HC Deb 01 July 1957 vol 572 cc727-37
Mr. Powell

I beg to move, in page 54, line 14, to leave out from the beginning to the second "the" in line 31 and to insert: 9.—(1) Where under section twenty-two of the Finance Act, 1937 (which authorises a principal company to give a grouping notice in respect of a company which is its subsidiary for profits tax purposes, such a notice is in force and the principal company which gave the notice or the subsidiary company to which the notice applies is an Overseas Trade Corporation, the provisions of subsection (1) of section twenty-six of this Act and of paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Schedule shall be applied for determining the profits or losses of the subsidiary company before, and not after, the profits or losses of the subsidiary company are, under the provisions of subsection (2) of the said section twenty-two, treated as profits or losses of the company which gave the notice. (2) Where such a notice is in force and both the principal company and the subsidiary company are Overseas Trade Corporations, trading income arising to the subsidiary company in a chargeable accounting period to which the notice relates shall for the purposes of subparagraph (3) of paragraph 3 of this Schedule be included in the trading income of the principal company for the corresponding chargeable accounting period (as defined in the said section twenty-two). (3) Where on a date when such a notice is in force the principal company or the subsidiary company becomes an Overseas Trade Corporation. In general, the effect of a grouping notice is to enable the profits and losses of firms within a group to be treated as though they were the profits and losses of a single firm. Clearly, where a group includes firms which are and firms which are not overseas trade corporations it would be quite wrong that the trading profits and losses which are treated as exempt in the case of the overseas trade corporations should be grouped in this way with the profits and losses of the firms which are not overseas trade corporations.

It is for that reason that, as the Bill is drafted, a grouping notice is not applicable to what I might call mixed groups, that is, groups some of the members of which are overseas trade corporations and others are not. It is, however, reasonable to argue that at any rate, as regards their investment income—the income which attracts no benefit under the provisions of Part IV—the groups which include overseas trade corporations should not be at a positive disadvantage. The effect, therefore, of the two new subsections will be to enable a grouping notice to take effect in relation to the investment income only of overseas trade corporations in a mixed group where a grouping notice is given. That is the practical effect of the change proposed.

5.0 p. m.

Mr. Stevens

In so far as I understand the Amendments tabled in the name of my right hon. Friend, and the explanation given by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the effect of this Amendment will be very similar, even if it does not go the whole of the way, to that of the Amendments which my hon. Friend and I have tabled. If my understanding of that is correct, I should like to offer my grateful thanks to my hon. Friend for having gone a long way to meet us.

Mr. Mitchison

I am sorry to introduce even the faintest note of discord, but I am not at all happy about this Amendment. Is it really necessary that this should be done? This is carrying the distinction between the investment income and the trading income of this peculiar type of corporation further into a field into which it would not have been extended, as I understand it, but for this Amendment. It allows a grouping notice to be given in relation to investment income and not otherwise. We have not had a statement from the Financial Secretary as to the circumstances in which he thinks this would be required, and I find it a little difficult to see what practical purpose the extension of this concession in this direction is to serve. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell us.

Mr. Powell

I should have thought that it was reasonable if a group of companies, before Part IV of this Bill becomes law, can have the advantages of the grouping provisions of the Income Tax Acts, that in so far as their profits are not affected by Part IV of the Bill, that is to say, as far as they relate to investment income, these advantages should not be withdrawn. That is simply the effect of the Amendment.

Mr. Mitchison

I am sorry to press the Financial Secretary further about this, but this is a case where a part, but not the whole, of the income of a company can be grouped. Is there any other case in which part of the income of the company can be grouped?

Mr. Powell

There is no other case in which the trading income of a company which is resident is exempt, and we are making a new provision for that purpose. I am only suggesting that we should not associate with it a new disadvantage.

