§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Anderson)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The main purpose of this Bill is to carry out an undertaking which I gave to the House on 2nd November in the course of the Debate on the first Pay-as-you-earn Bill which became the Income Tax (Employments) Act, 1943. I then said that I would include either in the next Finance Bill or in a special Bill a provision for extending Pay-as-you-earn, as the House obviously desired, over the whole range of Schedule E taxpayers, with the exception of the Armed Forces. The Bill which I have now presented to the House carries out that undertaking by extending the application of last year's Bill to "all emoluments assessable for Income Tax under Schedule E, other than emoluments payable in respect of service in the Armed Forces of the Crown." This means that apart from the single exception of the Armed Forces, as to which I shall say something more in a moment, everyone liable to Income Tax under Schedule E, that is to say everyone deriving an income from an office or employment, whatever the amount of the income, whatever the nature of the employment, will be chargeable under the new system.
When we were debating this matter last year, I told the House that we could not extend Pay-as-you-earn to the Armed Forces because of the practical difficulties in war-time, with very large Forces scattered over many different theatres of war, of making a change in the existing system. The Forces, however, are not left entirely out of account in the Bill, for, as hon. Members will have seen, I propose to give them the benefits of Pay-as-you-earn in a rather different way. The Forces already pay as they go, to the extent that the tax chargeable on them is paid over the Income-Tax year and not many months in arrear, as has hitherto been the case in most employments in civil life. If, therefore, the man in the Forces were brought on to the 1927 Pay-as-you-earn system the chief advantage that he would derive would be that his tax liability would be adjusted to any fall in pay which had the effect of bringing his pay for the current year below that for the preceding year. This happens in some cases where an acting rank is held for a time and then relinquished, and in order to meet this situation, and in view of the impossibility of putting the Forces fully on a Pay-as-you-earn basis, we have included a Clause in this Bill to give relief by reducing the Schedule E assessment on the Service pay to the amount of the actual pay of the Income-Tax year if that is lower than the pay of the preceding year.
I turn now to what in November last I called the "appropriate safeguards" which I said would be necessary, if the new system were extended above the £600 limit so as to include all levels of income. Before explaining to the House the conclusions which I have reached on this subject, perhaps it will be convenient if I once more indicate quite briefly the reasons why safeguards are needed. Hon. Members may remember that in the normal course the Schedule E assessment for the current year, 1943–44, is based on the income for the preceding year, 1942–43. Under Pay-as-you-earn, tax for 1944–45, beginning on 6th April next, will be charged on current income. This means that in the ordinary way income earned in the year 1943–44 will not, in the case of persons transferred to Pay-as-you-earn, ever form the basis of any Income Tax assessment. The loophole which this fact opens to a possibility of evasion is fairly obvious. In cases where the taxpayer is able to increase his income under Schedule E at the expense either of income under another Schedule or of income for another year, he stands to benefit by bringing that income into a non-taxable category. I instanced last time the clearest case of this kind, the one-man company, with a proprietor drawing, perhaps, £2,000 a year in salary and another £2,000 in dividends. As matters have stood in the past it has made no difference how he has allotted the total income of the business between profits to himself as a shareholder and remuneration to himself as an employee, but under the Pay-as-you-earn proposals if he were to take the whole income of the business as salary to him- 1928 self in the current year, the increase would, in the absence of a special safeguard, escape taxation altogether.
That is the extreme case; but there are clearly many other instances where some manipulation might be possible, and I told the House last November that I thought it would be impossible to find an adequate remedy by looking at the motive behind any increase, and that the only safeguard that would, as I then thought, be fully effective would be to levy a supplementary assessment on any amount by which the remuneration of the current financial year exceeded that of the preceding year. That was the proposal which I then had in mind, and I indicated that I thought it would only be necessary for those classes newly brought in by the extension above £600 a year since the opportunity for serious evasion among the lower salary earners would be negligible. I gave the House that warning because I was exceedingly anxious not to raise false hopes. I have since given a great deal of thought to the matter, and the House will, I think, have been glad to see that I have been able to come to the conclusion that it is not necessary to introduce so sweeping a Measure as I then had in mind. As I said at the time, the supplementary assessments then in view would have covered not only special additions arranged for the purpose of avoiding tax but additions which, in fact, would have been made in the ordinary course of events. On examination, I have found it possible to confine the remedy of additional assessments to exceptional increases of remuneration made after 20th September last, which was the date when the first announcement of the Pay-as-you-earn system was made.
Clause 8 of the Bill provides, accordingly, that only increases made after 20th September, 1943, would be taken into account, and that ordinary increases of pay due to promotion, to the application of ordinary incremental scales, extra overtime and any other similar increase of an ordinary character are excluded from the operation of the Clause. Thus, there will be no question of imposing an additional charge on all the large number of persons who will have received normal increases in pay. The expression "other similar increase of an ordinary character" will cover Christmas bonuses and other bonuses given in the ordinary course. 1929 The Clause is intended thus to enable the Inland Revenue to ignore all the normal incidents of employment which may have resulted in additional remuneration for the current year, while giving the authorities power to take action where special transactions of an extraordinary character have taken place which might otherwise result in avoidance of tax.
As is explained in the Memorandum printed with the Bill, the provision to increase 1943–44 assessments has no application to manual wage earners because, in their case, the basis of assessment is the actual income for the year, and the question of avoidance of tax on transition to Pay-as-you-earn does not arise. But it does apply to all other office holders and employees, whether their salaries are above or below the old £600 dividing line. I shall not expect to find in practice that there is much opportunity for evasion among those earning the lower salaries, but as this provision, as now drawn, excludes all ordinary increases of remuneration and is only directed to special increases made since September last, there is no reason, I think, why it should not cover all earnings other than those of the manual wage earner.
As will be seen, Clause 8 of the Bill, which is concerned with this matter, imposes a charge on the taxpayer in certain circumstances, and will, therefore, require a Resolution in the Committee of Ways and Means, and a Resolution for this purpose has been placed on the Order Paper and will be moved later in to-day's proceedings.
Before leaving this question, I would like to make two further remarks. The first is that the provision I have included in the Bill will be administered in a liberal spirit and there will be no attempt on the part of the Inland Revenue authorities to bring under it changes of remuneration which are part of ordinary employment. But it will give them power—and this is necessary—to check any attempt at collusive evasion and, in this connection, it is to be remembered that even a person who is hit by the Clause will have no legitimate ground of complaint, as he will merely be charged on what he has in fact received. The other remark I wish to make on this point is to say that it is possible to imagine some rather fantastic schemes that might be aimed at avoiding tax on 1930 the transition to Pay-as-you-earn which would not be covered by the provision in the Bill. I do not propose to advertise such devices by explaining them now. But I think the House would wish me to say that the Inland Revenue authorities will be watching carefully to see whether such devices are in fact employed. If they are, I shall not hesitate to ask the House to deal with them by legislation of a retrospective character. Perhaps I may reasonably hope, having said this, that the need for such legislation will not, in fact, arise.
Apart from a few details, the rest of the Bill is concerned with the extension of the various provisions for discharging outstanding tax on the introduction of Pay-as-you-earn. Their purpose is explained in the Memorandum accompanying the Bill, but the House will no doubt wish that I should say something more about their principal features. One of these provisions, which is contained in Clause 4, deals with certain special classes such, for example, as certain railway employees for whom there is deduction of tax which although it does not run, as in the case of ordinary Schedule E employees, from 1st November in the year of assessment to the following 31st October, nevertheless extends into the year following the year of assessment, so that there is an arrear of tax remaining uncollected after the end of the Income-Tax year. In the ordinary Schedule E case seven months' tax will remain uncollected at 5th April, 1944, and will be discharged, on the principle that the introduction of Pay-as-you-earn should not be allowed to result in double deductions for an overlapping period. Clause 4 of the Bill extends that principle to those special cases where there is a similar overhang after the end of the tax year, to the extent to which an overlap does in fact exist.
Now I come to Clause 6 of the Bill, dealing with the position of Crown servants, the only part of the Bill, I think, which might in some degree be regarded as controversial. I think it will be convenient if I deal separately in the remarks I am about to make with the cases of temporary Crown servants and permanent Crown servants, because different considerations apply to these two classes. The body of persons which has to be considered under the category of temporary Crown servants includes all people who 1931 have gone from employment into the Armed Forces of the Crown, and all who have gone from private employment, from outside employment, into the Civil Service—a body of men and women obviously deserving of the utmost consideration. So far as the civil servants are concerned, while some of them may have bettered themselves by the change they have made, others, unquestionably, have left their normal occupations and gone into the public service from the most praiseworthy public motives and, in some cases, at some personal financial sacrifice. The position as regards those people is this. When they entered the service of the Crown, whether in the Armed Forces or in the Civil Service, they had, as had been explained, an outstanding tax liability. I am assuming that they had paid the tax due from them right up to the date of transfer, but there was nevertheless the normal overhang of seven months tax, and in the public service those people were liable for the first seven months to pay not only the instalments of tax in respect of their previous employment, but tax in respect of their official emoluments.
