HC Deb 12 June 1956 vol 554 cc302-19
Mr. Houghton

I beg to move, in page 19, line 3, after "person", to insert: or body of persons". It may be convenient, Sir Rhys, if I cover, at the same time, two consequential Amendments on the Notice Paper in the names of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and myself, in page 19, line 17, and page 20, line 6.

This Clause is acceptable to my right hon. and hon. Friends. It carries out one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income for the tightening up of the powers of the Inland Revenue to get information about the fees, commissions and payments of that kind which are not at present returned to the Inland Revenue except as a voluntary act.

The Royal Commission referred, in paragraph 1065 of its final Report, to the types of payment about which at present the Inland Revenue has no power to get information, and said: The Board have stated to us their belief that there is substantial evasion of tax in this field. This has been referred to colloquially as "the B.B.C. Clause" because the British Broadcasting Corporation is one very large organisation which, quite within its rights, refuses to disclose to the Inland Revenue broadcasting fees and fees paid for the reproduction of talks in its publications, and so on. There must be a very large number of people who get fees from the B.B.C., and the total amount paid must be considerable. There are also newspapers which pay for articles. Some newspapers, as a matter of practice and of arrangement with the Inland Revenue, make return of fees paid for articles which they publish, but others do not.

The Amendment merely seeks to make doubly sure that the Clause is comprehensive. We want to be certain that "Every person" in the first line means "Every person or body of persons", that "Every body of persons" in the first line of subsection (2) means also "Every person", and that "No person", in the first line of subsection (4), also means "No body of persons". This may be somewhat like a man who wears a belt as well as braces, but we want to be sure that, while we are at it, we make the Clause watertight.

Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)

With reference to subsection (2), does the hon. Gentleman expect me, as an individual, to make a return to the surveyor every year of the number of tips which I give each taxi driver?

Mr. Houghton

No, Sir. The hon. and gallant Member would be absolved from doing that by my reading of the Clause, because of the minimum amount which is laid down. However, if he tips his taxi driver more than £15, I am not so sure that we ought not to require a return from him. Such generosity would be dangerous from the point of view of tax evasion, and we should certainly want to close the net. But with great respect to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I am quite sure that, being a Scot, he is unlikely to tip his taxi driver more than £15.

I want to make sure that a person who may be carrying on some activity which is unspecified and makes payments in the course of doing so will make a return under the Clause. The Financial Secretary will probably say that it is all right and that he can set our fears at rest. If he can do so, there will be no need to press the Amendment. Perhaps it will be suitable for me to say a few concluding remarks on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

6.15 p.m.

Mr. H. Brooke

I think I may be able to set at rest the doubts or fears of the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) about this subtle trio of Amendments. If he will consult the Interpretation Act, 1889, he will find that the expression "person" includes "any body of persons corporate or incorporate." I trust that that will satisfy him on his first Amendment.

The second Amendment concerns people who are carrying on any activity which does not constitute a trade or business. It appeared to us that these would be bodies of persons rather than individual persons from whom the information would be required. The hon. Member has clearly explained why application need not be made to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) for details of his tipping. I think that that would apply generally in relation to the payments of individuals. Subsection (2) is really directed to non-trading companies and societies and other bodies of persons, such as musical societies and the like, and, indeed, some local authorities, which may run concerts which do not constitute trading. There again, I think we have the correct wording.

The third Amendment really alarmed me because the effect of it, as I understand, would be to make any small shareholder of a company, who took no part whatever in the management of the company, liable to render a return of payments made by the company, something which, obviously, he would be totally unable to do. Indeed, the Inland Revenue would be ill-advised to apply to him, because its right course would be to apply to the company, and, if the company failed to render a return, proceedings could be started against the company without pursuing the individual shareholders.

I hope that, with that explanation, the hon. Gentleman will agree that the Clause is correctly drafted, and will then be willing to pass on to the general issues on which he said he would like to say a word.

Mr. Mitchison

This is a musical comedy muddle. Take "company". In the view of the right hon. Gentleman, apparently, a "company" is a "body of persons". The right hon. Gentleman correctly quoted a Section of the Interpretation Act, which he really need not have done, as I think that all of us know that "a company" is "a person" and, consequently, any reference to "a body of persons" must refer either to "a body of individuals" or "a body of companies", whatever that may be.

