§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
I beg to move, in page 7, line 29, to leave out "four thousand and five" and to insert "three thousand and six".
§ The Chairman
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if this Amendment were taken with the Amendments in page 7, line 31, leave out from "income" to end of line 35; in line 32, leave out from second "of" to "pounds" in line 33 and insert "three thousand five hundred and one"; and in line 34, leave out "four thousand and five" and insert "three thousand and six".
§ Mr. Houghton
Yes, Sir Charles. That will be very convenient.
The Committee will be familiar with the Chancellor's proposal in this subsection to extend very considerably the earned income relief. The Chancellor proposes to remove the present restriction on earned income relief, which does not extend beyond earned income of £2,025 and to carry it at the rate of two-ninths relief to approximately £4,000 and then to introduce a modified earned income relief beyond £4,000 a year, finishing finally at £9,945. That is a very radical extension of this relief.
The principle of the matter was dealt with in the Radcliffe Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income, a Commission which itself suggested that something should be done to remove the "kink" in the sharp rise in the effective rate of taxation due to the cessation of earned income relief at its present point. In the Chancellor's Budget statement, he said:I agree with the idea underlying the Royal Commission's proposal, but I am disposed to carry it a good deal further."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th April, 1957, Vol. 568, c. 999.]My hon. Friends also agreed with that underlying idea of the Royal Commission, but we think that the Chancellor 413 has carried it too far. That is the point at issue between us. It is not one of principle but of degree.
The Amendment and the three associated Amendments propose to restrict the Chancellor's proposal and, instead of lifting the limit of the two-ninths relief from £2,000 to £4,000 a year—I am using round figures to avoid introducing small fractions—as the Chancellor proposes, to stop the two-ninths relief at £3,000. That means the extension from £2,000 to £3,000 of the present limit of two-ninths relief. As to the one-ninth relief, we propose that that should extend from £3,000 a year to £3,500 and stop there, and not rise, as the Chancellor's proposal would let it, to nearly £10,000 a year.
The effect of our Amendment, it is plain, will be to reduce the amount of tax relief which the Chancellor proposes to give. I have worked out some figures, which, I hope, are roughly accurate, to show what that reduction will be. Up to £3,000 a year of earned income, clearly the taxpayer would get the two-ninths relief proposed in full. At £3,500, however, the taxpayer would get £23 10s. less in tax relief than the Chancellor proposes. He would get that relief of £113 instead of £136 10s. At £4,000 a year of earned income the taxpayer would get £70 less in tax relief; that is, £116 instead of £186. At £5,000 a year he would get £165 less in tax relief; that is, £69 instead of £234. At the limit, approaching £10.000, the taxpayer would get £320 a year less in tax relief than the Chancellor proposes, £95 instead of £415.
I ought to mention, in passing, that the earned income relief is a relief against Income Tax and not against Surtax. There was a good deal of misunderstanding about this in the earlier stages of public discussion of the Chancellor's proposals, and even one reputable financial journal referred to relief from Surtax. The earned income relief in the Chancellor's proposals is a relief against Income Tax and does not affect Surtax at all. In Clause 12, however, the Chancellor does propose to allow a set-off against Surtax of certain personal reliefs over a certain minimum. The figures I have given of the curtailment of tax relief relate to Income Tax only and ignore the additional benefits which the Chancellor proposes in Clause 12 in relief from Surtax.
414 Our Amendment, therefore, deals with the question, the very old question, of how far up the scale earned income relief should go. Earned income relief goes back to 1907, which was two years before Surtax was introduced. At that time, earned income relief was given by way of a differential rate of tax. I well remember, when I first entered the Inland Revenue during the First World War, the nightmare of odd rates of tax, going into fractions of a penny, due to the differential rate of tax for earned income. Then, the differential rate of tax for earned income was restricted to total incomes not exceeding £2,500 a year.
The Royal Commission of 1920 thought that that was a very cumbersome way of giving relief, and there were other disadvantages and anomalies in it, and it proposed the new idea of allowing a reduction from taxable income as a measure of relief for earned income, and that is the principle which we have followed ever since. It began at one-tenth, Then it varied, and is now two-ninths.
The question, in looking at the limit to which earned income relief should go, is always: what is fair having regard to the progressive nature of our taxation and what is just having regard to the special considerations which apply to some persons with large incomes, especially those engaged in trade or the professions? There was a very lively and even racy minority report in the Report of the Royal Commission of 1920. It dismissed as indefensible any relief for earned income at all. I suspect that the minority Report was drafted by a famous Irishman, Mr. Nicholas Synnott, Governor of the Bank of Ireland. I think that Royal Commissions have lost something since they have not had Irishmen on them.
Racily, the minority argued that the source of income was no more relevant to the principle of assumed ability to pay than the length of time or the physical exertion it took to earn it, and they asked, if the principle of progressive taxation is based on assumed ability to pay, what has the source of income to do with that principle? That, as I have said, was a minority Report, although signed by five members of the Royal Commission. Then and since, the general principle of relief for earned income has been accepted and 415 there has also been weighty opinion in favour of limiting the Income Tax range of this relief.
The Royal Commission of more recent date, presided over by Lord Radcliffe, the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income, suggested that there was a case for giving earned income relief somewhat higher up the scale than £2,025. It said, in paragraph 218 of its Report:There is, therefore, no valid principle that supports the £2,000 limit today. The owner of the unincorporated business can hardly be the typical recipient of the large earned income. There must be a great many of the larger incomes, such as those received by professional men and business executives, in which no element of return on capital can be discerned in any sense which is relevant to the origin of this rule.That has reference to the remarks made by the earlier Royal Commission in justification of a limit on earned income relief. It said that in the higher ranges of income, especially in those cases where taxpayers were engaged in trade, business, or a vocation of some kind, there was usually an element of reward of capital in their earned income. It did consider distinguishing between the element of reward of capital and rewards given for physical or mental exertion, but found no satisfactory way of doing it.
The Radcliffe Commission referred to the classic argument in favour of the limitation of earned income relief, that in the higher income range, especially incomes assessed under Schedule D, there was an element of reward of capital. The Commission, in paragraph 219 of its Report, said:We do not draw the deduction from this"—that is, from the earlier comment—that owners of large earned incomes have any particular claim to have the limit removed to the whole extent of their incomes. If we were to recommend that we should be recommending a very considerable lightening of the burden of tax on these upper ranges of income and the consequent adjustment of the distribution of tax. It is not to that that the argument leads us. Earned income relief is one of the various instruments of graduation. Judging by the way that it was employed from the first, we should suppose that it always has been. If this be accepted, the relief could only be extended so far as the extension can be seen to promote a better scale of progression in the graduation of the tax.416 That is the principle upon which we rest our Amendment. The Radcliffe Commission said:In our view, the limit of relief ought to be raised, but not so as to terminate at a single figure, in order to smooth out the scale of graduation. We therefore recommend that the limit of relief should be raised from £2,025, the existing fraction of 2/9ths being given up to £2,500 and a fraction of 1/9th on £2,500 to £3,000.We want to be reasonable about this, and we have written up the Royal Commission's figures to reflect the change in the value of money, perhaps on a somewhat generous basis, since 1955.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Stevens (Portsmouth, Langstone)
The hon. Gentleman has quoted very fully and fairly from the Royal Commission's Report, but would he not agree that the Commission's view and, indeed, the recommendations, would be influenced by its terms of reference, which specifically estopped it from making recommendations which would result in a lowering of the yield of tax?
§ Mr. Houghton
No, I do not think so, because in other parts of the Report—and one I recall especially—the Royal Commission made recommendations which would have led to a reduction in the yield of revenue and made compensating recommendations to offset that reduction.
I think that had the Royal Commission thought that justice demanded that these limits should be raised beyond those proposed, it could have made other recommendations which would have recovered the amount of tax that might otherwise have been lost. I think that the Royal Commission felt that these were equitable new limits to a reconstructed earned income relief, and we, I think, have been quite liberal in writing them up to the figures we have given.
The Radcliffe Commission did say that, perhaps, there was not in present circumstances as much importance to be attached to the element of reward of capital in the case of higher incomes. But it is interesting to see from the table given opposite to page 66 of the 99th Report of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue for 1956 that in the Surtax range—incomes above £2,000 a year—there is a fairly even balance between the higher executives who are assessed under 417 Schedule E and those engaged in profession, trade or vocation who are assessed under Schedule D.
Not only are the numbers of cases in broad equivalence, but the total amount of income from both groups is much the same, which rather suggests that, at all events between incomes of £2,500 a year and £6,000 a year, there are almost equal numbers of people who are assessed on their profits under Schedule D and who are assessed on their earnings under Schedule E. This means that in the range which the Chancellor proposes to bring within this very substantial additional earned income relief are many traders and those in business on their own account as well as professional men.
I am not going to make any sweeping allegations about the "fiddles" of traders and others who have greater freedom to arrange their Income Tax affairs to their advantage than those who are assessed under Schedule E. I will content myself by saying that it is common knowledge that those assessed on their profits have greater freedom of manœuvre than those assessed on their earnings.
The cynics have said that there are two Income Taxes in Britain today—Pay as You Earn and "Pay if you like". That is an exaggeration, but the fact is that, apart from the reward of capital, those in business on their own account are able to take advantage of business expenses more freely than those under the tighter rule of Schedule E. I do not think that any hon. Gentleman opposite, least of all the Chancellor, would deny that.
§ Sir Herbert Butcher (Holland with Boston)
Is it not a fact that the recommendation of the Royal Commission is that the more flexible range permitted those assessed under Schedule D should be extended to those assessed under Schedule E?
§ Mr. Houghton
The hon. Gentleman will probably have noticed that on the Notice Paper there is an Amendment which deals with that matter. However, at the moment, those who are assessed under Schedule D—people who are in business on their own account, professional men, and so forth—will get the full advantage of the Chancellor's additional earned income relief as well as the other advantages of being assessed under Schedule D.
418 When salaried journalists turn freelance, as many of them do, it is frequently because they feel that they will be in a more favourable tax position if they are assessed under Schedule D than if they continue to be assessed under Schedule E. Anyhow, the point that I am making here is that the two elements related to assessments under Schedule D cannot be entirely ignored in this connection. The first is reward of capital, which is a factor in a number of cases, and the second is the somewhat more favourable terms under which they are dealt with for Income Tax purposes.
Why has the Chancellor done this and why has he gone so far? Why has he given earned income relief which is equivalent to a reduction in the effective rate of tax of Is. in the £ for incomes between £4,000 and £10,000 a year? Why has the Chancellor done it at a time when he could only reduce by half the Purchase Tax on pots and pans which was so recklessly imposed by one of his predecessors in the autumn Budget of 1955?
We heard yesterday, when requests were being made for further concessions in regard to Purchase Tax on household utensils, that the Chancellor had gone as far as he was free to move within the limits set by his Budget strategy. It seems strange to us that the right hon. Gentleman should have got his tax reliefs so badly out of proportion. One quarter, approximately, of the total reliefs are going to those on the higher incomes, and, from our point of view, that is unnecessary, unjustified and unfair.
Of course, the magic about this, if one is to believe what one reads in many Conservative newspapers, is incentives. I believe that more claptrap is talked about incentives than about almost anything else in our economy today.Man does not live by bread alone.…and we all know it. I have said more than once that the great attraction of posts of higher responsibility which carry higher incomes is that they give interesting occupations; they give scope for the satisfaction of creative ability, initiative and enterprise. I do not know of anyone who has ever refused advancement on account of the poor economic return on a higher income.
§ Mr. Houghton
I am saying that I do not know of anyone, and I am in a position, at all events, to know what is happening in a very large field of public service. Certainly, in that sphere, where, admittedly, a sense of public duty may be somewhat higher than outside, I do not know of anyone who has refused promotion because of the higher incidence of taxation on higher remuneration.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
Surely the hon. Gentleman's criticism is a little misplaced when he talks of the public service. It is, of course, notorious that public service does not command such high remuneration in the senior executive grades as is to be found in commerce and industry.
§ Mr. Houghton
That may be one of the additional grievances of people in the public service. But fortunately, as the result of the Priestley Commission's recommendations about remuneration in the Civil Service, the top posts are more highly remunerated than they were.
§ Mr. Houghton
I know that to the hon. Gentleman £6,000 a year may be "chicken feed." It is conceivable that to him it is, or that £2,000 or £3,000 a year is just a low rate of pay. That shows how different are the rewards in industry from those in public service of one kind or another.
I assert again that a good deal of "twaddle" is being talked about incentives in this range of incomes. Those of us who have interesting jobs cannot stop working if we want to. That is really the truth about the matter. There is something that drives men on to the realisation of their ambitions and their desire for satisfaction. If there are large numbers in industry and commerce who are prepared to look only at their personal gains in connection with their contribution to the national wealth and the expansion of our economy, then it shows that our social education has gone nothing like far enough.
I do not believe that many of them would be driven on to greater activity 420 by higher proportionate rewards. In any case, if we are to have a civilised Britain which has a sense of social justice; if we are to take care of the sick and the aged and provide an efficient medical and health service for the people; if we are to hold ourselves out as a model to the civilised world; if we are to represent ourselves as a model of Western democracy and the British way of life, surely we must be prepared to give up something from our personal income and from the profits of our businesses in order that these social improvements may be brought about?
