§ (1) If the Minister declares to the Commissioners that in any accounting period the total receipts of a business under armament contracts were not less than two hundred thousand pounds or, if the accounting period is less than twelve months, not less than such sum as bears to two hundred thousand pounds the like proportion that the length of the period bears to twelve months, the business shall, in relation to any chargeable accounting period which consists or forms part of that accounting period, be deemed to be an armament business.
§ Provided that, before making any such declaration with respect to a business, the Minister shall give to the person carrying on that business at least twenty-eight days' notice that he proposes to do so and shall consider any representations made by that person before the expiration of that period and if he makes the declaration, shall notify that person accordingly.
§ (2) For the purposes of the provisions of this Act relating to armament profits duty the expression "armament contract" means, in relation to any business —
- (a) a contract between the person carrying on the business and His Majesty's Kingdom, being—
- (i) a contract for the supply of anything required for the purposes of the armed forces of the Crown or of any foreign armed forces, or for the supply of any machines, tools, or materials required for making or repairing anything required for those purposes;
- (ii) a contract for the execution of any works required for those purposes; or
- (iii) a contract for the supply of any such equipment, appliances or other materials as are mentioned in Section nine of the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937;
- (b)a contract under which the person carrying on the business supplies anything to, or executes any works for, any other person, being a contract entered into by that other person for the purpose of enabling him to perform an armament contract; or
- (c)a contract between the person carrying on the business (being a company) and His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom for the construction, alteration or management by the company as agent for that Government of any factory in the United Kingdom which belongs, or is to belong, to the Crown:
§ Provided that nothing in this Sub-section shall apply to any contract for the supply of any such articles or materials as may from time to time be specified in an Order of the Minister, being articles or materials which in his opinion are commonly required for purposes other than those mentioned in this Subsection and for that reason cannot equitably 581 be brought within the scope of the provisions thereof.—[Mr. Burgin.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 12 midnight.
§ The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Burgin)
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
The Committee will find this new Clause relatively simple. 'First of all, it is the Minister, defined in the definition Clause, who declares to the Commissioners, also defined in the definition Clause, that if in any accounting period, also defined, the total receipts of a business under armament contract were not less than the £200,000, or a proportionate figure for a proportionately less time, the business shall for that period be deemed to be an armament business. Before making a declaration the Minister gives the person carrying on the business 28 days' notice of his intention; he considers any representations made by the firm; makes the declaration and notifies the person that he has done so. For the purpose of this new Clause the Armament Profits Duty will only apply to armament contracts, and, accordingly, the new Clause states what an armament contract is. I call the attention of the Committee to the definition of armament work which goes to the root of the whole of this special tax proposal. It is a contract made between a business and His Majesty's Government. Under the new Clause it is only contracts placed by His Majesty's Government which involve an application of the duty, and these contracts are sub-divided into various kinds.
First, a contract for the supply of something for the armed forces of the Crown or of foreign armed forces, or for the supply of machine tools or materials required for the making or repairing of anything required for this purpose, that is, the armed Forces of the Crown or the armed forces of a foreign country. Second, a contract for the carrying out of any works, buildings, barracks or hutments—third, a contract for the supply of equipment and materials under Section 9 of the Air-Raid Precautions Act, 1937, and the Committee will remember that those refer to equipment, appliances and material as the Secretary of State may consider necessary for affording protection to persons and property from injury or damage in the event of an attack from the air. Those 582 are apt words, and they really in fact cover the materials referred to in the Civil Defence Bill. The next type of contract brings in the sub-contractors:a contract under which the person carrying on the business supplies anything to, or executes any works for, any other person, being a contract entered into by that other person for the purpose of enabling him to perform an armament contract.We have already, under earlier parts of the Clause, dealt with the main contractor. Sub-section (2, b) deals with a contract between some other person and the main contractor. Then there is a different class of contract altogether, which deals with such matters as the Government shadow factories—a contract between the person carrying on the business and His Majesty's Government for the construction, alteration or management by the company as agent for the Government of any factory in the United Kingdom which belongs, or is to belong, to the Crown. The Committee knows that a great number of factories have been put up as Crown property, in connection with which the Crown does not deplete Woolwich Arsenal in order to provide the management of the factory, but makes; a contract for an engineering or other concern to run the factory as agents for the Government. That type of agency contract is treated as an armament contract within this definition.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
How are you going to requite the individual who takes control of a factory of this description? It is a Government factory. How are you going to requite the individual who is going to run such a factory for the Government. Will he get a salary?
