patronage Secretary, with all his other exacting duties, especially dealing with an obstreperous lot of back benchers, to give us financial advice on this question; but we ought to have either the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Financial Secretary present, and I am sure that if the Prime Minister were standing where I am he would be saying the very same thing. The second point is that we have got into another difficult situation in regard to procedure, and I beg the Government to remember that this has not occurred without long warning. From the moment when this Bill was introduced and when this Resolution was put on the Paper the Government have been pressed from all sides of the House to reconsider the position because Members have said that they were not able, either on the Floor of the House or in Committee, to make an examination of grievances in a manner that would allow them to be amended if thought fit. Now we have arrived at this pass to-night.
All the way through I have tried not to waste time but to get the Minister to face up to the position. We want the Government to remember that the House of Commons has rights, especially when it is dealing with financial questions. I think it is only right to say that the Minister, on behalf of the Government, has been endeavouring to get a national settlement of a long and irritating grievance but it will not do any good if the settlement sets up another set of grievances. Probably I am approaching this matter from quite the opposite point of view, in regard to the rights of critics, from that of the hon. Member who moved to report Progress. I am certain 1137 that none of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee want to do anything which would increase the charge upon the general taxpayer in order to enlarge the income of one section of one of the religious bodies in this country. On the other hand, we must give consideration to the large number of agriculturists and their dependants who are pressing for immediate and for greater relief than if afforded under the scheme; yet because of the way in which the Financial Resolution is drawn—and again, Sir Dennis, I am subject to your correction—we cannot move the reduction of the par value for the redemption stock to be issued in exchange for the existing tithe rentcharge and the annual charge to be met by the tithe-payer.
It is difficult to say too much on this point without going into the merits of the scheme, but we on this side of the Committee have said all the way through that we want to give better and more immediate relief to the tithe-payers, and we do not argue that it is necessary thereby to increase the charge upon the Exchequer, because with the present funds of the Church of England, and certainly out of the potential growing income and other sources of revenue of the Church of England, there is ample to provide what is required both for the special provision for the poorer clergy and for the general maintenance of life interests and, even, in some degree for pensions—if the Church will only put its house in order and rearrange its income. Therefore, we ought to have an opportunity to move, and if thought fit, to carry, Amendments to this effect either in Committee on the Bill or on consideration of the Financial Resolution; but in the form in which that Resolution is drawn at present we are told, or at least we assume from the Ruling of the Chair—and I am not challenging the Ruling—that we cannot move any such Amendment because it would mean a charge upon that section of the citizens whom we call incumbents of the Church of England.
Such a position is quite impossible, and I beg the Minister to advise the Government to postpone the question for a day. We do not want to get into the same "jam" as we were in last night. We did not want it last night. We want to get a sane basis for the discussion of the 1138 rights of the citizen in this democratic House of Commons. We are not permitted to do it under this Resolution and, therefore, although we approach the matter from the aspect of another class of citizens than those for whom the hon. Member spoke when he moved to Report Progress, we shall support him in that Motion when it is put from the Chair.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) has, quite unintentionally, of course, put into my mouth a ruling which I was not conscious of having given. He raised the question of whether it was competent for the Committee upstairs on the Bill or possibly for this Committee here, to reduce the charge which is being made on the tithe-payers and, correspondingly, to reduce the payments which are to be made to the tithe-owners. I am not aware that I ruled out of order any Amendment to that effect. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will point out the Amendment to me. I am inclined to think at the moment that any Amendment of that kind would be in order here. What will happen in the Committee upstairs is not a matter for me to decide. I am not likely to be in the Chair there, but if I were I should have to wait until I came to be in the Chair in that Committee to say what I should do. I can only say what I regard as being in or out of order on this Financial Resolution. As other suggestions have been made in the course of this Debate as to what I have ruled I should like to make the position clear in two sentences. The only grounds on which I have ruled Amendments out of order are these: one, that they increased the charge; the other ground is not, as the right hon. Gentleman put it, because the Amendment creates a charge upon a particular class of taxpayers, but because it is contrary to the King's Recommendation. If the Financial Resolution provides that the money is to be used for the benefit of certain recipients an Amendment is out of order which would alter the recipients of the money so as to give it to recipients other than those named under the King's Recommendation. Those are the only rulings which I have given in regard to this particular Resolution.
§ Mr. LOFTUS
On a point of Order. Would it be in order to move, say, a reduction on Schedule B, to provide—
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is not a point which can be raised at the present moment, when we are on the question that I do report Progress and ask leave to sit again, moved for the purpose of considering a particular matter which has been raised in discussion.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
We are obliged to you for the explanation which you have given, but may I put the point that the Motion in the name of the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt), to leave out "ninety-one pounds eleven shillings and twopence," and to insert, "eighty pounds sixteen shillings and eleven pence," is one which we have particularly in mind. May I take it from your explanation that you did not call that Amendment because, in your view, it infringes the King's Recommendation?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The reason why I ruled that out of order was that I regarded it as creating a charge. It increases the proportion between the two funds, and therefore increases the amount which has to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
As I understand it, the charge on the Consolidated Fund is to be a self-balancing one, and if less is paid to the Church there is no reason why there should be an extra charge upon the Consolidated Fund. That is the whole point. I do not want to upset the Chair in any way, but it would ease the situation in the Committee if we were able to debate that point. My own view, which may be wrong, after the Minister's explanation that this is a self-balancing fund, is that when we are moving for a lower capital figure, under which less will be paid to the Church in the ultimate redemption, it will still be self-balanced, and will not constitute an extra charge. If the Chair would accept that point of view, the result would be to ease the points of difficulty that we are putting to the Government.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That point was in my mind when I was considering the Amendment before the House met and I looked to see whether I could find another compensating Amendment which would have the effect to which the right hon. Gentleman has been referring, but I could not find it. This Amendment, standing by itself, undoubtedly creates a charge.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Simon)
Perhaps I may be permitted to say a word on the Motion moved by my hon. Friend. I recognise that it was proposed with the object of raising a point of practice which is of great importance, and which was recently the subject of a very interesting letter in the "Times." My hon. Friend was perfectly entitled to raise the point, which he did not do in any party sense or because he took any view, favourable or otherwise, of any particular part of the Bill or to the general scheme of the Bill. He was raising a question which any Member of the House of Commons, and certainly any old Member like myself, is very willing to hear discussed in that atmosphere. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. A eland) dealt with it in the same way. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) joined in the discussion, a quite different motive appeared in almost every sentence he uttered. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] He was good enough to say that if there were a Division he would support my hon. Friend, but he was not raising, as it were in vacuo, an interesting question of Parliamentary procedure. He indicated quite plainly that he had several objections to the Bill, which he was afraid, in present circumstances, he would not be able effectively to raise from his point of view.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
Is not that the whole point of our procedure? This is a Money Resolution, and we adhere to the old principle that we will not grant supply without the discussion of grievances.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The right hon. Gentleman had no occasion to interrupt. I was pointing out that the reason why he was supporting the Motion was that which he gave, and which he has just repeated. He considers that he has substantial objections. My hon. Friend is not saying that, but is raising a question of procedure. I want to deal with that question of procedure. I have no doubt that he was quite accurate in telling the House what the old practice used to be. Many of us read it in Sir Bryan's letter in the "Times" and found it a most interesting letter to study. All those hon. Members who remember him will remember that he 1141 most carefully studied all these rather technical but not at all uninteresting matters, and will have read the letter with great respect. Whatever the old practice used to be about acting under Standing Order No. 68 and not going straight on to Standing Order No. 69, it is not the practice now. There is no doubt that present-day practice, under all Governments, is to proceed direct under Standing Order No. 69.