§ Mr. Houghton
I know that, and perhaps to some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite this may sound to be idealism. But this is the basis of our Socialist faith, and if we do not hold to that, there is nothing left to hold on to. We might just as well become Tories, and join an acquisitive society with "pull devil, pull baker" and the weakest going to the wall. That is what we resolutely refuse to do, and the Chancellor, indeed—
§ Colonel Sir Leonard Ropner (Barkston Ash)
It is absolute nonsense for the hon. Gentleman to talk about that sounding like idealism. He appears to have forgotten that there are people today who are paying up to 19s. in the £ for all the objects which he represents as being idealistic. We are very ready to pay a fair share of our incomes for the social services. Is not the hon. Gentleman misplacing his emphasis when he says that people refuse jobs at higher incomes because so much is taken from them? Surely the point is that men and women are disinclined to qualify themselves for highly paid jobs if they know that after a life's work their income will be taken from them.
§ Mr. Houghton
The hon. and gallant Gentleman, by way of intervention, has made a somewhat longer speech than we usually enjoy from him in this Chamber There is no evidence in support of this belief that is so frequently put out as though it were a scientific fact, as if there was some evidence to support it. There is none at all.
421 It used to be said, it is well within the recollection of the Committee, that the workers were slack, that they would not work, because of the incidence of taxation on their earnings. But when a social survey was made under the auspices of the Radcliffe Commission a good deal of that belief was exploded. It was proved not to be so. In fact, there was a careful inquiry over a wide range of workers of different kinds and in different industries. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will have full opportunity this afternoon of proving to our satisfaction that there is evidence in support of this prevailing belief that high taxation is a disincentive in the salary range of higher executives and others in responsible positions. I say that there is no such evidence, and I challenge hon. Gentlemen opposite to produce any from their own experience.
No doubt the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Sir L. Ropner) is in a position to tell the Committee of actual cases within his own knowledge of people who have said, "I am not going to bother with striving to develop my skill and technique. I am not having this higher job which you are offering me because the game is not worth the candle." If there are cases of that kind, I think that we should know about them. In our experience such cases do not exist.
§ Sir Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
The hon. Gentleman has asked for examples of people doing that. What about the example of Mr. Noel Coward, which is exactly on that basis—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not in any way defending Mr. Noel Coward, but the hon. Gentleman asked for examples. Mr. Noel Coward went away because he could no longer keep some of his winnings in the battle of life. There is an example. I am not defending Mr. Noel Coward, but it proves that such men exist in large numbers.
§ Mr. Houghton
That is not the type of case to which we are referring. One can write cynical plays in Jamaica just as easily as in Barnes or in Wimbledon. Mr. Noel Coward has gone overseas because, presumably, he could carry on his trade there. I am dealing with those people who are tied to jobs here, unless they join the queue for Canada.
422 Will any hon. Gentleman opposite tell the Committee how many people have been pulled out of the queue for Canada because of the proposals in this Budget? Does any hon. Member know of a person who was standing in the long queue outside the office of the High Commissioner for Canada and who, on reading the Chancellor's Budget proposals, said, "That settles it. I am turning back. I am staying here "?
§ Mr. Houghton
I have reached the conclusion that there is no evidence that a high rate of taxation is a disincentive in this or any other range of salary.
If hon. Gentlemen ask the question: "When is taxation too high?" I think the answer is, when people are out of sympathy with the objects for which they are being taxed. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are never out of sympathy with being taxed for defence. Many people in the country are not out of sympathy with being taxed for defence. Many of us have different opinions on taxation for social purposes, but, on the whole, I think it is quite clear that the people of Britain are willing to sustain this level of taxation for the purposes to which the taxes are being devoted. They hope, however, that our expenditure on defence may be substantially reduced without weakening our defensive position in order that some part of the money saved by a reduction in the expenditure can be devoted to peaceful and more profitable ends.
I have come to the end of my discourse on the Amendment, which raises very wide issues. We believe that the Chancellor has gone too far with these reliefs and that he need not have gone as far to satisfy any desire for greater incentives. He certainly had other purposes to which he could have given tax reliefs which would have met with wider approval than these. This is a very substantial concession to make to a very limited number of taxpayers, many of whom are in the very high range of incomes and enjoy a very spacious standard of living.
§ Mr. Stevens
The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) has moved his Amendment with his customary objectivity. On the last occasion on which I 423 followed him I had the pleasure of being able to say that I agreed with nearly every word he said. On this occasion, I disagreed with nearly every word he said, much as I admired the moderate way in which he put his case.
The hon. Member was off the beat a little when he quoted from the Report of the Royal Commission. He spent some time telling the Committee that nowhere at any level was there any serious evidence that Income Tax or taxation was a deterrent to productive effort. Had he turned to page 91 of the Report, which I see just in front of him, he would have seen conclusions based upon datacollected for the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income by the Social Survey.It was carried out among productive workers and supervisory grades[...] At the top of page 92 we see:As a matter of public opinion, about three-quarters of the sample said that income tax was a deterrent to productive effort. But even on this level it was not regarded as the worst factor.We read, later:At this level of general public opinion, income tax ranked with fear of unemployment as a deterrent to productive effort.Again, a little lower down, are these words:It seems then that whilst workers consider tax to be a deterrent and nearly all grumble about it in general discussion, it is not regarded as the most important deterrent.There is ample evidence in all income groups that too-high taxation for too long in peacetime is a hamper upon productive effort.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
The hon. Gentleman omitted to finish the last sentence, which runs like this:… it is not regarded as the most important deterrent "—That is as far as the hon. Gentleman went, but the sentence continues—and few carry the grumbling to the point of letting it affect their productive behaviour.
§ Mr. Stevens
I entirely disagree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. He looks upon those few words as contradicting the three previous occasions upon which the sample clearly said that taxation did affect their productive capacity. There is not the slightest doubt about it at any level of Income Tax.
424 The hon. Member for Sowerby overlooked one point, which is that we are the greatest trading nation in the world and depend more than any other country upon meeting the competition of foreign competitors. When people engaged in overseas trade visit other countries in the hope of getting business they are lavishly entertained. When those prospective customers come here they expect the same kind of hospitality from their hosts. Unless, after taxation, these people have left to them a sufficient income they cannot maintain reasonable standards and will undoubtedly lose face with potential foreign customers, and so the trade of the country will suffer.
When we try to get round that difficulty by so arranging our taxation factors that our business executives have a reasonable expenses allowance, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite complain about directors' expenses. They should remember that we are dealing with international competition and that our senior executives of business must maintain a proper standard.
The hon. Gentleman spoke about the spirit of service which kept so many people going. I could not agree with him more, but there is no sole right to that feeling in any income group. My personal experience, and I am sure that this must be also his experience, is that many people, particularly younger people in senior positions, are kept going not only by the spirit of service which burns very strongly in them, but by the hope that taxation will be lower in this country than it has been in the past.
§ Mr. Stevens
I congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not think that he has done too much. I would like to see the ceiling taken right off and no limit at all. The loss of taxation to the Treasury by this concession would be more than made up by the taxation upon the increased profits brought about by increased enthusiasm.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
I do not intend to repeat arguments which I have used earlier on this matter, but to say a few words on taxation reliefs in the £4,000— £10,000 category which is referred to in the Amendment tabled by my hon. Friends and myself.
425 I am not opposed to reductions in taxation. I welcome them most heartily in all ranges, but where the Chancellor is not in a position to make any substantial reductions one has to give very serious consideration to priorities. Even within the limits of the objective set by the Chancellor, namely, the creation of incentives, it is difficult to justify the proportion of relief granted to people in that £4,000—£10,000 category. I should have thought there was a very strong case for more relief for people in the £1,000—£2,500 category, or, at any rate, up to the £4,000 level. For that reason alone, the Chancellor seems to have got his proportions somewhat out of place.
Secondly, my hon. Friends and myself are asking for relief in a number of other ways. We have tabled certain Amendments and new Clauses, and we recognise that they may involve some loss of revenue to the Chancellor. It is only right, when one suggests Amendments involving loss, to point to methods whereby the Chancellor may make up some of that loss.
I do not commit myself to the view that there must be no departure from the Chancellor's Budget figures. For example, I think there is rather more compulsory saving than is necessary, which accounts for the large Budget surplus, but I accept the general proposition that when one is asking for relief in a number of ways it is reasonable to suggest a method whereby those reliefs will be offset. On this occasion, this year, it would have been reasonable to defer the granting of such substantial reliefs to those in the £4,000 to £10,000 brackets.
I hope that when we reach later discussions, when various requests will be made to the Chancellor for relief, the Chancellor will not argue that he cannot afford to give it, because it seems to me that that would be rather inconsistent. I do not see how he could have it both ways. It may seem rather presumptuous, but on my argument it is almost a case of being able to say to the Chancellor, "Heads I win, tails you lose". If he accepts this proposal, according to my calculations, there would be saved about £10 million to £20 million. It would be unreasonable then for him to say that there was no money available for the other reliefs for which we shall ask.
426 On the other hand, if the right hon. Gentleman takes the view that he cannot accept the Amendments that we are discussing and that it is right and proper that these reliefs should be granted, it seems to me that he cannot properly argue, at a later stage, that he has no money available to grant any further reliefs. I hope that the Chancellor will follow the logic of this argument. I do not propose to repeat the views which I put forward on Second Reading. This measure of relief to those in the £4,000 to £10,000 brackets has not been justified having regard to the very great need for other reliefs, particularly in the lower reaches of Income Tax.
I hope, therefore, that the Chancellor will seriously consider reallocating his reliefs in this Finance Bill.
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
I am glad to have the opportunity to enter this discussion and to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) on his opening speech. He emphasised strongly his social views about incentives and how workers could be encouraged.
What has surprised me more than anything else has been the peculiar time at which this suggestion is made by the Government. We have had a series of discussions about inflation and the desire for stability in the industrial world. One naturally expected that when the Government brought in this Bill they would be considering these things. One would expect when they thought about them—never mind about actually doing anything —they would consider and reflect on what the ultimate result of giving reliefs was likely to be.
What was the effect likely to be on industry and the mass of the workers? If we want stability in industry—and we are pleading very seriously throughout the country for stability in wages, and so forth—one naturally expects the Government to give a lead in showing how anxious they are to do all the things which would tend towards stability and satisfaction for the workers so that there could be the right psychology and conditions of such a character that the industrial world could be influenced to seek stability.
My principal objection to this Bill and to this Clause, and especially the effects deriving from it, is that if the people 427 understand what is happening the tendency will not be towards stability but absolutely in the other direction. A rise in wages can be given to producers as an incentive, or some satisfaction can be given to administrators and executives, but when we search for and select a particular class of the community for special benefits by means of Income Tax relief there is nothing we have to be more careful about than to see that what we are doing will tend to that stability for which the Government are always crying out.
What are the factors in relation to that? We have had tremendous agitation among industrial workers for increased wages. In a sense, we almost had a general strike in order to get a few shillings a week more for people who had very small incomes. Of the I Is. a week increase which the engineers are to get, about 3s. 9d. will be taken for Income Tax, so that actually they will get less than 8s.
On the other hand, when a special class who to all intents and purposes are rich people are selected for an increase of income, whereas the wage worker has more than one-third of his increase taken away in tax, they get a net increase. There is no question of something being taken off their increase. Therefore, the increase for these people is one and a half times that for those receiving wages.
I know that hon. Members do not like figures, but sometimes figures have to be given.
§ Mr. McKay
Exactly what relief will be obtained? We say that we are giving relief in respect of earned incomes, but when we are dealing with the sections of people concerned, does their earned income really indicate their total income? If I understand the position correctly, it does not. The earned income of many people in the section of the community 428 to which we are referring is only half their total income. We get the impression that only incomes in the £4,000 to £10,000 range will receive relief. As I understand, there are people with total incomes of £15,000 to £20,000 a year, but only £7,000 or £8,000 of that is earned income, the rest being from investment. Is that not correct? I thought the Chancellor was laughing because it was not correct.
According to the revenue returns for 1954–55, many people in the section with a total income of £15,000 to £20,000 a year have an earned income of about £7,300 and an investment income of about £10,000. That supports my contention that a man with a total income of £20,000 a year may have only £8,000 of it as earned income. Yet he will get the full advantage of the relief in respect of earned income.
From that it follows that a married couple with no children with an income of £5,000 to £6,000 a year will have a benefit of £3 a week net. A couple in the £12,000 to £15,000 range, £7,000 earned, will gain an advantage of £6 a week, and a couple in the £15,000 to £20,000 range, with £7,300 of that as earned income, will gain an advantage of about £7 6s. per week. A married couple with two children above 11 years old with an earned income of £10,000 a year and an investment income of £10,000 and they will receive relief of about £11 10s. a week. Will it tend to pacify millions of British people who are working hard to get £10 a week when the proposition is that people with such mighty incomes should be given a relief of £10 a week by this provision?