§ Mr. Burgin
I am much obliged to the hon. Member. There are, in fact, a large number of these contracts in existence, and it will be quite easy to give details broadly on one or other of them if the hon. Member, or any other hon. Member, so desires. As a rule, there is a remuneration provided for operating the factory on Government account. But what I am concerned with on this Clause is to point out that a contract of this character, however the remuneration is calculated, becomes an armament contract within the meaning of this Clause.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
This is a point of interest. On the Clyde they want to know 583 — the Minister is forcing me to give a name—how much salary or otherwise Sir James Lithgow, for instance, is going to get for running Dalmuir for the Government.
§ Mr. Burgin
I am not proposing to give figures. What I am saying is that the contract for the running of Dalmuir or any other Government factory is an armament contract within the meaning of this definition. The only other part of this Clause which I need explain to the Committee is the concluding proviso. The proviso says:that nothing in this subsection shall apply to any contract for the supply of any such articles or materials as may from time to time be specified in an Order of the Minister, being articles or materials which in his opinion are commonly required for purposes other than those mentioned in this Subsection and for that reason cannot equitably be brought within the scope of the provisions thereof.I will give the Committee one or two examples to show the meaning attached to this proviso. The sort of subject matter which will be treated as not equitably being included in armament contracts will be food, coal, perhaps paper, perhaps unwrought ores, and materials of that kind. [An HON. MEMBER: "Steel".] No, steel will come within the Clause. The proviso must be observed. It is not because they are common, but because of common use, and because it would be inequitable to include them as part of the armament contract. The Committee may like to know that when the Royal Assent is given to the Ministry of Supply Bill, it is the intention that it should be the Minister of Supply who becomes the Minister within the meaning of this Clause; and what will happen will be that when the Finance Bill and the Ministry of Supply Bill have received the Royal Assent, it will be the intention of the Prime Minister to issue an explanatory memorandum showing to all concerned exactly how it is proposed to administer this Clause. For the purpose of moving the Second Reading of the Clause and giving the Committee information I have perhaps explained sufficiently its ambit, and purpose.
§ 12.10 a.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
We have before us this very extensive Clause. I do not know whether the Government really imagine that we can get the whole Com- 584 mittee stage by to-morrow evening. I do not think they realise what an immense burden they are throwing on the Committee. I do not think anything is to be gained by trying to drive the House of Commons at this rate. We have not had time to go into the details which are quite necessary if this tax is to be fairly considered. I should like to ask how far it is proposed to go to-night. I think we might give the right hon. Gentleman the Second Reading of the Clause if he would be content with that, and then we could discuss the Amendments at a more suitable hour. It is exceedingly difficult to start on them at this hour of the night.
§ Sir J. Simon
I think we ought to get the Clause. I put these Clauses down so that they were before Members as soon as the Resolution itself was put down. It is not the case that the Clause was put down at a day's notice or that it has been altered in any material way. We are obliged sometimes to sit a little late in Committee on the Finance Bill. I have no desire to see the House driven. I think it would be reasonable to get the Clause and then stop.
If there is to be a discussion the right hon. Gentleman should move to report Progress so as to put himself in order.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
There has not been anything in the nature of obstruction. The main part of the Debate has been taken up by supporters of the right hon. Gentleman. I think they were very reasonable because they had a good many points to make, and they were comparatively short. I do not think we ought to be asked to go to the end of the Clause. There are several Amendments which are quite in order, and we ought to have adequate time to consider them.
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger
May I make this appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury who is responsible for the arrangement of business? We have had a very heavy day discussing very intricate matters, and most of the speeches have been from the Government side. Any speeches that have been made from this side have been brief and to the point. Very soon the hour will be so late that 585 many of us will feel that we might as well stay here, and if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury does not prove reasonable, the Committee may be kept sitting for a very long time to-night. On that ground, I ask him to comply with the reasonable request of my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Gallacher
In view of the complicated character of this Clause which involves many questions apart from those raised in the Amendments, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury ought to accept our proposal to report Progress. If he does not, then we should summon together the cohorts on this side and keep the Committee sitting until hon. Members opposite are completely exhausted. It is either report Progress, or no home to-night for anybody.
