HC Deb 11 July 1939 vol 349 cc2095-103

Subsection (1) of Section twenty-two of the Finance Act, 1920 (which provides for deductions in respect of dependent relatives) shall have effect as if in the case of 'persons incapacitated by blindness the words "fifty pounds." were substituted for "twenty-five pounds."—[Mr. White.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.50 p.m.

Mr. White

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

This Clause proposes to extend the deduction in the case of persons incapacitated by blindness, and for that reason it must arouse the sympathy of every hon. Member present. The Clause really explains itself, but I may convey a fuller meaning of its purpose by reading a letter I have received from a correspondent who has a blind son. He writes: I will take my own case in order to show what I mean. Our eldest son, now over 40 years of age, has been blind since he was twp weeks old. We had him under the best of specialists for 11 years. He has always to have someone to look afterhim, and cannot be left by himself For him I can only claim £25 as the law stands. I certainly consider— and here I may interpolate that everybody here will consider, too— that all dependants should be allowed at least the same as a child. Would you be good enough … to raise this matter in the House The subject of this Clause has been in the minds of myself and other Members from time to time, and we consider it is a case in which justice will be met if the increased deduction is allowed.

4.52 p.m.

Mr. Kingsley Griffith

I beg to second the Motion.

I know it is customary for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or anyone representing the Treasury on an occasion like this, to say that he has the greatest sympathy with the Motion, but that if he accepted it, it would open the door to many similar claims. I do not think that should be said with regard to this case, because blindness has always been regarded with particular tenderness and it has always been realised that persons so afflicted have a claim on our attention greater perhaps than that of anyone else.

4.53 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Crookshank)

The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has almost taken my own words out of my own mouth. He expects the answer that we have great sympathy with the blind, but that if we do anything we shall open the door to other claims. His reason for thinking that the answer might be on those lines is, no doubt, that the matter was debated in Committee on another Amendment. It was then proposed that there should be an increased personal allowance for the totally blind. The arguments then adduced are not very different from those which will be brought forward to-day. The proposal in this new Clause is to double the normal allowance for dependent relatives if they are blind. Let me remind the House what the position is with regard to these allowances. A person who maintains a relative, of himself or his wife, who is incapacitated by old age or infirmity from maintaining himself or herself, is entitled to an allowance of £25 provided that the relative's total income does not exceed£50. There is inevitably bound to be a certain pathos when one is dealing with any aspect of total blindness. We are all at one about that. But it is, unfortunately, not the only infirmity from which people suffer who are unable to maintain themselves, and the short answer really is that the Income Tax laws cannot easily be made to reflect all the personal or domestic circumstances of various categories of taxpayers.

The whole principle of the structure of those laws is that allowances are related to matters which are so general that some uniform measure can be adopted for them. Personal allowances take account of subsistence charges, and expenses for family responsibilities cover infirm persons and children and dependent relatives. It is difficult to see how you can vary that type of allowance for particular cases, or how, from the point of view of the Income Tax laws—and I am not speaking from any other point of view—you can distinguish a person incapacitated by blindness and say that his is a harder case than that of someone bedridden, or suffering from incurable disease, or totally crippled for life. One comes into a range of disabilities in which it is difficult to pick and choose and say that one is harder than another. If the hon. Member will look up the Official Report for 3rd July, he will see that when my right hon. Friend was answering a case from this side of the House he quoted from the Royal Commission on Income Tax, which pointed out the different claims that have been made to them and the difficulty they felt in recommending any way in which they could be dealt with. During the Debates this year we have already had the case of blind people, and there was also an Amendment on the Order Paper dealing with the expenses of taxpayers in connection with disability. I know that hon. Members feel there is some difficulty in many of these cases, but the answer, generally speaking, is the same to all—that unless you are going to change entirely the whole principle on which Income Tax allowances have been based, it is impossible to single out one category of infirmity and leave others untouched. For that reason, and because the present matter has already been debated during the passage of the Finance Bill, I hope the House will reject this new Clause.

Mr. Ernest Evans

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many people would be affected by this Clause, and what the cost would be?