This is a serious proposition. At such a time the Government are crying out about inflation and pleading with trade union leaders and workers to do something for the sake of the country's welfare and stem the continual demand for higher wages. I wonder whether the mass of the people really understand what the Conservative Government are doing in this respect. I do not think the Government could do anything worse to upset the psychology of the country. The Government say the need is to create stability and that we should try to get the country through the present inflationary period and establish it on a solid foundation. Yet they choose this time to deviate from 429 policy which has been followed for years, giving the richest sections of the community an advance in salary of £5 to £10 per week net. In the circumstances, it is ridiculous.
If we are to have a policy of incentives, it must not be merely temporary. We must have a policy which is permanent. Do the Government's proposals deal with that aspect? They do not. What is proposed is merely temporary relief. Afterwards, we shall revert to the old position. People with different incomes in different grades will still require the incentives that they have sought in the past. What the Government propose simply changes the position at the moment and does not deal with the overall question of providing incentives.
Reference has been made to people earning big incomes and paying so much Income Tax that they are left with very little in the £. The Government's proposals do not change that. There will still be people with big incomes paying a great deal of taxation. What is important is not the question of taxation as a whole, but the question of those people desiring an incentive to earn more money. The higher the income they make, the less return they will get in respect of the increased amount. If there is a weakness in the system, the same weakness will exist in the future.
The question still remains whether there is in reality any great necessity to give such a big relief to this class of the community. Are the men now earning £6,000, £7.000, £8,000 or £10,000 a year so greedy for money that they need such a relief as this? They are skilled people with power to use their abilities. Most of them are men who have been well educated and have been able to take high positions. Others may not be so well educated, but they may have had certain influences behind them or they may have had some outstanding ability which has enabled them to rise and take positions of power and responsibility.
Is the mind and calibre of men in outstanding positions, commanding big returns, such that they are not prepared to take other positions carrying more influence, honour and power? Are they not prepared to use their skill and ability for the good of the country because they cannot get an additional £10 or more a week? Is their economic position such as to necessitate that?
430 I do not know how other people look upon it. Perhaps there is something in the statement that the more you get, the more you want, and that honour, loyalty to one's fellow men and country have no influence—"I have a big income. I have a special ability, but I am not prepared to use it unless you hand me another £1 or two." [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] I did not mean that literally. I referred to Members opposite. [Laughter.]
I do not think that that is true. I have a high opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite who are in administrative positions, and, indeed, of all men in general. I have a profound respect for people with education and ability. I do not believe that this section of the community is so morally bad. Yet we are asked to believe that men of high ability, with large incomes, are so morally bad that they will not take on extra responsibility because they cannot get a few extra pounds. I cannot understand the outlook of the Conservative Party which has faith in that idea and no faith in the good will or sense or loyalty of the leaders of the community.
The Government have made a mistake. Their desire to do something for their own supporters has betrayed them on this occasion. Their desire to gain ground in the Election, to hearten their supporters, to give them some satisfaction, has led them into a position which, when it is understood, instead of strengthening the Conservative Party will have the opposite effect, particularly upon those who have not got £5,000 or £10,000 a year. Justice did not demand it. It will have no effect on production. It is not a policy that will help the community or the nation. It solves no problem. It is simply a hand-out to a section of the Government's supporters, which will not help the Government and which is to the detriment of the country.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
I am afraid that most of the remarks of the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay), probably due to my own stupidity, were a little too abstruse for me to follow. Perhaps, therefore, I may be forgiven for adverting to the speech of the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who opened the debate with his accustomed flair.
431 We have far too great an admiration for the hon. Member for Sowerby to believe that he really believed everything he said this afternoon. On several occasions he used the word "twaddle". I could not help feeling that there was an element of unconscious, spontaneous self-description about some of his remarks, especially when he kept repeating that word. He made a number of assertions to the effect that the reductions in the higher levels of taxation which follow from these Budget proposals do not make any contribution to the community as a whole, as, in relation to incentive, he said, that is not how people's minds work.
I have first in mind his argument—and most of my Conservative colleagues have heard it before—about how wrong it is to make tax changes which give £10 a week to that almost mythical gentleman, the bachelor with an income of £10,000 per annum. I do not know whether it was by accident, or whether the hon. Gentleman was not in the House at the time to vote against his own Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it so happens that the £464 10s. now gained by the bachelor earning £10,000 a year is almost exactly the same as the sum which flowed from the Budget of the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) in 1946, when he saved the bachelor earning £10,000 a year £499.
§ Mr. Bennett
In that case I should have thought it was even harder at that time to make such a concession than in normal time of peace. It is odd, however, that we did not hear complaints at that time from those who now occupy the benches opposite.
Moreover, if we are to talk about the moral aspect of reductions of taxation on high incomes, it is worth recalling that this year the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not with the concurrence of all his colleagues, who felt that this concession ought to extend to unearned and earned income alike, limited it to earned income, with the result that the man who has an investment income of £10,000 a year gets no relief from this Budget.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins (Birmingham, Stechford)
Could the hon. Gentleman tell us who were the colleagues of the Chancellor 432 who were opposed to the Budget proposals?
§ Mr. Bennett
I said "not with the concurrence of all his colleagues." The hon. Gentleman knows that it is not the duty of any speaker to specify hon. Members' private views in this House.
§ Mr. Bennett
I am sorry, I cannot give way again. As I was saying, it is well known in this Committee that one talks in general terms about the attitude of a party to a Budget. If we asked hon. Gentlemen opposite what individual views they express outside this Chamber to their various leaders, we should indeed hear some amazing confessions here.
I was interrupted at the point when I was stressing that in the 1946 Budget the bachelor even with a wholly investment income of £10,000 a year, who now gets no relief from the present Chancellor, received a gift, as it was then called, from the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland of £506 10s. a year. If the hon. Member for Wallsend is so virulent about the figure of £10 a week, he might find it fruitful to consider why he went into the Lobby in support of the Budget at that time.
§ Mr. Bennett
I was intrigued to hear what the hon. Member for Sowerby regarded as the incentive that drove different sections of the community to greater effort. Apparently, at a certain point—the hon. Member did not specify it the wish to earn more money is surplanted by an over-riding need to serve the community. The hon. Member did not specify a figure at which that changeover comes about. I presume it must be above £1,280 a year, because, judging from recent Press reports, there are hon. Members who feel that at least up to that figure there is need for financial inducement to continue in their work, apart from the over-riding need to serve the community. Therefore, I suppose we come to the conclusion that whatever the figure at which the desire to get more wages and money ceases, it certainly is not below £1,280 a year.
§ Mr. Houghton
It should be made clear that hon. Members have no feelings 433 about higher remuneration as additional incentive. They are concerned with the necessary expenses connected with their job.
§ Mr. Bennett
Members of Parliament are not alone in those feelings. Other sections of the community have their commitments and responsibilities, and desire extra remuneration for exactly the same reasons. We are not in an ivory tower, seeking money for a specially altruistic purpose compared with all other sections of the community.
We all know quite well that whether the wage earner is getting £10 or £20 a week, he thinks not only of the sheer necessity of the cost of living, but when he believes that the industry in which he is working is doing well, he wants a bigger share of the cake. Scarcely a day passes without our reading in the Press of some section of the community saying, "Our industry is doing well. Therefore, as members of it, we ought to get a bigger share of the cake." There is nothing extraordinary about the fact that those who just overtop £2,000 a year should want extra remuneration, unless the hon. Member for Sowerby can give a figure at which it becomes sinful to work for money and one has to transfer one's entire allegiance to working for the community.
Considerable stress has been laid on the incentive aspect. What I understand to be one of the Chancellor's main purposes in these reliefs is the aspect of providing more money for savings. It is not only a question of greater incentive for Surtax payers; there is also the aspect that the extra money which can be saved can be put back into industry and enterprise and provide the extra funds for all the many commitments that the country now has to have, both here and abroad.
It is not right for hon. Members opposite, on the one hand, constantly to urge the need of greater savings and at the same time to attack as being almost immoral those who want extra money and who are prepared to put it by as savings—unless, once again, they are prepared to say at what figure the praiseworthy saver becomes a wicked capitalist. I have never yet heard a figure at which suddenly creditable savings become loot of the capitalist.
434 Another aspect of this attack on our direct taxation proposals is that we on this side of the Committee are doing our best not for the country, but to help our friends, and that the reason for this Budget is because the Tories are under pressure and therefore we are going out to try to meet the needs of our voters. At the same time, Socialist speakers say that the Budget is aimed at helping only a handful of people in the rich income brackets between £4,000 and £10,000 a year. Hon. Members opposite cannot have it both ways. Are we going out to get votes, or are we helping only the men who are receiving between £4,000 and £10,000 a year? There really are not many votes to be picked up in any constituency just by helping the man who is getting between £4,000 and £10,000 a year.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
In the Budget debate, I for one hour specifically exonerated the Chancellor from any charges that it was a vote-catching Budget in that respect. I said that what he was aiming at was the small number of waverers who held key positions in Tory constituency parties, who have recently abstained from giving their support and who might by this means be brought back into the fold.
§ Mr. Bennett
The right hon. Gentleman may know how his own constituency is run, but if he believes that the average Tory organisation is kept in being by a few men in key positions who earn between £4,000 and £10,000 a year, he certainly does not know how our constituencies are run. I was any way exonerating the right hon. Gentleman from this particular charge, because we know that he has particular experience of higher income rates which might not be granted to all of us. I was, naturally, talking more of some of the less fortunate back-benchers opposite.
We have heard comments about the incentive effect and whether we are not exaggerating in our belief that people go abroad to escape taxation. It is interesting to see fiscal figures throughout the Commonwealth. In these illustrations. I am taking the position of the married man with two children on an earned income of £5,000 per annum. In the last Budget, 44 per cent. of his income here went in direct taxation. If he goes to 435 Canada, the figure is halved to 20.6 per cent. I have chosen percentage figures so that I cannot be told that there are differences abroad in the cost of living. If we look to Australia, which has the next highest level to Britain, the last Budget there would take 39.2 per cent. of that man's earnings in direct taxation. In New Zealand, the figure falls immediately to 29.3 per cent. as compared with our 44 per cent., whilst in the new Central African Federation it is 21.2 per cent.
I have specifically chosen those countries because they are the ones to which people are emigrating. The hon. Member for Sowerby lightheartedly suggested that somebody could not be dragged from the emigration queue and persuaded, because of our proposals, suddenly to turn back. But of course people do not emigrate or decide not to do so because of a particular proposal in a Budget, but because of a whole social and fiscal trend sustained over a period of years.
Is there any hon. Member opposite who imagines that these facts do not weigh with the married man who has two children—or, indeed, with any member of the community—in deciding whether to remain here or to go abroad?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Has the hon. Member not noticed the tens of thousands of people who migrate from other Commonwealth countries to this country?
§ Mr. Bennett
I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that the countries from which people emigrate in those large numbers have a lower standard of living than obtains here. Almost without exception, the only people who come here from Canada, for example, are those who come to do a special job or who have a large income and wish to spend their declining years in the mother country. The young men and women in Canada, Canadian born, who come to this country because they think they will get a break economically and taxation-wise compared with conditions at home simply do not exist.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I should like to say a word in support of the Amendment. May I begin by saying a word about the last point made by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett). This country is spending at this moment £4 million a 436 day, or thereabouts, on defence expenditure.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)
Five million pounds.
§ Mr. Silverman
It is also spending in addition about £2 million a day on the funding service of the war debt incurred during the Second World War. If the proportion of a man's income, at any level, taken in taxation is higher than it would be in Canada, Australia or New Zealand, that is the explanation. The hon. Member for Torquay looks doubtful about it, but I think that he will find on inquiry that no other part of the Commonwealth is bearing a defence burden of that kind.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett
This part of the hon. Gentleman's argument, although interesting, does not affect what I was saying—I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber at the time—about the impelling circumstances that are or are not driving people to go abroad and emigrate at this time. The reasons why these conditions exist were no part of my argument.
§ Mr. Silverman
But they are part of mine and I am inviting the hon. Member to pay some attention to them. I appreciate the point that he made. It was that people might well leave this country and go to other parts of the Commonwealth if thereby their taxation were less. I submit to him, with all respect, that no responsible hon. Member of this House would regard the factors in the comparison to which I have drawn attention to be irrelevant.
If a man goes away from this country on the ground suggested by the hon. Member, he is really going away not so much to avoid taxation, or at any rate that is not the way that I should like to put it, but to avoid his share of the burden which all of us had to undertake and have still to sustain in order to discharge our responsibilities incurred during the Second World War. That is not an irrelevant consideration. That is all I am saying to the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Bennett
I agree with that and I see the relevance of the argument. What I cannot see is the reason, in view of the discrepancy which the hon. Gentleman has described, why he should oppose a Budget which seeks to make it smaller
§ Mr. Silverman
I cannot deal with all parts of my speech at one time. I hope to come to those parts of it in a moment or two. But I thought that it was worth while to point out, when the hon. Member was defending this proposal, because high taxation may induce irresponsible people to run away in order to avoid their share of a common obligation, that that would not be regarded on this side of the Committee—and I would say in all fairness would not be regarded by many hon. Members opposite—as a particularly good reason for supporting the Government's proposal.
