HC Deb 11 July 1938 vol 338 cc1014-8

(1) Section twenty-one of the Finance Act, 1920 (which provides for a deduction in respect of children over the age of sixteen receiving full-time instruction at an educational establishment), shall have effect as if the references in Sub-sections (1) and (2) thereof to a child receiving such instruction 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) the 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) while the child is undergoing the train ing, the emoluments, if any, receivable by the child, or payable by the employer in respect of the child, 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, where a premium has been paid in respect of the training of a child, all emoluments at any time receivable by the child, or payable by the employer in respect of the child, 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.—[Sir J. Simon.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

7.36 p.m.

Sir J. Simon

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

This Clause provides for a deduction in respect of children over 16 who are undergoing training. I do not at the moment see the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) here, but some of his friends are here, and I know they will confirm me when I say that it was he who, during the Committee stage, raised this question, and, indeed, he has raised it before. There is already in our Finance Acts a provision by which a deduction can be allowed for children who are undergoing educational training—not only literary training, but also training in a technical school; but hitherto it has been thought to be impossible to extend that so as to cover those who are going through a system of apprenticeship. The hon. Member for Leigh and some other hon. Members on both sides of the House have urged for some time that this should be done. I looked into it both before and after the Committee stage, and came to the conclusion that it could be done, though it is very important that I should repeat that I cannot consider this as a starting point for all sorts of other concessions which might seem to be analogous. I believe that the words as they are now drawn—almost exactly the words proposed by the hon. Member for Leigh—will do what is wanted, and I am very glad indeed to have the opportunity of moving this Clause and at the same time of acknowledging the fact that he and other hon. Members in different parts of the House have been pressing for it for some time.

7.38 p.m.

Mr. T. Smith

It is true that my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and others have for years been urging the acceptance of some such Clause as this, and during the Committee stage of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman undertook to see whether, between that stage and now, he could find suitable words to embody what my hon. Friend had in mind. A cursory glance at the language of the Clause suggests that the point has been met, and we thank the right hon. Gentleman for his action.

7.39 p.m.

Sir Percy Harris

I desire to join in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on having made this concession. The Clause as it now appears is complicated and involved, but that, of course, shows that it is designed really to achieve its purpose. It may come as a surprise to intelligent foreigners that, at a time of great financial pressure, when naturally the Chancellor is 10th to lose any revenue, however small, we can deal with a very real problem. One of our troubles at the present time is the decline in the practice of apprenticeship, owing to the temptation to parents. when money is short, taxes are high, and employment is irregular, to take the line of least resistance and put a boy or girl into an occupation which will bring money into the home. This Clause is more than the mere words; it is a message to parents. Not only are they to be encouraged to keep their children at school as long as possible, but, alternatively, to put the child into some occupation that will not only be for the child's ultimate good but for the advantage of the State—because it is an advantage to the State that we should have skilled labour. I understand that this will not involve a great loss of revenue, but it is a kind of concession that will be appreciated in thousands of homes, and I think the right hon. Gentleman should have every credit for making it.

7.41 p.m.

Sir Joseph Nall

I am sure that this concession will be very greatly appreciated. It will be welcomed in particular because it will do something to remove, if only in a small way, the invidious distinctions which so often exist between sedentary occupations and craftsmanship which requires some form of manual labour. There never was a time in our history when it was more necessary to encourage young people to accept training in craftsmanship and matters requiring manual skill, and, if only for that reason, the change is to be welcomed.

7.42 p.m.

Mr. A. Jenkins

I desire to join with other speakers in expressing satisfaction that the Chancellor has made this concession. We are all indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and those who have joined with him in putting forward this proposal from year to year. It is true that it has taken a long time to get the concession, but this year we have go it, and we are grateful to the Chancellor for it. As has been said by the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall), it will do away with the distinction between the different types of education that we have in this country. Hitherto the technical schools have been separated from the secondary schools, and this will have the effect of putting the different kinds of schools on a more equal basis and giving a higher status to the technical school than it has hitherto possessed. In addition, it will be to the advantage of the State, because more and more children will enter into some form of technical education and apprenticeship, which will be to the advantage of craftsmanship in this country. It will be of great advantage to the parents, the children, and the country as a whole.

7.44 P.m.

Mr. H. G. Williams

In connection with, I think, four Finance Bills, I have been associated with hon. Members on my own side in tabling a new Clause with the intention of this one, and I should like to join in the chorus of praise to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having at last agreed to do something. As I read the Clause, he has done it well. Naturally, it will involve him in a certain amount of expenditure, but, in one sense, the more expenditure in which it involves him the better it will be in the long run for the nation. One of the problems with which this country is faced is a shortage of highly trained people for the specialised tasks of industry, and anything which encourages an increase in these higher forms of training is very desirable. I rejoice beyond measure that at last this concession has been made. It is an encouragement to those of us who from time to time put down new Clauses to solve various problems. We know that they are a form of propaganda the first time we do it, and we live in the hope each year that the Chancellor will pick out one or two of us for promotion. One question I would like to ask the Chancellor. There may be a simple answer to it, but it would be well to have it on record. The first word in line 25, is "surveyor." The surveyor, I take it, is the officer of the Inland Revenue known as the surveyor of taxes. That used to be the title of the gentlemen to whom we made our returns, but now I understand they are known as inspectors.

7.46 p.m.

Mr. G. A. Morrison

As one interested in education, I would like to join in the chorus of congratulation. I have always supported this proposal when it has been made from the other side by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) or the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), because I never could see why one form of education should have preference over others. This concession will give to one of the many forms of education the prestige which we all think it should have.

7.47 P.m.

Sir J. Simon

With the leave of the House, may I just say, in reply to the question by my hon. Friend, that the word "surveyor" is really the right one. Section 27 of the Income Tax Act, 1918, designates this official as the "surveyor," although it is quite true that he is in ordinary parlance now known as the inspector of taxes. This proposal is not inexpensive. I am afraid that in a full year it is likely to cost £100,000.

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

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.