HC Deb 01 July 1937 vol 325 cc2242-63

(1) Section twenty-one of the Finance Act, 1920, which provides for deduction in respect of children, shall have effect as if the references in Sub-sections (1) and (2) thereof to a child receiving full-time instruction at an educational establishment included references to a child undergoing training by any person (hereafter referred to as "the employer") for any trade, profession, or vocation in such circumstances that—

  1. (a) a child is required to devote the whole of his time to the training for a period of not less than two years; and
  2. (b) the emoluments, if any, receivable by, or payable by the employer in respect of the child while undergoing the training, do not exceed thirteen pounds a year, exclusive of any emoluments receivable or payable by way of return of any premium paid in respect of the training;

For the purpose of paragraph (b) of this Sub-section all emoluments at any time receivable by, or payable by, the employer in respect of a child in respect of whose training a premium has been paid shall be. deemed to be receivable or payable by way of return of the premium, unless and except to the extent that the amount thereof exceeds in the aggregate the amount of the premium.

(2) In this Section the expression "emoluments" means any salary, fees, wages, perquisites, or profits or gains whatsoever, and includes the value of free board, lodging, or clothing.

(3) For the purpose of a claim in respect of a child undergoing training the surveyor may require the employer to furnish particulars with respect to the training and the emoluments of the child in such form as may be prescribed by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue.—[Mr. Tinker.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Tinker

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

This Clause seeks to extend the Finance Act, 1920, in regard to dealing with the education of children and the relief of taxation in respect of children, to cover other kinds of education, such as education for trades, professions or vocations. It also makes it quite clear that there is not to be any monetary gain for those following that kind of educational training. This has something of a history. It was before the House in 1935, and again in 1936. It is one of those things which, if you believe in them sincerely, it is as well to keep repeating in the hope that you may be able to prevail on enlightened Members of the House to come to our way of thinking. When brought forward in 1935 the first objection was that it was not properly drafted, and it was felt that there was something in the objection, but, on the request of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), who led the Labour party at that time, the Chancellor of the day agreed that the matter should go to the Treasury officials, and this Clause was drafted with their help. The Chancellor objected and it was defeated. We put it down the following year, and again objections were raised by the then Chancellor, the present Prime Minister, and it is rather interesting to hear some of his suggestions. He admitted that there was something in the case. He said: There is an undoubted anomaly in the fact that the parent who keeps his child at an educational establishment obtains a relief from Income Tax which is denied to the parent who puts his child to another form of education, that obtained by training, whether for a trade or a profession. I frankly admit that there is an anomaly and that the Amendment would remove it, but I have to repeat what I said on a previous occasion, that in removing one anomaly you would create a further series of anomalies."—[OFFICAL REPORT, 15th June, 1936; col. 655, Vol. 313.] He also said that it did not mean very much to the parents—1s. 7d. in the £ on £50 would be less than £5. The actual sum is £4 15s. He said the total cost would not exceed £100,000 a year. It is evident that it i3 not cost that affects the question.

There is another point that I want the Committee to examine. If the Chancellor admits that this ought to be done in order to remove an anomaly, I do not think we ought to be faced with the question of further anomalies, because if and when they come along they can be dealt with on the merits of the case. I have never before known any case of merit being objected to because it might bring something further in its train. If it is right to give it to one form of educational teaching, it ought to be given to another. Education embraces far more than attending a school or college. The term "education" in the dictionary means bringing up the young by systematic instruction. We are dealing here with the commercial side and, owing to the present state of industry, we are embracing that kind of education. Parents are putting their children to other things than sending them to college.

All we are asking for is an extension of Section 21 of the Finance Act, 1920, and we are appealing to the Committee for the third time to consider this in relation to what has happened since then. On the first occasion we were beaten by 184 to 49, and the voting in 1936 was 212 to 112. We have a new Chancellor. I hope he has not said to his officials, "Look up what we did last time," and framed his reply on that. I hope he is coming to it with an open mind and will brush on one side what the other Chancellor did, and will say to himself, "Although the Prime Minister is a good man, I think I can see further ahead than he can and now is the time to tell these Labour men that I am not hidebound and stereotyped in my outlook. I can go further than the Conservatives can do. I have had a Liberal education. Although I went over to the National Government in a time of stress, I still have those Liberal ideas, and now is an opportunity to show what I can do." If he will do that, many of us will look more favourably upon him.

8.8 p.m.

Sir J. Simon

The hon. Member has a most persuasive way with him, and there is no one who better understands not only how to avoid rousing anyone's sense of resistance, but to commend his proposal with every possible inducement of manner and argument. I should like very much to earn his commendation on this occasion. He invites me to follow the good example of Liberal Chancellors of the past, and I am going to do so.