Without being in any way controversial, I would observe that the only question is, whether, having regard to the subject-matter of the Bill, the Resolution which is on the Paper is what is called unduly strict. I should be the first to admit, if we were to take the ordinary case which from time to time arises, that so elaborate and detailed and so closely-fitted-together a jigsaw puzzle as this might fairly be regarded, I am quite willing to agree, as too strict; but you cannot deal with these things in the abstract, or wy a foot rule. You cannot say that because this Resolution covers a page and a-half of print it is therefore too minute; you have to consider what is the subject-matter, and what is the nature of the Bill to which it is attached as the Financial Resolution.
I happen, for my sins, to have been taking some part behind the scenes in studying the detail of this Bill, and I am only too ready to admit, although I have had a fairly long experience in examining detailed things, that I have rarely come across a more elaborate fitting together and interlocking-clause arrangement than this Tithe Bill. That may be a reason to some hon. Members for ruling it out altogether, but once you have a Bill constructed on that principle and interlocking in that way, it is inevitable that the co-relative Money Resolution follows a much more elaborate pattern than it would in the ordinary course. One can conceive of cases in which it would be possible to put the financial accompaniment into two or three words, but when one is dealing with this Bill, with its interlocking arrangements, for my part I do not quite see how it would be possible to avoid having a Resolution in this detailed form. Let me take the example referred to by the right hon. Member below the Gangway, of the definition of redemption annuities, which contains these words: 1142where the amount thereof exceeds one-third of the annual value (ascertained in like manner as for the purposes of assessment to Income Tax under Schedule B) of an agricultural holding in which the land is comprised (exclusive of any part thereof in respect of which no annuity is charged) be, in any year, remitted to the extent of the excess.I can quite understand any hon. Member, especially looking at the Resolution without having had to go through all the details of the Bill, thinking that that is really tying the Committee, in the Financial Resolution, very tightly, but may I suggest the answer l So far as the Clause in the Bill provides that, for the future, no person who pays tithe rent charge shall have to pay more to the person entitled to receive it than one-third of the annual value, no Financial Resolution is necessary at all. It is simply as though you were to enact that certain debtors, who owe a particular sum of money, shall, if it exceeds a certain proportion of their rent, henceforward pay a smaller sum. No Financial Resolution would be necessary for that; it would simply provide that something which at this moment is a legal debt shall in future not be a legal debt, but shall be discharged by paying only a portion of it.
It is not for that purpose that these words are put into the Resolution. But the scheme of the Bill is that there shall be created redemption annuities, which shall be sufficient to take the place of, and be the equivalent of, the future rights of those who are now the tithe-owners, and therefore, when the new Act of Parliament reduces the rights of tithe-owners by saying that no one shall be charged more than one-third of the annual value, that, of course, necessarily affects the measure of the redemption annuities which are to be created, and the only reason why the annuities are defined here in this way, and why there is the reference to the one-third, is because otherwise you would completely destroy what is admittedly the principle of the Bill, be it right or wrong, namely, that you should not provide, under the guarantee of the Treasury, redemption annuities for a larger amount than the amount will actually be. I think my right hon. Friend will see that, although it looks very elaborate, and is indeed very elaborate—I should be glad to see it stated more simply—it is not the case that the Resolution ties anyone down too tightly. 1143 This is only put in as a necessary definition for the purpose of defining what are the redemption annuities which the House will ultimately, if it authorises the Resolution, make a charge upon the public funds. I believe that all the other cases could be dealt with in a similar way.
The broad point, without discussing, all the details is this: I agree with my hon. Friend that this is a most elaborate document, and one which is extremely difficult to construe, but that is because it is part and parcel of an extremely elaborate interlocking scheme, in which, for example, you are not to put upon the Treasury—that is to say, the general taxpayer—a permanent, new burden; a scheme in which you are to see to it that the rating authorities are not to lose a source of income which they now have; a scheme under which there is going to be a particular contribution of £2,000,000 to Queen Anne's Bounty, and so forth. Each one of these things must necessarily appear in this Resolution, and, so far as I can see, they do not appear in the Resolution in any more detail than is necessary if it is to correspond with the scheme of the proposed Act of Parliament. Of course, hon. Members will appreciate that at each point they can challenge any important provision.