Captain Crookshank

I do not know the answer, but I am not basing my opposition on the ground of cost. I hope I have made it clear that it is on the ground of the general principle of the Income Tax Law.

4.59 p.m.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

We on this side, and many hon. Members opposite who have great sympathy with blind people, are bitterly disappointed at the reply of the Financial Secretary. We have raised repeatedly questions concerning people who belong to the most unfortunate section of the community, the blind, the infirm or the very poor, and on every occasion the right hon. Gentleman has made the same reply—that this would involve a change of principle. In this case it would do nothing of the kind, because the investigations that can take place under the Income Tax law—and I am sure the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) would welcome even an indication from the Government that they would institute an inquiry into the position of blind dependants—would clear up the position in regard to blind dependants. We have had strong vested interests not making appeals but making very definite demands. We have had industrial employers represented here putting forward claims with regard to the limitation of their profits and the percentage of profits that they may be

allowed, and we have had strong opposition from the other side against any attempt to reduce the amount of wealth that those strong vested interests can obtain.

It is time that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary turned to the position of what popular government should mean and dealt with those who need rebates and reductions and allowances before they deal with those who are at least comfortable, and many of whom are in good positions and living in very great wealth. Local authorities all over the country are making extensive allowances to blind people. In Glasgow, the second city of the Empire, Government pensions to blind persons amount roughly to £376,000 a year, but the local authorities themselves are paying more than £380,000 in addition. Blindness has always been recognised as a terrible infirmity, almost the worst that any man or woman can suffer. It is disgraceful that on this Bill we have made concessions of millions of pounds to vested interests while the cost of this concession that we are asking would be infinitesimal. I make a last appeal to the Financial Secretary, if he cannot guarantee that something can be done this year, to ask his right hon. Friend to set up an investigation to inquire fully into the circumstances of blind dependants with a view to bringing some betterment into their conditions of life.

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

The House divided: Ayes, 131; Noes, 217.