In the case of the Armed Forces I think it is true to say that in a very high proportion of cases, where people have no ample resources, the Revenue Department was content to allow the liability for previous employment to stand over, not in all, because it was open to everyone to pay. In the case of the Civil Service I think the practice was, if payment in full was not tendered, to arrange for payment of the over-hanging obligation by instalments so adjusted as not to increase the deductions on account of current earnings by more than one-third. I think that was the normal practice. The effect which the introduction of Pay-as-you-earn was going to have on these people—as much on men and women in the Armed Forces as on civil servants—was referred to in our previous discussion, and I certainly undertook to give the fullest consideration to the matter. Quite frankly, I have to confess that the grievance of these people in connection with this change in our taxation method is, to some extent, a legitimate grievance, and I want to say to the House that I should have been very glad if I had found it possible to go further towards meeting that grievance than I have gone in this Bill.
1932 Before I explain the difficulties in which I found myself I think it is very important that we should all be quite clear in our minds as to what the grievance is. It is not a question of anyone being called upon to pay more tax than is reasonably due from him; no person, as matters are left by this Bill, will have to pay one penny more than the amount of tax appropriate to the income which he has actually received. The grievance arises quite otherwise. It arises from a combination of circumstances. First, the fact that the person concerned passed from private employment into Crown employment and out again, and then the further fact that the introduction of the system of Pay-as-you-earn comes while he occupies the intermediate status of a Crown servant. That is how the grievance arises, because in the result, the person in question has found himself faced by a charge for which he has had no adequate opportunity of making provision. That is the sum and substance of the matter. I will be perfectly frank with the House on this. As I have said, I wish that the case could have been met by a more radical provision in this Bill. I have sought long and earnestly for some other solution, but I have had to give up the attempt and I will tell the House the reason.
When I came to look into the matter, I found that the relevant considerations that would have to be taken into account in making any further adjustment over and above what is provided in the Bill in the particular case would have to include the individual's position as regards tax liability when he entered Crown employment, his tax liability incurred during Crown employment, his position after he had left Crown employment in respect of liability to tax, whether he was going back to paid employment or going into some occupation under another Schedule. It would be right, probably, also to consider whether the individual's financial position had been improved or worsened by his going into the service of the State temporarily, and when I add that the numbers of individuals concerned runs into many hundreds of thousands, that they are scattered all over the globe, that there are no records from which all the relevant facts could conveniently be gathered, I think the House will sympathise with me when I say that the simple remedy which is provided in the Bill is 1933 the best, and is all, that I have been able to offer. Under the Bill we look forward, we do not look back; no attempt is made to reopen the past, and that is indeed sound revenue practice. If, however, at the beginning of the next Income Tax year there is still outstanding Income Tax liability in respect of his former employment, which the individual has not found it possible to pay, or has not been called upon by the revenue authorities to pay, that outstanding liability is, by the Bill, wiped out. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is all I have to say about the case of the temporary Crown servants.
I come to what I think is a very much simpler case, the case of the permanent Crown servant—in practice the permanent civil servant. I said, when this matter was debated at some length on a previous occasion, that I felt I could claim to have as sympathetic a view on matters affecting the interests of the Civil Service as any hon. Member. I adhere to that. Nevertheless, I do say that I cannot myself find here any substantial or legitimate grievance. I have received representations, and what I understand some civil servants would like to have is something analogous to the discharge of tax which the Bill provides in the case of the ordinary Schedule E taxpayer. But I have always made it clear from the very beginning that this particular feature of our plans, this discharge of tax, is not put forward as something desirable in itself, or even justifiable in itself; we have provided for the discharge of tax because of the impracticability of adopting a system universally which involved, over a considerable period of months, a double liability to the payment of tax at the existing very high rates; and the discharge, which as hon. Members pointed out when this matter was debated relates in general to a remote period, cannot therefore be looked upon as involving any considerable sacrifice to the State. That was the inevitable price which had to be paid for the introduction of this reform. I want to say to the House in a very few words how the matter strikes me. I need not say much, because I dealt with the position in considerable detail on 2nd November, and, when I was reading by way of preparation for this Debate, what I had said on that occasion, I am bound to tell the House that I found it completely convincing. I do not doubt that 1934 my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) will make an effort to present the matter in a somewhat different light.
§ Sir J. Anderson
But I want to say this. Here we are making universal a new plan for the payment of Income Tax which has been widely acclaimed. Is it not rather strange that at this very moment when we are doing, that, we should be asked to make some payment or concession to permanent civil servants by way of compensation—for that is all it amounts to—for their having been all their lives under a plan which, if it is not identical with Pay-as-you-earn, differs from it only in this one respect, that it takes as the basis the previous year's earnings and not current earnings and therefore presses with rather lighter weight on a high proportion of the people concerned than our Pay-as-you-earn plan which has commended itself in all quarters of this House? It seems to me that the implication of the claim which has been made—and I do not want to speak unsympathetically but I do want to speak plainly—is really this, that to be enabled to avoid running up a debt is a disadvantage and not an advantage, that this plan, universally welcomed and most persistently demanded by the civil servants themselves, is not an easement but an infliction, not a boon but a curse. I am sure these are not the real sentiments of the great majority of the civil servants. It is, of course, very natural, it is only human, to feel somewhat envious when others are getting a concession for which one is not eligible oneself; but the civil servants are not alone in this matter. If it is any comfort to them, I can point out that they are being left in this respect in exactly the same position as all taxpayers under Schedule A, Schedule B, Schedule C, and Schedule D, including the whole body of professional men in exactly the same position. There is no discharge, no remission of tax liability, for any of those people.
I may perhaps remind the House that such financial difficulties as I am now dealing with have arisen in the past on transfer from one kind of employment to another and this overlapping of tax liability has occurred in the past in every case where a tax-paying manual wage earner has ceased to be a manual wage earner and 1935 has become a non-manual wage earner or a salaried person. There has been an overlapping of tax liability and no one has done anything about it. It is not a new problem at all. But these problems happily will all disappear with the passage of this Bill and all incomes from civilian employment will then be brought under the new Pay-as-you-earn system. I think I have now said enough by way of explanation. My undertaking last year was to bring forward the proposal embodied in this Bill for extension to employment over the £600 limit either in a special Bill or in the Finance Bill. On consideration, it seemed to me better to ask the House to pass a special Measure for this purpose and to do it in good time before the new system comes into operation. Pay-as-you-earn will be the universal arrangement for civilian employment after 6th April next, and the Inland Revenue are making all the heavy preparations necessary for the change on that assumption. I hope the House will agree, subject to what I have said about Crown servants, that this Bill is a satisfactory outcome of the consideration we have been giving together to these matters during the past few months.
§ Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)
I think the House will agree at once that, with the exception of the omission of Crown servants, this Bill is a very satisfactory outcome of those discussions which took place in the House in the autumn of last year, discussions which were more in the nature of prolonged consultations than the disputes which we sometimes have in this House. I am bound to say that having regard to the doubt and apprehension as to the difficulty of dealing with this matter which my right hon. Friend mentioned, I am relieved to find that this Bill is in fact such a simple Measure. I gather it is a simple Measure, although not from my own unaided efforts in reading the Bill, because in some aspects it is a triumph of obscurity. I think Members of Parliament have never had greater cause to be thankful for an Explanatory Memorandum than for the one which goes with this Bill. The Bill is a perfect example of legislation by reference. Members are referred to the principal Act and then to the Finance Act, 1921, but, more than that, are referred to such sources of enlightenment as Rule 21 of the General Rules, page 6, of Schedule D and a large 1936 number of other propositions of a like nature which assume that unless a Member has a very special knowledge of these matters—which can be derived only by special study—he must either have a great deal more time and a great deal more capacity for research than is possible during the time allowed at present for Parliamentary activities.
So long as this Bill remains on the Statute Book it will be there as permanent evidence of the need for simplification of our Income Tax law. I hope it will be an inspiration, if not to my right hon. Friend, then to some Chancellor, some day, to earn the everlasting gratitude of the citizens of this country by setting forth Income Tax in language and terms which can be understood by the ordinary man. I do not wish to lay myself open to the charge of being frivolous by referring to the continued use of the word "emolument" in this Bill. But I must draw attention to the fact that in this Income Tax Bill the word "income." occurs only twice in the Title and on only two or three other occasions, when it is associated with the word "tax." The word "emolument" is an ugly word and one which few people can understand. Yet it is used throughout the Bill with constant reiteration. The House heard with satisfaction what the Chancellor said about the arrangements for dealing with possible evasion. It is obvious that there could be evasion and that there are ingenious people, not sufficiently imbued with public spirit, who would avail themselves of the opportunity. Therefore, I think my right hon. Friend carried the House with him on what he said on that point. Nevertheless, it is obvious from the wording of the Measure that administrative difficulties and obscurities may arise on many occasions as to what "any other similar increase of an ordinary character" may mean. The House may well consider in these cases whether there might not be a right of appeal to the Commissioners, so that a person who may feel aggrieved might have his case considered in a complete manner.
