HC Deb 29 June 1939 vol 349 cc789-95

Sub-section (1) of section eighteen of the Finance Act, 1920 (which, as amended by section forty of the Finance Act, 1927, section eight of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1931, section twenty of the Finance Act, 1935, and section sixteen of the Finance Act, 1936, provides for a deduction of tax on one hundred and eighty pounds in the case of married persons), shall have effect as if the words "two hundred pounds" were substituted for the words "one hundred and eighty pounds."— [Mr. Simpson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

11.30 p.m.

Mr. Simpson

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

I regret that a Clause of this social importance should come before the Committee for consideration at so late an hour. Varied claims and special pleadings have been made during the discussions on the Finance Bill but this Clause comes into an entirely different category. We must recognise that there is an economic datum line below which no decent family may be maintained. If things proceed as they are going, we may reach a position where there may be some difficulty about the family being brought into being. There are people who, being thoughtful about the future, hesitate to take the risk of having a family. This proposal affects a range of persons who might give us families and add to our population, just the type of people who, in the matter of health and education, would be of value. Taxation enters in some degree, into payments for food, clothing and shelter, and therefore, without the payment of any direct taxation, the people most affected by this Clause would be making a substantial contribution to the State—a contribution, indeed, which is out of all proportion to their incomes. The totalitarian States, by one method or another, are paying special attention to the question of population, and encouraging the family. Whatever degree of urgency, or otherwise, we attach to the question, this proposal refers to the very fundamentals of the life of the community itself. These are desperate days in regard to national needs and financial claims, but, for that very reason, we should be especially concerned about marriage and the home. It is true that this proposal would be of advantage to homes without children, but it would be no less advantageous in cases where there are children. I am not suggesting that in all instances there are careful budgetary calculations before people enter into matrimony—perhaps it is as well that that is not the case—but where that is so, this concession would be an inducement to people to marry, and where such calculations are not made, this would be a justifiable assistance in meeting imprudence. There are wide and increasing fields for taxation without anti-social effects.

In some directions taxation imposes a desirable restrain on expenditure which is unwise or of doubtful social value. Therefore, to increase taxation to compensate for the concession for which we ask in this case would possibly prove of cumulative social advantage, and the proposal is justifiable on every sound social canon and principle, and, in the long run, would be advantageous on economic grounds. It would be a contribution and stimulus to those influences that are possibly much neglected in these days. It would be a correction and emphasises on the deepest individual and collective values which make for real contentment and the fulfilment of personality. Finally, I believe that it deals with a problem that is vital to the life, and indeed the existence of this country at the present time. It would strengthen the roots of those influences that make decent life and civilisation possible, and although the range of this proposition is limited in the Clause, as I recognise, yet, as a gesture, and as an emphasis on principle to the extent indicated, I beg to submit it to the Committee on the grounds I have briefly enumerated.

11.37 p.m.

Mr. Ritson

I beg to support the Motion. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Simpson) has struck a very vital chord. He suggests that the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to consider that there is a feeling going through the country to-day that it is not worth while having children at all because the burden is too great. That has not only been suggested, but it is being practised to an extent which makes me, as the father of a fairly large family, very alarmed. I never paid Income Tax until I came to this House. I was never fortunate enough to get to that stage, but when I first came here, I found that I had a protective value of five children under 14. That was helpful in that sense, but, whenever you say to a man, "How many are you in family?," he will say, "I cannot afford to have more than one or two." That is the sort of thing that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the nation ought to consider. We are always being told to increase the family. I remember that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Mr. A. Herbert), whom I call a loose-box comedian, was once very sore concerning the suggestion of the need for increasing the families of this country, but I would suggest a better way than that which he suggested, and that is, to give relief to such people as widows who have no margin to work on in a time like this. Generally speaking, I find that skilled men and hard-working people have only an amount of money which just allows them to scrape along, and rather than allow themselves to be handicapped by getting hopelessly in debt, they refuse to reproduce them selves or to function in any way beneficial to the nation.

I remember that when we were dealing with this matter two years ago we on this side were criticised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), who reminded us that, if we would only do our arithmetic first and speak afterwards, it would be a good thing for us mentally, morally and politically. I should not worry if I were in the same position as the hon. Member for South Croydon as I should have a margin upon which to work. When the late Lord Snowden was in this House and the hon. Member for South Croydon was continually interrupting him, shouting and howling inarticulate things, he told him to sit still and keep his mouth shut. When we are told that we do not understand the subject because we do not know our mathematics, all I can say is that the fathers and mothers of families on £ 200 a year are the best mathematicians I know. This is no sentimental appeal. We are all anxious that there should be a more equitable distribution of the burden and that there should be no attempt to curtail their liberties and functioning in life.

11.42 p.m.

Captain Crookshank

We all appreciate the arguments which have been put forward as to the value to the nation and to the individual of family life, but we must look at the other side of the picture. We are entitled to point out that during recent years a great deal has in fact been done for just this section of the community in the way of allowances if or married men and children. I would re mind the Committee that a great deal has been done in recent Budgets in one way and another to assist the small taxpayers, and it is only right that this should be remembered, particularly when appeals are made to go a little further. Look at what has happened in the last few years. In 1935 the marriage allowance was raised from £150 to £170 and in the same year another valuable concession was made. There was a reduction in the charge on the first amount of the taxable income from one-half to one-third of the standard rate. In 1936, when it was possible to remit taxation because of the improvement in our general position, the marriage allowance was raised from £ to £ 180, and in the same year the children's allowance was raised from £ 50 to £ 60, the highest figure it has ever been. Then, last year, my right hon. Friend found it possible to reduce again the charge on the first portion of taxable income and bring the amount due to what it was before in spite of the rise in the standard rate of tax. Hon. Members must not overlook the fact that a great deal has been done for the people for whom hon. Members are appealing, and we are justified in making that point. It is not as if nothing has been done for this section of taxpayers, whether you look at it from the marriage allowance point of view or the children's allowance point of view.

