HC Deb 08 February 1938 vol 331 cc846-7
57. Sir William Davison

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been drawn to the serious objections in the national interest to the levying of Death Duties in a lump sum on the death of a taxpayer, especially in the case of agricultural estates; and whether he will appoint a representative committee to consider and report as to the loss, if any, likely to be occasioned to the revenue in the event of taxpayers being allowed to take out insurances in the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the estimated amount of Estate Duty payable on their estate on death, such insurances not to be included in such estate except in so far as any such insurance might be in excess of the sum required to meet Death Duties; or, in the alternative, as to any loss to the Exchequer by taxpayers being permitted to make annual payments to the Chancellor of the Exchequer during lifetime to be accumulated with interest in respect of duties payable on death, such accumulations to the extent of the duty not to be included in the deceased's estate?

Sir J. Simon

The estimation of the cost to the Exchequer of any proposal for relief from taxation is essentially a budgetary matter that must rest with the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day, who has the resources of the Revenue Departments at his command for the purpose. The particular form of relief to which the question refers, namely relief from Estate Duty in respect of life assurance moneys—a relief which I may observe would be general in character and would necessarily cover a much wider field than the particular case of agricultural land—is in fact a form of relief that has been frequently discussed in Finance Bill debates of recent years, in the course of which estimates of cost have been furnished. My predecessors in office have consistently rejected proposals of this kind as being unsound in principle and too costly to the Exchequer.

Sir W. Davison

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the estimates given by the Treasury in Finance Bill debates have been very varying amounts? Does he not think that, having regard to the great importance of this matter, it would be desirable to have an independent committee of inquiry in order to take evidence as to the various schemes that are suggested and which those who suggest them consider would not involve the Treasury in a loss, especially as the Income Tax rebate would not apply to them?

Sir J. Simon

My hon. Friend will recall that he himself has had considerable correspondence with and made various representations to the Treasury on this subject, and I can assure him that I have myself examined it with a great deal of care. I should be very glad at any time to receive further contributions and suggestions, but I think, as I explained just now, the estimate as to the results of the suggested change must be the responsibility of the proper Department.