Mr. Mitchison

It is not a new disadvantage. What is happening is that a special tax concession is being given in certain cases, and all the Financial Secretary is saying to the Committee is that it seems to him to be reasonable that a further new and unprecedented concession should be made in connection with a grouping of income because a new and unprecedented concession has been made generally in Part IV of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Stevens

I beg to move, in page 55, to leave out lines 40 to 42 and to add: during which the company is an Overseas Trade Corporation.

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Norman Hulbert)

I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if the Amendment in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), to the Eighth Schedule, page 56, line 43, to leave out from "assessment" to end of line 2 on page 57, and to insert: in which the company qualified as an Overseas Trade Corporation were taken along with this Amendment.

Mr. Stevens

As I understand, we are also to discuss certain other Amendments to the Eighth Schedule, and all these Amendments really go together.

Clause 27 provides that there shall be an annual determination of status as an overseas trade corporation, and the last two paragraphs of the Seventh Schedule and the whole of the Eighth Schedule deal with certain provisions necessary if a change of status takes place.

I think it is a little unfortunate that, as by the very nature of things a company can be an overseas trade corporation one year, not be an overseas trade corporation another year and in the third year become an overseas trade corporation again, because of these provisions in the Seventh and Eighth Schedules, losses available in the year in which the company was an overseas trade corporation are, as it were, rubbed out by the year in which it was not an overseas trade corporation, and are not available when it becomes an overseas trade corporation again. The same thing is true of capital allowances, and the same thing can be applied to terminal losses and the spread over.

I do not want to weary the Committee by going through each of these Amendments in turn. I think I have said enough to indicate the general situation, as I see it, which this series of Amendments is intended to put right.

Mr. Powell

It would be simplest to regard this Amendment and the others in the name of my hon. Friend as being in the nature of kangaroo Amendments. They would enable a company to jump over the period in which it is an overseas trade corporation for the purpose of allowing losses, capital allowances, and so on, to count against tax. I think that the Committee has generally been agreed that more specific provision will require to be made, and my right hon. Friend has undertaken to do so on the Report stage, to cover the cases of corporations opting in and out of overseas trade corporation status. I think there is general agreement that there will have to be a quite strict limitation upon the power of companies to do so, as, otherwise, the process might well give rise to a considerable amount of tax avoidance.

Against that background, I suggest to my hon. Friend that this is really a point which ought to be picked up in that context; that, in general, the trading position of a company when it turns over from being an ordinary company to being an overseas trade corporation should at that point be brought to a conclusion for Income Tax purposes and a fresh start made.

Mr. Stevens

I fully follow my hon. Friend's point, but he is dealing solely with the event that there might be an election for overseas trade corporation status. Clause 27 provides that there shall be an annual determination, irrespective of election, so that it might well be accidental.

Mr. Powell

That is true, and it might also be artificial, by means of a company deliberately qualifying or disqualifying itself, as the case may be. We have to look at this problem of the overseas trade corporation's losses in the light of whatever falls to be done to regulate the passage of companies to and from overseas trade corporation status.

I would, therefore, ask my hon. Friend to realise that this problem is a part of the larger context, and to see whether it cannot be met within the ambit of the Amendments which my right hon. Friend proposes to make at a later stage.

Mr. Mitchison

I rise only to say that I am very glad to know that the Financial Secretary has not been carried away on the back of a kangaroo, or even of a group of kangaroos.

Mr. Stevens

In view of what my hon. Friend has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this Schedule, as amended, be the Seventh Schedule to the Bill.

Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)

Overseas trade corporations are a fascinating subject but, at this stage, the fascination has probably been substantially diminished for hon. Members, and those of us who still have an unabated enthusiasm for the subject should, perhaps, restrain themselves, as one has to bear in mind the progress of the Bill as a whole. Nevertheless, I feel that these matters should be gone into carefully.

If I speak briefly, it is not because the case against the Seventh Schedule is a short one. The arguments against it are, indeed, so multitudinous that we could debate them until an advanced hour this evening. Fortunately, much of the ground has been covered by our debate on Clause 26, when my right hon. and hon. Friends expressed in considerable detail their disapprobation of the whole question of overseas trade corporations being free from the necessity of paying Profits Tax. There are, however, one or two specific matters here to which one must refer.