As "a person", by the same Interpretation Act. includes "persons" unless the contrary appears, we are still extremely uncertain what a "body of persons" is. I am sure I do not know. They are not corporate, because if they were they would be "a person" already. Therefore, what we have to consider in this respect is the sad case of an incorporeal body.

I dare say the Treasury knows what it is talking about, but I am bound to say that I do not. I should have thought that the distinction which appeared to be drawn between, in one subsection, a "person", which, by reference to the Interpretation Act, also includes "persons" and, in the next one, a "body of persons", which, according to the curious conception in the right hon. Gentleman's mind, includes a "company" is, at any rate, sufficiently obscure to create a little uncertainty as to the reasons which promoted the remarkable distinction.

I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to let us come down to brass tacks for a change. Why is it that "a person", which, we know, includes "a company" should not be required to take action under subsection (2) when "a body of persons" is required to do so? If "a body of persons" has any real meaning, why is "a body of persons" not required to do anything under subsection (1)? What we should like to know are the practical reasons for this. All we tried to do was to fill in the apparent gaps. What we have elicited is a sad story which seems to be—there is no other explanation—a story of complete confusion.

As to the last matter, we did for once make a wholly unwarranted assumption. We assumed, contrary to all reason and experience, that the officers charged with the administration of the Inland Revenue would use some sensible selection in requiring a person to make a return on behalf of a body of persons. Since, apparently, that is not to be postulated—since the right hon. Gentleman appears for the moment to have a rather more critical view than he usually has of the intelligence and discrimination of those who work under him—perhaps he will tell us how a body of persons makes a return. We do not expect him to answer now, but surely he will have a look at this and see whether he cannot get it right.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

I quite agree with what the Financial Secretary said about the second word of the Clause, that "person" has also a plural meaning in the Interpretation Act, 1889. I should like him to tell the Committee—and I am sure that he will think that it is fair that we should know this—why this should be served up in the singular in subsection (1) and should make its appearance in subsection (2) in the garb of plurality. That should be explained. It may well be because it is some form of trade or activity which envisages more than one person, but we have not had a satisfactory explanation of that matter.

In subsection (2) the singular person is clearly excluded. The subsection deals with one or more persons, or, to use the phrase of the subsection, Every body of persons… It is rather interesting and I have no doubt that the Financial Secretary will be able to explain it. Obviously, the draftsman had some notion when he indulged in this diversity between the two subsections. The Financial Secretary should explain why there is this distinction and what the applicability of the distinction is

Mr. H. Brooke

I thought that I had explained this with perfect clarity on the first occasion, but if I have failed to do so I will willingly make another attempt. By Clause 16 we are placing obligations on persons and bodies of persons. In subsection (1) it is a general obligation both on an individual person carrying on a trade or business and on bodies of persons including companies.

Mr. Mitckison

Then, in subsection (1), "person" includes "body of persons"? Is that right?

Mr. Brooke

Yes, it does. I thought I had said so. The Interpretation Act has already said so.

In subsection (2) we are dealing with people carrying on an activity which does not constitute a trade or business and we are placing certain obligations on them. I made it clear that this was designed to cover bodies like musical societies and local authorities giving entertainments, and others of that kind who are certainly not carrying on trade or business.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

Why not a similar activity carried on by one person?

Mr. Brooke

I cannot conceive of a case where there would be a single person who was not engaged in trade or business and who yet would be making a series of payments of this kind on a substantial scale. The hon. and learned Member will recollect that small payments are excluded. I do not think that it is desirable that the Committee should give tax authorities unlimited discretion to communicate with all kinds of individuals who are not in trade or business and ask them for returns. Indeed, on both sides of the Committee we are chary of giving powers like that. In this Clause, we are trying to adhere to what I have always known as the general sense of the Committee on both sides, that we should not ask for powers greater than are reasonably needed. That is the reason for the distinction. There is no mystery about it.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

The mystery still remains, because it must be a mystery to an intelligent person why one should perform a certain act in relation to two or more people, who are doing something which is not in connection with a business or activity relevant to the Clause, and yet exclude its operation against a single person, who is doing precisely the same thing and in respect of whom there can be no reason why the same result ought not to happen in regard to him, as one person, as will now happen in relation to two or more persons.