It is, of course, very disappointing to have to give the same answer "No" on three successive new Clauses, but that is often the case when we come to the new Clauses on the Finance Bill, because new Clauses are apt to raise questions of considerable difficulty and always of great expense. This particular concession would really be an expensive one. It is estimated that in a full year it would cost £4,500,000, and having had to refuse the last new Clause, deserving though it was, because it would have cost £1,500,000, no-one will be surprised if this concession,

which would cost £4,500,000, certainly cannot be considered at present. I am sorry that it should be so, and I ask the Committee to reflect upon what has recently been done for the section of small taxpayers in the way of relief.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes 94; Noes 136.

Division No. 208.] AYES. [11.46 p.m.
Acland, Sir R. T. D. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Parkinson, J. A.
Adams, D. (Consett) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Pearson, A.
Adams,D. M. (Poplar, S.) Groves, T. E. Price, M. P.
Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford) Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Pritt, D. N.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Richards, R. (Wrexharm)
Ammon, C. G. Hayday, A. Ritson, J.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Batty, J. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Selley, H. R.
Bellenger, F. J Hills, A. (Pontefract) Sexton, T. M.
Benson, G. Hopkin, D. Silverman, S. S.
Buchanan, G. Isaacs, G. A. Simpson, F. B.
Burks, W. A. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Charleton, H. C. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cluse, W. S. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Cocks. F. S. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Stephen, C.
Collindridge, F. Lathan, G. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-la-Sp'ng)
Cove, W. G. Lawson, J. J. Stokes, R. R.
Daggar, G. Leach, W. Thurtle, E.
Dalton, H. Lunn, W. Tinker, J. J.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Macdonald, G. (Ince) Viant, S. P.
Dobbie, W. McEntee, V. La T. Watkins, F. C.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) McGhee, H. G. Watson, W. McL.
Ede, J. C. MacLaren, A. Welsh, J. C.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Marshall, F. Westwood, J.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Mathers, G. White, H. Graham
Fool, D. M. Maxton, J. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Frankel, D. Milner, Major J. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Gallacher, W. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Wilmot, John
Garro Jones, G. M. Naylor, T. E. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Oliver, G. H. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Paling, W.
Grenfell, D. R. Parker, J. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Adamso
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Hannon, Sir P. J. H.
Albery, Sir Irving Cross, R. H. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Cruddas, Col. B. Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.
Apsley, Lord Culver well, C. T. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.
Aske, Sir R. W. Davidson, Viscountess Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. De Chair, S. S. Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A, (Monmouth)
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Dugdale, Captain T. L. Higgs, W. F.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Duggan, H. J. Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.
Beechman, N. A. Duncan, J. A. L. Howitt, Dr. A. B.
Bird, Sir R. B. Eastwood, J. F. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)
Bossom, A. C. Edmondson, Major Sir J. Hunloke, H. P.
Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness) Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Hutchinson, G. C.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Elliston, Capt. G. S. Jennings, R.
Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Emery, J. F. Joel, D. J. B.
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Emrys-Evans, P. V. Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Fleming, E. L. Lamb, Sir J. Q.
Browne, A. C. Belfast, W.) Furness, S. N. Liddall, W. S.
Bull, B. B. Gluckstein, L. H. Lipson, D. L.
Butcher, H. W. Goldie, N. B. Llewellin, Colonel J. J.
Castlereagh, Viscount Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R. Loftus, P. C.
Channon, H. Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Gridley, Sir A. B. MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
Calman, N. C. D. Grimston, R. V. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle d Wight)
Conant, Captain R. J. E. Gritten, W. G. Howard McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) McKie, J. H.
Cox, H. B. Trevor Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Craven-Ellis, W. Hambro, A. V. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Crooks, Sir J. Smedley Hammersley, S. S. Markham, S. F.
Medlicott, F. Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry) Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Rowlands, G. Walker-Smith, Sir J.
Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, S tour bridge) Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Russell, Sir Alexander Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Nall, Sir J. Sandys, E. D. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvia
Peaky, O. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st) Wayland, Sir W. A
Peters, Dr. S. J. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich) Wells, Sir Sydney
Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton Smithers, Sir W. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Prector, Major H. A. Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Radford, E. A, Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Raikes, H. V. A. M. Spears, Brigadier-Central E. L. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Ramsay, Captain A. H. M Spens, W. P. Wragg, H.
Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H Strauss, H. G. (Norwich) York, C.
Rankin, Sir R Strickland, Captain W. F.
Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Reid, W. Allan (Darby) Thorneycroft, G. E. P. Lieut.-Colonel Kerr and Mr.
Richards, G. W. (Skipton) Thornton-Kemsley, C. N. Munro.
Ropner, Colonel L. Tree, A. R. L. F.

Resolution agreed to.

Ordered, That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.— [Captain Margesson.]

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.