Division No. 231.] AYES. 5.6 p.m.
Adams, D. (Consett) Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Groves, T. E.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Daggar, G. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)
Adamson, W. M. Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Hardie, Agnes
Ammon, C. G. Day, H. Harris, Sir P. A.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Dobbie, W. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)
Banfield, J. W. Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)
Barnes, A. J. Ede, J. C. Henderson, J. (Ardwick)
Barr, J. Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) Henderson, T. (Tradeston)
Bartlett, C. V. O. Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Hills, A. (Pontefract)
Batey, J. Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Hollins, A.
Beaumont, H. (Bailey) Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Hopkin, D.
Bellenger, F. J. Foot, D. M. Jagger, J.
Benson, G. Gallacher, W. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)
Bevan, A. Gardner, B. W. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Garro Jones, G. M. John, W.
Buchanan, G. George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.
Burke, W. A. Gibson. R. (Greenock) Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)
Cape, T. Green, W. H. (Deptford) Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.
Charleton, H. C. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Kirkwood, D.
Cluse, W. S. Grenfell, D. R. Lawson, J. J.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Leach, W.
Collindridge, F. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Lee, F.
Cove, W. G. Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Leonard, W.
Leslie, J. R. Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Logan, D. G. Price, M. P. Thorne, W.
Lunn, W. Richards, R. (Wrexham) Tinker, J. J.
Macdonald, G. (Ince) Ridley, G Tomlinson, G.
McEntee, V. La T. Ritson, J. Viant, S. P.
McGhee, H. G. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens) Walker, J.
McGovern, J. Sanders, W. S. Watkins, F. C.
MacLaren, A. Seely, Sir H. M. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Maclean, N. Sexton, T. M. Welsh, J. C.
Mainwaring, W. H. Shinwell, E. Westwood, J.
Marshall, F. Silkin, L. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Mathers, G. Silverman, S. S. Wilkinson, Ellen
Maxton, J Simpson, F. B. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Montague, F. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe) Wilmot, John
Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Smith, E. (Stoke) Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Naylor, T. E. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly) Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Noel-Baker, P. J. Sorensen, R. W. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Owen, Major G. Stephen, C
Paling, W. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Parkinson, J. A. Stokes, R. R. Mr. Graham White and Mr. Ernest Evans.
Pearson, A. Straust, G. R. (Lambeth. N.)
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Culverwell, C. T. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Davidson, Viscountess McCorquodale, M. S.
Albery, Sir Irving Davies, C. (Montgomery) McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) De Chair, S. S. McKie, J. H.
Anderson, Sir A, Garrett (C, of Ldn.) De la Bère, R. Macnamara, Lt.-Col. J, R. J.
Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (So'h Univ't) Denman, Hon. R. D Magnay, T.
Anstruther Gray, W. J. Denville, Alfred Maitland, Sir Adam
Aske, Sir Ft. W. Doland, G. F. Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest
Assheton, R. Duggan, H. J. Manningham-Buller, Sir M.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Duncan, J, A. L- Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Edge, Sir W. Markham, S. F.
Balniel, Lord Edmondson, Major Sir J. Marsden, Commander A.
Barrie, Sir C. C. Ellis, Sir G. Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.
Baxter, A. Bevertey Emmott, C. E. G. C. Maxwell, Hon. S. A.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Erskine-Hill, A. G. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Beit, Sir A. L. Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.) Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)
Bennett, Sir E. N. Everard, Sir William Lindsay Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Blair, Sir R. Fildes, Sir H. Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.
Boothby, R. J. G. Fleming, E. L. Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)
Bossom, A. C. Fox, Sir G. W. G. Morris-Jones, Sir Henry
Boulton, W. W. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Boyce, H. Leslie Gluckstein, L. H. Munro, P.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose) Goldie, N. B. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.
Brass, Sir W. Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) Nicholson, G. (Farnham)
Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R. Nicolson, Hon. H. G.
Brooklebank, Sir Edmund Granville, E. L. O'Connor, Sir Terence J.
Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.) Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Gridley, Sir A. B. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Bullock, Capt. M. Grimston, R. V. Peat, C. U.
Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L Gritten, W. G. Howard Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Butcher, H. W. Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Pilkington, R.
Cartland, J. R. H. Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H. Porritt, R. W.
Carver, Major W. H. Harbord, Sir A. Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton
Gary, R. A. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Procter, Major H. A.
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Radford, E. A.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington. E.) Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Hepworth, J. Ramsay, Captain A. H. M
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Higgs, W. F. Rawson, Sir Cooper
Channon, H. Holdsworth, H. Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Holmes, J. S. Remer, J. R.
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Christie, J. A. Howitt, Dr. A. B. Ropner, Colonel L.
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Rosbotham, Sir T.
Clarry, Sir Reginald Hunloke, H. P. Ross Taylor, W. (Wood bridge)
Clydesdale, Marquess of Hunter, T. Rowlands, G.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Colfox, Major Sir W. P. Keeling, E. H. Russell, Sir Alexander
Conant, Captain R. J. E. Kerr, Colonel C.I. (Montrose) Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Colville, Rt. Hon. John Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Salmon, Sir I.
Conant, Captain R. J. E. Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.) Salt, E. W.
Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Kimball, L. Samuel, M. R. A.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Leech, Sir J. W. Sandeman, Sir N. S.
Cooper, Rt. Hon. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs) Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Courthope Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L. Levy, T. Schuster, Sir G. E.
Crooks, Sir J. Smedley Liddall, W. S. Selley, H. R.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Lipson, D. L. Shaw, Captain W T. (Forfar)
Cross, R. H. Llewellin, Colonel J. J. Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Crossley, A. C. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. o. S. Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.
Crowder, J. F. E. Loftus, P. C. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich) Tate, Mavis C. Wayland, Sir W. A.
Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.) Wells, Sir Sydney
Smithers, Sir W. Thomas, J. P. I. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor) Thorneycroft, G. E. P. Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Spears, Brigadier-General E. L. Touche, G. C. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Spens, W. P. Train, Sir J. Wise, A. R.
Stanley, Fit. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld) Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Stourton, Major Hon. J. J Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L. Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Strauss, H. G. (Norwich) Wakefield, W. W. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Strickland, Captain W. F. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F. Warrander, Sir V. Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and Lieut.-
Tasker, Sir R. I. Waterhouse, Captain C. Colonel Harvie Watt.