Mr. Mitehison

I do not want to take an undue amount of time, but this seems to depend on whether a body of persons carrying on an activity which does not constitute a trade or business really is a separate body of persons, or whether it is, for instance, the kind of company which can be incorporated under the Companies Acts for doing things which are not a trade or business and which is often used for that purpose. The right hon. Gentleman, perhaps inadvertently, took a company as an instance of a body of persons which is strictly a single person.

I suggest that he might consider whether he has not drawn the distinction between a person and a body of persons at the wrong place and whether he should not look again at the question of the company which is not in profit-making business at all.

Mr. Brooke

With great respect to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), I think that he is splitting very fine hairs. I will certainly examine the matter again in the light of the debate. I think we have it right, and I hope I have convinced the majority of the Committee that we do have it right and that the reason is that we do not want to give the tax authorities powers more extensive than they really need. However, between now and Report I will read what has been said.

Mr. Houghton

In view of that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave. withdrawn.

Sir Patrick Spans (Kensington, South)

I beg to move, in page 19, line 43, at the end to insert: (c) Particulars of payments made more than three years prior to the date of the notice from the surveyor. This is a very short Amendment and speaks for itself. The Clause refers to payments made on or after 6th April, 1956, but, on the other hand, there is no limit at any time after that date on how far back the surveyor may go in requiring returns from people who have made such payments. My right hon. Friend has just said that we do not want to give unnecessarily wide powers. It may well be that ten years hence the Revenue authorities may get on the track of some payments which had been made and it might be extremely burdensome for the payer, if he had to go back the whole ten years, even if he had records.

In Clauses similar to this, in the past there has generally been a period beyond which the Revenue authorities cannot go back. We suggest that the Inland Revenue should not be allowed to go back in its inquiries beyond three years from the date of the service of the notice.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. H. Brooke

I am obliged to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) for raising this point. As he has mentioned, there is nothing in the Clause which would authorise inquiries to be made further back than the beginning of this financial year. His point is that if, ten years hence, the Inland Revenue has failed to make inquiries in a certain case, and wants that information, it might be awkward if it were to seek information many years back, when the records may have been destroyed.

This point deserves consideration. I am certainly not going to agree to anything which would weaken the powers of the Inland Revenue to obtain the information which it requires. At the same time, my right hon. and learned Friend has pointed out that in at least one somewhat similar case a three-year limit was applied, namely, in Section 27 of the Finance Act, 1951—which is now Section 29 of the Income Tax Act, 1952—under which banks may be required to make returns of interest payments in excess of £15.

If the Inland Revenue wished to go back more than three years it would be some kind of evidence that it had missed an opportunity which it should have taken upon an earlier occasion, and whereas we very much want the powers provided by the Clause we do not want them to be exercised in a way which effects no practical use. On the whole, I am inclined to advise the Committee that the interests both of the Inland Revenue and the taxpayer would be properly protected if a three-year limit were inserted here, as it exists in another context in the 1951 Act.

My right hon. and learned Friend's Amendment is not quite satisfactory in its wording. I think that the date should be the date of the beginning of the Income Tax year and not precisely three years from the date of the notice, but if my right hon. and learned Friend is disposed to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment I would undertake that, on Report. my right hon. Friend would bring forward an Amendment with which to achieve the same purpose.

Sir P. Spens

In those circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Houghton

I do not know whether it is in order for me to say that I regret what we have just heard from the Financial Secretary, but I am very sorry that he has already begun to weaken the Clause. This Clause is in the Bill because the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income drew attention to a substantial field of evasion in relation to the payment of fees to music hall artistes, free-lance journalists and others who earn a living not under a contract of service but by fees received for contributions literary, artistic, or in the world of entertainment.

It is well known that there has been a good deal of such evasion. Ordinary, honest taxpayers have often read in the newspapers of music hall artistes and others in the world of entertainment who have been made bankrupt and have been found to be owing very large sums in Income Tax and Surtax. The public has wondered how that has come about, and why it is that although the Inland Revenue has all the workers in its grip, and has tax deducted from their pay packets in respect of every penny of overtime, production bonus or whatever it is they earn, another section of the community seems to get away with it.

The Inland Revenue has come in for a good deal of criticism on account of these cases, much of which criticism has been undeserved. It has just not been possible for the Inland Revenue to put its hands on these people. It has not known what they have received; it has not had power to require those who pay them to declare what they have paid; it relies upon the taxpayer to render a return of Income Tax, and it fails to get one even though it serves notice after notice requiring him to comply with the Income Tax Acts. Very frequently, the persons concerned are very elusive. This Clause, in conjunction with Clause 17, will do a great deal to strengthen the hands of the Inland Revenue.