The Chancellor mentioned the case of the Christmas bonus, which might have been discontinued in the first three years of the war and resumed last year. Difficulties may arise which may give rise to a sense of obscurity, and as we are all concerned to remove a sense of 1937 injustice wherever we can find it I think the question of a right of appeal is worth considering. I think Clause 5, which concerns those serving in the Armed Forces of the Crown, will give satisfaction to all those with grievances. As regards Clause 6, I think my right hon. Friend did not overstate the case when he said there was a burning grievance in the case of temporary civil servants. Many, from public motives, gave up lucrative positions and joined the Civil Service in a job in which they were most capable of rendering service at a time of national emergency. These people were called upon to pay taxation and when I think of the difficulties which have been overcome in introducing this Bill and the amount of thought and ingenuity which have been given to it—to the great credit of those concerned—I am not in the least impressed by the catalogue of further difficulties which the Chancellor mentioned as a reason for not dealing with this matter. It seems to me that there has been a lack of imagination.
I myself do not like the partial concession which has been made with regard to the hang-over. It seems to be almost mean. It may not be so viewed by the recipients, but it does seem to me to be small and that it would have been better not to have done that. Having listened with care to what has been said, I think there is a grievance which should be remedied. It is widely felt by a large number of people and appeals to the sense of fair play of the community as a whole. I am glad that the Chancellor, as a result of the discussions and conferences of last year, has been able to bring in a Bill which has met with so much approval.
§ Mr. Eccles (Chippenham)
I would like to add my praise for the way in which this Bill, with one exception, seems to give us what we want. With the aid of the Memorandum I think I can understand it fairly well. Clause 6, however, is a stain on the Bill. I would like to return to the question of temporary civil servants, having been one myself, although my financial position is not in question under this Bill, as I was a volunteer. It is not at all a question of the temporary civil servant having suffered double assessment on the same income; it is a question of a double collection. The temporary civil servant came into the 1938 Crown Service with this overhanging liability and then was asked immediately to go on to the Civil Service Pay-as-you-earn scheme. I think a fair example would be that of a man, earning £1,000 a year, married and with two children. If he took up temporary Civil Service employment on 5th April, 1942, and earned £800 a year as his salary, he would find that his monthly income would be reduced to about £25. If he was getting a salary of £1,000, the same as he had in his previous employment, he would get about £33 a month for the first seven months. That created great hardship. I saw it myself in the Civil Service and certain of my colleagues made bargains with the tax inspector, such as my right hon. Friend described, and spread out some of that tax.
That need never have been done. If the Treasury had not been so stiff-necked about it they could have allowed the temporary civil servant to continue to be assessed by his own inspector, leaving the Government, as it were, as the private employer. That would have been a fair thing to do. But the desire for logic overcame wisdom, with the result that we have seen. Under the Bill, it is recognised that when the system of Pay-as-you-earn is applied to everybody these double collections during the first few months will be such a hardship that a discharge is given. That is what the temporary civil servant feels ought to be applied to him as well as to the rest of the community when they go on to Pay-as-you-earn. The Chancellor has told us that it is too difficult to find a method which will give the temporary civil servant the same treatment as other people who are now coming on to Pay-as-you-earn. But as it was the fault of the administration, who got the man into this unfair position, I think they ought to be able to think of a way out.
I have two suggestions to make which might provide a solution. The first is that the temporary civil servant should be forgiven seven-twelfths of his Schedule E liability for the 1942–43 period. If the Treasury do not like paying that to him in cash it could be done either in the form of a post-war credit certificate or set off against his next year's tax. The other way, which is simpler, but would, I agree, involve calculations of which we could not tell the result now, would be to 1939 give the temporary civil servant a discharge of seven-twelfths of any tax which was assessed on his earnings for the first year after he left Crown employment. That would give him the holiday which he expected he would get when he went on to the double collection system on going into the Civil Service. I feel strongly that it is very unfair on temporary civil servants. The "Economist" says that they were the saviours of the State. I think that is putting it a bit high, but when many of them suffered considerably from a financial point of view they thought they would be fairly treated. Therefore, I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will adopt one or other of the two suggestions I have made. If he does not, this grievance must persist. I do not think either of the suggestions would be administratively very difficult and I hope we shall get some assurance of that kind.
§ Mr. Burden (Sheffield, Park)
I rise to call attention to a grave injustice which the Bill imposes on railway salaried staffs. The Finance Act, 1918, provides specially for railway salaried staff. It says:Tax in respect of offices and employments of profit held under a railway company shall be charged by the Special Commissioners, who shall notify to the Secretary or other officer of the Company the particulars of the assessment.Any such assessment shall be deemed to be, and shall be, an assessment upon the Company, and the tax in respect thereof shall be paid, collected and levied accordingly and the Company or the Secretary or other officer may deduct out of the emoluments of the holder of such office or employment of profit the tax so charged.I should like to emphasise two points contained in the rule, first that the assessment is on the company and, secondly that the company may deduct the tax from the salaried staff. While the companies have the necessary authority to deduct the Income Tax, obviously they have no legal authority to make any deductions before the assessments are made on them. I am advised that, generally speaking the assessments are received about October or November. For the majority of the salaried staff deductions have been spread over 12 months—April to April—in approximately equal amounts. This has been a matter of mutual convenience and, generally speaking, no exception has been taken to the arrangement, but unfortunately there is no uniformity.
1940 For example, on the London and North Eastern Railway the deductions terminate on 15th April. There is thus an overlap of four weeks' payment in the case of staff paid on a four-weekly basis, and of two weeks in the case of those paid weekly. On the Cheshire Lines Committee there is an overlap up to eight weeks. On the Southern Railway, staff receiving up to £360 in London and £350 in the provinces are on the ordinary commercial arrangement. The tax is deducted from October to November, and there is, therefore, in their case an overlap of seven months. On the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board there will be an overlap of about 13 weeks. The irony of the position is that where the companies have, I agree for mutual convenience, exceeded their authority in making deductions, the staff concerned will be penalised under the new arrangement. To put the point in another way those whose deductions began last April have paid seven-twelfths of their Income Tax earlier than all other Schedule E. payers, and this amount has been deducted before an assessment has been made on the company, and therefore the deductions have been made without any legal authority.
Not only are the salaried staffs of the different companies receiving different treatment but with one company, the Southern Railway, owing to a purely administrative act on the part of the company, some of the staff will get a seven months' remission while others have paid the full amount; and this anomalous position will arise, notwithstanding the fact that all the salaried staff of the railways are taxed, through the companies, under the same Acts of Parliament. The Railway Clerks' Association, on behalf of the salaried staff, does not make any extravagant claim. It does not seek a repayment of the seven months' tax, or it may be, other amounts. It does not even ask for a moratorium, but it asks for an adaptation of the remission arrangements to the peculiar circumstances of the railway companies and the staff. A remission in certain circumstances, with a postponed credit, was suggested by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) to accrue when the person is no longer subject to tax. The railway companies, who in these circumstances find themselves in a most anomalous position, join with the staff in asking that equitable treatment should be accorded to them.
1941 I do not want to over-state the position, but the railway companies find themselves in a most embarrassing position. Will the Chancellor between now and the Committee stage meet representatives of the railway companies and the staff together, to ascertain if it is possible to find an equitable solution of the difficulty? I feel sure that it is possible, even within the four corners of the Chancellor's own formula, no overlap no discharge, to find a satisfactory settlement, and I am encouraged by the Chancellor's courteous and fair-minded treatment of all problems to say I believe he would not desire to leave the railway companies and their salaried staff with the feeling that they have suffered unfair and unjust treatment.
§ Mr. Summers (Northampton)
I should like first of all to welcome the decision of the Chancellor to deal with these matters in a separate Bill rather than in the Finance Bill, which was the alternative foreshadowed the last time we discussed this topic. I am sure it will be to the satisfaction of many that the final outcome of these decisions shall be known well ahead of the financial year. Before the Bill was published I expected that such controversy as there might be would centre around the safeguards which the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us he would need to introduce to prevent abuse, but it has turned out somewhat differently. For I, for one, echo the gratification that has been voiced by other speakers at the liberal approach which the Chancellor has shown on this question of safeguards. I feel sure, from the way he has dealt with it, that there should be no innocent people brought within the net and denied their proper discharge in order that guilty people may be punished for their misdeeds. Therefore I do not propose to deal with Clause 8, which should, I think, give general satisfaction.
There are two matters, which I hope the Financial Secretary will be able to allude to, of a relatively unimportant character. The first concerns Clause 7, where emoluments, in spite of the criticism of the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. G. White), have in the past been lumped with other income for professional purposes. First reading of the Clause suggests that the test as to whether such income is to benefit from Pay-as-you-earn or not is to be the 1942 manner in which particular individuals' tax affairs have been presented in the past. Unless that disparity of treatment is clarified there may be two people, similarly placed in reality, but treated differently because their income has been presented in different ways to the tax collector. I should like the Financial Secretary to see that no difference in treatment is accorded when people are in fact similarly situated.