Mr. Tinker

I did not mention Liberal Chancellors, nor the traditions of the Liberal party.

Sir J. Simon

I well remember when Mr. Asquith was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and many most tempting proposals were put forward which would have resulted in serious loss of revenue, Mr. Asquith, the stoutest of good Liberals, declared that his first duty as Chancellor of the Exchequer was to defend the revenue and not weakly to give way to the most persuasive arguments if the result was that he would lose revenue which he was trying to retain. Following this most strict Liberal tradition, by which I intend to be guided, I cannot on this occasion agree with the hon. Member. The concession would cost quite a substantial sum, possibly £1,000,000 or £2,000,000, and I simply cannot in present circumstances contemplate that sacrifice of revenue. The fact of the matter is that there is no stopping about concessions of this sort. If we went on, we should find some new point at which we could be asked to make good and sensible concessions, and I would always listen to them when I could afford it, but it is really not possible to do that now.

Of all the countries in the world, we have an Income Tax structure which, thanks to the efforts of all parties in recent years, since I first entered the House, has enormously improved from the point of view of recognising how heavy the burden is upon poor people and upon parents. I can remember when the first proposals were made for relief in respect of children, and I am very glad that they were made. Income tax is infinitely juster and more humane than it used to be. I am not disputing that there may be further adjustments to be made in the future. A Liberal is the first to recognise that there are improvements to be made. But the considerations which were urged so fairly on the earlier occasions I am afraid still prevail.

Mr. Gordon Macdonald

What is the estimated cost of the concession?

Sir J. Simon

I believe the ultimate cost to the Exchequer might approach £2,000,000, though it is very difficult to deal with a matter proposed in a new Clause with very great precision, but I see quite clearly that here again it would hardly be a stopping place. It is very difficult to find a stopping place. It is easy to suggest other cases not covered by the new Clause which in their turn would come forward. Let us hope that times will so improve that we shall be able to make some further adjustments which generally commend themselves, but we cannot do it in the present circumstances.

8.14 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I am sure that Members on this side who remember last year's discussion will have heard the right hon. Gentleman's statement with very great disappointment. I recall the statement of the Prime Minister last year that this year we might possibly be able to get this concession, and an overhaul of the OFFICIAL REPORT will prove that we had every right to expect that this concession would be made. I regret that the thoroughly false emphasis that the continuation of the present discrimination gives to one form of education should be allowed to continue. The right hon. Gentleman is one of the most distinguished sons of Oxford, and this afternoon he has again been standing for a lost cause. Surely, we all believe nowadays that there are many citizens who do their best work for the community by exercising skill in hand and eye which has no great relation to the literary and mathematical education which is regarded in too many cases as really the only sign of an educated man.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), if I may mention an ex-Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer, though I am not sure whether he is an ex-Liberal or only an ex-Chancellor, in the presence of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that the Great War was an engineers' war, and judging by what is going on at the moment it would appear that the next war is likely to be one, too, and that, at any rate, in the social structure of the country to-day, the ordinary, daily, working skilled engineer is a very important factor in the maintenance of the social fabric. We want to put into the minds of parents, especially those on the lower rungs of the Income Tax ladder, that the skilled preparation of that youth for his daily work, his contribution to the life of the country, is as important as the preparation of the boy who is going into a bank or to take some of the more lowly paid clerical jobs in the country. Placing the parent in regard to Income Tax in the same position with regard to either type of boy, would be one very effective way of bringing that home to a type of parent who at the moment is sometimes too much inclined to think that it is not outside the black-coated professions that an educated boy ought to look for employment.

That is not a financial ground at all; it is a social ground. One of the great works to which the right hon. Gentleman himself has been alluding has been the way in which the Income Tax has been made the engine of carrying through the great social reforms and social readjustments, and this Clause would, I believe, be fully carrying out that line. There was a pamphlet published by the Board of Education on the application of art to industry, and in the preface it was pointed out that the universities themselves in the early days Were purely vocational institutions for preparing the parson, the lawyer and the politician for the service of the community, and I am afraid too often that is still regarded as the principal job of a university. But in these days we ought to try, especially in view of some of the things we hear from the Board of Education, to see if we cannot get a full recognition of the educational value of the preparation for the skilled trades in these days when a very high degree of theoretical as well as technical knowledge is really required by anyone who is to be a skilled craftsman. I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman will now do what my hon. Friend said that he hoped he had not done, namely, read the remarks which were made by his predecessor in office last year, he w ill understand the depth of disappointment that we feel this afternoon that he is unable to grant the concession.