For instance, paragraph 3 makes a very large change in the abatement under Section 33 of the Finance Act, 1947. That Section allowed small firms to be free of the necessity to pay Profits Tax on profits which were less than £2,000, and allowed them to have an abatement, in that they were allowed to reduce their profits by one-fifth of the difference between the amount of profits and £12,000. Paragraph 3 reduces the figures from £2,000 to £500 and from £12,000 to £3,000 respectively. This seems to be rather a severe blow to small firms which might happen to be overseas trade corporations. It seems rather unfair that a concession which was given to them for very good and adequate reasons should be withdrawn simply because they achieve that status.

There is also the question of distributions on liquidation. If the Schedule stays as it is, firms which are overseas trade corporations and which go into liquidation do not have to pay Profits Tax on the distributions on liquidation, even though those distributions exceed the amount of the nominal capital. This leaves a very wide loophole for tax avoidance, and one which should be narrowed. It is obviously unfair to other payers of Profits Tax in that they must carry a greater burden.

The strongest case against the Schedule, of course, is that it leads to a propensity for overseas trade corporations to go into liquidation. It will tend to have the effect of destroying the whole purpose of Part IV. We on this side feel that there are substantial arguments against the Schedule. It arouses in us a considerable sense of disquiet, and I will certainly suggest to my right hon. and hon. Friends that they vote against it.