Let me take, for example, the paragraph which begins at line 15. If there was anyone who thought there should not be provided that which would compensate the rating authorities for the loss in rates which they certainly will incur if the Bill passes, it would be in order to propose to omit, or water down, or modify the paragraph beginning in line 15. In the same way it would be in order to move to omit paragraph (ii), and if anyone wished to challenge paragraph (iii), which is really in the nature of a vulgar fraction and cannot be altered without increasing the charge, of course he is at liberty to propose to omit it; and the same with any other item that comes into the scheme. It is not unreasonable to appreciate that if you have an elaborate scheme like this Tithe Bill, it is impossible that the financial scheme also should not be an interlocking and elaborate scheme. If you do not do that, you are striking at the very root of the Bill. I hope my hon. Friend, who has raised a most useful and interesting 1144 point, may be disposed to withdraw the Motion.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am not quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman quite appreciates the full force of the contention in the letter written by a distinguished former official of the House to which reference has been made. He says the practice under which we are operating to-night is now the common practice of the House. But there is no reason why it should be the common practice of the House. That is the point. It is equally open to this or any other Government to adopt the other practice. I certainly wish to make no party profit out of this. There is no party profit to be made, because all Governments of recent years have been equally to blame. If there is any matter where those who, to use a generic term, are on the Right in politics ought to be very careful in these matters, it is in the case of a Financial Resolution, because by the growing practice of successive Governments it would be possible for some subsequent Government to effect enormous changes through a Financial Resolution and make it almost impossible for the Chair to permit Amendments to it. That is really the gravamen of the charge that we bring.
I am glad my hon. Friend has raised the matter. It goes far beyond the importance of the questions affected by this Bill. I am largely in favour of the financial provisions, but it is a matter that requires careful attention. Let the Committee be frank with itself. Why has this practice been adopted? Because, with the huge sums of public money that we are now asked to vote, it would be extremely difficult for any Government to get their financial business through if they adopted the old practice. But is that a reason for going against the old practice? On the contrary, the old practice safeguards the interest of the taxpayer to a far greater degree than it is safeguarded to-day. I am not prepared to say that. I will vote with my hon. Friend but I associate myself with everything he has said. This is a matter which requires the most careful attention of the Leader of the House. There has been a suggestion in some quarters that it is the object of every Government to instruct the draftsmen so to draft Financial Resolutions as to make it 1145 almost impossible to amend them, and the cheers that greet my remark show that that view is generally held in all quarters of the House.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I should like to support what the Noble Lord has said, and to add one point to it. He said that the draftsmen are instructed to draw the Resolutions very closely, and the effect is that the House gets no real chance of amending these Bills. It is not so much a matter of the enormous sums; the serious matter is that we are always having propositions brought before us, the result of outside bargaining and arrangements made in various financial interests of one kind or another, or of what the Home Secretary calls interlocking arrangements. What happens is that you have a large number of items in a bargain, and the thing is so drawn that this House is precluded from expressing an opinion, or of altering in any way this bargaining, although it may think that some particular item is wrong. We are then told, "You cannot do this; it has all been carefully locked together." The result is, what I said yesterday, that this House is being made merely a kind of rubber stamp to approve of arrangements which have been come to outside.
This is a serious matter for this House. We all know the obligations of legislation, but it is 'a serious thing if real arrangements are to be made outside, and the Executive is to come down, and, by tying down the House very narrowly, says, in effect, "We have discussed all these details, we have made all these arrangements and you are only asked to say 'Aye' or 'No'." The result is that the Whips are put on and the Government Members naturally say "Aye," and the Opposition and some dissentients say "No," but the whole thing is taken out of the hands of this House as a deliberative Assembly.
§ Mr. M. BEAUMONT
I think that the purpose of my Motion has been served, and I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw it.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary dealt with the complaint which has been made in 1146 very great detail, and I am sure that the whole House is obliged to him for the able way in which he dealt with the matter. But he did not bring out the point of the complaint made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman in the relief that I expected. I begin to realise that he did not raise the matter in order to obstruct the force of the Financial Resolution. At the beginning I treated the protest of the hon. and gallant Member with a great deal of suspicion. It seemed to me that what was desired was to have a Financial Resolution so loosely framed that it would be open to hon. Members to increase the charge upon the Treasury, and I should be against that. The Financial Resolution is in pursuance of the Bill itself, and, as the Minister of Agriculture pointed out, the purpose of the Resolution being to give effect to the Bill, it could not impose a charge upon the taxpayer because the Bill itself did not propose to impose such a charge. Therefore I was suspicious that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was trying to persuade the Committee to secure the withdrawal of the Financial Resolution, which would then have been reintroduced in a, form in which the taxpayer would have been called upon to subsidise either the tithe-payer or the Church, and I was against that sort of thing.
The point made from this side of the Committee, and indeed by hon. Members in all parts of the Committee—it is true that most Governments have been guilty of it, and that the Labour Government in 1929–31 were quite as guilty as other Governments—was that Financial Resolutions are brought in very widely drawn. Our contention is that in respect of this particular Resolution it is not necessary for the protection of the taxpayer for the Resolution to be drawn in this way. It is not the hon. Member's contention that the Financial Resolution should be so drawn that Amendments can be moved making a charge on the taxpayers. Our contention is that the Financial Resolution is so drawn that we cannot move Amendments in Committee altering the relations between the tithe-payer and the Church. we maintain that there is no organic financial relationship between what the tithe-payer pays and what the Church receives, and the ultimate amount of stock to be issued by the redemption fund. There is 1147 no reason why we cannot reduce the payment of the tithe-payer and reduce the income of the Church, or increase the payments of the tithe-payer and the income of the Church. There is no reason why the Financial Resolution cannot be drawn in those terms, and leave the financial obligation of the Treasury exactly where it is.
What the right hon. Gentleman has done is to make the financial relationship between the Treasury, the Church and the tithe-payer an organic part of the Bill, so that we cannot alter the payment of the tithe-payer without altering the Treasury's relationship. That is what the Chairman meant when he said that he could not accept the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt), because it conflicted with the King's recommendation, but we say that the King's recommendation ought not to have been drawn in those terms. I should like the Home Secretary to deal with that point. If the fund which is to be assembled under the Bill is a self-balancing fund so that the payment to the Church at no time exceeds the receipts from the tithe-payer, how could an alteration in one or other of those payments affect the Treasury in any way? Perhaps the Home Secretary will answer. It is a simple and specific point.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I have stated my view as clearly as I can, and I have listened with the greatest attention to the hon. Member, but I do not think that he has raised a new point.