Paragraph 1066 of the final Report of the Royal Commission says: In those circumstances we feel no doubt that the right course is to give the Revenue a statutory power to call for returns of fees or other remuneration paid for artistic, literary or entertainment services on the same lines as its existing power under Section 28 of the Income Tax Act, 1952, to call for returns of commissions paid for services rendered. Section 28 has no limitation of time. It provides that Every person carrying on a trade or a business, if required to do so by notice from the surveyor, shall, within the times specified in the notice, make and deliver to the surveyor a return of all payments or other consideration to which this section applies, made or given during a year specified in the notice … As the Clause stands, all the powers of Section 28 would rest in the hands of the Inland Revenue, and there would be no limit as to the time which it could go back, subject to the over-riding condition contained in subsection (7) of the Clause, which says: This section shall apply to payments made on or after the sixth day of April, nineteen hundred and fifty-six. For the present that limits the power of inquiry to payments made in the future. If three, four, five or six years go by, and the Inland Revenue then has reason to believe that payments have been made by a person or body of persons and that those payments have not been disclosed, it would have power to inquire back as far as 6th April, 1956, as, in the same way, it has power to inquire back, without limit of time, under Section 28.

It is much better that the Clause should stand part of the Bill as it is, and not be subject to any weakening Amendment, which the Financial Secretary seems to have hinted that his right hon. Friend will be prepared to introduce. It is far better that the Committee should do nothing to weaken the powers of the Inland Revenue in this connection. It has long been said by those who are in a position to know that there are two kinds of income tax in this country—Pay As You Earn and "Pay As You Like"—and many of these people do not like, and do not pay.

It would be quite wrong for the Committee to limit the powers of the Inland Revenue to investigate. Some of the people who make the payments are also elusive. It is a question of the difficulty of getting hold not merely of the people who receive the money. but also of those who pay the money. All sorts of people mushroom into existence, float entertainment enterprises of one kind or another and subsequently vanish. The Inland Revenue may not become aware of the existence of the people who are making these payments until some time afterwards, when they may get to know by accident. In those circumstances, it should have the power to inquire back.

I hope I have not been too predatory in my remarks, but this is a serious matter. There is much discontent among the workers that they should be paying through P.A.Y.E. up to the hilt when there is another section of taxpayers in a less vulnerable position. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will have firm thoughts on his second thoughts, and that this Clause will stand as it is.

Sir P. Spens

I only wish to say that I am entirely in concurrence with the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) on what this Clause intends to do, but I think the Committee should realise that if, eventually, the Amendment which I moved is taken over by the Government and accepted, from the moment the Bill becomes law, the Inland Revenue will have three years in which to pursue any person. If, in the course of the three years, it can find neither the person who has received the money nor the person who paid it, then I think the Inland Revenue will be to blame and nobody else.

While the hon. Gentleman says that there is a great deal of discontent, there are also some people who think that the Inland Revenue is extraordinarily dilatory in making its claims. If it has to make its claims within three years, no harm will be done to the Department.

Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)

The right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) made an unwarrantable attack on the Inland Revenue, because I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite would be the first to come to the House with indignant letters if the Inland Revenue did not exercise a certain amount of tolerance, as it is bound to do, in requiring the actual return of Income Tax forms.

I submit to the Financial Secretary that three years is an unreasonably short time in which the Department could possibly track down the kind of people whom this Clause is designed to catch. In the case of the ordinary straightforward taxpayer, I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that three years is probably long enough, but this is a Clause which is designed to catch people who are notoriously difficult over their Income Tax affairs. It is all very well to say that the Inland Revenue should never allow actresses and such people to go to America and build up big Income Tax arrears, but I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman should have drafted his Amendment so as to tell us how he would suggest that that could be done.

I suggest to the Financial Secretary that he should look a little more carefully into the difference in the wording between subsections (1) and (2). He mentioned that subsection (2) was designed to deal with entertainment and things of that sort with which a body like a local authority or a somewhat similar group of persons would be concerned. I have no personal knowledge of these matters, but, from reading the newspapers, it seems that some people do go in for very expensive entertainments.