I concede that there may be other grounds on which the Government's proposal can be supported, but I think that hon. Members should find better grounds on which to support it and not have to rely on such patently bad ones. It is a bad example to follow. People like that ought not to be encouraged, and if the Chancellor's only aim were to encourage people in that way, that would be an additional reason for opposing the proposal and not an additional reason for supporting it. In passing, may I refer to the intervention of the hon. Member for Southgate (Sir B. Baxter). He also at one moment seemed to be inviting us to support the Government's proposal because otherwise Mr. Noel Coward might remain in Jamaica instead of coming home. I think that that was a most unfortunate intervention.
What shocks me about the Government's proposal is its patent inequity. I am not arguing now, although I hope to do so in a few moments, without speaking for too long, about the incentive effect, or the balance, or the effect on production, or the willingness to assume responsibility and all that kind of thing. That is a separate part of the argument. I am dealing now with the sheer inequity of the proposal. We have to consider the Government's financial proposals as a whole and not all of them are to be found in the Budget. We cannot deal with the others—I am not proposing to do so—and if I cite them it is only to make my point that the Committee ought to support my hon. Friend's Amendment and oppose the Government's proposal because it is so manifestly unfair as between citizen and citizen.
It is only a few months since the Government were explaining to the 438 House how necessary it was to raise the price of babies' milk by withdrawing part of the subsidy. At the same time, they were explaining the dire financial necessity which they could not avoid—the ineluctable result of which was that they had to raise the price of school children's dinners. It was part of the same argument that they had to charge separately for every item on the prescription of a sick person's medicine and that they had to raise the contribution that a man pays towards our general social security scheme—and all those were defended on the grounds that the Chancellor needed the money.
How much money did he tell us that he would get out of it? He said that he would get £57 million in a full year—as though £57 million had any real bearing or relevance on an expenditure of £5,000 million a year. But suppose that it had suppose that it was like Mr. Micawber's sixpence—6d. above 20s. which made him happy or 6d. below it which made him miserable—or was it the other way round? That depends on the way we put the argument, whether he had 6d. less or spent 6d. more. We may think that 6d. in the £ represents a small proportion, but in marginal circumstances it may make all the difference in the world between bankruptcy and solvency and, as Mr. Micawber said, between happiness and unhappiness. The Chancellor would be entitled to use that kind of argument, even in a cheese-paring argument, on figures like £5,000 million a year and £57 million, provided that he really needed the money and that the circumstances were marginal in the way I have mentioned.
But what is the Chancellor doing by this proposal? What enables him to give this concession except the £57 million which he has taken out of the babies' milk and the school children's dinners? If he gives anything away it can only be out of what he takes from the taxpayers in some other way. It is part of that £57 million. If he had not taken that sum he would have had so much less and, therefore, one is entitled to say that the £37 million which he is giving in this proposal is taken at least in part out of the babies' milk and the school children's dinner. It is all very well for the noble Lord to groan. I can only hope that he is groaning at the enormity of the Chancellor's action and is not 439 protesting against any inaccuracy of my argument, which is, I think, reasonably impeccable.
§ Mr. Silverman
But it is. The Chancellor has scrapped up £57 million in this way. He is giving £37 million back to the Surtax payer. The noble Lord may not like this method of putting those two figures in opposition to one another, but does he dislike it because he does not like the facts to be known, or does he dislike it because he wishes that the facts were not facts?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
The hon. Member has been away at various times and I do not think that he was here during the Budget statement, so he does not recall that my right hon. Friend has made it clear on more than one occasion that what he has been doing was to return tax to those from whom it was previously necessary to take it, and not to take it from someone else and "give it away" as the hon. Member says.
§ Mr. Silverman
The noble Lord may, like Hamlet, lay some flattering unction to his soul by putting that kind of gloss on it, and if he can draw comfort from that, then he is entitled to draw what kind of comfort he can. If he can satisfy his conscience, I cannot grumble, although I cannot help wondering what kind of conscience it may be. Whatever kind of gloss the noble Lord may put on it, what the Chancellor is doing is taking £57 million from those who need it most and giving £37 million to those who need it least. If that is not a monstrous inequity, then we shall have to write a new English dictionary.
It is all very well to say that the Government are merely not taking it from some people, that they are not really giving anything away, but only refraining from taking it from those from whom they have previously taken it.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke indicated assent.
§ Mr. Silverman
The noble Lord does not need to indicate elementary points to me. I know that in a way all taxation is confiscation. That was said long ago, and we all know it.
440 Nobody likes taxation, and if it were possible in this Committee to abolish it, we should all unanimously and readily vote for that. But if the Revenue needs taxation to be raised, and we all can see that it does need it to be raised, then it is merely playing with words to say that when the Government remit taxation they are not giving anybody anything. Of course they are giving people things, and all this argument about incentives would mean nothing unless it were that we were giving people things which they had not got before. That is the incentive on which the Government are relying to justify the remission.
What the Government are doing is applying to Surtax payers a new kind of national assistance without the operation of a National Assistance Board.
§ Mr. Silverman
National assistance. In doing so, they are applying a means test in reverse. Just as, under the existing system, to get National Assistance one has to show that one's means are small, under this financial dispensation in order to get "national assistance" one has to prove that one's means are already high. Under this proposal, one is not entitled to relief unless one can show that one's income already exceeds £2,000 a year. One must have that minimum income before the Government will do anything for one.
That is the proposal. Of course it is comic, but I am not sure whether the noble Lord is laughing at the right joke. I am almost sure that he is not. In spite of all the good humour with which one likes to infuse an argument where possible, I repeat that this is a most monstrous inequity. No one can claim that people whose income is £2,025 or more, up to £10,000, are in dire, immediate need of national assistance. They are not. If the Government give relief to them to satisfy some other social purpose, which may conceivably be a good one—I am not saying that it is not—they cannot say that those people are in any need.
If the Government were giving it to them out of a surplus, there would be much less to be said against the proposal. 441 If the Chancellor were saying, "Last year I took too much from the people, and all I have to do now is to consider what proportion I shall refrain from taking next year; I have this extra money at my disposal and I will distribute it in this way," that would be one argument, but that is not the right hon. Gentleman's position. He has to begin with the argument which he presented to the House of Commons only a few months ago, which was that it was necessary to take £57 million, from people who were admittedly in dire need, because the Government finances were in such a state that they could not possibly do without that £57 million.
What I am saying to the right hon. Gentleman is that the two halves of that argument will not fit, and that if he does both things in the same year as part of his financial dispensations in that year, he must not complain if people say that it is a monstrous injustice and a monstrous inequity, and that it is done for some reason other than the natural justice of the case.
I want, very shortly, to deal with one other argument. That is the incentive argument, which I confess I do not understand. I suppose that it is an elementary proposition that what matters most about taxation is not what the Government take from one, but what one has left after they have taken it. That is the important consideration. I have never heard of and do not believe that there exists any man who has refused promotion only because of the extra Income Tax he would thereby have to pay. There is no such person. A man may refuse because he thinks that the additional pay is too little compared with the additional responsibility. That is a possible argument, but that is not the way in which the matter has been put.
It is being said that incentive and initiative are being stifled and ambitions are being frustrated and that people are refusing to do their best in their jobs because of the rate of taxation and that if this relief is given to Surtax payers in this way, the situation will in some way be improved. Frankly, I do not believe a word of it.
If we were to reduce the proposition to the simplest possible example, I suggest that there are not likely to be many by-elections caused by the resignation 442 of hon. Members who refused any increased salary, which may ultimately be offered to them, on the ground that they would have to pay more Income Tax on it when they got it. That will not happen. Their incentives will not be affected, because, in the end, Members do not accept the responsibilities of membership of the House because of the financial rewards they get. The financial rewards, whatever is done about this matter, will certainly never compare with what most people who succeed in coming here can earn elsewhere.
The financial rewards of a job are important, in the House of Commons or in any other sphere of life. Of course they are, but they have never been the only important thing and they have never been the most important thing. If there were ever found a man who refused promotion on that ground, he would be a man who would not deserve promotion in any case, because with that attitude to his job he would not have the initiative, the ambition or the sense of responsibility which alone would justify the promotion.
For all those reasons I support the Amendment.
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
The debate has covered a fairly wide field, and it might be helpful if I called the Committee to the terms of the Amendment. The purpose of the Government in this Clause is to give two-ninths earned income relief up to £4,005 and then one-ninth on an excess above that figure of £5,940, bringing the total range covered by earned income relief up to £9,945.
The effect of the Amendment is to give two-ninths earned income relief up to £3,006 and then to give a further one-ninth on £3,501 above that, making a total range for earned income relief of up to £6,507. That is the effect of the Amendment as compared with the proposition in the Bill. All I would say about it is that whatever else we are discussing, we are not discussing an issue of principle. There is really no issue of principle in that.
Various figures have been mentioned. Some have been put down in Amendments and withdrawn, and I am happy to say that they must surely be out of order, so I should not refer to them—but they mentioned figures different from 443 these. Other figures were mentioned in the course of the Budget debate or during the Second Reading of the Finance Bill. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) thought that it would be all right up to £2,500. The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) thought that it would be all right up to about £4,000. The hon. Member for Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) thought that the figure should be between £4,000 and £5,000, and the upper limit is now about £6,000.
There is a general recognition— a recognition admitted by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) in his speech, that it was time that something was done. I thought that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) sought to prove far too much. If there was any element of truth in what he said—I mean truth in the Parliamentary sense—if there was any element of truth in the argument which he addressed to the Committee—it was as much an attack, or six-ninths of an attack, on his hon. and right hon. Friends above the Gangway as it was on hon. Members on this side of the Committee.
I have been impressed during the debate to see the atmosphere in which it has been conducted. There were some who said that this matter raised great, passionate, political issues. The truth is that the great majority of people knew that not only had the time come but that it was long past for somebody to do something about the savage upward impact of taxation which takes place at £2,000 a year. There was no sense whatever in having an arrangement whereby a man paid 6s. 7d. in the £ at about £2,000 a year and then jumped to 10s. 6d. in the £ at £2,025. There was no justice in that and no economic sense in it, and nobody would really wish to sustain it.
It is true that the Royal Commission made various proposals, mostly of a self-balancing character—my hon. Friend the Member for Langstone (Mr. Stevens) was quite right to point that out— to try to smooth out that particular kink. I say frankly that my purpose went further than smoothing out the kink. I hold the view that it is not unreasonable that men who earn incomes of more than £2,000 should keep rather more of what they earn. I do not think that that is a revo- 444 lutionary sentiment or a retrogressive sentiment. In a highly competitive industrial nation, it is just plain common sense.
The method which I have adopted is not a very revolutionary method. As a matter of fact, this debate is not about Surtax at all. It has nothing to do with Surtax. It is about whether we extend the principle applied to earned income in the lower ranges—and accepted now as the most respectable and sensible arrangement—a little higher up in the income ranges. It is not new, because this arrangement has been going on for a long time in respect of incomes below £2,000 a year. It is certainly not a present to anybody. The idea that, somehow or another, tax relief is a gift by the Treasury to the taxpayer is a proposition which I really do not think can he sustained.
Do not let us exaggerate what we are doing here. I agree that these arrangements are of such a character and scale that one would not expect a sudden inrush of people from Canada in order to take full advantage of them. I think that there was purpose in what the hon. Member for Sowerby said. We must bear in mind his argument for another year. On £4,000 a year earned income before the Budget a single man paid £1,676 15s., and after the Budget he will pay £1,490. We in the Treasury are not ignoring his activities. We are taking quite a bit from him. A man earning £9,000 paid, before the Budget, no less than £5,326 15s., and today he will pay £4,903 17s. 6d. We have heard talk about National Assistance, but that figure represents quite a sizeable removal of his earnings.
My feeling about this matter can be summed up as follows. I accept the view —I think that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne was on a good point here—that in a country which has been through what this country has been through in two world wars, we shall have a high level of taxation anyway. It will be a high level of taxation in every field. Purchase Tax is high, much too high. The taxes on industry are too high if we are to expect industry to be fully competitive. The taxes on families are too high, and the taxes on the young executives and the men who are getting up to the top positions, and on our scientists and nuclear research workers are too high.
445 In this Budget, I am happy to say, we reduced the tax on all those people. It may be that we did not reduce it enough, but at any rate it was a useful start. I do not accept the view about "this claptrap about incentives". It is true that man does not live by bread alone.
§ Mr. H. Wilson rose—
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
No. Let me finish this phrase, then the right hon. Gentleman can intervene. It is true that men do not live by bread alone, but also they do not jump out of bed every morning and go rushing off to work just for fun. We must be practical and realistic about this. The majority of men in this world work for a living, and when they have worked very hard and very long it is not unreasonable that they should expect to keep a fair proportion, and if possible a slowly increasing proportion, of that which they have earned.
§ Mr. Wilson
I am glad that I did not interrupt earlier because we should not have liked to miss that great contribution to our national philosophy; but, to go back to the point just before that, would the right hon. Gentleman tell the Committee, for our benefit, in view of his claims of what this Budget has done, exactly what he has done for the young scientists, executives, designers, craftsmen, etc., if they are earning less than £2,000 a year and have no children over the age of 11?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
That is a perfectly fair point. I am happy to say that ever since a Conservative Government came to power they have steadily reduced taxes and as long, as they remain in power the country can look forward to their reduction.