8.20 p.m.

Mr. George Griffiths

I am very sorry to tee the attitude Which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken up on this question. It is true that he has not been quite so blunt as his predecessor, but I am not sure that he has not been more cold-blooded. I do not know whether he hat read the Debate of last year, but several hon. Members took part in the Debate, which continued from 3.36 until five minutes to five. There were seven speakers on this side, one Liberal, two Conservatives and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and every one of them spoke in favour of this Clause except the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He did not speak against it from a moral standpoint but largely because he said that, while it was only a small snowball, it would roll into a mountain. That was the point of his speech. The cost of the concession was not quite as large as the present Chancellor of the Exchequer has made out. The Chancellor of the Exchequer last year said that it would cost only £100,000, and not £2,000,000. It is not often that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer is wrong in his figures, but this time he is a long way out. The Chancellor of the Exchequer last year said that although it would cost £100,000, they were rather afraid of what might come out of it if somebody else asked for such a concession. But if this thing is morally right, why on earth do not the GoVemment adopt it? The Chancellor of the Exchequer last year said that it was only 1s. 7d. in the £ on £60, which was only £5. I know that some of my pals n my Division would like to have that £5 to-night. If they could only get a concession of £5, it would be very willingly received.

There has been a great outcry in the last two years because apprentices are scarce. It has been said that we have not the apprentices as far as engineering is concerned, and the question has been asked, What is to become of us in the near future? You have been looking on the horizon from a war standpoint, and we say that if you want the defences, at least place the parent on an equal footing with the man whose child wins a secondary education. Hundreds of working men's children are to-day winning secondary education to an extent that has never been done in the past. In the little township where I live at the present time they run a special train every morning for the children who go to a secondary school nine miles away, a thing that was not known ten years ago. In respect of every one of these children the parents receive this £60, but if a man sends his son into an engineering shop or apprentices his daughter to something, these children, when they leave school at 14, are a greater expense than if they remained at school, and yet the parents are not allowed this £60.

I am surprised that the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that we cannot do it. I remember that before the late right hon. Member for Hillhead was sent to another place he said, speaking of the £1,500,000,000, "We can take it in our stride." If you can take £1,500,000,000 in your stride, what is to stop the present Chancellor of the Exchequer from saying "I will face up to it, and I will give this concession." I hope that he will take this from one of his leaders of the past. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has tried to make us believe "I am not so much bothered about this, but it what might come after it." I will give him the text of his grandfather, "Wait and see." Perhaps I should say his political father. Someone put a question to his political father, and he replied: "Wait and see." We are saying to the right hon. Gentleman to-day: "Take your courage in your hands now. Do not bother about what may happen in the future or in the next Budget. Take hold of this question and say that you will give us what we are asking for."

8.26 p.m.

Sir J. Simon

On a point of explanation, I should like to say that I mentioned a figure of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000. I did so on the information before me, but I want to make it plain that that figure was not calculated as the cost of this particular proposal, but that it included some development of it which, as far as we could judge, would become almost irresistible in other cases. I do not wish to leave hon. Members under the impression that this specific proposal would involve that expenditure; it would not, although I cannot give the actual figure. I understand that a much smaller figure was mentioned last year. It would be impossible to make this concession without associating it with other cases, and that was why I gave the greater figure of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000.

8.27 p.m.

Mr. Lansbury

On the last occasion on which we discussed this matter some of us could not understand who were the other claimants that might come along. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has put up a case which, as on the last occasion, is unanswerable. If one child who is receiving education at an ordinary secondary school or college gets this relief, I should have thought that the Treasury would have objected to that first step along the slippery road to destruction. What we are asking for is that other children in other occupations following a course of instruction perhaps more beneficial to the nation than book-learning and so on, ought to be given consideration. I think we ought not to take too much notice of the argument of the Treasury that the granting of such a concession might lead at some future date to an expenditure of £2,000,000. The Treasury ought to have supplied the Chancellor of the Exchequer with some evidence that he could have given to the Committee in support of that statement. We have not had that evidence. It seems to me that the Treasury are putting up a bogy exactly as they do about increasing pensions. In that case they do condescend to give us some valid and reasonable argument, but in this case they have not done so.