That prompts me to refer to those who are not included in the Bill, namely, those whose income comes under Schedule D. I make no complaint that they are so included, because we were never promised consideration at this stage, nor do I think it would be appropriate for the two types to be dealt with simultaneously, but there is no question that the advantages which are believed to accrue to those coming under Pay-as-you-earn have prompted many small shopkeepers and others with incomes very little smaller than those under Schedule E to press for consideration of their position. I only ask that their desires should not be lost sight of, and that the ingenuity of the Treasury should, as far as possible, be used to find a way in future to relieve taxpayers of some of the anxious moments which they have when they are no longer enjoying the maintenance of a steady income.
In Clause 5, dealing with the Armed Forces of the Crown, consideration has properly been given to those whose income falls in order that they shall not, out of the smaller income, be called upon to pay tax on the higher income of the year before. I am concerned with the position in which many in the Armed Forces may be placed when they leave the Forces and go into civil employment, because if, when that time comes, they enter a form of employment where Pay-as-you-earn is current, and at the same time have to deal with their liability from their service in the Armed Forces, there will then appear to come a period of double collection of which no account seems to be taken in the Bill. If that is not the correct interpretation and there is an explanation making it easier for such people, I hope we shall have it from the Financial Secretary.
I will now deal with the position of civil servants. I am glad that the Chancellor in his remarks divided the two 1943 categories into which civil servants fall for this purpose into temporary and permanent. High as is my regard for permanent civil servants, I cannot support the claims they make for having their position altered in any way as the result of the introduction of this scheme. My understanding of their position is such that I believe the Chancellor to be entirely justified in saying that their claim is not valid. We may have later in this discussion a contrary view expressed, but that is how it appears to me. The position of the temporary civil servants is very different. I need not take up time elaborating their position, for it has been expressed before, and we had a lucid explanation to-day from the Chancellor as to the nature of their grievances. He did not, however, quite bring out the point, which I am glad was brought out by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) namely, that the period of double collection, which has in many cases been found a hardship, was tolerated in the belief that at some period after the war they would go back into civil employment and enjoy a tax holiday. It is the denial of the opportunity to have recompense through a tax holiday that makes their position particularly grievous. We have heard from the Treasury in the past, indeed, they have put it writing, how practically impossible it was to meet the wishes of hon. Members; and for a considerable time we were told that it was impossible to frame a scheme for Pay-as-you-earn which was practicable. Happily, however, ingenuity triumphed, and we have the present scheme before us.
I for one cannot accept as a good reason for excluding temporary civil servants from some remedial treatment the statement that a way cannot be found. We are told that the difficulties arise from lack of information and that, as I understood the Chancellor, the position of such people during service and after service would need to be taken into account. No doubt that is true, but, even if it be true, my experience of the Inland Revenue is that they have ample information at their disposal to discover what is the proper tax to be paid by the citizens of this country, whether they are living here or elsewhere. I should have thought that it was a perfectly practicable thing to calculate the amount by which double collection has affected individual people in the 1944 service. The tax holiday to which they looked forward was in a sense a gamble, because they could not tell whether the holiday would bring them a greater or lesser advantage than the disadvantage they had suffered on joining the service. Therefore, it seems to me that there will be an added advantage in adopting the first of the two alternative suggestions put forward by the hon. Member for Chippenham, namely, that the extent of the double collection be calculated and that sum applied to the coding of Pay-as-you-earn after the war as an allowance to which they would properly be entitled. There would in that way be no need to repay in cash any of the sums which had been paid. Once repayment in cash is started, an undesirable precedent is set up which the Treasury would, not unnaturally, wish to avoid.
As the matter stands under the Bill, those who have gone through great sacrifices to find the means to discharge the two liabilities which were thrust upon them simultaneously are to get nothing, whereas those who went gaily on, not taking any particular notice and, indeed, pressing the Treasury for as much postponement of their liability as they could get, will have their liability discharged. It seems to me a most unreasonable penalty on thrift for the sake of the nation that such people should be denied any advantage, while those who have gone on holding up payment should gain something from the Treasury. I urge strongly that some way be found for recognising the position of temporary civil servants, not necessarily on the lines indicated, so that they may have some compensation for the tax holiday to which they looked forward and which under the Bill they will be denied. I hope that that will be echoed, as it has already been in practically every speech hitherto, that support for improved conditions for the temporary civil servant from all parts of the House will have its due effect on the Chancellor, and that before the Committee stage is reached he may find some way of meeting the wishes that have been so universally expressed.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
I am happy, with the rest of the House, to join in the general benediction which the Bill as a whole has received. My point of quarrel with the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a single point of quarrel—for to-day. There 1945 may be other points of quarrel at some other time, but to-day the point of quarrel relates to the treatment of civil servants. I wish to establish beyond the possibility of argument that not only the temporary civil servant but also the permanent civil servant is treated with gross injustice under the Bill. I imagine that my case will be less difficult in regard to the temporary civil servants, because at least two hon. Members on the other side have expressed support of their claim. But as the argument develops I hope to show that the claim of the permanent is no less strong than the case of the temporary. If we are to understand either aright we must try to look at this matter as the civil servant does. He compares his treatment with that given to the ordinary taxpayer in industry or commerce. He finds that for generations the ordinary taxpayer in commerce or industry has been allowed to pay in the current year the tax accruing last year; or, to put it differently, the outside taxpayer has been one year behind his obligations in the matter of paying tax.
The House, for good reasons, decides that from now on instead of a man outside paying tax this year on last year's income, he shall pay it this year on this year's income. When the Chancellor decides that and the House approves, it is recognised that, unless something were to happen, the result of the transition from the old system to the new would be that the outside taxpayer would have to pay two years' tax in one. The Chancellor recognises that, whether that is just or unjust, it is not practicable to apply. Therefore, he decides that he will give relief to the outside taxpayer in respect of that part of the tax due on last year which has not been paid up to the time when the new system takes effect. The effect of that is that there will not be two years' tax paid in one, so far as the outside taxpayer is concerned.
Now take the case of the civil servant. There are, roughly, 700,000 of them, of whom 350,000 are temporary and the remainder permanent. I would like to deal with their cases separately, in order to bring out what we feel should be done with regard to both. When the temporary civil servant came into the Civil Service he was a year or part of a year behind with his payment of tax. I do not mean that he was behind what he ought to have 1946 paid, but that under the old system, whereby a man paid this year in respect of last year, he was not paid up-to-date in the sense that he would be under the Pay-as-you-go plan. When he came into the Service something happened to him. He came under the Civil Service Pay-as-you-go scheme, which has been operated, as I believe quite illegally, for years past. Therefore, the temporary civil servant, in his first year of employment, was required to pay not only the tax that he owed on last year, but the tax accruing upon his current earnings. The effect of these two taxes was so bad that in many cases a man would have had no money left with which to buy food. And in order to avoid that, there was a mitigated arrangement under which the tax was not all collected in one year but was spread over three years. Nevertheless, the Exchequer took the double tax. There is no doubt that the Exchequer has the details. There is no question of not being able to find out how much the Government took from civil servants, because it is there in the books and only requires looking up. So that the difficulty of access quoted by the Chancellor is not a difficulty with any real substance in it.
The temporary civil servant who was treated in this way did not like the double tax. He made vigorous protests about it, and we approached the Chancellor of the Exchequer—not the present Chancellor, but his predecessor, who, in retrospect, appears to me to take on a better complexion, the more I look at his successor! When we approached the Chancellor on this matter he said, "I quite agree that it is very rough on the temporary civil servants, but lift up your eyes to the hills, the very distant hills; when these men come out of the service at the end of their temporary period they will be completely paid up in tax." That meant that they will be a year ahead of the outside taxpayer, who was still allowed to be a year behind. Therefore, they will be entitled automatically, when they come out, to a tax holiday of one year which would compensate for the double tax now.
What emerges very clearly from this Bill is that the tax holiday at the end of their period of service is taken away from the 350,000 temporary civil servants. Therefore, unless something else happens they will be much worse off than 1947 they are at the present time, by the loss of a year's tax holiday. What does the Chancellor propose to give them instead? To the vast majority he proposes to give nothing at all. To a limited number he will excuse the tax which may still remain to be paid, on their earlier "outside" earnings, as at 6th April this year. The first point I want to make is that, in the case of the vast bulk of civil servants, their liability in respect of their outside earnings has long since been liquidated. In other words, to that vast number the Chancellor gives nothing at all, having taken away a year's tax holiday.
Now let us look at those who will get some benefit, and who probably will still have some tax outstanding on outside earnings when it comes to 6th April this year. It will occur to every Member of this House that the longer a man spends in the service as a temporary civil servant, the less likely is it that he will still be taxable on his outside previous earnings. That is inevitable. In other words, those who have been longest in the service in a temporary capacity will get the least benefit under such concession as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given, while those who have been there the shortest time will get the maximum benefit from the concession. There is another point. The more honest a man was before he came into the Civil Service—after which he has to be honest compulsorily—and the more completely he kept up-to-date with his tax obligations, the less obligation did he carry into his Civil Service period in respect of his pre-service earnings. On the other hand, the less conscientious he was and the less up-to-date with his Income Tax payment, the greater would be the amount of tax liability carried into the Civil Service. In other words, the Chancellor of the Exchequer not only prefers the new to the old, the late entrant to the earlier entrant, but he prefers the unconscientious man to the conscientious man, because the less conscientious he was the more likely he is to qualify for what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to give. In that respect, I affirm that the case which has been made out here in regard to the temporary civil servant is completely unanswerable. I believe that the House shares that view.