The hon. Member for Sowerby, speaking about maintaining these taxes, said that it would be a dreadful thing if we abandoned this level of taxation. He said, "This is the basis of our Socialist faith. If this goes, we have nothing else to hold on to." That may be true, but what a faith to have. Really there must be something else that a party stands for in this country other than maintaining high and penal levels of taxation on those who, by their efforts, initiative or wit, manage to attain some level of success in this world.
446 5.30 p.m.
My hon. Friend the Member for Langstone, in a pertinent speech upon this matter, dealt with the question of incentive. Other Members also have done so. I do not mind what was said in a Report of a Royal Commission on this matter or what was said in the minority Report in 1920 by an Irishman who thought that earned income did not really matter. I do not mind what has been said on that or on any other occasion. I need no advice about this: I am quite confident about it from my own point of view. Taxation is a disincentive; there is no question about it.
Look at the arguments that we always hear about the effect of taxation on overtime earnings. Does anybody suggest that taxation on overtime earnings is not a disincentive? Of course, it is a disincentive. We all know that it is. We know that so far as we can in this country steadily reduce the amount that is taken away from men, so at the same time we encourage them to go out, take the extra responsibilities, and do a little more work. Men do not change when their income reaches £2,000 a year. It might be very convenient if they did, but they do not. They remain precisely the same sort of men, with the same sort of ambitions, the same desire to keep up with the Joneses and everything else as when they earned £1,900 a year. It will always remain so.
The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) told us that any tax relief at £2,000 a year or indeed at any level, so far as I could understand, must be treated in the same way as a wage or salary increase. If one accepts that, one must assume that the State owns all the money in the country. I do not accept that. I do not accept that tax relief is a gift from the Exchequer. I think tax relief is a duty to be earnestly pursued not only by Governments, but by the House of Commons. I think that it should be constantly pursued at all levels.
Finally we had the speech from the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. He rather fell into the same error. He too thought that somehow or another we were giving something away, and he took the view that any curtailment of the growing costs of social services must somehow be hypothecated to any relief of taxation which was ever given. That is not a very sensible 447 approach; nor is it one which could be very consistently argued by any good member of the Socialist Party.
Sir Stafford Cripps, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, spent a great deal of his time and energy in seeing how by one means or another one could set a limit to the growth of the expenditure on social services. He was quite right. In those days an attempt was made to set a limit of about £400 million on the size of the National Health Service. It was a tough and unpopular political decision which Sir Stafford Cripps had to make at that time. But to say that any tax relief that he or any subsequent Chancellor made was somehow given at the expense of those who might have benefited from the Health Service is not a worthy argument to address to the Committee.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I think that the right hon. Gentleman, when his eloquence and fervour cool down, may realise that that is not quite the argument that I addressed. It may well be an argument as to how far in their own interests the social services should be self-supporting or limited.
The two points which I want to make are these. First, the £57 million which the right hon. Gentleman is getting out of the particular reductions to which I called attention were defended by the right hon. Gentleman himself, not so much—and, indeed, in the case of some of them not at all—on their own merits as a contribution to the theory of social services, but because he needed the money generally, in view of the financial situation of the country.
The other thing that I wanted to say was, as the right hon. Gentleman referred to Sir Stafford Cripps, that Sir Stafford Cripps, when he imposed these limits, did not at the same time make what I still consider to be large and generous gifts to people who did not need the money.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I heard what the hon. Gentleman alleged was the purpose of these arrangements with reference to the Health Service, but he was quite wrong in what he said. The truth is—and I share this view with Sir Stafford Cripps—that there must be a limit to the costs which can be incurred on social services of that character. I believe that 448 the Committee would be well served if the hon. Gentleman paid attention to the necessity for Chancellors of all parties to set some limits upon expenditure of that character, however worthy it may be, and not to taunt them if subsequently they make some form of tax relief.
I believe that in approaching a matter of this kind we have to look at what other countries are doing. May be we have some special difficulties of our own. Of course we have, but so have other countries. Look where one will, it is hard to find any country in the world which penalises success to the extent that we have been penalising it in this country. The hon. Gentleman and others talk about the social services. The social services can only be sustained on the growing productivity and wealth of the people who produce things in this country. If we are to encourage that and build it up, we must be prepared to reward success.
If we look at the capitalist system in the United States of America, we see there that they have the courage to reward success. Success there is not a matter for envy. It is an incentive to someone else to achieve the same success also. If hon. Members opposite do not like the example of the United States, they have only to look at Russia. Russia has a system which at all events also has the courage to reward success; however that success is achieved is another matter, but if a person, by some means or another, gets into a position in which he is doing one of those top-level jobs, he certainly keeps a great deal more of his earnings than one does in this country.
If in Europe, in the United States of America and in Russia they are prepared to offer rewards to those who are doing the big jobs, we should be foolish, and indeed failing in our duty, if we did not move a little in the same direction.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
Now we understand why Mr. Khrushchev when he was here last year said that if he lived in this country he would be a Conservative. I did not realise that he had succeeded in convincing the Chancellor of the Exchequer so quickly.
One result of the passionate eloquence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which we always like to hear, is that it somehow generates in the Committee a sense of 449 forgetfulness of very many things. He told us only a moment ago, for example, that our social services, of which this country is rightly proud, can only be maintained, let alone improved, if we have annually rising productivity in this country. That was said so eloquently that I for one almost forgot for a moment that we had a stagnant economy last year and that production fell for almost the first time since the end of the war.
I apologise to the Committee for rising at this stage. I do not intend to imply that I think the debate on this and the other Amendments which are being taken with it is in any way yet over. I know that several of my hon. Friends wish to speak, but I thought it only courteous to follow the Chancellor. If I make any observations which seem to the Committee to call for a reply and I am not in my place to hear it, I hope that the Committee will acquit me of any discourtesy. I have an engagement, made some time ago, in East Ham this evening, though I hope to be back to take part in the debate later on.
The debate has shown only too clearly how deep are the differences between the two main parties in the Committee. The words that I thought I heard come from the noble Lord the Member for Dorset. South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke)— not that he is a member of either major party —were to the effect that the Chancellor's speech was the best speech made by a Chancellor of the Exchequer for ten years.
No. I said that it was the first time that we had heard a statement of that kind from the Treasury Box for ten years.
§ Mr. Wilson
I do not think that I have misrepresented the noble Lord. The fact that he was able to applaud the Chancellor so completely underlines my statement that the debate has shown the deep difference between the two parties.
§ Mr. Wilson
With great respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), I would not call the noble Lord the umpire. [An HON. MEMBER: "The vampire."] All this came to a head in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and the exchanges which 450 followed when he referred to the Chancellor as giving away tax concessions. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset. South interrupted to make a point, which he has made more than once in the past—he is nothing if not consistent—and said that this is not a case of the Treasury giving something away but a case of merely returning something taken away from the taxpayer. The taxpayer had been making too big a contribution, which was now being remitted. The Chancellor made the same point in rather different words.
This is one of the big differences between the two parties. The Conservative Party thinks of any tax remission as simply giving back to the taxpayer something which is truly his own and which the State has taken away. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not giving back."] Well then, ceasing to take away. We on this side of the Committee do not regard the function of the Treasury in that way. We regard the Budget and the taxation system as part of the wider system of economic society. We regard the duty of the Chancellor and the function of the Budget as in part to remedy the gross distortions and the social and economic inequalities that arise from the working of our economic system. That is one of the big differences between us.
The other argument, that also showed the difference, again arose from something said by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne, when he suggested that these tax concessions to the Surtax payers were made possible because the Chancellor, within his general Budget strategy, found himself able to make reductions in total taxation, having previously, in introducing the Estimates to the House of Commons, cut certain items of expenditure. It was only because the right hon. Gentleman did that, that he had this money to give away, remit, or cease to take away in taxation—whichever way the Committee prefers. The Chancellor cannot object to the phrase. He dealt with the matter at some length.
I should like to remind the Committee of the figures given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) in the debate on 11th April when he said:The cancellation of the bread subsidy, for instance, saves the Exchequer £45 million in this coming financial year. The cutting of the 451 milk subsidy saves the Revenue this year £26 million, the prescription charges of 1s. save the Revenue £5 million, the increase in health contributions saves the Revenue this financial year £40 million, and the increase in welfare foods payments save the Revenue £14 million. That all adds up to £130 million, which is just about equal to—in fact more than—the whole cost of all the concessions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th April, 1957; Vol. 568, c. 1328.]Therefore, it can be said that the concessions made to the Surtax range of incomes had been made possible by these reductions in expenditure.
I do not want to pursue that point. I should like to go back to the case deployed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). He put the whole case for the Amendment. There are two points before the Committee. First, should there be any earned income allowance at all, and any differentiation between earned and unearned income? My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby showed how, as recently as 1920, a significant proportion of the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income was against any differentiation at all. I do not think that anyone today takes that view, that is any hon. Member who is present—the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South has just gone out. I do not think that anyone here believes that it is wrong to differentiate between earned and unearned income.
Certainly, the social climate has now changed so much that I do not think that anyone would seriously take the view of the Irish banker to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby referred. The incentive argument is certainly in favour of differentiation. There is also the question of security of income. Earned income can and does stop immediately after anything happens to the earner, whereas unearned income usually continues, although we know that there can be catastrophic events affecting investment which might stop an unearned income continuing. In any event, it is usually possible for the recipient of an unearned income to use capital. The fact that he has an unearned income implies that he has capital. But the earned-income taxpayer may very well be in the position of not having anything to fall back upon. It is for these and other reasons that the country accepts it 452 as right that there should be differentiation between earned and unearned income.
The other question is how far it should extend up the scale, whether it should extend at all to the Surtax range, which it has not done so far, and, if it is to extend, how far? Everyone expected the Chancellor in his Budget to do something for the Surtax payer. I committed myself, perhaps rather rashly, to forecasts of his Budget in more than one newspaper and I think that I was fairly close to the mark. Long before I was writing, the Chancellor had had a buildup that he would do something in the Budget. There were his speeches about the Opportunity State and the comments in the Press.
It is generally realised that every Budget has a motif, or alleged motif, and when there is not one a Chancellor creates one specially for the purpose of presenting his Budget speech. The Lord Privy Seal when he was Chancellor in 1954 had as his motif incentives to increase investment. In 1955, the motif was incentives to win the forthcoming General Election. In 1956 the late Chancellor's motif was an incentive to savings in the private purse, and in 1957 everyone expected the right hon. Gentleman to base his Budget on a system of incentives to the middle classes, defining the middle classes, as he obviously does in this context, almost exclusively as those living within the Surtax range.
There had been rumours that the right hon. Gentleman would raise the Surtax starting point from the figure at which it has been for many years. I never thought that he would do that. It would have been a little too obvious. In my own published forecasts I said that he was likely to increase personal reliefs to Surtax payers and increase earned income allowances.
The right hon. Gentleman certainly had compelling reasons driving him to do something for the Surtax payer. He had to bring the wavering Tory voters back to the fold, because the Budget followed the widespread Tory abstentions in Melton Mowbray, Chester, Warwick and Leamington, Beckenham, Bristol, West and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North not to mention Lewisham, North. He felt that within the amount of money that he was able to afford the thing was to go for 453 those who had been in the past his most loyal supporters, those never expected to vote Labour in any circumstances, but who, unfortunately, in the by-elections had not been voting at all, so he reduced, not the Surtax commitments, but the Income Tax liabilities of Surtax payers.
I will be quite frank about it—the right hon. Gentleman has quoted me quite fairly in this context from what I said on the day after the Budget. We were prepared to recognise a case for some change in the £2,025 earned income allowance limit which has been with us for a generation. We were prepared to recognise that case as part of a socially just, fair, balanced Budget, as this one certainly cannot be described. We were prepared, as part of such a Budget, to accept the recommendations of the Royal Commission based on an extension of the earned income relief to an income of £2,500, with a half-rate relief—that is, one-ninth instead of two-ninths—in the range between £2,500 and £3,000.
The Chancellor referred to certain Amendments that were put down and then withdrawn. The Amendments put down were designed to give effect directly to the Royal Commission's recommendations but, on consideration, we have not limited our Amendments to its precise figures. We have gone beyond them. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby said, we took the Commission's recommendations, which were made some three or four years ago, and scaled them up so as to take account of the increased cost of living since it presented its second Report in which these recommendations were made.
Therefore, our Amendment now contains a figure of £3,000—not the £2,500 recommended by the Royal Commission, but £3,000—instead of the £4,000 proposed in the Bill. It also goes beyond the Royal Commission's recommendation —again because of scaling-up for the increased cost of living which has taken place under the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors—and takes the limit for the half-relief of one-ninth to £3,500. Again, like my hon. Friend, I am not bothering about odd digits. In broad terms, our Amendment proposes to reduce the Chancellor's £4,000 minimum to £3,000, and his nearly £10,000 to £3,500.