I do not want to disturb the harmony and good feeling between the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee, but I think he has not got down to this question as we might have expected him to do. He is a man who usually brings things out and gives a reason for his decision. This time he has done nothing of the kind. He has simply stuck up a bogy and said: "If I give you this it will mean £2,000,000 in the future." Nobody knows when, how or why. The merits of the case for the Amendment are indisputable. The right hon. Gentleman does not deny them and the present Prime Minister did not deny them. On the first occasion we went home thinking that we had won the battle. The Committee on that occasion felt that it was only a matter of words and that if we could get the position expressed properly we should get what we wanted, but instead we get this terrible bogy of what might happen.

The parent of a child who continues ordinary education is usually not quite so poor as the parent of a child who goes into an engineering school or into some other sort of training which means apprenticeship for two or three years without earning any money. We have a very big school of this kind in Poplar. I went there the other day. It is a joy to see the boys there learning to use their hands and to develop their intelligence. If the right hon. Gentleman could have seen those boys he would have realised that oft en the parents of these children are just earning sufficient to have to pay Income Tax and that this £5, £6, or whatever the amount may be, is a matter of great consideration. The Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the last occasion put up the same kind of bogy that the granting of this concession would lead to bigger expenditure in the future. Let me put a motto to the right hon. Gentleman: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." It is a very good motto, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to live up to it.

8.33 p.m.

Mr. Lees-Smith

I had intended to put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but perhaps the information he might have given can be given by the Financial Secretary. The Debate is left in an unsatisfactory position. The immediate expenditure involved in this proposal is only £100,000. The reason for the right hon. Gentleman refusing to accept it is that it might involve an expenditure amounting to over £1,000,000, because parallel occupations would be brought in. Beyond that bare statement we have not had any information as to what are those parallel occupations and why this expenditure would be increased tenfold. A statement of that kind cannot fairly be used unless the fact on which it is based are given to the Committee, and I invite the Financial Secretary or the Attorney-General to make a statement as to how this larger expenditure would be involved.

8.34 p.m.

Mr. Holdsworth

I support the Amendment and apologise to the Committee for not being present when it was moved, but one must eat at some time. There is a later Amendment in the name of several hon. Members, including myself, which is a much wider Amendment, and as I understand that Amendment is not to be called I must take the opportunity of speaking on this Amendment. I have never been able to understand why there should be class distinction on this question of allowances. If a person is able to send his child to a secondary school or a university an allowance is made. If a working man gives his child any form of further education, why should he be punished? In 99 cases out of 100 he is making a tremendous sacrifice in order that his child shall receive this added education. I hate to mention it, but there is undoubtedtly a distinction drawn between the people to whom this allowance means nothing and poor men, many of whom I know are making tremendous sacrifices in order that their children shall not enter blind-alley occupations.

In places where armaments are being made there is a surplus of unskilled labour and a very definite shortage of skilled labour. One of the things which we have to face in this age of mechanisation is the problem that we are turning people into automatons. I do not say that in any sneering way. When I see people at jobs which really do not demand much skill but which involves a terrible monotony, I do not wonder that they go to the pictures in order to have some kind of diversion from a horrible monotony. I am surprised at the mildness of the Amendment. I should have drawn it in much wider terms because it will assist very few people indeed. Surely we can give some encouragement to poor working people who in areas mentioned by the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) have been unemployed or on short time for so long that as soon as a child is of an age to earn a few shillings, off he or she goes to work. I am not criticising these people, I know what necessity means. If there are a few pounds of Income Tax to pay they cannot send their children to get this further education, but if we give them this small allowance it will be a tremendous encouragement to them to allow their children to continue in some kind of further education.

I cannot understand why the Government should decline to accept the Amendment. I am sorry that the Amendment to which I have already referred, and which is much wider in its scope, is not to be called, but I appeal to the Government to encourage these people to allow their children to equip themselves for the years after they reach manhood and womanhood. For the sake of a few shillings a week the prospects of many a child in after life will be jeopardised. I can conceive of no better way than this for the State to spend money. We have had to-day the copy of a Bill every Clause of which contains proposals for the Government to give a subsidy to this and that and a grant to this and to the other. Surely a mere £100,000 or even £200,000 in order to equip the nation with a better educated manhood and womanhood is the best expenditure we can make. When we compare the statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT that the total of subsidies of one kind and another amounts to £130,000,000 a year, with the amount involved in this Amendment, it is a mere quibble to talk about refusing such an amount in such a case. I hope the Government will, before the Report stage, give the matter further consideration. If not, and if a Division is called, it will give me great pleasure to support the Amendment in the Lobby.

8.41 p.m.