§ Mr. BEVAN
Under the Financial Resolution as it will leave the Committee it will be impossible to move a reduction in the burden of the tithe-payer and it will be impossible to move any increase or decrease in the revenues of the Church. What we want to know is, why is it part of the general scheme of the
§ Bill that the relationship between the Treasury and those two parties should be in any way affected by the Financial Resolution? The right hon. Gentleman has not answered that question. Will it be possible in the Committee to reduce the charge to the tithe-payer, provided that there is an equal reduction in the income of the Church?
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The Chairman has said that it will be perfectly in order to have those Amendments moved on the Floor of the House.
§ Mr. BEVAN
The Home Secretary made exactly an opposite statement. He spoke about interlocking between the Treasury, the Church, who are receiving money, and the tithe payer. The Chair has already ruled out of order an Amendment because it changes the recipients of the money. That is the position. The Financial Resolution has been so drawn as to prevent the Committee making any alteration whatever in the burden on the tithe-payer and it is against that that we are protesting.
§ Mr. THURTLE
Every speaker so far has emphasised the importance of this matter. The Minister of Agriculture admitted that the bon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) had raised a very important issue. It has been discussed at length, and we have had the benefit of the guidance of the Home Secretary, to whom we are grateful. But I think it would be a, help to the Committee on such an important constitutional point if we could have the benefit of the guidance o. the Prime Minister himself, and I suggest that before we go to a Division the right hon. Gentleman might be good enough to give us his views.
§ Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 124; Noes, 262.1151
|Division No. 191.]||AYES.||[10.38 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Benson, G.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Bevan, A.||Ede, J. C.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Bromfield, W.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Burke, W. A.||Edwarcs, sir C. (Bedwellty)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'isbr.)||Cape, T.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Cassells, T.||Foot, D. M.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Cluee, w. S.||Gallacher, W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Cocks, F. S.||Gardner, B. W.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Garro Jones, G. M.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Daggar, G.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)|
|Barr, J.||Dalton, H.||George. Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)|
|Batey, J.||Davies, D. L. (Pontyprldd)||Gibbins, J.|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Lee, F.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Leslie, J. R.||Rowson, G.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Logan, D. G.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Lunn, W.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||McGhee, H. G.||Shinwell, E.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Me Govern, J.||Silkin, L.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||MacLaren, A.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Maclean, N.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Marklew, E.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hardie, G. D.||Marshall, F.||Stephen, C.|
|Harris, Sir p. A.||Maxton, J.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ghtn le Sp'g)|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Milner, Major J.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Montague, F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)||Thurtle, E.|
|Holdswnrth, H.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Holland, A.||Muff, G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Hollins, A.||Naylor, T. E.||Walker, J.|
|Hopkin, D.||Oliver, G. H.||Walking F. C.|
|Jagger. J.||Owen, Major G.||Watson. W. McL.|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Paling, W.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Parker, H. J. H.||Westwood, J.|
|John, W.||Parkinson, J. A.||White, H. Graham|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Pethick Lawrence, F. W.||Whiteley, W.|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Potts, J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Price, M. P.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Pritt, D. N.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Lathan, G.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Lawson, J. J.||Ritson, J.|
|Leach, W.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Charleton and Mr. Mathers.|
|Acland Troyte, Lt. Col. G. J.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Guinness, T. L. E. B.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Cooper, Rt. Hon. T. M. (E'nbitrgh.W.)||Gunston, Capt. D. W.|
|Agnew, Lieut. Comdr. P. G.||Courtauid, Major J. S.||Hamilton, Sir G. C.|
|Albery, l. J.||Craddock, Sir R. H.||Hannah, I. C.|
|Allen, Lt. Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Cranborne, Viscount||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Allen, Lt. Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Craven-Ellis, W.||Harbord, A.|
|Anstruther Gray, W. J.||Crooke, J. S.||Harvey, G.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)|
|Assheton, R,||Groom Johnson, R. P.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Crowder, J. F. E.||Heneage, Lieut. Colonel A. P.|
|Astor, Hen. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Hepworth, J.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil)||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||De Chair, S. S.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Herbert, Captain S. (Abbey)|
|Balniel, Lord||Denville, Alfred||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)|
|Barclay Harvey, C. M,||Donner, P, W.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Dower, Capt. A. V. G.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Belt, Sir A. L.||Drewe, C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N.||Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Dugdale, Major T. L,||Hulbert, N. J.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Duggan, H. J.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Duncan, J. A. L||Hunter, T.|
|Blindell. Sir J.||Dunglass, Lord||Jackson, Sir H.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Dunne, P. R, R.||James, Wing-commander A. W.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Eckersley, P. T.||Joel, D. J. B.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Ellis, Sir G.||K[...]eling E. H.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Emery, J. F.||Kerr, J. G. (Scottish Universities)|
|Brown, At. Hon. E. (Leith)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Kimball, L.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. c. (Newbury)||Entwlstle, C. F.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Errington, E.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Bull, B. B.||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Leckie, J. A.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Everard, W. L.||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Fleming, E. L.||Lees Jones, J,|
|Butler, R. A.||Fremantle, Sir F, E.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Furness, S. N.||Lennox Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Levy, T.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Lewis, O.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Gluckstein, L, H.||Llddall, W. S.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Goldie, N, B.||Little, Sir E. Graham-|
|Channon, H.||Goodman, Col. A. W.||Llewellin, Licut.-Col. J. J.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Gower, Sir R. V.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Christie, J. A.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Lumley, Capt. L. R.|
|Clarry. Sir Reginald||Granville, E, L.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Cobb, Sir C. S.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Colfox, Major W, P.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Grimston, R. V.||MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)|
|Colville, Lt. Col. D. J.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||McKie, J. H.|
|Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Raikes, H. V. A. M||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Magnay, T.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Spens, W. P.|
|Maitland, A.||Ramsbotham, H.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Ramsden, Sir E.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Rankin, R.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Stourton, Hon. J. J.|
|Markham, S. F.||Rayner, Major R. H.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Reid, W. Allen (Derby)||Strickland. Captain W. F.|
|Maxwell, S. A.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Sutclifle, H.|
|Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'nderry)||Taeker, Sir R. l.|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Mills. Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Rowlands, G.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Tryon. Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)||Tufnell, Lieut. Com. R. L.|
|Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Turton, R. H.|
|Moreing, A. C.||Salmon, sir l.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Morgan, R. H.||Salt, E. w.||Walker-Smith. Sir J.|
|Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)||Wallace, Captain Euan|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Sanderson, Sir F. B,||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Munro, P.||Sandys, E. D.||Waterhouse. Captain C.|
|Nlcolson, Hon. H. G.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Scott, Lord William||Wells, S. R.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.||Selley, H. R.||Wickham, Lt. Col. E. T. R.|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Williams. H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Patrick, C. M.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Wilson, Lt. Col, Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Peake, O.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Windsor Clive, Lieut. Colonel G.|
|Peat, C. U.||Shepperson, Sir E. W,||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Penny, Sir G.||Simmonds, O. E.||Wise, A. R.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Petherick, M.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Wragg, H.|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Pilklngton, R.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Smithers. Sir W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Porritt, R. W.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Lieut. Colonel Sir A. Lambert|
|Procter, Major H. A.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, E.)||Ward and Dr. Morris Jones.|
|Radford, E. A.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ 10.48 p.m.