454 What we must ask is this. Why did the Chancellor in this Budget go a long way beyond the Royal Commission's Report? We could have understood him going as far as the Report, as we have done, and scaling up for the increased cost of living—
§ P. Thorneycroft
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but perhaps I may be permitted to clear up something which may look very confusing in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The effect of the Amendment really is to put it at two-ninths up to £3,000, and then have it at one-ninth on an excess of £3,500 beyond that, bringing the one-ninth relief figure up to over £6,000. That is what the Amendment does. I make this point only because the right hon. Gentleman is talking about different figures, but I assume that what he wanted was to give two-ninths up to £3,000 and one-ninth on £3,500?
§ Mr. Wilson
I am grateful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has certainly correctly described what we had intended to do. We have the advice of distinguished lawyers on this matter, though not, perhaps, as distinguished as the Attorney-General. We could not call on the Attorney-General for assistance, as could the Chancellor, but if, indeed, that is the effect, we should be very glad, if the Chancellor accepts the Amendment, to put it right on Report.
I must ask again; why has he gone beyond the Royal Commission Report? I have mentioned the political motives, and I shall not pursue that argument any further. I think that it is only too obvious to the House. But he has dressed this up as incentives. He has spoken in terms of incentives. First of all, we have heard from him about emigration. He has said that this is designed to stop the technicians, the draughtsmen, the miners, scientists, business executives, salesmen and so on, from emigrating. The fact is that the result of this Budget is to increase their frustration and to increase their desire to emigrate. I do not think that we can doubt that. Very many of us have heard of people who are even more fed up after the Budget than they were.
Of course, the trouble is this. I agree with the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), or the hon. Member for Langstone (Mr. Stevens)—I am not sure 455 which—who said that the desire to emigrate is not the result of one single specific act but of a growing sense of frustration and a feeling that there is a land of greater opportunity somewhere else—
§ Mr. Nabarro
All I did was to draw attention to the very much more favourable tax treatment accorded to the higher earned income and executive groups in industry, and the effect it had on competitiveness for first-class brains.
§ Mr. Wilson
I am sorry if I misrepresented the hon. Member. When he emigrates to Russia, I hope that he will take our very best wishes with him. However, I am sorry, because I recall now that it was the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett) who used the argument—as, I think, the Chancellor did, also.
There are very many of these young executives, designers, scientists, draughtsmen and the rest who are already frustrated; fed up because of Suez, and fed up with six years of Tory administration —[Interruption.] Oh, yes, we have only to look at the emigration figures, and we have not had a Labour Government for six years. Very many of those people, finding the Tory Party really reverting to type in this Budget, have said, "This is the last straw—I am going."
When the Chancellor comes down to it, he will realise that he has done nothing in this Budget for that class. Apart from those who have children over the age of eleven or twelve, he has done nothing at all for any of these vitally important people—the executives, the scientists and so on—unless they are getting more than £2,000 a year. He did claim, in one of the more impassioned parts of his speech, that he had done something for every one of them, and when I challenged him, he slid right out of it in a way not typical of him. I think that when he looks at HANSARD tomorrow, he will see that he inadvertently claimed to give something in this Budget to that group.
It may be his argument that even if he is not doing anything for them now, there is, at any rate, something for which they can strive. He used the same argument himself in his Budget broadcast. When twitted about the £10,000-a-year man, he said, "Well, I am not getting £10,000 a year—that gives me something to strive 456 for." That is something which must create a little anxiety in the Prime Minister, and be extremely disappointing for the Lord Privy Seal.
Whereas we realise that what may well be in the right hon. Gentleman's mind, I want to recall to him the position of scientists, executives and the rest earning under £2,000 a year. The typical research establishment, or the typical office, or the typical laboratory is one where there are a considerable number of people earning under £2,000. In fact, there is generally only one top job—or two top jobs—over the £2,000 level. That job is occupied, perhaps, today by a man of 45, 50 or 55, and the only way in which these young people can hope to earn over £2,000 is by waiting for a vacancy created by the death, or removal in some other way of the top man. I have heard of very many people in this category who have said that they have not a hope of earning £2,000 a year, although doing work vital to their firm, until vacancies are created by the hand of death.
We have had some argument about how far this will affect the incentives for people to train themselves so that they can take greater responsiblity, or incentives to work harder. There have been a number of speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite, and there have been some quotations from the Royal Commission's Report. I will content myself with only one, in addition to that used by my hon. Friend.
This is what is said on page 45 of the Second Report:But in the meantime we should not conclude, either from our own observations or from such evidence as we could extract, that the high managerial post, for instance, is declined because its rewards are not thought worth obtaining or that the artist or the professional man abates his energies because tax has made it not worth while that he should exercise them to the full. What influence"—and unlike the hon. Member for Lang-stone, I will continue the quotation—high taxation has, on this sort of activity seems to us to lie mainly in making a man disinclined to take on a casual engagement or something out of his usual course and less in affecting the vigour with which he pursues his ordinary calling.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Stevens
Would the right hon. Member be good enough to look at paragraph 149, where he will read:Probably it is still too early in the history of our social development to form a just 457 appreciation of the effects of very high taxation on the activity of the professional man, the salary earner and the individual producer.
§ Mr. Wilson
Whereas the Royal Commission, with its expert advice and information, found it too early to reach any final conclusion, the hon. Member this afternoon was not so modest. I am myself making no ex cathedra pronouncement but quoting the Royal Commission. I was, in fact, quoting paragraph 149, and I need not take the hon. Member much further back in the paragraph to find more quotations even more damaging to his case than those which I have quoted. Similarly, if one were to go through the appendix, with all the various conclusions, one could find much more evidence. Were I to do that, however, I am sure it would weary the Committee.
Do people refuse higher-paid jobs because of taxation? I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne that there may be some who do. if the differential in income is not big enough to make them feel that the extra responsibility justifies taking the job, especially if the differential after tax is not enough to justify the cost of removal of the family. Far more people refuse promotion because of geographical immobility than because of the tax disincentive. That is a much more serious problem, but I will not pursue it.
We are only too familiar with the argument about incentives used by the Chancellor. As we have said many times, it is the last refuge of a Chancellor. We have had incentives quoted in every Tory Budget since 1951 as the main reason for that Budget and yet, as I have said, production fell last year almost for the first time since the war.
The Chancellor had another argument. This afternoon he used the words "the time was long overdue for a reform of this kind". In his Budget broadcast he used the phrase "belated justice", referring to the Surtax payer. He speaks as if nothing has been done for the Surtax payer since 1951. Let me give the Committee two sets of figures, in each case for a man with two children. The £5,000a-year man had already gained £283 in tax remissions before this Budget. He had already gained £283 as an addition to his spendable income. Now he is to have another £223 from the Chancellor in the Budget. The £10,000-a-year man had 458 already received £535 in tax remissions from the right hon. Gentleman's two predecessors, and by this Clause his £535 is to be brought up to £1,137. Hon. Members opposite do not seem to doubt the wisdom of the Chancellor in doing that or his sense of social justice.
It is a fact that the Chancellor feels that the whole Surtax system needs some radical amendment. He says it is long overdue. I agree with him, but I do not think he has done it in the right way. One of my hon. Friends used a phrase about P.A.Y.E. and Surtax as being "Pay as you like," and it is certainly true that taxation on the range of incomes covered by this Amendment is not bringing in the full yield to which the Chancellor is entitled. In the Budget debate last year I gave the House figures which I understand caused considerable perturbation in the Treasury. They have not been denied. Since before the war these Surtax rates have risen by 46 per cent. while the net national money income has increased by more than threefold, and yet the Surtax revenue has increased only from £59 million in 1938 to £130 million, rather more than double, over that period.
This suggests that there is reason for the Chancellor to look at the matter on rather a wider basis. I am not suggesting that it is entirely a voluntary tax; Schedule E taxpayers cannot avoid paying it and there is some contribution, I think my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby will confirm, even from Schedule D, but to a considerable extent it is voluntary.
I should be out of order if I were to develop this matter further or to refer to some evidence which I produced on this subject a year ago. Nevertheless, I suggest to the Chancellor that it might add far more to the Treasury, or might be more socially just and better for the provision of incentives, certainly better for keeping up with the Jones's, as he put it, if he were to replace this Clause by another variant. Since this tax is now largely voluntary, why not make the Surtax entirely voluntary? Why not set up a Surtax voluntary contributions scheme, with the proviso that all voluntary contributions be recorded in the Court and personal page of The Times? If he were to do that and if Surtax became a matter for competitive social emulation, a matter for competitive prestige, Surtax payers would be competing with each 459 other in how much they could pay to the Treasury instead of thinking that their prestige lay in avoiding taxation. Then I think the revenue yield of Surtax, even on a voluntary basis, would greatly exceed what is received from Surtax at the present time.
I am not putting that suggestion forward officially on behalf of the Opposition, but it is an interesting suggestion which has been put to me. I should like to think more about it, and I thought I should like to share this idea with other hon. Members, because it may be that in some future years this will be the basis on which the problem is settled. If we had the greatly increased yield of revenue which I am sure would accrue, in comparison with that of the semi-voluntary Surtax system of today, we should not need to spend as much time in debating these detailed proposals of the Chancellor and the detailed Amendments which have occupied the Committee for some little time.
There is one last point of great importance, about which little has been said this afternoon. I will not develop it, because I should be out of order if I were to develop it too far, but I do not think we can take a decision on the Amendments without reference to it. In the Budget debate many speakers from this side of the Committee drew attention to the fact that, while the Chancellor could find £34 million for Surtax payers, he was unable to find a penny for old-age pensioners. When the Chancellor was asked about this in his Budget broadcast he gave a remarkable answer. He said that if the national cake increased—and this is a wonderful Chancellor for coining a phrase—as a result of this concession and with the incentive of opportunity, then the old-age pensioners themselves would gain from the increase in the national cake. In fact they would not, especially if one of the conditions of this gain was that prices continued to rise.
I do not feel that we on this side of the Committee, in deciding our attitude to this series of Amendments, can entirely disregard the fact that in framing his Budget the Chancellor, having money to dispose of—if hon. Members opposite will let me use that phrase—and having concessions to make, for what- 460 ever reason—I will not go into them now—had a choice to make: whether to give it to the Surtax payers or to give it to the old-age pensioners. He made his decision. It seems to be very widely applauded on the other side of the Committee, and it was certainly applauded even from below the Gangway by the leader of the independent Conservatives. But we on this side of the Committee are in no doubt that he made the wrong choice and took the wrong course and that economically what he has proposed will not help us to balance our payments and to improve our national economic position. Socially it was a most unjust decision. In the absence of any further and more convincing argument from the Chancellor, we shall wish to register our disapproval in the Lobby tonight.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
A good deal has been said about incentives, and I should like to tell the Committee of an experience which I had yesterday when I went with the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee to visit certain works in the neighbourhood of London manufacturing very important scientific and chemical appliances principally for export. I saw there a business which is being built up entirely on the application of science to industry, which seems to be succeeding. I never heard a word during the whole time I was there about any incentives as a result of tax relief. Not only that, but I heard nothing about men leaving that industry and going to Canada. On the contrary. I heard of Canadians coming here to study the processes going on there, and, moreover, Canada and the other Dominions are giving a large number of orders to that industry.
I feel that unnecessary stress has been laid upon the value of incentives. I do not say that tax reliefs may not be desirable as an encouragement or incentive, but, in the main, I agree with the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) in his most moderate but, at the same time, very firm speech in moving the Amendment, which we now intend to press.
I notice that the Chancellor remarked that our Amendment does not indicate that we are against some kind of relief for incomes over £2,000 a year. There is a difference between the two sides of 461 the Committee largely on the extent and scope of the relief, not so much on the principle. We all agreed that some relief would be desirable, for more than one reason. For one thing, of course, inflation has made an inroad upon the real value of incomes over £2,000 a year, which has not been taken into consideration in the scale of taxation and reliefs. This proposal of the Chancellor goes some way to recognise that, and our Amendment does the same. There is really no difference between us about that.
The effect or value of incentives very much depends on the temperament of the person. Some people do not live by bread alone—
§ Mr. Nabarro
No. I was thinking of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Helens (Sir H. Shawcross).
§ Mr. Price
I apologise to the hon. Member for Kidderminster. My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby emphasised that most people are proud of their jobs and that monetary factors are a smaller consideration for them. On the whole, I think that that is so, and particularly is it true among civil servants and those in similar occupations, though less so, perhaps, among those in managerial, administrative or technical jobs. One of the reasons may be that those who have undergone scientific or highly technical training have had to follow a long and expensive course of training, and they feel a grievance if their earned income is treated in the same way as a similar income which is unearned. It is, therefore, important that we should make some difference, and I am glad that the Chancellor has done that. Our Amendment, of course, recognises it, too.
If we are to succeed in our balance of payments and be strong and sound financially, industries such as the one I saw yesterday must be in the forefront of our economy. We must have 462 technicians and scientists who have been through expensive training and are given every incentive possible to carry on at their job. For that reason, we are right to move our Amendment. It does not go contrary to the Chancellor's main proposition, but we join issue with him about the level; we do not agree that to bring the incentive to incomes as high as £10,000 or £9,900 a year is really justified at all. The limit should be much lower than that, and we suggest a figure of £3,500. I can see no justification at all for what the Chancellor suggests. Those who get beyond the level we suggest are, surely, in a different category. One might scale it up a little, perhaps, about £3,500, giving some more relief, less than one-ninth, though whether it is worth doing that I am not sure. At any rate, there should be a limit much below the level proposed by the Chancellor, and we shall accordingly press our Amendment.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
It is now apparent that there is no great difference in principle. If one looks at the matter in pre-war terms, it means giving some concession to a man who would be earning, if money had retained its value, £700 or £800 a year. No one would have thought that to allow him some relief in taxation would be a very serious step.