Mr. G. Macdonald

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made no attempt to put up a case against the Amendment. He said that he was sorry, and that if he granted the concession it might lead to further concessions later on. That is a very unfair way of dealing with it. Surely it should be considered on its merits? We have been criticised for the modesty of our proposals. If we are guilty on that ground, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer is even more guilty in rejecting it. I think the two paragraphs are very modest: a child is required to devote the whole of his time to the training for a period of not less than two years; and the emoluments, if any, receivable by, or payable by the employer in respect of the child while undergoing the training, do not exceed thirteen pounds a year. It has been suggested that we have class legislation. I have met it in my own home. I have two sons, one at a university and the other under this kind of training. The lad at the university is five years the senior of the other boy, and like boys they sometimes quarrel among themslves. They say, why should their father get an allowance for the one at the university and not for the other? The younger lad says that he will make a better job of life than his elder brother, and he tells me that every week-end. Surely this state of affairs cannot be justified. Because the bent of the younger boy is technical and of his brother literature, why should the law make a difference between the two? I want some defence for the position which the Government take up, not merely a statement that it is going to cost £2,000,000. I am astonished that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should argue on those lines. It is a very modest proposal. We could have made it far wider, but we did not want to do that. We wanted to put this one matter right. Boys ought not to be made to feel this distinction at all, and the sooner this House tells a boy who is of a technical bent of mind that he will be treated in the same way as a boy who goes to a university, the better. That is all we are asking, and I hope the Government will make some attempt at a defence of their position.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Sexton

I want to pay my tribute to the hon. Member for having brought this matter forward. Something has been said about the deplorable loss of apprentices. Key-men in all industries to-day are the scarcest of all men, and the reason why they are scarce is that fewer boys are now becoming apprentices. They a re rather going into blind-alley employment. The future of industry in this and in all countries depends on the training. That fundamental training is undergone not only in the ordinary schools, colleges and universities, but in the workshops in a vocational line. The children of the workers who have low wages but who are just within the Income Tax limit, will not be of any benefit unless they are allowed to enter those vocations and their parents are assisted by these deductions in Income Tax. Well-to-do parents who are well able to afford to pay Income Tax receive the deductions for their children. Children of 14 years of age are hauled out of the elementary schools, and many of them wish to go on to continued education in various educational establishments which are not of the school and college kind, but more of a technical nature.

Not only is it wise for the industry of the country to train these boys and girls in craftsmanship, but in future, in this mechanical age, there will be a big problem of spending leisure wisely and well. If we train our boys and girls and give them a chance in these vocational centres, then when they get the leisure hours which will come to them as the mechanical age goes on, they will be able to spend their leisure wisely and well. I am sure that every Member of the Committee believes that workshops are as important as universities. The people who are able to pay their Income Tax and have a bit left over can send their children to Eton, Harrow and Rugby, and receive deductions from Income Tax as long as their children remain at those schools; but the Government evidently are unwilling to give any assistance to the parents of children who go to evening establishments and technical training schools and colleges.

The workers of the country have for years made sacrifices in order that their children might be able to go to secondary schools. The Government ask those people to go on making sacrifices, although they have the opportunity to-night to help them. Craftsmanship is as important as the classics, to work at the bench is as dignified as to work at the Bar, to work in the laboratory is equivalent to working at the law, and mechanics are as valuable as medicine. Therefore, I appeal to the Chancellor to grant this concession. There may be parallel cases which would cost £2,000,000, but if there are, and if they are as worthy as this case is, the £2,000,000 would be well spent.

8.49 p.m.

Mr. Kelly

I appeal to the Government to agree to the proposed new Clause. The request contained in it is a modest one, and I wish it were much wider than is proposed. I am surprised that the Government, which has set up juvenile advisory councils throughout the country and has asked many of us who have been, and still are, engaged in that work, to place these boys and girls in trades and occupations where they have to begin at a very low wage and where they have to continue their training, should refuse to accede to our request. In London, for many years, we have been endeavouring to prevail upon employers to allow some of the children who are serving apprenticeships to attend classes, which we should be quite prepared to set up, on two half-days a week. Sometimes the parents make great sacrifices in order that their children may have such training. When one considers the fares that have to be paid in London, one is amazed at the sacrifices that the parents make in order that their children may have a chance. So serious is the question of fares for these parents that we have tried, as questions in the House have shown, to secure for these young people cheaper fares on the railways and on the London Passenger Transport system. These parents are receiving only a few pounds a week. They send their children to that wonderful engineering school at Poplar, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) has referred, and if the Government realised the difficulty that the parents have in keeping their children there long enough to complete their apprenticeship, I am sure that even they, thinking in terms of money as they do, would feel compelled to agree to the proposal.

