HC Deb 18 June 1941 vol 372 cc765-9

Where, through enemy action or economic circumstances in the industry, any person incurs unavoidable additional expense in travelling to and from his employment, or where any such person changes his employment to take up essential war work in a district other than that in which he resides and thereby incurs unavoidable additional expense in removal or in travelling to and from his employment, he may claim that such additional expense shall be deducted from or set off against any profits or gains accruing from such employment, and paragraph (a) of Rule 3 of the Rules applicable to Cases I and II of Schedule D shall be construed accordingly. — (Mr. G. Macdonald.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Gordon Macdonald (Ince)

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

I put forward this proposal with some confidence because of the attitude of the Chancellor of the Exchequer when it was discussed about two months ago. It is aimed at removing certain difficulties which we all appreciate. The question needs to be examined with some sympathy by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. These men do not choose to live so far from their work in many cases, and even if they do, they are to be complimented. I never agreed that a man should live on a pit top. He sees enough of the pit during his working hours; and I cannot blame him for getting as far away as possible from the pit when he is not working. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knows that the differences in expenses may vary from 5s. to as much as 10s. a week or slightly more in these cases.

Let me give an example. A man may live next door to another, who is working at a local colliery. They draw similar wages, but because the former has to get up an hour earlier and travel perhaps 10 miles by bus or train to his work, he has to spend two hours more at least away from his home each day than is the case with the man next door. He is nevertheless penalised, and that cannot be justified in any way. I feel sure that the Chancellor will find that relief should be given in such cases; if not in the way suggested, then in some other way.

Mr. Graham White

I wish to support what has just been said. My hon. Friend spoke more particularly about mining areas, but I have information in some detail in connection with big industrial areas. I urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accept the proposed new Clause on the ground of its effect upon production, which is dependent in general upon the fitness of those concerned. In normal times I do not think the case for considering this proposal would be so great, but in these times men do not always choose where they work. That may make a difference of 10s., 15s., or— and I have a case—of 23s. a week in expenses, over which the man has no control whatever.

I could speak at length on this matter and cite a large number of cases, but I am satisfied that, in the cases where people have to leave their homes, where they may have suffered great loss from air bombardment and furniture has been destroyed, and when, on top of that, they have to live 10 or 15 miles or even further distances from their work, there are consequent increases in their expenditure over which they have no control whatsoever. They then say they will have to pay Income Tax on that sum of 10s. or 15s., and it is a source of great irritation. It is an anomaly which, I think, could be removed in the interests of production and the war effort.

Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)

I also want to support this Clause. I have in mind my constituency with a working-class population working outside the coalfield, in munition works a considerable distance away. For a number of reasons the munition works in my constituency did not come directly to the coalfield, and there was a demand soon after the outbreak of war for skilled men to go to those works. At very considerable sacrifice men have gone, and many hundreds have to travel not only 10 miles a day as my hon. Friend has mentioned, but in some cases up to 40 miles, 20 miles there and 20 miles back, incurring bus expenses of 5s., 8s. or even 10s. a week, which have to be deducted from their wages. I suggest that cases of that sort require looking into. In the case of land and house property, Income Tax is collected under Schedule A after certain reasonable expenses have been deducted. I suggest that in the case of a workman, whose only property is his labour, reasonable expenditure of that kind should also be deducted. It is much the same kind of thing, and if there is a case for reduction in one, there is a case in the other. I also feel that it tends to lower the morale when there is a feeling of inequality, as must occur when men living in the same town or village as others working there have to go a long way to work in answer to the nation's call and are penalised in comparison with the men who work close to their homes. If the Chancellor can possibly see his way to equalise their position he will be raising the standard of morale in industrial districts where these conditions apply.

Sir K. Wood

My hon. Friends have put their case, as they always do, with considerable force and reason, and while, as they quite understand, I am not really in a position to make many concessions in view of the financial difficulties which face me, I feel I ought to try to do something to help in this particular matter. At the moment I am only just indicating what is in my mind; I will confer with my right hon. and gallant Friend and with those who are interested as to the kind of Clause I would put upon the Paper, for obviously I must have some protection. I understand that the request is made particularly on behalf of what you might call the workers, and I must not become involved in extending it to all classes of the com- munity. As I understand it, the case is being put in the interests of the war effort on behalf of men who have been practically ordered to go away to work at distances involving considerable travelling expenses. It will also be necessary to have some limitation in regard to the amount, but that I can discuss with my hon. Friends outside. I will therefore consider, between now and the Report stage, exactly what I can do and the amount I can sacrifice. It may mean a fair sum, even with a limited concession, but I feel, for the reasons my hon. Friends have given both in regard to the war effort and the encouragement of the men, that this is a case where I should be justified in making a special exception.

Mr. Tinker (Leigh)

I want to say on behalf of my hon. Friends and myself that we appreciate the sympathetic attitude of the Chancellor, and we believe that he will try to do something before the Report stage. I can only add that this is a concession to working people which will be appreciated, and I can emphasise what has been said from these benches that travelling to and from work is one of the things to which the workers expect more regard to be given. It is very unfair that 5s., 6s., or even 10s. a week should be taken out of their wages and there should be no recompense. Therefore I am very pleased indeed that the Chancellor has seen our point of view, and I shall await with interest the new Clause he is to draft.

Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)

I regret that I was not able to be present during the discussion, and I would like to make a constructive suggestion to the Chancellor. The difficulty about making the concession will be the control of it. There are, therefore, two or three points which strike me. I believe that at the moment a man who is sent by his employer to another town to work, and whose travelling expenses are paid in addition to his wages, has no Income Tax charged on the travelling expenses. I suggest that the same rule should be applied to men sent from their towns by Employment Exchanges. [AN HON. MEMBER: "That is going to limit it."] That is one way, if a man is appointed by the Employment Exchange to go to work 20 miles or 15 miles away in a factory, or a miner is sent down from the valleys to Cardiff to work. That is under Government control, and there is no difficulty. In the case of people who have been blitzed, I can speak of people in my own area. Some of them are from 25 to 30 miles away. They have to travel to important work every day in connection with the Admiralty, and it is quite unjustifiable that they should have to pay Income Tax on that travelling. It is just as effective as though their employers had sent them away. Evacuation is under the control of the Department of Health in Scotland and the Ministry of Health in England, and if the Chancellor could have the approval of these Departments there would be a check through them or the Assistance Board. These are two methods by which there could be control. I do not exclude the concessions that could be made in other directions, but very frequently the Chancellor puts it to. us that unless we can suggest some means of doing what is asked he cannot do it, and I think it well to offer constructive suggestions when we can do so.

Sir J. Lamb

I think it would be very inadvisable for us, after what the Chancellor has said, to consider this matter in detail. The satisfaction at the statement made by the Chancellor will be felt on all sides of the House. I would like to add something about what the Chancellor cannot do and which, therefore, is not a detail of what he is going to do. There will be an additional loss to the men in loss of time which cannot be included in this concession. I hope that when he is being sympathetic to those men he will remember that these men have lost time as against a man living near to his work. Do not let us consider the details. These will be gone into later on, but I wish to say that we on all sides of the House do appreciate the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. G. Macdonald

In view of the Chancellor's undertaking, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Clause.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.