§ Mr. DENMAN
I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Beaumont), who moved to report Progress, will feel that his protest was justified and that it has borne useful fruit, but it has had one unfortunate result in that it has interrupted the even flow of what was beginning to be a very interesting Debate. The Minister started in a tone which was, I am sure, in conformity with the spirit of the whole Committee. We all desire to end this system of tithes. We all desire to ease, as far as may be, the burden on the hard-pressed tithe-payer and the only question between us is as to the conditions on which it is to be done. The Minister made one important pronouncement. He asserted that the life interests of incumbents were to be preserved. Those of the Committee who were present on the Second Reading will remember that that was a point made in various quarters of the House and a point which I myself made.
§ Mr. DENMAN
One recognises the interest of South Shields in tithe, and 1152 the hon. Member will no doubt give us an example of his intimate knowledge of the subject. Meanwhile, if he does not wish to listen to the facts of the subject he is at perfect liberty to go to the smoking-room.
§ Mr. DENMAN
I was observing that the Minister had made an announcement of great importance, namely, that the life interests of incumbents would be preserved. That announcement will bring satisfaction into thousands of families, to persons not earning large incomes, of very slender means. It is an announcement I welcome personally. because it will free me from the obligation of moving Amendments to this Resolution. It is true that the method which the Minister adopts is not the method which I asked him to adopt. I asked him to provide the sum by the method of lengthening the lifetime of annuities. It. was quite obvious to anybody who had taken the trouble to read the Financial Resolution that that was the one method by which the tithe-payers and owners could gain substantial benefit, and I was willing and glad that the tithe-payers should have the advantage of a lengthening of the period as well 1153 as tithe-owners. But I recognise from the feeling among farmers as well as from the views expressed by the Minister that the possibility of lengthening the period is ruled out and I accept that decision with this one proviso: That if in future years more money is needed and the lifetime of these annuities is extended, then the tithe-owners, both ecclesiastical and lay, will have a reasonable right of reviving their claim to a share of what is provided by means of lengthening the life of the annuities.
For the purposes of this Bill I regard that particular controversy as at an end and I accept the 60 years period. I am not entitled to speak for the Church, and the question will naturally arise: Ought the Church to accept that '? Though I am not entitled to speak for the Church I may, I think, properly express the hope that Church people throughout the country will accept that solution, but no one is entitled to give that advice unless he realises the extent of the sacrifice which is involved. The preservation of these life interests means that a sum of £3,000,000 will have to be taken from the fund handed to the Church and applied to the purpose of these life interests. It means that whereas at present the par value of the tithe to the ecclesiastical owner is 94, that whereas under the Bill it will be reduced to 76, it will under this new scheme be down to 72. That is a very substantial sacrifice, and though existing life interests are preserved, it means that in the case of new incumbents they will take on their duty at the figure of 72 by comparison with the figure of 94 which their predecessors enjoyed. I mentioned on the Second Reading that the capital cost to the Church was in the region of £10,000,000. In fact it is £10,750,000. That again is a real sacrifice.
I want to say further that no one in this House advising the Church as a mere matter of business whether to go on under the present system or to accept this Bill could possibly hesitate to advise them to go on with things as they are. Members are apt to forget that because there are real grievances among tithe-payers, which we all want to remedy, over the country as a whole tithe is paid easily and well. Up to the time of the present depression Queen Anne's Bounty habitually obtained over 99 per cent. of 1154 the annual value of the tithe, and even in these years of difficulty up to the last half-year in which one can say that tithe has been completely collected—because there are always considerable arrears—the figure has not fallen below 95 per cent.; and let me add that the very last figure that we have, at the end of February, shows that in the course of the year ending February, 1936, Queen Anne's Bounty received more than the complete annual figure, because it was these arrears that brought the figure in excess of the complete annual figure.
Purely from the business aspect, no one could advise the Church to drop that and deliberately to suffer a loss that exceeds 20 per cent. on the capital sum, but, of course, we all know that it is not really a business problem at all, and if any friend of the Church chose to argue it purely on a business basis, I think he would be making a profound mistake. The Church has recognised that the continuance of tithe does mean a real barrier to its work. In many districts in this country it is a cause of dispute, ill-feeling, and bad blood in the countryside which prevents the Church fulfilling her function, and in those circumstances he would be a very bad adviser who would ask the Church to look upon this as purely a business matter. You cannot weigh in the balance questions of spiritual influence and questions of business advantage. No one can say how much sacrifice it is worth the while of the Church to make to end this controversy.
You cannot in one scale put so many units of spiritual horse-power and in the other scale put so much gold per unit. Human nature is not made that way, and I therefore say that I hope the Church, though it is suffering real financial hardship, will accept this solution with wholehearted satisfaction. I do not want it accepted grudgingly, because no solution will really be satisfactory if it leaves behind it the bad blood that we have seen flowing in recent years. I want the Church at the end of this to be able to go on with her work, to be able to march on with the sense that a weight is lifted from her shoulders, and to go on with lighter feet and gayer heart. That is why I support the Financial Resolution, and I shall support the Minister in all stages of the Bill. I thank him for the concessions he has made.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I understood the hon. Member to say that he did not propose to move an Amendment. Am I right in thinking that he does not propose to move any of the Amendments that he has on the Paper?