Now I turn to a case which is a little more difficult to present, but which is just as important, that of the per- 1948 manent civil servant. Like the temporary civil servant, the permanent civil servant has been subjected to the experience of having to pay two years' tax in one. Let me make that quite clear.
§ Mr. Brown
No, in one year. The only difference is that in the case of the permanent civil servant—it may have been years ago—it was in his first year as a permanent civil servant—and not last year or the year before, that he was subjected, although not in exactly the same way as the temporary, to the double tax.
§ Mr. Brown
A very substantial number. Taking the area of the Civil Service which I represent, I should think that at least half the total number came into it from outside occupations. The permanent civil servant of to-day is largely the temporary civil servant of yesterday. As the House of Commons knows, it established thousands of ex-Servicemen——
§ Sir Alfred Beit (St. Pancras, South-East)
The hon. Member has been putting his case as though the permanent civil servant who went straight into the service from school had paid a double tax, but he now implies that this is true only of those who went into the service from outside.
§ Mr. Brown
I did not intend to do anything of the kind. There are two kinds of permanent civil servant. One is the ex-temporary civil servant, with outside experience in industry and commerce before he went into the service. There are, literally, scores of thousands of them. It is true that there are numbers of men who came in quite young, but the whole point is that if they had been liable to tax they would have paid it, and that they were not automatically exempt.
§ Mr. Brown
Thousands did pay it, in fact, and all of them were liable to it, in principle, if they were assessable to Income Tax. In all the years since they have paid their tax currently, that is to say, not this year in respect of last year, but up to date. In respect of their own servants, the Government took the taxation a year before it was due—as I think, illegally—and they not only took the tax a year before it was due, but they enjoyed the usufruct on the tax. Not only has the permanent civil servant, in principle, and in many cases in fact, the same grievance as the temporary, but he has had 5 years, or 10, 15 or 20 years of his tax taken a year before anybody else, and has been losing his interest upon it.
§ Mr. Brown
At the end of his period of service. Under the old system, when he came to the end of his service, he would be fully paid-up, and when he became a member of the outside public he would be entitled to a tax holiday. In principle, therefore, in respect of tax holidays, and in respect of double taxation, there is no difference between these two classes. The main difference, in fact, has been that the permanent civil servant has for many years had to pay his tax a year before it was due. In that respect, his case is stronger than that of the temporary. In respect of him, the Government propose in this Bill to give not a bean. We are told that it is too difficult. I see the Attorney-General sitting on the Government front bench. I know how willing he is to place his great intellect at the service of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if the Chancellor's should need fortification. Surely both of them together, assisted by the Inland Revenue and the Treasury, can work out a scheme which will enable them to do justice.
1950 Let me suggest what ought to be done in both cases In the case of the temporary civil servant, the Exchequer knows precisely the amount of the double taxation. It cannot be that the State has collected money without having kept a record of what was collected. In my view, the temporary civil servant is entitled, on merit, to an immediate repayment, in hard cash, of one-half of the tax that he paid in the year when he paid two taxes in one. That is what he is entitled to, on merits, to bring him into line. Under the Bill, a man outside who has paid a whole year's tax in advance, is to be repaid the rebate in cash. We can repay in cash people outside who pay in advance but we cannot do so in respect of our own civil servants.
§ Sir F. Sanderson
May I ask whether the hon. Member can give us an approximate idea of the cost of the scheme he is now propounding?
§ Mr. Brown
I was about to say—and I always get there in the end—that I am not asking for this payment in cash, although I think we are entitled to ask for it. But we are entitled to say that you should give to the temporary civil servant a rebate. I am not even asking for a rebate on this year's tax, but for a rebate which he can set off against his tax liability when he ceases to be a civil servant, and goes into the world again.
In respect of the permanent civil servant I should be entitled, on merits, to ask, first, that the Government should pay back one-half of the double tax that was first inflicted on him, should pay him interest for every year for which that taxation was improperly used by taking it from him a year before it was due, and that the Government should hand it to the civil servant with an apology for their past misconduct. That would be the appropriate demand to make in respect of the permanent civil servant. But so great is our modesty that we do not even make that claim. We do not ask for cash here either. We ask that, at the end of a man's years of service, he should have a rebate of the amount by which he has, in our submission, been overtaxed. Generous forbearance can hardly go further than that, even from me. I submit that those demands are as modest and reasonable as they can well be.
1951 I have been told that the grievance of the permanent civil servant is not very serious, because it is an old one. There are two or three answers to that. The first is that time does not hallow injustice, but, on the contrary, makes it more irksome the longer it lasts. Next I am told that the civil servant has only just discovered this grievance. Well, I remember a story of two sons, the elder of whom stayed at home and worked faithfully for his father, while the younger wasted his substance in riotous living. It is not recorded that there was any protest from the elder son whatever, until the wasteful one came home, and the father killed the fatted calf. At that time the grievance was brought to explosion point, not merely because of its own merits, but because of the contrast between the treatment of one son and another.
The Chancellor can kill the fatted calf for the outside taxpayer but he declines the barest minimum of justice to his own servants. May I add this; that when the elder son complained of the relative injustice of his treatment, the father endeavoured to console him by saying to him, "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine"; but has the Chancellor said that to us? Is there any prospect at all that he is going to say anything like that to us? Not a bit. We are subjected to the same injustice, as the elder son, but we are not given the consolation of being the father's heir.
I want to put this point to the Chancellor of the Exchequer: If I cannot touch his heart can I touch his head? I want to tell him one thing. I will not speculate upon the Chancellor and the Prime Ministership but I think that if there are two more by-election letters and one more Italian campaign, something will have to happen in Britain, and it may well be that the Chancellor is destined to be the Prime Minister's successor. I want to warn him——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
I think that a warning had better be applied to the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Brown
I did not want to do anything more than introduce a little lightness into what has been a somewhat heavy argument. In governing the English you must do so on the basis of "fair-do's." In 1952 dealing with the Scots it is different. You can govern them on the basis of dubious metaphysics, but you must govern the English on the basis of "fair-do's." We are not getting "fair-do's" here. My appeal is to the Chancellor's head. Who is to apply this Bill? Civil servants in the Treasury and other Departments of State. Is it wise to make the very civil servants who have to apply this Bill feel at the beginning of its application that they have had a thoroughly unfair treatment? I remember when I was a little boy getting a job as an errand boy to a fruiterer. When I first went into that job the sight of peaches, pears, apples and oranges was gratifying to my eye and disturbing to my throat. My governor saw that I looked at this fruit with some interest. He said, "Willie, do you want some of it, because you can eat whatever you like, whenever you like?" I said, "Do you really mean that?" thinking that he had under-calculated my appetite. He said, "Certainly." I took some advantage of his offer. I thought at first it was generosity. It was not; it was calculation. It was cheaper to allow a little boy to gorge on fruit for a week until the thing had become commonplace, than to make it forbidden fruit, with the prospect that he would pinch some day after day. In short, my governor had achieved in his own experience a recognition of the truth of the philosophy embodied in the old phrase:Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.What does the Chancellor do with us? He does not only muzzle us while we are treading out the corn; for years he has cut down on our standard rations of hay as well! What I am asking him is merely to restore our rations. It is neither wise, fair nor expedient of us to leave this Bill without seeing that these two wrongs are put right. There is no mathematical difficulty about it. There is no question of paying out sums of money from the cash bag now. There is no administrative difficulty about it, no vast immediate charge on the Exchequer. It is not so much a charge on the Exchequer as something that will not accrue, and I submit that the Chancellor has made no case whatever in what he said to-day for refusing to do justice on this question.
I like this Bill as a whole, and I do not want to divide the House against it, but 1953 I warn the Chancellor with the utmost emphasis that I intend to fight this Bill with every Parliamentary resource at my disposal if this injustice is not put right. I will move Amendments to the Bill in Committee, I will vote against the Third Reading, I will speak on the Report stage if that is possible. And if we cannot get it righted in this House I will ask the Prime Minister to send me to the other place in order that I may go along there and carry on the struggle. It is admitted that there is little money in this. It is a fleabite compared with what the House has provided in respect of this Bill. But there is the important principle to be observed that justice, like charity, should begin at home. And our first and not our last responsibility ought to be to see that our civil servants, for whom we are responsible, are treated as least as fairly and reasonably as the outside public, from whose pockets they have to take this Pay-as-you-earn tax.