Question put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 236, Noes 187

Division No. 156.] AYES [5.13 p. m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. (Kelvingrove) Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Aitken, W. T. Elliott, R, W.(N'castle upon Tyne, N) Jones Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)
Alport, C. J. M. Errington, Sir Eric Joseph, Sir Keith
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Farey-Jones, F. W. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Fell, A. Kaberry, D.
Arbuthnot, John Finlay, Graeme Keegan, D.
Armstrong, C. W. Fisher, Nigel Kerby, Capt. H. B.
Ashton, H. Fletcher-Cooke, C. Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Astor, Hon. J. J. Fort, R. Kershaw, J. A.
Atkins, H. E. Foster, John Kimball, M.
Barber, Anthony Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Kirk, P. M.
Barlow, Sir John Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Lagden, G. W.
Barter, John Gammans, Lady Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Baxter, Sir Beverley George, J. C. (Pollok) Langford-Holt, J. A.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Gibson-Watt, D. Leavey, J. A.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Godber, J. B. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Goodhart, Philip Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.
Bishop, F. P. Gough, C. F. H. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)
Black, C. W. Gower, H. R. Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)
Body, R. F. Graham, Sir Fergus Linstead Sir H. N.
Bossom, Sir Alfred Grant, W. (Woodside) Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Green, A. Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.
Braine, B. R. Gresham Cooke, R.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Grimond, J. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Brooman-White, R. C. Gurden, Harold McAdden, S. J.
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Hall, John (Wycombe) Macdonald, Sir Peter
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry
Burden, F. F. A. Harris, Reader (Heston) McKibbin, A. J.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A.(Saffron Walden) Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesfd) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Campbell, Sir David Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)
Cary, Sir Robert Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)
Channon, Sir Henry Hay, John Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Chichester-Clark, R. Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Henderson, John (Cathcart) Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Cole, Norman Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Marlowe, A. A. H.
Cooke, Robert Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Holland-Martin, C. J. Marshall, Douglas
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Hope, Lord John Mathew, R.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Hornby, R. P. Mawby, R. L.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Horobin, Sir Ian Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Cunningham, Knox Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh
Currie, G. B. H. Howard, John (Test) Moore, Sir Thomas
Dance, J. C. G. Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Nabarro, G. D. N.
Davidson, Viscountess Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Neave, Airey
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Nicholls, Harmar
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.) Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)
Deedes, W. F. Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Nicolson, N.(B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Iremonger, T. L. Nugent, G. R. H.
Doughty, C. J. A. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Oakshott, H. D.
Drayson, G. B. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
du Cann, E. D. L. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Osborne, C.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Page, R. G.
Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Teeling, W.
Peyton, J. W. W. Roper, Sir Harold Temple, John M.
Pick thorn, K. W. M. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Pike, Miss Mervyn Russell, R. S. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R.(Croydon, S.)
Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Pitt, Miss E. M. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Pott, H. P. Sharples, R. C. Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Powell, J. Enoch Shepherd, William Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Price, David (Eastleigh) Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Vane, W. M. F.
Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Soames, Christopher Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L. Spearman, Sir Alexander Vickers, Miss Joan
Profumo, J. D. Speir, R. M. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Raikes, Sir Victor Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.) Wall, Major Patrick
Rawlinson, Peter Stevens, Geoffrey Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Redmayne, M. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Rees-Davies, W. R. Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.) Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Remnant, Hon. P. Storey, S. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Renton, D. L. M. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Ridsdale, J. E. Studholme, Sir Henry Woollam, John Victor
Rippon, A. G. F. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Robertson, Sir David Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.) Taylor, William (Bradford, N.) Mr. Wills and Mr. Bryan.
Ainsley, J. W. Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mulley, F. W.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Hamilton, W. W. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Hannan, W. Oliver, G. H.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Oram, A. E.
Bacon, Miss Alice Hastings, S. Oswald, T.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hayman, F. H. Owen, W. J.
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.) Healey, Denis Padley, W. E.
Benson, G. Henderson, Rt, Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Paget, R. T.
Beswick, Frank Hewitson, Capt. M. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)
Blackburn, F. Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Blenkinsop, A. Holman, P. Parker, J.
Blyton, W. R. Holmes, Horace Pearson, A.
Boardman, H. Houghton, Douglas Peart, T. F.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Pentland, N.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.) Hoy, J. H. Popplewell, E.
Bowles, F. G. Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Prentice, R. E.
Boyd, T. C. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Price, Phillips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Brockway, A. F. Hunter, A. E. Probert, A. R.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Proctor, W. T.
Burke, W. A. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Randall, H. E.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Rankin, John
Callaghan, L. J. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Redhead, E. C.
Champion, A. J. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Reeves, J.
Chapman, W. D. Jeger, George (Goole) Reid, William
Chetwynd, G. R. Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs. S.) Rhodes, H.
Clunie, J. Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Coldrick, W. Johnson, James (Rugby) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield) Ross, William
Collins, V. J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury) Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Royle, C.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Cronin, J. D. Kenyon, C. Short, E. W.
Crossman, R. H. S. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Shurmer, P. L. E.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Darling, George (Hillsborough) King, Dr. H. M. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Lawson, G. M. Skeffington, A. M.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Ledger, R. J. Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Deer, G. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Delargy, H. J. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Snow, J. W.
Dodds, N. N. Lindgren, G. S. Sorensen, R. W.
Donnelly, D. L. Lipton, Marcus Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Logan, D. G. Steele, T.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Edelman, M. MacColl, J. E. Stones, W. (Consett)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) McInnes, J. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) McKay, John (Wallsend) Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Stross. Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Fienburgh, W. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.) Swingler, S. T.
Fletcher, Eric Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Sylvester, G. O.
Forman, J. C. Mason, Roy Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mayhew, C. P. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Gibson, C. W. Mellish, R. J. Tomney, F.
Greenwood, Anthony Mikardo, Ian Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Mitchison, G. R. Viant, S. P.
Grey, C. F. Monslow, W. Watkins, T. E.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Moody, A. S. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Wheeldon, W. E. Williams, Ronald (Wigan) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.) Williams, Rt. Hon, T. (Don Valley) Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Wigg, George Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Wilkins, W. A. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Willey, Frederick Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A. Mr. Taylor and Mr. Rogers.
Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery) Woof, R. E.

Eighth Schedule agreed to.