One reads of £5,000 or £10,000 being spent on one party and I would not suggest that these are the kind of small sums which the Financial Secretary says he does not wish to catch by this Clause. If the newspapers are anything like accurate, it seems that, for personal reasons and not for the purposes of trade or business—and if it was for trade or business, it should be looked at even more carefully—there are certainly a few people who spend very large sums on private entertainment.

I suggest that they should be brought within the purview of this Clause; otherwise, there will be one law for entertainers, those who work in the profession, and a separate law with the extra incentive of tax evasion for those who work for the people who give private parties. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look more carefully into the matter before undertaking to introduce an Amendment on the Report stage, because I do not think that he should be so willing to restrict this to three years.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

I was rather surprised at the very easy view which the Financial Secretary took of the reasonableness of this Clause. I am at one with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) if his object is that a perfectly honest and reasonable person who is acting properly should not be troubled after a period of three years to give information which the Inland Revenue could have received before then, and which it may be difficult for the person involved to supply after the exploration of that period.

I do not understand why the Financial Secretary so easily takes the view that he expressed. He has to remember that he is dealing with the slippery eels of tax evasion, and that that puts an entirely different vista on the picture that was presented at first blush by the Amendment. I therefore ask the Financial Secretary not so readily to express the view that he thinks this is a reasonable Amendment which might, on consideration, be adopted.

I would also put this consideration to the right hon. Gentleman. Let us suppose that there is a case—and as to this I am sure he will agree—in which it is not possible within the period of three years to get this information because of the deliberate suppression of that information by the person who ought to have given it. Let us further suppose that it is a deliberate suppression for the purpose of fraud, and that, after the expiration of the period of three years, it is discovered. Is the Financial Secretary going to tell the Committee that he thinks it is right and proper in those circumstances that an individual, merely because of the effluxion of three years before the discovery is made, should go scot free, although he is the perpetrator of an offence against both the Exchequer and the country? It is quite clear that in a case such as that it would be quite wrong to put that individual beyond the grip of the Treasury and beyond the scrutiny of the law.

Mr. Geoffrey Stevens (Portsmouth, Langstone)

I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman, who is learned in the law as it affects Income Tax matters, for giving way. May I ask him whether it is not a fact that where fraud is concerned there are provisions in the existing Income Tax statutes for the abolition of the time bar?

Mr. Turner-Samuels

The hon. Member shows that at all events he is not very learned in Income Tax law. This Amendment is quite clear in its terms. The purview of this Amendment would enable a person of the character which I have described to escape after three years from the duty of making a return and becoming liable, as he ought to become, if he had done what it was his clear duty to do.

Therefore, I say to the Financial Secretary that while it may be right to take one view on this matter relating to reasonably honest persons he should, nevertheless, pause for a moment and consider what the effect of the case would be if, instead of an honest person, it was a dishonest person with whom he was dealing. It is obvious that provision should be made to make impossible a deliberate fraud, or for a person committing a deliberate fraud by suppressing this information who is not found out until after the expiration of the period of three years, to escape his responsibilities. I am quite sure that that is a reasonable proposition. certainly equally as reasonable as anything in the Amendment to which I have referred, and I therefore hope that the Financial Secretary will bear that in mind.

Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)

I wish to associate myself with my hon. Friends who have begged the Financial Secretary not to let this Clause be weakened in any way. At the same time, I do not think that the Committee would like the impression to go abroad that it considers that the acting profession as a whole tends to avoid the payment of Income Tax. A large proportion of members of the profession pay Income Tax very fairly. Of the remainder such tax evasion as takes place is probably quite inadvertent.

The entertainment profession requires a considerable concentration of the mind, which produces a certain amount of absent-mindedness when its members are filling in Income Tax forms and are complying with the requirements of the Board of Inland Revenue. So I do not think that the profession should be spoken of in too harsh a manner. Nevertheless, this Clause should be welcomed, because it will substantially help to overcome this difficulty.

I wish to ask the Financial Secretary two questions. One refers to subsection (4), which stipulates that no disclosure need be made where the total payment to any person does not exceed £15. That seems to me a rather large sum, because a considerable proportion of the fees paid to members of the entertainment profession are less than £15. I feel that that figure impairs the strength of this Clause.

For example, the B.B.C. habitually pays comparatively small fees. Recently, I saw in the Press that it even offered a fee of as little as five guineas to no less a person than Miss Diana Dors.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

She has a good figure.