§ Mr. Palmer (Winchester)
I do not want to follow the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) in dealing with the question of civil servants, whether temporary or permanent, but I was a little surprised at the grounds he put forward when he was appealing to the Chancellor's head. I think there was just a little implication behind his remarks that civil servants could not be relied upon to carry out the terms of this Bill unless they themselves felt that they were getting "fair-do's." I am sure that he did not wish to convey that impression.
§ Mr. Palmer
I am very glad to have elicited that. I was sure that the hon. Member did not mean to give the impression mentioned. If I may deal with the point of view of the Forces, I am sure that everyone will very much welcome the provisions in Clause 5, because there are some definite advantages which members of the Forces will gain in relation to downward variations of their pay. I happen to have with me two examples of the kind of thing that happens to officers when they revert in rank. For example, when a lieutenant-colonel, who gets 43s. 1954 a day, reverts to the rank of major at 28s. a day he is taxed on the bigger income. There are other examples regarding other cases that will be relieved, and that is a great gain from everybody's point of view. As regards the wounded, we may, unfortunately, have to look forward to a great many more such cases in this coming year, and this Measure will give assistance there. Many officers have been given temporary or acting ranks for all kinds of jobs which have arisen, and it has been impossible for them to make proper provision for being caught by this taxation when they revert. Another class to benefit will be the members of the Regular Forces who will leave the Service and possibly revert to a substantive rank after the war.
But having given that welcome to Clause 5 I must add my voice in support of those who wish to urge on the Chancellor and everybody connected with him to think again over the subject of remission. There is no doubt at all that these people in the Forces are not adequately paid. I do not want to go into that. I have always said that I am dissatisfied with Service rates of pay, I do not think we have ever done what we should in that direction, but we cannot discuss that today. Many officers have been reverted, which has created an enormous number of quite unnecessary cases of hardship, and we are only now endeavouring to put it right after four and a half years of war. Surely we cannot treat this in a purely literal way? We must have some liberality of outlook in trying to find an answer.
I was very surprised at one argument the Chancellor used. He said it would be too difficult, because people are scattered about all over the world. I thought that was a remarkable argument, or at any rate would appear very remarkable to those people scattered all over the world who are always found when it is a question of collecting their taxes. I do not see that that argument would make much appeal to them. But I do not think, either, that any very elaborate arguments as to the exact reason why this proposal could not be made fair will appeal. Those concerned would much prefer some kind of rough justice which is not related to an exact, precise formula that makes sure everybody is treated absolutely fairly all round. They would prefer a kind of rough 1955 justice which had the appearance of trying to be fair all round, although it is obvious that it cannot be done to the last penny in every case. I am sure that some simple device can be found if the Chancellor and the Treasury really set their minds to it. I ask no more than that. I do not want to make specific suggestions. I only suggest that the seven-twelfths formula should somehow be involved in the answer. I am clear that if the Chancellor does not do that he will be perpetuating what those concerned will consider to be an unnecessary grievance.
§ Mr. Benson (Chesterfield)
I think this Bill is rather a unique Bill. It is a Bill which has been forced upon the Government by the House. From the very begining of the demand for Pay-as-you-earn the Government have resisted and the House has won a steady series of engagements against the Government. We were told first of all that Pay-as-you-earn was quite an impossible and impracticable suggestion, and instead of having a Pay-as-you-earn scheme we were given the modifications of the weekly deductions. Then, rather, I think, to the surprise of many of us, the Board of Inland Revenue produced a very brilliant cumulative scheme. Again it was limited in its operation, limited to manual workers and weekly wage-earners or rather earners who were paid within periods of less than a month. In the first Bill the Chancellor was compelled to extend its operation to all Schedule E incomes up to £600. As a result of further pressure it was extended to all Schedule E incomes irrespective of amount. Now there is still one further point of resistance by the Exchequer, that is with regard to the treatment of temporary civil servants. There have, of course, been demands by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) for all civil servants, and I think the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) has pegged out a claim for railway servants. But there has been no great feeling in the House on either of these two cases.
On the other hand, with regard to the treatment of the temporary civil servant I think there is complete unanimity. We have heard the case for the permanent civil servants put up by the hon. Member for Rugby. Frankly, I do not think it impressed the House. It was very amus- 1956 ing, but not convincing. But the House is absolutely convinced that something must be done for the temporary civil servant. The case for the differentiation of the temporary civil servant from the permanent civil servant can be put almost in a sentence. Of all the classes affected by this Bill only one suffers a definite deprivation. The permanent civil servant may not get an advantage that other people get, but he has no right taken away from him; his position is merely left unchanged. That is not the case of the temporary civil servant. He looked forward to receiving a remission of taxation as soon as he returned to ordinary employment. That is a right that he had, and still has until this Bill is passed. We are proposing to take that right away from him. I do not think we are entitled to take away this perfectly legitimate right without a very much stronger case than has been put up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The Chancellor did not challenge the equity of the temporary civil servants' demand; he admitted it. He based his case on the difficulties. But he created those difficulties himself. The question of whether a temporary civil servant bettered himself by leaving his other employment to go into the Civil Service, or whether he will lose when he goes back to ordinary employment, is absolutely irrelevant. The fact is that this group has suffered loss, thinking that it was likely to be corrected in a very short time, and now we are taking away the possibility of that correction. The difficulties which the Chancellor mentioned are just as notional as the losses with which he tried to scare us on the last Measure relating to this scheme. The Chancellor has had to give way to the pressure of the House on every other point since Pay-as-you-earn was first discussed, and he ought to give way on this.
There is another group which is entirely analogous to the temporary civil servants. That is the temporary railway employees. I do not think the point was mentioned by the hon. Member for the Park Divisions. He referred to the bulk of railway employees, who have always suffered deduction on current earnings, but the temporary railway employee when he went into the railway service suffered double reduction. If anything is done for the temporary civil servants, that concession ought to be enjoyed also by the temporary 1957 railway employees. There is a certain number of people who during war-time will be directed from their own private businesses, where they now pay Income Tax under Schedule D, into employment, and they will then come under the Pay-as-you-earn scheme of Schedule E. Anybody directed to take up employment who has hitherto been in business on his own—a small shopkeeper, for example—will have to meet the liability of his previous year's assessment under Schedule D in addition to his current year's obligation. That problem will arise inevitably right through the history of Income Tax. Where a man voluntarily goes from Schedule D to Schedule E that is not a matter for the Chancellor to take into account, but where under the National Service Acts, a man is directed into employment, he will not only suffer compulsion at the hands of the Minister of Labour but he will suffer double deduction at the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Benson
He may; but is the Chancellor going to guarantee that he will get his little shop back?
§ Mr. Benson
Then he cannot say that he will go back to Schedule D. I am not asking for a definite answer now, but here is a grievance which is really limited to war-time conditions and compulsory direction, and I hope that before this Bill goes through we shall have some indication of whether the Chancellor is prepared to meet what is a definite hardship. With that criticism of his attitude over the temporary civil servant and that query about the man who compulsorily goes from Schedule D to Schedule E, I, like the rest of the House, welcome the Bill as a whole, and hope that it will have an easy passage.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)
I rise to reinforce what has been said about the application to the Forces of the remission scheme. I hope that whoever winds up the Debate will give some indication that the Government will look into this matter and remove what the Chancellor himself has admitted is a legitimate point of criticism. It cannot be fair that the Forces should 1958 be treated any worse than any other section of the community; indeed, in many ways the proper thing would be to treat them better than other sections. That is the major fault of this Bill. I accept what the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brawn) has said, and I think he made a very strong case for those for whom he speaks. The fact that the remission scheme does not apply to members of the Forces is an injustice which I think the Government ought to remedy.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
The House is to-day celebrating the introduction by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of this Bill to embody mainly the pledges which he gave to the House last autumn. I think it is the general opinion of the House—in fact, it has been expressed by everyone who has spoken in this Debate—that, so far as the pledge which he made to include persons whose incomes were in excess of £600 a year is concerned, he has implemented it not merely to the full but generously. He has done even more than he promised. When he came to the points on which he had reserved judgment, he has not found it necessary to proceed with as much reservation and difficulty as he anticipated he would have to do. I think that the friendly greetings which the Bill has received from all sections of the House bear that out, and I would like to take my share in those congratulations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think the House and the general public would be interested to know what is the total effect of the whole of this legislation. This Bill extends the Act which we have already passed, and, together with that Act, makes a considerable change in the Income Tax law. It would be of interest if the Financial Secretary, when he comes to reply—or if he has not the data available, at some later date—could answer these three questions.
In the first place, what is the total amount of Income Tax which, when this Bill is pased, will have been transferred on to the new basis as a result of all this legislation, and what proportion does that part which has been thus transferred bear to the whole collection of Income Tax? In the second place, I think people want to know whether the assessment of Surtax is in any way affected by the passage of this legislation, and, if so, to what extent. In the third place, combining all this legis- 1959 lation last autumn and this Bill with the previous practice of collecting a certain part of the Income Tax at the source and another part in the year in which the income accrues, what is the total amount of Income Tax collected in the year in which the income accrues, and what is the total amount collected in subsequent years? If the Financial Secretary is able to give this information, we shall get a picture of the magnitude of the problem with which we have been dealing by this legislation; and it will be useful in enabling us to realise what has been done.
