HC Deb 22 June 1950 vol 476 cc1694-7

(1) The following shall be added to subsection (2) of section thirty-one of the Finance Act. 1947:— Provided that where in the case of an investment company this subsection would apply for any chargeable accounting period but for the fact that estate or trading income belonging to the body corporate has not been so apportioned, then in computing the income of the body corporate for the purposes of profits tax for that period income other than estate or trading income shall be left out of account. In this proviso the expression 'estate or trading income' bears the same meaning as in subsection (8) of section fourteen of the Finance Act. 1939.

(2) Section thirty-one of the Finance Act. 1947, shall be deemed always to have had effect as amended by the foregoing proviso.—[Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

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

I move this Motion in the absence of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester. North-East (Mr. Donovan), who has. I understand, adequate if not excellent reasons for not being able to be with us at the moment. The Clause is worthy of some discussion, if only for the reason that it is the first new Clause we have reached in the name of any hon. Member opposite, and none of them being willing to move it, the duty devolves upon us on this side of the Committee.

All of us respect the great knowledge possessed by the hon. and learned Gentleman in whose name this Clause stands. He enjoys a nation-wide reputation on this subject. I have read the new Clause. I cannot say that I understand it in all its aspects. It is difficult for any of us to understand anything in these small hours, but were it high noon I should still have difficulty in understanding the language in which it is drafted. I lean with comfort on the experience and knowledge of the hon. and learned Gentleman who put it down. It may be that it was put down with the knowledge, and possibly the connivance, of the Law Officers. These things have happened.

The Solicitor-General

indicated dissent.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

I should have thought the Solicitor-General would have been anxious to improve the Bill. It certainly stands in need of it. For many hours we have been endeavouring to shape it, but if this indeed reveals another split in the party opposite it is high time the country was informed.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

On a point of order. Would it be in order if the hon. and gallant Gentleman explained to the Committee what Clause he is moving?

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

That is quite unnecessary. The hon. Gentleman generally follows our proceedings with assiduity, and surely he heard you call the name of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East.

Mr. Silverman

He is not here.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

Surely the hon. Member is aware that any Member of the Committee can move any new Clause. If he had followed my speech, he would know that I said I was moving this new Clause which stands in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester. North-East. If there is this extent of error and gloom below the Gangway, I am performing a greater service than I thought. I think there must be some professional jealousy in the matter. There is a cleavage of opinion in the ranks of the legal profession on the benches opposite. We suspect there is a split in the party on the Clause itself. There is the absence of the hon. and learned Member who put it down. There is only one escape from the dilemma for the Government, and that is for the Law Officer to explain the Clause to us, and, secondly, tell us the Government's attitude thereto and whether they are able to accept it or not.

Mr. Nally (Bilston)

This is quite an extraordinary thing. We have just had the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bristol, North-West (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) moving, as he is perfectly entitled to do, the new Clause which stands in the name of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Donovan). He began by saying, in effect, that he had not the slightest idea what it meant.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

I am sure the last thing which the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Nally) would wish to do would be to misrepresent me and the careful arguments which I addressed to the Committee. What I said—and this is on record and can be read in the OFFICIAL REPORT, which I think will appear on Saturday morning, was that I found the drafting a little obscure. The intention of the new Clause is obvious, and if there are any hon. Members who do not understand it, there is a marginal note for them to study. I hope the hon. Member is not going to put into my mouth words which I never said.

Mr. Nally

The impression I got from the hon. and gallant Member was that he was much more modest in what he said when he was moving the new Clause than he was in his interjection. I gathered quite clearly that the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not know what it was about, but he felt it his duty to move it and find out. To do that he moved a Clause which he did not understand and with which he had not the remotest connection. He went on to pay a deserved tribute to the high ability and outstanding gifts of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East, who has rightly decided, for reasons which are perfectly obvious to me at any rate, if not to the hon. and gallant Member, that the circumstances were such that it was not necessary to move the Clause he had put down.

I should have thought that if hon. Members opposite had such a touching and justifiable faith in my hon. and learned Friend, they would have known perfectly well that my hon. and learned Friend, unlike the party opposite, does not move a particular thing when he is satisfied that it is not necessary. Therefore, all I would say is that it seems to me that this is another typical example, particularly at this time of the morning, of what I might best describe as Tory Party high jinks and an attempt to keep us here as long as possible.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

I think the Committee is in danger of coming to a conclusion. Do I understand that the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Nally) was accepting the new Clause on behalf of the Government? If so, my hon. Friends and I would like to congratulate him on his promotion to Ministerial office. I rather gathered he was accepting it.

The Solicitor-General

We have listened to a full and convincing argument in support of this new Clause. I should like to deploy shortly the reasons why we cannot accept it. Profits Tax is not charged on individuals or partnerships of individuals, and when there is a one-man company the whole of whose income is attributed to its member for Surtax purposes, it is treated as an individual or partnership and Profits Tax does not have to be paid by that company.