§ 11.1 p.m.
§ Major COLFOX
Those people who look upon this Bill and the plan on which it is founded as a complete, final and lasting solution of the tithe problem are under a delusion, because I do not think that there is the least likelihood of this plan enduring very much longer than the last final and complete solution of 10 years ago. This plan is founded upon the same principle as that plan, namely, the ability of the tithe-payer to pay the sum required of him. In 1925 the ability of the tithe-payer was assessed at a certain sum and it was estimated then that he would be able to pay that sum over a. course of years running, I think, to 80. The present Bill is based on another estimate of the ability to pay, and again it is an estimate which it is proposed to enact for a considerable number of years.
I believe that this scheme is bad for two reasons—first, that it does not relate the payments required by the tithe-payers to the value of the produce of their land; and, second, that it is deemed to be a final and lasting solution. These two faults are really one fault, because they could be so easily cured if the Minister would agree to limiting the duration of the Bill to a definite short number of years, and then, in the light of experience at that time, to re-assess the amount which the tithe-payer should pay.
I believe that the only satisfactory solution is to make it clear to the recipients of tithe that the amount which they receive shall be related to the value of the produce of the land as, indeed, it was in former years, and as, indirectly, it was under the 1925 Act, and somewhat more indirectly, under the present Bill. If the amount that the tithe-payer could pay were to be assessed—and I should not like to suggest any assessment, because it would be quite beyond my capacity to arrive at a suitable figure—I think that from that amount ought to be deducted a fixed sum for the redemption of the capital value of the tithe over 1156 a given number of years, another sum for the administration expenses, another for the payment of rates, another for the payment of the poor clergy, and then the balance left should be handed over to the tithe-owner. Then the same process should be gone through at the end of a limited number of years-, say five, and the only amount which should necessarily remain the same should be the amount set aside for the redemption of the capital of the tithe over the fixed period of years. This Bill is good up to a point. It does make a slight reduction in the amount which the tithe-payer has to pay, and it does make provision for the final extinction or tithe.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must realise that we are not now discussing the Bill, but the Financial Resolution.
§ Major COLFOX
Another objection I have to this Bil is definitely a financial objection, namely, that of the amount which the tithe-payer is called upon to pay only a comparatively small proportion is to reach the tithe-owner. I have never yet been able to discover what proportion of the £91 odd is to be set aside for the sinking fund for redemption. There was on the Order Paper to-day a question asking for information on that point, but as it was a question put down for a written answer I do not know what the answer is. Perhaps the Minister will tell us what proportion of that £91 is set aside for redemption. I am inclined to believe that it is a biggish proportion, a sum, probably, considerably in excess of any sum which would be considered sufficient to redeem a like capital sum if it were a question of a loan repayable by instalments. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide") The Opposition are very restless this evening and very vociferous. I shall not detain the Committee much longer, but I should be grateful if the Minister would give me that information, and also say what will be his attitude to an Amendment, if moved in Committee, which would have the effect of limiting the duration to, say five or even 10 years, at the end of which time a re-assessment would be made on a re-estimate of the capacity of the tithe-payer to pay.
§ 11.10 p.m.
§ Mr. SPENS
I rise to refer to two Amendments which are on the Paper in 1157 my name, and which appear to be in order. They are, to leave out lines 15 to 21 and to leave out line 22. They were put down because it appeared to me necessary that if you are attempting to decrease any burden on the tithe-payer by this arrangement, you must move to decrease what has to be paid out from the Sinking Fund, so as to get any compensating reduction between what goes out and the reduction which is attempted to be made in what is going in. The second reason was that, during the Second Reading, certain Members pressed very strongly, on behalf of the ecclesiastical tithe-owners at least, that the period during which the redemption annuities were to run should be increased. That meant that any additional advantages accruing to the ecclesiastical tithe-owners were to come indirectly out of the pockets of the tithe-payer. Accordingly, it was as a kind of protest against that attitude that I put down these two Amendments to reduce the amount to be paid out of the redemption annuity fund for the benefit of the rates and the Queen Anne's Bounty.
The hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) says he has no right to speak for the Church, and that he did not propose to press any of his Amendments. It is clear that persons who are interested in the Church and who realise the situation in this country, are likely, I put it no stronger, to be dissatisfied with the very useful suggestion made by the Minister of Agriculture that he is able to provide a life interest by authorising Queen Anne's Bounty to offer part of the fund which they are receiving for the redemption of the life annuity.
That provides for a life annuity without increasing by one halfpenny the burden on the tithe-payer, and is a solution which should go a long way to satisfy the Church. So far as my counter-effect was intended, I do not propose to go on, but I want to repeat to some small extent what I said on Second Reading. When hon. Members are referring to tithe income, they say that the churches, under this arrangement, are suffering financial loss, and that without any change in the law it would have been possible, for a number of years, for a large proportion of the tithe in this country to have been collected. They argued as though the tithe income was a gilt-edged investment of the Church. I 1158 am certain that those hon. Members are wrong in their point of view.
No one wants to damage the Church in any way, but church people must realise that during the last few years tithe income has been very uncertain and that under these arrangements, dealing with a most precarious type of income, they are getting a very satisfactory result. Those persons, who look at the problem in that way, and not as the hon. Member for North Leeds looks at it, are going to assist in the facing of this problem. It is not put forward as a final settlement, but as one step on the road to dealing with a very difficult subject. As such, I believe it is going to be effective. It is true that one would like to see further concessions made if possible on both sides, but if the basis is that we have to-day a balanced account, with so much in the annuity fund from the tithe-payers, and certain payments out for the benefit of tithe-owners, rates, and so forth, so far as I am concerned I do not believe that the scheme embodied in the Financial Resolution can be improved very much further than in the points in which the right hon. Gentleman has already promised to improve it as the Bill goes through Committee, and accordingly I propose, on these grounds, to support the Resolution.