I come to unstatistical matters. This Bill is, broadly speaking, designed to tidy up the loose ends of the Act which we have already passed. I think I should be permitted to make a reference to one small matter which has been brought to my attention since the Act was passed, in which it seems that there is a loose end which is not very satisfactorily tied up. I understand that by the Act which we have already passed and the means by which the Inland Revenue put it into operation, a man who is paid a weekly wage can be up-coded—if that is the correct phrase—in the course of the year, and he cannot be down-coded. If I have not used the right words, the Financial Secretary will understand from my illustration. Suppose a man has born to him in the course of the year a child. We know quite well that his code can be altered, and that, as a result, he gets immediately a certain remission of taxation, because the amount which he should pay each week will be less than it otherwise would have been, and he is immediately entitled to some refund owing to the weeks he has already paid on the larger basis. Suppose his child is born in March. Although that is after the time of assessment for the following year, at any time thereafter the facts can be brought to the attention of the Inland Revenue authorities, and the necessary alteration will be made.
On the opposite side of the picture, suppose that in March of any year a man loses his wife, or one of his children dies. Then, of course, it should be that in the following year he should pay on a higher basis, because he would be subject to a smaller amount of deduction and allowance, but in so far as his assessment has already been made, I am given to 1960 understand that that alteration cannot be effected, and therefore for the whole of the following year he will pay too small an amount of tax, with the result that, at the end of the year, he will be confronted by a considerable bill for arrears. I do not know whether I have made myself quite clear, but I think I have put the point sufficiently clearly for it to be looked into by the Financial Secretary or the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At any rate, the Inland Revenue authorities may see whether some arrangements could be made to meet this case which raises the precise objections which people had to the old scheme, namely that, at the end of the year, a man found himself in debt to the Inland Revenue. The sum might easily be £20 or £30, or, if he had lost two members of his family, might well be £50 or £60. The point might be looked into and some consideration given to it.
I come now to what is in the Bill. There are certain sections of the Bill to which I wish to make special reference. I need not make more than a passing reference to the temporary civil servants, because that point has been dealt with, I think, by almost every Member who has spoken, and the Chancellor himself has admitted that he is thoroughly favourable and sympathetic on this matter. I would like him to have a further look at it, because we do feel that here a definite and specific injustice is being wrought, for as the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) said, these people are having a definite right taken away from them, and, therefore, it is not too much to ask that something should be done to compensate them in some way. Now we come to the question of the permanent civil servant. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) made out what, no doubt, seemed to him a very strong case. I do not think the House as a whole was greatly impressed by his argument, but I do want to put one point to the Chancellor, because I believe that, as a matter of equity, the whole House is really agreed.
The equity is this. No one in this House, except perhaps the hon. Member for Rugby, and he did not put his argument on this basis, claims that because there are a number of halfpence being given away to certain people everyone has a right to his share of the pool. If, however, the claim of the civil servant is 1961 merely that, at a time when things are going well for certain classes of Schedule E taxpayers they, in common with other sections of the people, are entitled to a share of the junketing themselves, I do not think the House will support that point of view, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in resisting it, will, I think, receive the support of the House. But if it is possible for the civil servants to prove, and if the hon. Member for Rugby can show, that in any way they are suffering hardship as a result of this legislation, then I think it would be the wish of the House to try to give them some compensation. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer produced his Bill in the autumn of last year he did not include civil servants, and it was because the hon. Member for Rugby seemed to show that civil servants should be included that the right hon. Gentleman, rather precipitately, as I thought, accepted the idea.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It was not precipitate. I deliberately delayed coming to a decision, because I myself was not in agreement with the view put forward by the Service Association, and I even went to the length of having a special message sent to the Service Association to make quite sure whether they wanted this change. A great many civil servants are on acting rates of pay. When they return to substantive rates they may suffer, and they may gain under the new system where they would have suffered under the old from having to pay on the lower rates tax on the higher. Many civil servants are receiving very much more by overtime, and they benefit from being transferred. It was only when I was thoroughly satisfied that they knew what was involved, and that it was really their desire to come into this system, that I agreed to it. It really was not precipitate, and I would not like that word to go out.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I withdraw it, certainly, but I am coming to a point which I should be glad to have cleared up. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, after due consideration, fully agreed with the proposal from the hon. Member for Rugby, which was, as I understand from what the Chancellor says now, supported by some, at any rate, of the Civil Service organisations, though he himself has agreed that certain civil servants, so far from benefiting from the change, will 1962 in fact suffer a good deal of loss. I have a letter here from one Civil Service organisation and I do not think there is anything confidential about it that I should not disclose. It is the Exchequer and Audit Department Association, and they have never consented to this change. They point out that, in almost every case, all their members will suffer loss, and they are asking the Chancellor in particular to give them an option. I am not going into that particular suggestion except to say that it might well be "Heads I win, tails you lose." What they do say is that a civil servant who is on a rising scale would on the change over to Pay-as-you-earn in all following years suffer a loss.
I do not think the House wants civil servants, or a large section of them, to suffer that loss without some compensating advantage, and if as a result of the Chancellor's decision made in the autumn—a decision not made precipitately, but after careful consideration—there are a number of civil servants who will suffer, at any rate, temporary loss, I think the House would wish the Chancellor to make some compensation in these cases. I do not know sufficient about the precise method of charging Income Tax in the Civil Service to be able to say, but I gather that they say that not only would they suffer a temporary loss but, taking their period of service as a whole, a final loss; but that may be wrong. If that were so, it would be a strong argument that the Chancellor should make them some compensation. I am not coming to any final decision on this matter at this moment. I am only trying to explain to the Chancellor that if civil servants do not suffer any loss by this legislation, but are merely claiming to come in on the ground that, where there is money going they ought to have some of it, then I think the House would support the Chancellor in rejecting that plea. If it be true, as this body maintains, that considerable numbers of civil servants are by this change suffering temporary and possibly permanent loss, then I think the House should see that some compensation should be given to them.
I come now to Clause 7. I think I am the first hon. Member to draw attention to Clause 7. I do not think the process involved in it was referred to in our previous discussions, and I am not very well 1963 informed about this and may have got it wrong. I understand that there are certain professional people who receive money in their own pockets, like a doctor, which is quite clearly a Schedule D matter, because they could never give an account of it until the end of the year. There are professional men who have these fees and who also receive a salary, whose income is received in these two separate ways, part in the form of fees and part in the form of salary, like a resident doctor in a hospital. For the convenience of the taxpayer and the Inland Revenue, that part of their emoluments which is in the form of salary which would logically have been dealt with under Schedule E and the part they have received as fees under Schedule D have hitherto both been classed under Schedule D in order to save the trouble of having it in two classes. This method is to continue. I am not quite clear whether that will operate against them in these changes. Strictly speaking, there should be the basis of Schedule E for salary and Schedule D for fees. I should think that, where other taxpayers are being changed over to the Pay-as-you-earn basis and are getting this discharge, it would not be an unreasonable proposal if the emoluments of such a man were cut in two so that he would receive the same treatment as any other man receiving income under Schedule E. After all, I do not suppose that these are the only people with incomes coming within two Schedules, and I really do not see why, because for administrative purposes these two sets of income have been classed together under Schedule D, that fact should operate against them so far as the provisions of this Bill and legislation as a whole are concerned. I would like to repeat that we do appreciate very much the way the Chancellor has more than fulfilled his pledge given to us in the Autumn, and we shall wish this Bill a happy and speedy passage to the Statute Book.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Assheton)
The whole House has welcomed the Bill which the Chancellor has introduced to-day and there have been criticisms only on certain matters of detail, most of which will fall to be discussed when the House meets in Committee. The main criticism which has been levelled at the Bill concerns the 1964 treatment of the question of Income Tax discharge in the case of certain civil servants and temporary civil servants and also in the case raised by the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) of certain railway servants. By and large, the House has welcomed the Bill and it has recognised that it has certainly carried out the pledge which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave late last year. I will try to deal with some of the points which have been raised and if I fail to deal with them all, hon. Members know that there will be opportunities in the Committee stage to deal with those which are suitable to be dealt with then.
My right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) asked a number of questions, and I will give him answers where I can. He asked, in the first instance, what is the total amount of Income Tax which will have been transferred to the new basis when this Bill comes to be passed. I cannot give him a very exact figure, but it is somewhere in the neighbourhood of £550,000,000. It represents nearly one-half of the total Income Tax charge for a full year. If, later on, I am able to give him a more exact figure I shall be very happy to do so. My right hon. Friend asked, is the assessment of Surtax for 1943–44 and for subsequent years affected by the alteration, and if so, to what extent? As far as Surtax is concerned, all hon. Members are aware that it is not collectible under Pay-as-you-earn, but I understand there is a certain amount of doubt about that which may as well be set at rest. Surtax will remain due for payment as before on 1st January. The amount of the Surtax assessment is, however, affected by the change in the normal basis of assessment under Schedule E from the preceding year to the current year basis. The basis of assessment of Surtax follows that of the standard rate of Income Tax, and it is useful that that should be known. I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for giving me an opportunity of making it plain.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
There was a further point. The income for Surtax purposes is the statutory income for a certain previous year. Does the fact of altering the assessment year for the Income Tax in any way affect the date of the statutory 1965 year, which is taken as the basis of Surtax for the year?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
May I ask the Financial Secretary whether it is not a fact that it affects not only the year of assessment but the rate? I understood from what he said that it probably did so. Supposing the rate changes between one year and another, which year will be taken as the rate for the payment of Super-tax?