On the other hand, I did not think that the Chancellor made out any case for carrying the relief up to £10,000 a year, as against the alternatives which would have been open to him had he chosen to give reliefs in other ways. He did not, even on his own argument about the need to offer incentives, make out a convincing case. He told us that, since the Conservatives took office, people earning under £2,000 have received progressive reductions in taxation. I do not think that that is true—again, like him, using the word "true" entirely in a Parliamentary sense. As inflation goes on, it is notorious that more and more people are carried up the scale of taxation, with the result today that, in real terms, the weight of taxation falling upon people earning between, let us say, £1,000 and £3,000 a year is probably heavier than it ever was. Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I feel that there is a great need to do more for people earning 463 between, let us say, £700 and £3,000 a year.
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) told us of scientists who do not feel any need for monetary incentive. I agree with those who feel, like the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) who spoke of the opinion expressed by the Royal Commission, that monetary incentives are much less important than many people might think. I cannot, however, believe that monetary incentives are entirely unimportant, though I am willing to believe that their importance varies greatly between profession and profession. Scientists, who have an extremely interesting job may well not pay so much regard to monetary rewards as those who have dull or boring jobs.
It seems to me that the most serious aspect of heavy rates of taxation is not in their disincentive effect but in the distortion they give to the economy. I lived in a mining village, and I know that the tendency is for miners to take other jobs. They go out and work on farms and in nursery gardens at weekends, because by that means they manage to avoid a certain amount of taxation. Anyone who lives in the country knows that even farmers, who are admirable people, take certain steps to avoid maximising the taxation to which they are liable. It is not only the Surtax payers who do a certain amount of tax evasion; the whole country is riddled with people who give up a considerable amount of their time to thinking of ways in which to avoid taxation. It is a serious matter that expense accounts and inherited capital should weigh so heavily against straightforward earnings. It is far more profitable to have a big expense account or to inherit a certain amount of capital than it is to earn money by skill.
We hear a lot about the weight of the burden which is now placed upon Ministers, and we are to have an official investigation into ways in which this can be lessened. I should like to make one humble recommendation. I suggest that there should be less sumptuary eating by Ministers. Apparently no one can do any business unless he has enormous meals and a great deal to drink.
§ Mr. Grimond
It is not rubbish. I agree that that is an exaggeration, but this situation exists and it arises out of the expense allowance and is the sort of situation which people in industry themselves do not want. The amount of decoration of premises and boardrooms which goes on would not be done if taxation rates were not so high. We are distorting a great deal of the economic system of the country by these high rates of taxation. That point should be stressed as much as the question of direct disincentives.
I hope that in forthcoming Budgets the Government will consider the whole structure of Income Tax, Surtax and tax reliefs. I welcome the fact that the Government have straightened out the kink at the £2,000 a year level. That was quite indefensible. But they have left the main structure of Income Tax and Surtax unaltered in spite of inflation and all the anomalies which now exist. It would be out of order to go into that matter in detail, or to put forward suggestions for broadening the tax basis, but it is notorious that it is becoming distorted and that taxation falls far too heavily upon earnings. I regret that the Chancellor has carried this relief as high as £10,000 and did not make other kinds of concessions. I believe that he could have used the money in ways which would have provided just as much incentive to the younger people, the rising technicians, and the people who are employed in the rather duller and more boring jobs, to whom we want to give some incentives.
The last matter I wish to refer to, about which the Chancellor said nothing, is the question of savings. I concede that some of the extra money may be saved. I do not know whether the Chancellor attaches any importance to that aspect of the matter, but savings are extremely important to us, and if we have now accepted the principle of taxing unearned income at a higher rate than earned income we should consider the possibility of giving a tax inducement to savings. I cannot pursue that matter further on this Amendment, but it is almost as important for savings to be relieved of taxation to some extent as it is for earnings.
The Surtax payers cannot be said to be a race which should be taxed out of 465 existence. We cannot say that a man earning £5,000 or £6,000 a year today can pay indefinitely out of his income, but I feel that in the circumstances which exist in this year there are so many other things which could be done that it is a
§ pity that the Chancellor saw fit to carry his reliefs so far up the scale.
§ Question put, That "four thousand and six" stand part of the Clause:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 249, Noes 209.469
|Division No. 123.]||AYES||[6.25 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Gibson-Watt, D.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Glover, D.||Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Godber, J. B.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Goodhart, Philip||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Gower, H. R.||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Ashton, H.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Maddan, Martin|
|Atkins, H. E.||Green, A.||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Balniel, Lord||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Barlow, Sir John||Gurden, Harold||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.|
|Barter, John||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Mathew, R.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maude, Angus|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Hay, John||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Black, C. W.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Body, R. F,||Hesketh, R. F.||Neave, Airey|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Braine, B. R.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hornby, R. P.||O'Neill, Hn. Phellm (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.|
|Bryan, P.||Horobin, Sir Ian||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Howard, John (Test)||Page, R. G.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Partridge, E.|
|Channon, Sir Henry||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hurd, A. R.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hutohison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Cole, Norman||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Iremonger, T. L.||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Craddook, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Profumo, J. D.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Cunningham, Knox||Keegan, D.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Kerr, H. W.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kershaw, J. A.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Kimball, M.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Kirk, P. M.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lagden, G. W.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Leather, E. H. C.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Leburn, W. G.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Ropner, Col, Sir Leonard|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Russell, R. S.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Schofleld, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Elliott, R. W.(N 'castle, upon Tyne, N)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)||Scott Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Sharpies, R. C.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Longden, Gilbert||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Fell, A.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Foster, John||McAdden, S. J.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||McKibbin, A. J.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Stevens, Geoffrey||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R.(Croydon, S.)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Storey, S.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Studholme, Sir Henry||Tilney, John (Wavertree)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Summers, Sir Spencer||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)||Vane, W. M. F.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Teeling, W.||Vickers, Miss Joan||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Temple, John M.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'Iebone)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek||Mr. Barber and Mr. Finlay.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)|
|Albu, A. H.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Grimond, J.||Oram, A. E.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hale, Leslie||Orbach, M.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Hamilton, W. W.||Owen, W. J.|
|Bacon, Mist Alice||Hannan, W.||Padley, W. E.|
|Baird, J.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Balfour, A.||Hastings, S.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hayman, F. H.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Healey, Denis||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Benson, G.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Parker, J.|
|Beswick, Frank||Herbison, Miss M.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Hewitson, Capt. M,||Paton, John|
|Blackburn, F.||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Pearson, A.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Holmes, Horace||Pentland, N.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Holt, A. F.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Houghton, Douglas||Probert, A. R.|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Howell Charles (Perry Barr)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Randall, H. E.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hubbard, T. F.||Rankin, John|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Reeves, J.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Reid, William|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hunter, A. E.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Ross, William|
|Carmichael, J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Royle, C.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Champion, A. J.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Clunie, J.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech(Wakefield)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Coldrick, W.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Kenyon, C.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Cronin, J. D.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||King, Dr. H. M.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Lawson, G. M.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Ledger, R. J.||Steele, T.|
|Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement (Montgomery)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Lewis, Arthur||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lindgren, G. S.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lipton, Marcus||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Logan, D. G.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John(W. Brmwch)||MacDermot, Niall||Swingler, S. T.|
|Dye, S.||McGhee, H. G.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McInnes, J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Mahon, Simon||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Tomney, F.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Viant, S. P.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Wade, D. W.|
|Finch, H. J.||Mason, Roy||Weitzman, D.|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mayhew, C. P.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mellish, R. J.||West, D. G.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Messer, Sir F.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mikardo, Ian||Wigg, George|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd(Car'then)||Mitchison, G. R.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Monslow, W.||Willey, Frederick|
|Gooch, E. G.||Moody, A. S.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tlllery)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mort, D. L.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Grey, C. F.||Mutley, F. W.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Hyton)||Woof, R. E.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Winterbottom, Richard||Yattes, V. (Ladywood)|
|Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Rogers and Mr. Deer.|
§ Mr. Mitchison
I beg to move, in page 7, line 32, to leave out from "amount" to the end of the subsection and to insert:of the claimant's earned income in excess of the last-mentioned sum, being income assessed under Schedule E or income assessed under Case H of Schedule D in relation to which the claimant elects to have no further or other deduction made for expenses than would be allowed if that income were assessed under Schedule E.The Labour Party, to which 1 belong, has always been said to be the party of all workers by hand and by brain. We are also essentially reasonable people, and we recognise merit, and while we would riot agree that even by personal remuneration or personal earnings merit could always be measured in terms of income, there is, I think, a rough correlation between the two.
The object of this Amendment is to do two things. One is to remove the limit on earned income for the one-ninth relief. The other is to confine that relief to certain cases. Those cases are those of two classes of people. The first is the person who is assessed under Schedule E because he derives this taxable income from an employment or office and, accordingly, is allowed to deduct only such expenses as are wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred in the performance of his office. I am sure we ought all of us to know that rule, since it is the one which applies to the somewhat insufficient salaries of Members of Parliament.
The second type of person to whom it applies is someone who is engaged in a profession or vocation, not in a trade, and is, therefore, assessed under Case II of Schedule D, and it applies to him only if he is willing to accept in relation to his expenses the Schedule E rule for deduction; that is to say, if he is not going to claim to deduct certain expenses which he could deduct under Schedule D because they were wholly and exclusively incurred, but could not deduct under Schedule E because they were not also necessarily incurred.
That would make a very considerable difference to many persons at present engaged in a profession or vocation, and would confer on the Chancellor a benefit the amount of which I do not know and which has not, I think, been accurately 470 estimated in any of the reports on this matter.
I want to make it perfectly clear at once that what we are putting forward is most but not quite all of the recommendation of the minority in the Final Report of the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income, which constitutes Cmd. 9474. This recommendation occurs after considerable discussion of the matter in paragraph 129 on page 395 of the document. It consists really of the two cases I have mentioned, which appear there as two sub-paragraphs, (i) and (ii). We have not thought it necessary or advisable to deal, for the purpose of the case I am putting forward now, with the third, rather minor, recommendation in that part of the Report.
I want to make it clear why we do this and why we adopt and agree with the reason that led the minority to give this second recommendation, after, I think it is fairly clear, some detailed consideration, and, no doubt, after some perfectly proper hesitation. They, like their colleagues, signed in the Second Report the type of recommendation—I am not on figures for the minute—that forms the basis of the Clause in the Bill, but they did so expressly and only as an interim measure and for purposes into which I need not go particularly now. The recommendation which I am now putting forward represents their final and considered opinion.
It was really based. I think, on the fact that they were trying to draw a line as they themselves put it in paragraph 130, between incomes from work and incomes from property. This type of income, whether from an office or employment or from a profession or vocation, they regarded, broadly, as income from work. Trading income would, in most cases, be said to be income from property, not because it did not involve work to obtain, but because it depended on the existence and possession of a certain amount of property in whatever form it might be—stock in trade or a shop, or whatever was the centre of the trade generally.
The members of the minority group came to the conclusion—and I must say that I agree with them—that there is a 471 broad distinction to be drawn tolerably easily and fairly within the limits of Schedule E and Case II of Schedule D, on the one hand, and the other arrangements for taxation under Schedule D.
I propose to give one or two obvious instances, and the one I should like to take first is the case of doctors. I am thinking of skilled doctors working in the National Health Service. The present provision is that if a doctor is wholly employed in the National Health Service he is, of course, assessable under Schedule E and is only entitled to deduct expenses on the narrow, strict rule that applies to Schedule E. If, on the other hand, he is partly employed in the National Health Service and partly in some other aspect of his profession which does not involve an office or employment, he then has in that latter part of his employment something against which he can set more expenses than he would be allowed to deduct if he were simply employed full time in the National Health Service.
The result of this is, I understand, that many doctors who would, if they had an entirely free choice in the matter, be willing to be employed full time in the National Health Service find the question of expenses so important to them that, for that reason and for the financial benefit they will get in that way, they must also take up some other employment.
It seems to me that whatever the reasons may be for a person choosing to be employed part-time or full-time in a very valuable public service, they ought not really to include the question of taxation to the extent that, I understand, they do include it in a case of that sort. I would say, too, that the distinction between Schedule E and Schedule D and deductable expenses does at times, like most distinctions, become a little obscure and difficult to understand.
To take a wholly different instance, I would tell the Committee that I happen to live in Scotland among a number of fishermen who have been held at one time to be partners and at another to be employees and whose position as between Schedule E and Schedule D has caused them to be occasionally assessed under the one Schedule and occasionally under the other. What sort of tossing up went 472 on in the office of the inspector of taxes to decide that question, I have never yet understood, but I know that in fact it happened—not the tossing up of the coin, but the double falls of taxation.