Mr. Cronin

It is not material to my argument that that offer was rejected with contumely. I feel that £15 is too high a figure.

The other matter on which I wish to hear the views of the Financial Secretary relates to subsection (6), which makes clear that the word "payment" includes … the giving of any valuable consideration" and where payment is made in kind the disclosure of particulars is required. I do not see the purpose of that subsection. I presume that there is no question of members of the entertainment profession being taxed on what considerations they receive other than payment. In the entertainment profession it is customary to give large and lavish presents and this may well cause some confusion in the accounts of the people concerned.

Mr. H. Brooke

Subsection (6) of the Clause is designed to make it clear that the Clause extends to commissions of any kind, and to payments in respect of expenses and payments in kind. If we are to have the power to seek this information I think it desirable that such power should be comprehensive.

I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) and I deprecate any suggestion that the entertainment industry as a whole, actors, actresses and entertainers, are, in general, careless or dishonest about their Income Tax affairs. The fact remains that it is a precarious profession in which earnings may be high over a period and then low or non-existent. In those circumstances it becomes difficult to collect the taxes on the period of high earnings if there has been any delay.

After careful examination it has been proved impossible to apply P.A.Y.E. The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) said that we all came under Pay-as-you-earn or "Pay-as-you-like". But I know a number of people who do not come under Pay-as-you-earn but who would hardly describe their Income Tax experiences as "Pay-as-you-like". I sincerely trust that the Committee will approve this Clause and the following Clause, not in the sense of something designed against a dishonest profession, because emphatically it is not that, but rather as a further weapon which is needed in the armoury of the Inland Revenue to collect tax from a profession where the working arrangements are distinctive and to which the normal procedure cannot be applied.

I suggest that we should not spend any more time now arguing about the three-year limit, as it is not yet in the Clause and there will be a further opportunity to debate the matter when the Government Amendment is put down. But in case I may succeed in shortening the proceedings on Report by doing so, I should like to mention that both the £15 limit in the Clause and the three-year limit we are proposing to import into it are exactly in line with the Finance Act of 1951 in relation to bank interest and that Act was passed when hon. Members opposite were in power.

Mr. Mulley

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there must be a great difference between extracting information from a bank, where books are kept and where prompt replies are made to Income Tax inquiries, and extracting information from a profession where the method of work is not conducive to keeping good and proper accounts?

Mr. Brooke

It is not a matter of requiring information from the profession, but from the employers in the profession.

I assure the Committee that I have no Intention of allowing the teeth to he taken out of this Clause. I attach great importance to it. If I may be permitted a personal reminiscence, it so happens that one of the first Parliamentary Questions which it fell to me to answer from this Box was about the case of a film actor who owed the Revenue a great deal of money and who had gone abroad. I was able to say, when answering supplementary questions, that I had instituted inquiries on my own, before the matter was raised in the House, to see whether further steps could be taken to prevent that kind of thing from happening again. As a result of that inquiry, and also of what was said by the Royal Commission, which reported on the same lines as had already occurred to us, these Clauses are being brought forward.

I agree that a public scandal occurs when a person owes a great deal of unpaid Income Tax and has gone abroad. At that stage, it is often impossible to collect it. This Clause and the next are designed to minimise the chances of that happening. In the light of what I have said, I trust that the Committee will appreciate that I. for one, would not be willing to limit their effect unduly.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

In relation to the Amendment about the three-year period to which he has referred, would the Financial Secretary consider making a qualification in the case of a person who obviously has suppressed information which could not, therefore, have been obtained by the Revenue within three years?

Mr. Brooke

Let me make clear that the Amendment to which I referred could have no restrictive effect at all for three years from now, so that in any case we shall have three years to see how we get on. I think that, when it has these new powers. the Board of Inland Revenue will act quickly upon them.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

Of course, such an Amendment would not operate straight away, and there is, as the Financial Secretary says, a period of three years to be taken into consideration. But I am concerned about what happens after that period. If the law has already protected such persons, then it is too late to take any proceedings against them. Will the right hon. Gentleman see that some provision is made to qualify the Clause at least to that extent?

Mr. Brooke

I do not think it would be in order were I to say much more at this stage about an Amendment which is not yet on the Notice Paper, but I will consider everything which has been said

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.