HC Deb 09 April 1957 vol 568 cc996-7

I pass from shipping to the more human problems of personal taxation and, first, to taxation of old people with small incomes. Many people have for long held the view that our tax system is too hard upon elderly folk living on comparatively small incomes. Many old people do, of course, have relatively heavy calls upon their purses. On the other hand, we must not forget that very many younger people, with no greater income, have their responsibilities, too.

One has, therefore, to hold a fair balance between the old and the young. But I am sufficiently impressed by the case of the old to feel that I should take some action this year. I propose that there shall be two special income tax exemption limits for the old: an exemption limit of £250 for single persons over 65 and, secondly, of £400 for married couples where either husband or wife is over 65. In each case a marginal provision for incomes slightly over the limit will be necessary.

As a second step, I propose an improvement in the "age relief" arrangements. The Committee may remember that people over 65 with a total income of not more than £600 have the whole income treated as earned income whatever its source. Thus, relatively small investment incomes from savings bear no more tax than pensions. I propose that the income limit for age relief shall be increased from £600 to £700. I hope that those two proposals, which will cost £21¼ million this year and £4¼ million in a full year, may do something to help the older members of the community.