It is not only the fares that are a difficulty, but also the buying of the things that are needed in order that the young people may engage in the training. There are many people I could name at this moment who have spent very much time in endeavouring to help these young people whose parents could not afford to provide them with the elementary tools and books. To-day great efforts are being made, not only in London but in all parts of the country, to give bays and girls the opportunity of serving apprenticeships in order that they may become fully qualified craftsmen and tradesmen. I urge the Government to accede to this request. I wish there were somebody on the Government Front Bench who, like many hon. Members on these benches, had had to serve apprenticeships between the ages of 14 years and 21 years before they became journeymen. If right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite knew the hardships of that time, not only of the parents but of the young people, we should not now be asking them to accede to this request, for they would themselves have come to the rescue of the parents.

I ask the Government to agree to the proposed Clause for the sake of the young people. The Minister of Labour is not present at the moment, but he has urged that this work should be undertaken and that more and more of these boys and girls should be placed in these occupations with low wages, and great expenses attaching to them. Let hon. Members consider how these young people have to travel from the South-East of London to the North West, and in many cases from the West to the East and into the outer parts of London. How the parents manage to afford it from their small income and at the same time to pay Income Tax to His Majesty's Government, I do not understand. The President of the Board of Education and the Minister of Labour ought to be with us in this demand and to insist that the Exchequer should concede what is asked for in the proposed new Clause.

Sir Robert Tasker

Will the hon. Member explain why the trade unions are opposed to children becoming apprentices?

Mr. Kelly

Trade unions do not oppose apprenticeships. The trade unions have agreed that a period at school, providing that the training is in the direction of the industry into which the children are going, shall be counted as 50 per cent. of the time served in apprenticeship.

8.54 p.m.

Sir Joseph Lamb

I should be very sorry if it were thought from what has been said by hon. Members opposite that support for the object of the proposed new Clause comes entirely from the opposite side. There is a great deal of support, not only in the Committee but also in the country, for this object. I take it that the object is to give fair treatment to those who are receiving manual education and technical education, that is to say, to give them assistance which is equivalent to the assistance that is given to those receiving instruction in what might be termed the purely academic subjects. Although £2,000,000 seems a lot of money, I believe it would be well-spent in the interest of the community as a whole if we were to use it to give the same assistance in respect of technical education as is now given in respect of other types of education. I say nothing derogatory about classical education. For those who are entering professions it is possibly the best type of education that can be given, but 80 to 90 per cent. of our people will ultimately earn their living by their hands, and for them technical education is all-important. When you create something with your own hands you stimulate a sense of the importance and dignity of manual work, and that spirit ought to be encouraged, as it can be encouraged, by improving the technical side of education.

One of the tragedies of to-day is, that there has been a loss of the sense of dignity which ought to attach to manual labour. From several causes which I shall not go into now, because this is not an education Debate, we have come to look upon manual work as menial. I believe that whatever can be done to encourage the type of education referred to in this proposal, ought to be done without hesitation. One of the problems today in connection with the improvement in trade is a lack of skilled workers, and I believe that problem will grow more serious, unless something effective is done for the advance of technical education. I did not come here prepared to speak on this subject, but after what I heard from the benches opposite, I wished to express a view which I know is widely held on this side of the Committee. This is not a party question and I do not desire to make any party advantage out of it. I suggest that if this is not the right time or the right way to deal with the matter, the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to say that while unable to accept the present proposal, he is prepared to deal with the matter in some other way and give adequate assistance in respect of what is, to my mind, the most important type of education.

8.59 p.m.

The Attorney-General

The Committee, I am sure, appreciates the fact that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot be present during every discussion on every proposal. They will also appreciate the position in which I find myself. I think it right that I should intervene at this stage to say something with regard to the speeches that have been made since my right hon. Friend spoke earlier. My right hon. Friend made it clear that, in this matter, there is no lack of sympathy on the part of the Government with technical education. Indeed, hon. Members opposite have themselves referred to the encourgement which the Government are giving to technical education and our attitude on this Amendment is not due to any failure to appreciate the importance of technical education or to recognise the value of the learning and the equipment which a boy gains as the result of apprenticeship. But as my right hon. Friend said—and one has to face this fact—the general Income Tax structure, at any given moment, must contain anomalies and, as between individual and individual, must, in some cases, press more hardly on one than on another.

A question was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) as to what my right hon. Friend had in mind when he said that there was reason to believe that the concession which is asked for here might, reasonably and logically, be made the basis of a demand for further concessions. The principle behind the proposed Clause is that where, in respect of a child over 16, sacrifices are being made in order that the child may be better equipped or may get work of a better class, work more beneficial to him and to the community, that that fact should be reflected in the Income Tax allowances.