I beg the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be considerate in this matter. We are not making any complaint about the way in which the proceedings on the Bill have been conducted, but this is a question of being asked to deal with very intricate and difficult questions at a very late hour of the night. The right hon. Gentleman said just now that we all knew the procedure on Finance Bills and how they often involved late sittings, but he will recognise that the Government have been driving the House of Commons very hard in other respects. We have had, in the last two or three weeks, other Bills of a major character. We have Committees to attend to-morrow morning. One of those Committees is dealing with a large and important Government Bill and already, after only one sitting the Government Whips are suggesting that that Committee should sit in the afternoons as well as in the mornings. Indeed the House of Commons is being pressed in a way that is almost unprecedented. That is not fair to the Opposition. If we are to bring clear minds to the consideration of questions of great mathematical and legal difficulty, this kind of work ought to be done at an hour when we are in a fit physical condition to deal with it effectively. I pay a tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) who has, with great persistence and tenacity, stuck to a long and difficult job on behalf of the Opposition, but I think it com- 586 pletely unreasonable and unfair that we should be asked to proceed any further to-night.
§ 12.20 a.m.
§ Sir J. Simon
I feel that we must consider how we are to proceed with the consideration of this Bill, not only to-night but to-morrow. I do not want to put an unfair burden upon anybody, but we have to get the work done within a certain time. I do not know whether we might take it from the right lion. Gentleman opposite, that if we agreed now to what he has suggested, it would be understood that we would get the whole of the Bill to-morrow. We cannot possibly break off the consideration of the Bill at this stage, if the result is to be that to-morrow exactly the same situation will arise so that we shall not be able to complete the Committee stage to-morrow. I wish to consult the convenience of all, and personally I should be very glad to stop now, but it would not be possible for us to stop now and then to find that we could not get the rest of the Bill to-morrow. If the right hon. Gentleman who made the first appeal and who said he would like time to look through this Clause, is able to say that the Opposition realise that position, and if it is understood that we shall get the rest of the Bill to-morrow, be it so. But I am afraid that there is not another day available for the Committee stage and that we must either go further to-night or make some arrangement about to-morrow.
§ 12.22 a.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I ask the Committee to look at the new Clauses and the Government Amendments on the Order Paper and they will realise how unreasonable is the request of the Government. There are six pages of new Clauses put down by the Government on this Armament Profits Duty. There are other Clauses on which we have a right to some discussion which occupy four or five pages. Then we have three pages of Amendments put down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Schedules and four further pages of proposed new Schedules. The right hon. Gentleman must realise that he cannot expect to drive all that business through between now and Friday morning. If we demand, as any Opposition is entitled to demand, reasonable discussion on each one of these proposals, the right hon. Gentleman could 587 not possibly get them through. He can only get this Bill in reasonable time, with the consent of the Opposition. As regards any undertaking about the completion of the Committee stage, I must tell him that he will not get it. Here are some 16 pages of the Order Paper each containing four or five Amendments on every one of which we are entitled to have some discussion. It may be that if the Government prove reasonable in regard to the Amendments relating to the Armament Profits Duty, we shall be able to get through the business fairly quickly, but I cannot give any promise, and if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury cannot meet us, and if he insists on completing this Clause to-night, I am afraid he will find that it will take a very considerable time even to get the Second Reading of the Clause.
§ 12.24 a.m.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
This is not an appeal by an Opposition which is fighting every Clause of the Bill to the last word. We are only asking that these proposals should have reasonable exposition and discussion. To-night, important proposals have gone through with the most cursory explanation. I submit that the issue which we are now discussing is the issue of whether or not the House of Commons is to justify itself by reasonable discussion. If the country realised that we were going to pass this vast and complicated proposal with the ridiculous amount of discussion which is being offered by the right hon. Gentleman, it would bring the House of Commons into great disrepute, I would say to the Patronage Secretary that even if this does involve some difficulty in getting the Bill through, this particular business is not of such vast importance as to bring the whole procedure and reputation of the House of Commons into disrepute. I therefore ask him to hazard the result of to-morrow's progress in an endeavour to maintain the decency of discussion which we ought to maintain, and to say that he will be prepared, if he gets the Second Reading of the Clause, to defer until tomorrow the pressure which he seeks to bring upon us to-night.