§ 11.16 p.m.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
I agree with the last two speakers that this Financial Resolution and the Bill based upon it cannot conceivably alter the tithe problem. There is something much more in the tithe problem than merely the question of arriving at a compromise between the tithe-payer and the tithe-owner. Tithes represent a completely out-of-date payment, a payment which should long ago have ceased—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
We cannot, on the Financial Resolution, go into a general discussion of the merits or demerits of tithe.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I was not going into the general question, but was merely commenting on the remark of the two previous speakers that this could not solve the problem. I naturally do not propose, in view of your Ruling, to attempt to deal with the question generally, but I desire to deal with one remark of the hon. Member for Central 1159 Leeds (Mr. Denman) with regard to the removal of the incubus upon the Church. Quite clearly, this Financial Resolution is going to remove some of the tithes that are at present payable to Queen Anne's Bounty, and I was very delighted to hear the hon. Member for Central Leeds refer to this as an incubus upon the Church. I should have liked to see the whole incubus removed; I should have liked to see the complete removal from the Church of all tithe receipts; and this Financial Resolution would have been far more satisfactory in my view from the spiritual aspect of the Church if it had entirely divorced the Church from any such receipts as are here contemplated from Queen Anne's Bounty; for, just as the hon. Gentleman has suggested that the removal of a portion of them will very much improve the position of the Church spiritually in the country, the removal of the whole of them would improve it to an even greater extent. The hon. Gentleman smiles, but it is the fact to-day that—
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I entirely agree; I am only regretting that, under this Financial Resolution, they are still to receive what is the equivalent of tithe, for I am sure the hon. Gentleman is not going to raise so specious an argument as to say that this indirect method of payment is going to be considered as a giving up by the Church of tithe rentcharge. Everyone who pays these charges will of course know that they are going to the Church very largely in the future, just as they did in the past; this camouflage of changing the term "tithe rentcharge" to "tithe annuity," or "annuity," is not going to deceive a single payer of tithe in Great Britain. They are going to realise that the position is unaltered, except that the amount is slightly smaller. I should have liked to see, for the very reasons that the hon. Gentleman put forward, the complete abolition of that payment, in order to give that extra spiritual horsepower, as he phrased it—I am not quite certain what it means, but it sounds all right—to the Church.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Certainly, as the hon. Member wants. He is delighted at the sacrifice becauses it shows the spiritual basis of the Church and not the financial basis. When the Church is able to divorce itself from the State financial basis and depends upon the free voluntary gifts of those who are keen enough to support it, it will start reviving its spiritual power.
The second point I wanted to deal with was one made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Dorset, West (Major Colfox). He said that one of the drawbacks of this Resolution was that it did not relate tithe payments to the value of the land. I agree that that has been one of the great criticisms of tithe rentcharge for many years. He suggested that in the old days when tithe was related to the produce of the land it was more satisfactory. If he will look back into the history of the discussions as regards tithe he will find that it was less satisfactory. Every means was adopted to get out of the extremely inconvenient system by which the parson had every tenth crop of hay, or however the produce was arranged. That has always been a great incubus upon agriculture and the failure in this Resolution to relate the payment to the value of the land or the value of the produce is also a very serious drawback and one which makes it quite certain that no solution can ever be found along these lines. Indeed there is only one way by which you can so relate the payment to the value of the land arid that is by making one single payment by the tithe-payer which is related to the value of the land and to get both into the same ownership.
§ Major COLFOX
The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot expect me to agree with him. I thought I made it quite clear in what way I suggested that the amount of payment should be related to the produce of the land, namely, the method that was adopted in the 1925 Bill and is readopted in this Bill, hut I wish it to be only for a limited number of years when it shall be re-assessed for another short period, and so on.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman will appreciate that you cannot relate the tithe to the value of the land through corn prices alone.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested that it should be on the same basis. The old basis was corn prices alone.
§ Major COLFOX
The old basis which has been used on this occasion and in 1925, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, was not the value of corn alone, although I admit that the value of corn alone was the basis of value of tithe before 1925.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The 1925 Act was to take a hypothetical contemplated value for corn alone. That is the basis on which it was fixed. It came out wrong, because the forecasts of those who devised the 1925 scheme were wholly wrong. The basis on which it was fixed was the anticipated price of corn for the ensuing years. On that basis it is obviously impossible to deal with the true value of the land for its productive purpose to the farmer, especially where you have mixed farms, dairy farms arid other types of farms all together. The only satisfactory method from the point, of view of the farmer is a single payment which represents the true value of the land to him which he is entitled to use for that payment. In order to bring about that merger, you cannot do it by the methods of this Financial Resolution. You are forced to do it by getting the ownership of tithe into the same hands as the ownership of the land. That can only be done in one way, and that is, by putting tithe in the ownership of the State. The only ultimate solution possible for this problem is not an attempt to build up a fund, as this Financial Resolution attempts to build up a fund, which balances payments between one particular set of people, the tithe-payer, and another particular set of people, very largely the Church in this case, but to take the whole matter out of the exceptional method of dealing with it, compensate—if you believe in compensation—the tithe-owner, and then, the State having come into the position of the right to receive tithe, also put the State into the position of the right to receive rent, and then fix the fair payment to the farmer for the use of his land. That is the only possible solution which can ever be brought about for the tithe problem to-day.
§ 11.27 p.m.
Colonel Sir EDWARD RUGGLESBRISE
I desire to refer to one or two 1162 statements which my right hon. Friend the Minister made in his opening remarks on the discussion of the Financial Resolution. He told the Committee that his hands would not be tied in the later stages by anything in the Financial Resolution, and he went on to say that that was a strong statement. I am bound to say that my spirits rose when he made that statement, as did the spirits of a great many of my hon. Friends who are taking a deep interest in the Bill. We feel that the Amendments we desire to move, both on the Financial Resolution and in Committee upstairs later on, will not be out of order. My right hon. Friend went so far as to give an indication of some of the points which would be open to free and future discussion. He stated that the point with regard to the Income Tax deduction in Clause 13 would be open to discussion in Committee upstairs, and also indicated that the question of preserving the life interest of the tithe-owner could be so discussed. That has given great satisfaction to the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) and to many other hon. Members all over the House. My right hon. Friend mentioned the cost of collection. I was not clear whether he intended to intimate that it would be possible in the Committee further to consider the question of the position of collectors of tithe, but I hope that he did, in view of the fact that he told us that the statement with which he opened the discussion was a strong statement.