Mr. Lansbury

Would the hon. and learned Gentleman when dealing with this question take note of paragraph (b) in the proposed Clause. My hon. Friends who hate a means test probably as much as anybody, have there put in a means test. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman tell me, in view of that means test, who are the people and where they come from, who are to bring the £100,000 cost up to £2,000,000?

The Attorney-General

I was at the moment dealing: with a different point. I was trying to answer the question put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to do so.

Mr. Lansbury

It is the same question.

Mr. Lees-Smith

I thought I was putting the same question.

The Attorney-General

I understood that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) was asking about the £100,000 which was referred to earlier.

Mr. Lansbury

I am asking where the additional number of people will come from, to bring the cost up to £2,000,000.

The Attorney-General

If the right hon. Gentleman heard my right hon. Friend's speech——

Mr. Lansbury

I did.

The Attorney-General

And if he heard what my right hon. Friend said subsequently, he must realise that the figure of £2,000,000 to which he referred, did not relate to those who would be affected by the Clause, but to persons who would, he suggested, if this Clause were passed——

Mr. Lansbury

Tell us who they are.

The Attorney-General

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish my sentence. My right hon. Friend made it clear that those who made up the figure to which he referred were not those who would be included in the scope of this Clause—and therefore that has nothing to do with paragraph (b) of the Clause—but were those who might, on the same basis as this Clause, claim a similar concession. There are really two different questions involved and it was that question which I thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) was putting to me. As I was saying, I think the principle of the proposal is this: that any one who incurs financial sacrifices in respect of a child over 16, whether by way of paying apprenticeship fees, or not allowing the child to go into a blind-alley occupation and possibly keeping the child unemployed until a -good opening occurred, should be able to claim recognition of those sacrifices in the Income Tax exemptions. That is the general class of persons to whom my right hon. Friend was referring. I would be the last person to suggest and I do not think any Member of any Government would suggest that you can justify on logical and ethical principles, all instances of Income Tax law at any given time. Human ingenuity could not devise a code which would not in its application, in some cases, bear more hardly on some one who was making sacrifices not only for the good of his family but for the national good and less hardly on somebody else who was leading a much more selfish life. The principle of the present exemption is to take education in the ordinary sense of the word.

Mr. Holdsworth

What is the ordinary sense of the word?

The Attorney-General

It may be that it is a wrong sense of the word. It may be that at this moment we are revising our opinion, in the light of more enlightened ideas, as to what should be the proper sense of the word. Education in the ordinary sense of the word does not, of course, include apprenticeship. No one disputes that we can go on educating ourselves all our lives, and in that sense there is educational value in apprenticeship.

Mr. Holdsworth

On the question of ordinary education, suppose there is a young fellow from Bradford who goes to a university and takes a mechanical course. There is relief in respect of his education. If the son of an ordinary workman gets his mechanical education in another way, there is no relief. Both young fellows, however, are following in a degree the same sort of education.

The Attorney-General

I agree; I do not want to be controversial. I spent my university career getting an education as a chemist. There is no doubt that if I had wanted to go into an industrial course, I would afterwards have had to spend a considerable period in a works before I should have been of any use to the employer. If, however, I had spent those years in a works to start with, I should obviously have reached at an earlier age a position in which I could hope to have earned something. There is undoubtedly something in the distinction which is drawn in the present day. I do not qualify in any way what my right hon. Friend says about the attitude of the Government to this new Clause. The hon. Gentlemen opposite will, of course, take what action they think proper. I have endeavoured to answer some of the questions which have been put and to state the grounds why we cannot support the Clause.

Mr. Lansbury

The hon. and learned Gentleman has not met my point. Will he tell us the number of children who might come up if the new Clause is passed?

The Attorney-General

My right hon. Friend said that he has not the figures, and I have not them either. An hon.

Member opposite said that on a previous Debate on this question the figure of £100,000 was mentioned, but I am afraid that I cannot give the figures.

Mr. Lansbury

I want to protest against the manner in which figures are thrown at us on this question. The statement is made that what we ask for would cost £100,000. No one challenges that, and the Attorney-General has not challenged it. He said, however, that there might be other cases, if this provision was carried, which would swell the cost to £2,000,000 a year. What I have been asking is, where are these children who will come along under paragraph (b) and cause the cost to rise in this way? I challenge the Treasury or anyone in the Department to find them. They do not exist, and it is scandalous that we should be put off with a statement of cost without any justification for it.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes, 133; Noes, 165.