§ 12.26 a.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Margesson)
I have only this to say, that when the Prime 588 Minister announced last Thursday the business for this week he did say that the Committee stage of the Bill would be concluded on Thursday night. The Amendment Paper on the Finance Bill was then before the House, the White Paper had been issued on the new Clauses, and so the House knew what was being expected of it, and no protest was made at that time about the conclusion of the Committee stage on Thursday night. At Question Time to-day no inquiry was made of the Government as to how far we were going to-night. The suspension of the Eleven o'Clock Rule was moved it is true, for a limited purpose, in order to get the Financial Resolution on Cotton the Committee stage of the Finance Bill being exempted business but if a question on business had been put to the Prime Minister the answer would have been: "We desire to make good progress with the Committee stage of the Finance Bill and to get to such a point as will ensure the conclusion of the Committee stage by to-morrow."
I think the right hon. Gentleman who is leading the Opposition will realise that as far as one was able to arrange a timetable for the early part of to-day's proceedings, it was adhered to. In fact, until we got to the point where the question was, "That Clause 25 stand part of the Bill" we were 10 minutes in front of the little schedule I had worked out in my own mind for the proceedings. Therefore, by no stretch of the imagination can it be said that any time was wasted there. I had thought that it would be possible to make good progress with the A. P. D. Clauses in Committee this evening, and I should still have hoped that with a little more time spent upon them we should be able to dispose of the Clauses under consideration. The right hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to realise that on the Committee stage of the Finance Bill it is not unusual to sit a little bit late, and it is now only half-past 12. Further, I would remind the Committee that last night an appeal was made that we should stop in good time and that I at once acceded to it, "made no bones about it," and we rose about midnight. I wonder, therefore, whether it would not be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider what he has said and to agree that we should dispose of these new Clauses. If that 589 could be done, I really think it would give us a good start for to-morrow.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is asking us to give him the whole of these Clauses, which have all these Amendments down to them, and deal with matters of great importance. I cannot possibly agree to give him the whole of these Clauses.
§ 12.29 a.m.
§ Mr. McEntee
What the Patronage Secretary has said is true as far as it goes, but we were not aware that there were to be so many pages of new Clauses as the Government have put down. If we were to take all the new Clauses now there would be little opportunity for the Ministers concerned to do more than give us a short explanation of them, and any possibility of discussion by the Committee generally would be cut out. It appears to me to be utterly unreasonable to take that attitude. It is easy for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury to say that a little further time will enable the House to get on, but I put it to him that it is not so easy for some as it may be for him. It is perfectly easy for those who can afford it to get home in their cars, driven by their chauffeurs, but it is not possible for some of us to get home if we are kept here to the unreasonable hours that we must expect. We might just as well wait until the trains are running to-morrow morning, which is the only time some of us can get home at all.
§ 12.31 a.m.
§ Sir J. Simon
It is a pity that we should have to throw out the whole programme, which is discussed, as hon. Members opposite know, so constantly with those who speak for them on the other side, but it seems to me that if the right hon. Gentleman says that he thinks it would be asking too much to go beyond giving us the Second Reading of this Clause I think we had better say that that will do to-night. I am sorry about it, because I agree that we are all trying to it in what is really a lot of work in the time which is available. There are very good reasons why we should try to save time in the general interest. It will undoubtedly mean that we shall have a late sitting to-morrow. We cannot help that, but rather than go on arguing about it to-night it would be better to concede the point. I hope everybody will get a good night and come back to-morrow prepared to sit it out.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I think he has taken a good House of Commons course and a course which will facilitate the passage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ 12.33 a.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I think that on the Second Reading of this Clause there is not a great deal which need be said. Points will arise to be discussed on the Amendments, and I would refer to only one subject which we cannot move to amend because of the Financial Resolution, and that is the matter of the 200,000. I quite realise that for administrative purposes it is of great importance not to bring in a large number of small people, but, be that as it may, I think the figure of 200,000 is far too high. I have been interested to see that in the Press of those who support the Government and the Press which supports the Opposition that view is upheld. In nearly all the papers I have read the figure of 200,000 is regarded as too high, and it is suggested that there would be nothing undesirable if the figure were 100,000 or even 50,000. The Government, in keeping the figure as high as 200,000, are keeping it far above what it ought to be. I hope that perhaps after a year the Government will be able to cut it down to a much lower figure.
§ Clause read a Second time.
§ Ordered, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."[Captain Margesson.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.