§ Mr. Assheton
No, Sir, it does not affect that. The amount of the Surtax assessment is affected by the change because of the change in the normal basis of assessment under Schedule E, from the preceding year to the current year basis, and the Surtax assessment does, in fact, follow the standard rate of Income Tax. In the case of an individual who, under the Bill as it now stands, will have an increased Income Tax assessment, because he is to be assessed on his current earnings instead of on the earnings of the previous year, it is clear that the change will affect the Surtax assessment. That is the point that my right hon. Friend wanted cleared up.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. G. White), whose speech I, unfortunately, missed, asked, I understand, if there was a right of appeal against an additional assessment under Clause 8. The right of appeal of every taxpayer against an assessment is entirely unaffected by this Bill or by the provisions of the previous Act which we passed last year. My hon. Friend the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield raised an awkward question about certain railway employees and the answer to him is the same as the answer on the question of the temporary civil servant. There is no doubt whatever that the principle which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has maintained all through, that there is no discharge of Income Tax unless there is an overlap, applies in the case of railway companies. There are certain railway servants whose Income Tax has been deducted in such a way that there will be an overlap on 6th April next. The amount of the over- 1966 lap of tax will be discharged. It is, perhaps, not fully understood by all railway servants that that is the position. My hon. Friend wanted the Chancellor of the Exchequer to go further and make a concession, which he is unable to make, either in the case of railway servants or in the case of civil servants.
§ Mr. Burden
I asked whether it would be possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to receive representatives of the railway companies and of the men together to discuss this problem. Can the Financial Secretary let me have a reply to that question?
§ Mr. Assheton
I understand that interviews have already taken place between both parties and I am not sure that any use would come of a further interview, but if my hon. Friend thinks that it would be of use, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be happy to arrange for such interview to take place. But I do not wish to encourage my hon. Friend to think that he will get any advantage from it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Summers) made one or two points. He seemed to be under a slight misapprehension about the application of the scheme in relation to the Armed Forces. I am not sure that it is clear in his mind that under the present arrangements the deduction of Income Tax from members of the Armed Forces is completed in the year for which the Income Tax is charged and that there should not, therefore, be an overlap when they return to civilian life. I am not saying that there are not certain circumstances in which there have been great difficulties in making the assessments and that there are not exceptions but, broadly speaking that is the rule, and no alteration of the law will improve the matter from the point of view of difficulty of administration. My hon. Friend raised a point similar to that raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh. It is rather a difficult one and relates to the position of certain professional men whose earnings would normally be assessed both under Schedule D and Schedule E. I appreciate the point but I would ask that it should be fully discussed when we come to the Committee stage. It is not an easy one and it is not very convenient to dispose of it now. I think I have covered all the main points 1967 that were raised in the Debate except the two principal criticisms of the Bill, namely, the way it affects both the permanent civil servant and the temporary civil servant.
§ Mr. Assheton
The same considerations apply to all Crown servants. My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) made the point that both permanent civil servants and temporary civil servants were being treated unjustly. He used the phrase "gross injustice" and I want to clear the Board of Inland Revenue and my right hon. Friend from any such suggestion. There is no question of injustice arising at all. No taxpayer under the arrangements provided for in this Bill will be called upon or has been called upon to pay more than the tax on the amount of income which he has earned. All that happens is that, in order to make it possible to introduce the new Pay-as-you-earn system smoothly, certain fortunate persons will receive a discharge of tax which was owing, and I can well understand, as my right hon. Friend said earlier, that there may be a certain amount of not unreasonable envy on the part of those who are in a less favourable position. My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby quoted one of the parables. May I remind him of the parable of the men who worked in the vineyard? In that case, my hon. Friend will remember, those who worked in the last hour received a penny, which was the same amount as that paid to those who had worked all the 12 hours.
§ Mr. Magnay (Gateshead) rose——1968
§ Mr. Assheton
My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby started this exchange of parables and I was trying to show that there might be cases in which there was an unequal treatment of persons, without injustice arising. There was no injustice because the man who worked the whole 12 hours of the day bargained to work for a penny and got his penny, but he naturally felt envious of the man who worked only one hour and received a penny. Similarly, there are a number of taxpayers who feel envious that other taxpayers should have the advantage of a discharge of tax.
I want to point out to the House that there are a large number of taxpayers who are unfortunate and who do not get any advantage from the discharge of tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out from the first that the discharge of tax was not desirable or equitable, but was merely introduced in order to make the scheme go. Look at the case of your Schedule D taxpayers, your farmers, your small shopkeepers and your professional men. None of them benefits by getting any discharge of tax, because it so happens that in their case there is no overlap. Members of Parliament provide another illustration. Members of Parliament would, in fact, benefit if we were to adopt the proposals which my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby suggests, because Members of Parliament would then be entitled to a discharge and it is, therefore, particularly desirable that we should give this matter our most earnest consideration and not be led into adopting an Amendment unless we are satisfied it is the right and proper thing to do.
I want to make it clear that there is no question of injustice. No taxpayer is being called upon to pay tax upon more than he has earned. No civil servant who has been in the service of the Crown has been called upon to pay tax upon more than he has earned, nor will he be called upon to do so, and it is not right for the hon. Member for Rugby to say it is unjust. He may say that there are differences of treatment, between one man and another, but no taxpayer is being treated unjustly. I think it ought to be made clear that the position of the temporary civil servant has some very 1969 special features and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has expressed to the House the very great sympathy he feels with the difficult position in which they find themselves. He has given illustrations to the House of men who have come into the Civil Service, in many cases at a considerable sacrifice, and who in consequence of so doing have found themselves liable during a period of time to a double burden of taxation. But it must not be thought by anyone in the House that, even in those cases, taxation was paid twice on the same income. It was merely that the incidence of taxation arising from two separate incomes happened to fall at the same period of time, and any civil servant who has paid up to the last farthing has, by now, paid tax on anything which he has earned and received and so, there again, there is not an injustice. But there is a hardship here which my right hon. Friend wanted to find a way of meeting, and the only way in which he has been able to meet the difficulty is by the proposal made in this Bill that what is outstanding should be discharged. It has been pointed out, truly enough, that that is a discrimination between one taxpayer and another, and it is not one which is welcome to the Chancellor, because undoubtedly the discharge very often benefits the taxpayer who has not done as much to meet his liability as some other fellow taxpayer has done. That is recognised, but what is the solution?
We have not been given any solution which is practicable. It is easy enough for hon. Members to criticise these things, but when you are making reforms on a scale of this sort—and this is a big reform—there are always liable to be difficulties. Do not let us forget that the only difficulty which arises is a temporary one. It is not permanent, and it is not going to be a flaw in the legislation for the future. We have to bear that in mind. In future, these difficulties of passing from one employment to another in Schedule E, will be overcome and that will be a great advantage to everybody, but it does leave certain taxpayers, who are temporarily employed as civil servants, with a feeling of grievance. The only way it is possible to meet that grievance, is by remitting a certain amount of tax in cases such as those which the Chancellor of the Exchequer 1970 has described. I think it ought to be made clear that it is not easy to find a solution, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby seems to think it is.
§ Sir F. Sanderson
Is it not a fact that, in effect, no benefit is given until a taxpayer either retires or dies?
§ Mr. Assheton
In this particular case perhaps I might make it clear that the temporary civil servant would, before we altered the law, have found himself in the happy position of having seven months without tax to pay, on leaving the Government service at the end of the war. We must not forget, also, that as a result of having that tax holiday for seven months, when he retired or died there would have been seven months' tax to pay, and so it is not really to the disadvantage of the temporary civil servant. Now when he retires or dies, he or his executors will not be in the unfortunate position of having to find a certain sum of money at a time when it is, usually, particularly difficult to find it. I wanted to make it quite clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby that there were practical difficulties such as this.
Let us take an illustration. Suppose there was a man who, before the war and before he went into the Services, was earning nothing. What about that? Take again the case of the man who before he went into the service of the Crown was earning a very great deal, say £5,000 a year, and after going into the Services was only earning 2s. 6d. a day. It is not going to be easy to assess the amount with which it would be reasonable to recompense him on the lines which have been suggested by various hon. Members. I only want to put to the House the difficulties and to show them that a solution of these problems has not been found. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed his sympathy with the case. He told the House he had done what he could in the Bill to meet it, and if any hon. Member is able to provide a solution at any time my right hon. Friend the Chancellor would be very glad to hear of it.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House—[Mr. Pym.]
§ Committee upon the next Sitting Day.