Division No. 251.] AYES. [9.11 p.m.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Montague, F.
Adams, D. (Consett) Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)
Adamson, W. M. Groves, T. E. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Naylor, T. E.
Ammon, C. G. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Noel-Baker, P. J.
Aske, Sir R. W. Harris, Sir P. A. Oliver, G. H.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Paling, W.
Banfield, J. W. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Parker, J.
Barr, J. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Parkinson, J. A.
Batey, J. Holdsworth, H. Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Bellenger, F. J. Hollins, A. Price, M. P.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Hopkin, D. Pritt, D. N.
Broad, F. A. Jagger, J. Quibell, D. J. K.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Ridley, G.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Riley, B.
Burke, W. A. John, W. Ritson, J.
Cape, T. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Chater, D. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Rowson, G.
Clarry, Sir Reginald Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)
Cluse, W. S. Kelly, W. T. Sanders, W. S.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Sexton, T. M.
Cocks, F. S. Kirby, B. V. Silkin, L.
Cove, W. G. Kirkwood, D. Simpson, F. B.
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Lamb, Sir J. Q. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Daggar, G. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G Smith, E. (Stoke)
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Lathan, G. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lawson, J. J. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Day, H. Leach, W. Sorensen, R. W.
Dobbie, W. Lee, F. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Leonard, W. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Ede, J. C. Leslie, J. R. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Lunn, W. Thurtle, E.
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Macdonald, G. (Ince) Tinker, J. J.
Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales) McEntee, V. La T. Viant, S. P.
Foot, D. M. McGhee, H. G. Walkden, A. G.
Gardner, B. W. MacLaren, A. Walker, J.
Garro Jones, G. M. Maclean, N. Watkins, F. C.
Gibson, R. (Greenock) MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Watson, W. McL.
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Mainwaring, W. H. Welsh, J. C.
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Marshall, F. Westwood, J.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Messer, F. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Grenfell, D. R. Milner, Major J. Wilkinson, Ellen
Williams, T. (Don Valley) Woods, G. S. (Finsbury) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Windsor, W. (Hull, C.) Young, Sir R. (Newton) Mr. Charleton and Mr. Mathers.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col, G. J. Gledhill, G. Petherick, M.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Gluckstein, L. H. Pilkington, R.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Goldie, N. B. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Albery, Sir Irving Goodman, Col. A. W. Procter, Major H. A.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Gower, Sir R. V. Radford, E. A.
Apsley, Lord Grant-Ferris, R. Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Grimston, R. V. Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Gritten, W. G. Howard Ramsbotham, H.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Rayner, Major R. H.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.) Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Guinness, T. L. E. B. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Gunston, Capt. D. W. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Boyce, H. Leslie Guy, J. C. M. Ropner, Colonel L.
Brass, Sir W. Hannah, I. C. Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridgs)
Brown, Rt. Hon. E (Leith) Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Rowlands, G.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Butcher, H. W. Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Salmon, Sir I.
Carver, Major W. H. Hepworth, J. Samuel, M. R. A.
Cary, R. A. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Savery, Sir Servington
Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.) Higgs, W. F. Scott, Lord William
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon) Selley, H. R.
Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstaad) Horsbrugh, Florence Shakespeare, G H
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Hume, Sir G. H, Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Hunter, T. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Conant, Captain R. J, E. Hutchinson, G. C. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Cock, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Keeling, E. H. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs) Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.) Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Cox, H. B. T. Leckie, J. A. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Cranborne, Viscount Lees-Jones, J. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Leighton, Major B. E. P. Spens. W. P.
Crooke, J. S. Liddall, W. S. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Cross, R. H. Loftus, P. C. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Crossley, A. C. Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Sutcliffe, H.
Crowder, J. F, E Lyons, A. M. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Cruddas, Col. B. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Thomas, J. P. L.
Dawson, Sir P. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Denville, Alfred McCorquodale, M. S. Touche, G. C.
Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Turton, R. H.
Donner, P. W. Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J. Wakefield, W. W.
Dower, Major A. V. G. Magnay, T. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Drewe, C. Maitland, A. Watt, G. S. H.
Duckworth, W R. (Moss Side) Makins, Brig.-Gen. E. Wayland, Sir W. A
Dugdale, Captain T. L. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Duncan, J. A. L, Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Eastwood, J. F. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Ellis, Sir G. Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.) Womersley, Sir W. J.
Entwistle, Sir C. F. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Wood Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Erskine-Hill, A. G. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.
Everard, W L. Munro, P. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Fildes, Sir H. Neven-Spence, Major B. H, H.
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Peat, C. U. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Ganzoni, Sir J. Peters, Dr. S. J. Captain Waterhouse and Mr. Furness.