After he had given two or three instances in which it would be possible for the Committee to discuss the Bill unhampered at the later stages, I was not able to follow him when he went on to say, that the whole essence of the Bill is connected and tied up with the burden of the taxpayer. In view of the fact that the share borne by the taxpayer is extremely small in comparison with that borne by the tithe-payer and the amount received by the tithe-owner, the taxpayer's position is almost negligible. The Minister made a point about the liability of the taxpayer and said that in the scheme of the Bill there were no savings or payments in reserve. That statement is very satisfactory in so far as it goes, but I should be obliged if he would give an explanation on the question of savings. On the Second Reading of the Bill I gave some figures which 1163 indicated that the savings to the Exchequer in regard to rates would be very considerable, amounting to £96,000 a year over the whole period. I am prepared to accept the general statement of my right hon. Friend that the Exchequer is not making any saving, but an explanation of the figures in regard to rates would be desirable and would go some way towards clearing up an obscure point. If my right hon. Friend had given us a few instances in which it would be possible for us to discuss matters and move Amendments freely it would have been more satisfactory. I was disappointed to find that when we come to the question of the remission of a fraction under Schedule B, in Clause 14, which it one of the most important points in the Bill, he said, or I understood him to say, that it would not be possible to discuss the fraction in Committee. I may have misunderstood him. It is difficult lo see, if the question of Income Tax under Clause 13 can be discussed, and Amendments can be moved to that Clause, why under Clause 14 it would be out of order to discuss the fraction of the remission in relation to Schedule B. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will give us a clear exposition on that point.
There is one further point which was not cleared up in the discussion on the Motion to report Progress. When your predecessor was in the Chair, Captain Bourne, he said that it was not within his province to say what Amendment will or will not be ruled out of order when the Bill goes upstairs. The difficulty under which I and other hon. Members labour is in deciding this question—does the fact that you in the Chair here have ruled out an Amendment to the Financial Resolution necesarily tie the hands of the Chairman in Committee upstairs? We hope that, although some Amendments are out of order on the Financial Resolution, they may be in order when we get into Committee upstairs. Can you give us a Ruling on that point, whether an Amendment which has been ruled out of order on the Floor of the House on the Financial Resolution must necessarily be ruled out of order by the Chairman in Committee upstairs?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It is no part of my duty to indicate what view the Chairman of the Committee upstairs may hold, but it is the common rule and 1164 practice of the House that when a Resolution has been passed in Committee of the Whole House, and subsequently has agreed to the House on Report, the Committee on the Bill is strictly bound by the terms of that. Resolution. Any Amendment which, in the opinion of the Chairman of the Committee, is not within the terms of such Financial Resolution is automatically out of order.
§ Sir E. RUGGLES-BRISE
Would you go so far as to rule that any Amendment appearing on the Order Paper today in connection with this Financial Resolution must ipso facto be out of order if it reappears on the Order Paper of the Committee upstairs?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
If the Amendment on the Order Paper would impose a. charge and has been ruled out of order on that account, then for that reason it, obviously, would impose a charge in Committee, which has not been authorised by the House.
§ 11.37 p.m.
§ Sir ERNEST SHEPPERSON
I should like to express my appreciation that we shall be able to move Amendments in Committee which we thought we should not be able to move. Those who represent agricultural constituencies are in this difficulty, that on this Bill whatever we do we shall be wrong. We have had letters from our constituents, local clergymen, pointing out the sacrifices which the Bill will mean to them. From the opposite point of view we have had letters from tithe-payers pointing out the injustice that they will suffer. We do not know what to do. In most legislation which comes before this House we know that if we support one side we shall get blamed by one side and earn the gratitude of the other, but, on this matter, we have the certain knowledge that whatever we do we shall get no gratitude from either side, but a great deal of blame. What shall we do about it? If I studied merely the question of expediency I should have a bad attack of arthritis from which I suffer, and remain out of the House for the next two or three weeks. That would be the act of a coward, and I do not intend to take that course.
I have always taken one attitude on the tithe question. In 1924 I moved an Amendment in Committee to reduce the 1165 figure from £105,000,000 to £100,000,000, because I thought we were stabilising tithe at a figure with no certain knowledge that agricultural commodity prices would remain at a figure which would justify such an amount. I lost the Amendment. It is always unpopular to say the simple words, "I told you so," but I am going to risk that unpopularity to-day and suggest that what I said in 1924 with regard to commodity prices was true. It is this fall in prices which has caused the Act of 1924 to be unjust to the tithe-payer. I have met tithe-payers many times in my constituency and I have always taken this attitude, that they have no justification in asking for the total remission of tithe—
§ Sir E. SHEPPERSON
I bow to your Ruling, Captain Bourne, but the point I was endeavouring to make was that the amount of £91 lls. 2d. to be paid by the tithe-payer under this Bill is a great improvement on the figure of 1924, which was £109 4s. I would like now to put this query to the Committee: Is the figure of £91 lls. 2d. one that we can justifiably accept? From 1836 the tithe-payer has had to pay tithe based on a seven-years' average of corn prices. The point I wish to put is whether this figure of £91 lls. 2d. which he is now asked to pay is one that would be met by the seven-years' average of corn prices to-day? According to the Royal Commission's Report, the figure for 1935, if based on the then corn prices, would have been £80. This amount of £91 lls. 2d. includes a certain sum for redemption, and I would like to ask the Minister what part of the sum goes towards redemption. I would also like to ask him what would be the figure that would have to be paid annually on this annuity if tithe-payers preferred not to have the redemption period of 40, 60 or 80 years, but an even longer period or even a period without redemption. I have been led to understand that if there were no redemption the amount would be something in the nature of £75 a year. I can assure the Minister that if we could go to the country now and make an offer to the tithe-payer that he should pay anything between £75 and £80 a year without redemption, the country would 1166 accept this Tithe Bill with all Possible gratitude.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress; and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Captain Margesson]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.