It is not, therefore, an absolutely clear and certain line, but the line between Case II of Schedule D and the first case which deals with trade seems to me, on the whole, to be more certain, though there, too, the incidence of Profits Tax has shown us that there are quite a number of doubtful cases between what is a professional vocation and what is a trade. However, it is at least as workable a line as the one that at present exists between the two Schedules.
Having stated to the best of my ability what it is that we want to do and having tried to adduce one or two instances, I propose to say a few words on what seem to us to be the good public reasons for this change. I repeat that, being a reasonable party and appreciating the value of the work of those who work by brain, we did while we were in office make arrangements for what, I hope, was an adequate payment—certainly a substantial payment—to persons holding highly responsible public employments.
I need not go into the exact figures of salaries and the like, and I need not cross swords with anyone who is prepared to say that such people might have earned more in the employment of a company. I quite agree that that may well be the case, but, apart from that question, I should have said that we would all agree that those who were performing highly responsible work such as the chairman of a public board—one can think of many other cases, too—ought to receive a substantial salary. There can be no doubt about that. Indeed, we should regard employment of that type as far more likely to merit some concession in the field of taxation than money which arises, in the words of the minority Report, as income from property. I am not saying that because we are in this case dealing with wholly unearned income. I am merely saying that there is a distinction between those whose only stock in trade is their knowledge, their experience and their skill and those whose earnings will be conditioned to a considerable extent by the possession of other property.
473 I wish to make one other point. A man who carries on a successful business may well carry it on for quite a long time. If he has the place in which to carry on a business and the wherewithal to do so, the fact that he himself becomes a little less skilled or a little less expert will not really affect the extent of the income which he derives from it, or, at any rate, may not do so. But that is not so with those who are engaged in some professions or vocations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) is, I understand, a surgeon, and I venture to say in his presence that the professional life of a skilled surgeon—I need hardly say that I mean only his professional life — is not as long as one would wish from the surgeon's point of view. He attains the requisite skill and experience only after some time and he does not remain in full possession of them for as long as a successful shopkeeper or trader may remain in possession of a substantial income from his shop. There is, therefore, a case not only in relation to employment, but also in relation to professional people, those engaged in a profession or vocation, for giving them the particular relief which this subsection seeks to give.
The proposal of the Government is to limit the amount of one-ninth relief entirely by the amount of income. The Amendment seeks to substitute for that a limitation not by amount but by the character of the work done by the person. If, as we are told by the Government, the object of this whole provision is to encourage the man of intelligence and skill to remain in this country, and so on, I can only say that the Amendment seems much better calculated to do that than does the Government proposal.
I am not now going into the general merits of the Clause, I am merely considering the two alternatives before us. Not only is the Amendment better calculated for that purpose, but, if one may venture to express an opinion on merit, I would say that the lad of parts who makes his own way and, without anything with which to start and having acquired little of substance in the world, continues to progress and exercise his skill and knowledge for the benefit of the community, is surely more deserving of particular relief even than the 474 successful trader. I feel that if the successful trader got Case I of Schedule D, if he got the earlier relief of two-ninths, from any point of view he would have had all he deserves. But there are professional people and highly skilled employed people who may fairly claim that they ought to get rather more.
§ Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)
I wish to support my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) in drawing the attention of the Committee to the desirability of this Amendment. I do not propose to elaborate the example of the consulting surgeon, which was used by my hon. and learned Friend, because, as I am sure the Committee will realise, to do so might be somewhat embarrassing.
I wish first to make it quite clear that the Amendment divides the prospective recipients of the Chancellor's benefit above an income of £4,005 a year into two groups. Those who receive the benefits are those who pay Surtax and are taxed under Schedule E and Case 11 of Schedule D, and those who will not receive benefit, those taxed under other Cases of Schedule D and other Schedules. In other words, this Amendment is intended to benefit the holder of a salaried office, or a person who holds a position whereby he derives his income from a vocation or a profession.
The general purpose of the Amendment is to show the distinction between the person who earns an income from work alone, and those who gain an income from work and the ownership of property. Those people in the higher income groups who derive their income from work alone are a very deserving category. Among them are civil servants, officers of the Armed Forces, higher officers engaged in public administration, higher officers on the boards of nationalised industries, and even Ministers of the Crown. It is notorious that, compared, shall we say, with persons who derive their incomes to a greater extent from property, the people in this category receive incomes which are low.
The Amendment would also benefit higher business executives and that is desirable because they play a tremendous part in advancing the economic welfare of the country. It puts a emphasis on work as opposed to part-work and part-ownership of property as the source of 475 income. It gives an advantage to a person who works under strain and difficulty. It recognises the merit of a person who can sing his way through the whole of a Wagner opera, or a lawyer who can conduct a difficult and intricate case which might last for several days in the courts.
The Amendment also puts a premium on acquiring knowledge. As a rule the people who receive their income from the ownership of property, or from work and the ownership of property, do not have to spend much time and money acquiring knowledge, as do people taxed under Schedule D and Case I of Schedule E. The Amendment also emphasises that people taxed under Schedule E and Case II of Schedule D have incomes which are of a somewhat precarious nature. As my hon. and learned Friend pointed out, their income may be terminated because of ill-health, or a change of policy, or at the whim of some powerful superior. An example of such a precarious income would be that of Ministers in the present Government. There is an element of uncertainty about their future. I am sure that the Economic Secretary would agree because there has been a high turnover in his office during the last year or two. It is precarious also to the livelihood of dependants of such a person.
The ownership of property is not nearly such a precarious matter. Generally speaking, property tends to depreciate in value only as a result of ill-management on the part of the owner. There are certain exceptions. An apposite example would be that of those unfortunate holders of Government securities who have seen the value of their securities drop enormously during recent times as a result of ill-advised market operations by the Government. There is a distinction between what happened to Government securities in the time of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and now—
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Cronin
I will not argue that further. Property may, and frequently does, increase in value, whereas those people taxed under Case II of Schedule D have no such source of substantial increase.
476 The Amendment also draws an important distinction. On the one side are those who deduct expenses from their income under Schedule E, in other words those who live under the unhappy phrase "wholly, necessarily and exclusively". and thereby suffer considerable hardship. It is understood to be impossible to give any general relaxation of the rules for expenses under Schedule E because that would open an enormous field for tax avoidance. On the other hand are the Surtax payers under Schedule D. They live in an entirely different world, in relation to expenses. They are bound only by Section 137 of the Income Tax Act, 1952, which declares that in computing profits or gains under Case I or Case II of Schedule D, no sum shall be deducted in respect ofany disbursements or expenses, not being money wholly and exclusively laid out or expended for the purposes of the trade, profession or vocation.In other words, there is no necessity to prove that the expense is necessary.
That puts the fortunate claimant in an entirely different world. He can claim meals and drinks as expenses; he can entertain his friends, have an expensive car with a chauffeur, have servants and put in the costs of his home, as expenses; he can have holidays at home or abroad and entertainments at theatres or operas; he can even have a yacht, providing he says that the yacht is used for testing paints or wireless reception, and he can put it all down as expenses. He is in an entirely different and aristocratic world.
The Amendment aims at redressing that rather heavy unbalance. It would seem that a better way to cope with the situation would be to narrow the confines of expenses allowed under Case I, Schedule D, but that is not practical politics because the same system applies, unfortunately, in many other countries. Traders in this country would be at a competitive disadvantage against traders abroad if we did that. Short of some form of international agreement it would be difficult to confine expenses under Case I, Schedule D.
If this system cannot be stopped by narrowing the balance of expenses, the only effective answer is to give compensating advantages to other payers of Surtax who do not have the privilege 477 of the enormous accretion to their standard of living represented by expenses. It must be borne in mind that these expenses are not merely gifts to the taxpayer but produce distortions of the national economy, and for all practical purposes they are heavily subsidised by the Treasury. These various forms of luxurious and even voluptuous living are greatly subsidised by the Exchequer.
The purpose of the Amendment is to bring about a differentiation to ease that very unfavourable position. The Chancellor has objected to numerous Amendments on the ground that they would cost the Treasury money. Here is an Amendment which would save him very substantial sums as well as secure the approbation of a very large part of this Committee. Whatever objection he may have to it he cannot possibly speak of its cost to public funds, The Amendment would bring about relief to some of the most hard-pressed members of the community in the upper income-groups as distinct from those who are less hard pressed. It would minimise a widespread injustice and smooth out a very unfortunate distortion in the economy.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
The principle behind the Amendment is extremely simple but very important. I doubt whether any hon. Member would deny that there is inequity of. treatment between those who happen to be taxed under Schedule E and those who pay under Schedule D. There is no doubt that those under Schedule D are enormously more fortunately placed because of the difference in the expenses rule to which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) have referred.
The difference is very substantial. Taking an income of £5,000 a year, the difference in net living standards between being assessed under one Schedule and being assessed under the other is not much less than £1,000 a year. That is a very big difference and is a very substantial cause of the widespread feeling of injustice. How can one deal with this manifest inequity?
It could be suggested, as I think the majority Report of the Royal Commis- 478 sion did, that one should treat Schedule E payers as favourably in some respects as Schedule D payers are treated. The natural tendency of many hon. Members would be to be a little more generous to taxpayers generally rather than to be a little hard on some taxpayers. That is no doubt a worthy approach, but it is very dangerous and fundamentally undesirable. I hope that I shall carry the Chancellor of the Exchequer with me on this point.
One of our major difficulties in this country is the erosion of the tax base. We have extremely high rates of direct taxation erected on a comparatively narrow base, and the taxation bears very heavily upon the unlucky members of the community, who are no doubt the majority, in all Income Tax ranges. Others have spending power altogether outside the range of taxation, which bears very much less heavily upon them.
There is something almost dishonest about our present taxation system. We pretend that as a nation we are bearing rates of taxation very much higher than those which in fact apply. It is possible that if we had real rates of tax applying to the whole of the spending power in the country that were as high as they nominally are, a very serious situation of disincentive to working our capitalist or semi-capitalist economy would arise.
In fact, we have nothing of the sort. We have a vast amount of incentive and it would be unwise to extend these exemptions further, narrow the tax base, and so still further go on with this rather dangerous self-deception by which we have high nominal rates but not real rates of tax so far as some people are concerned.
Confronted with this undeniable inequity between those who pay taxes under one Schedule and those who pay under another, the correct approach may be to encourage so far as possible those who are under the lucky Schedule D to come under Schedule E for expenses; in other words, to broaden the tax basis. As an incentive to them to do so we could give an increased earned income allowance. There is much to be said in detail as well as in principle for that suggestion.
No doubt the Government will find reasons for not accepting the Amendment in its present form, but I hope the Economic 479 Secretary can apply his mind to the inequity, tell us that the Government recognise that it exists and indicate how they propose to deal with it.
§ Mr. Mall MacDermot (Lewisham, North)
I wish to detain the Committee for only a short period to comment briefly on what strikes me as a remarkable fact about this Amendment. That is the complete silence of hon. Members on the back benches opposite. They have not spoken about it at all, yet, as I understand the Amendment, it is one which ought to appeal very dearly to their hearts.
We have been hearing that the whole principle underlying this Clause is that there should be more room at the top and incentive for those people on whom the future of this nation is said to depend, those who by their exertions can get to the top and earn substantial sums by their own exertions. We hear of the higher executives, of the skilled scientists, inventors, etc., on whom our fate, it is said, depends. Those are precisely the people who would be covered by this Amendment.
The Amendment proposes greater relief for them than has been proposed in the Budget. What is proposed is that above the limit of£4,000 a year the earned income of one-ninth should not be limited, as the Chancellor proposed, to roughly £10,000, but without limit provided—and provided only, of course—that it is related to income which is assessed under Schedule D, Case II, or under Schedule E, in other words, genuinely and solely earned income.
What the Chancellor proposes—this is the reason for the silence of Members opposite on this Amendment—is that the concession, the relief, shall, although we are not allowed to say that he is giving anything away, be granted not merely to people who, it could be said, needed greater incentives, but to people deriving very large incomes from property. It is that which the right hon. Gentleman is called upon to justify in opposing this Amendment. He has to justify giving that relief to people who have unearned income, or earned income partly from property, to a very high figure indeed.
While the Chancellor was making his intervention during discussion of the last Amendment, a vigorous and entertaining 480 intervention, I listened eagerly to hear what the answer was to be to the argument put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who asked why, when planning the whole structure of this Budget, the Chancellor chose to go beyond what the Royal Commission had proposed in terms of the extension of relief to earned income, bearing in mind that he did not see his way to being able to remove completely the pots and pans "Purchase Tax impositions put on in the autumn Budget of 1955? If the general economic situation and the need to restrain inflationary pressures did not permit of the removal of Purchase Tax from those items, why can an equivalent sum be granted to those in the range of income covered by the Chancellor's proposal?
That point remains completely unanswered. The point remains, and is a valid one when we are considering this Amendment. Perhaps the Economic Secretary will give us the answer. The Amendment could be justified on the incentive argument and would limit this concession in the upper ranges to the spheres where the incentive argument, and the incentive argument alone, would apply. I hope that, in his reply, the Economic Secretary will give us, on that point, the answer which we have not yet received.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Nigel Birch)
If he will forgive my saying so, I thought the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) was slightly below his usual high form in moving this Amendment. because he devoted a great deal of his speech to complaining about the rules under Schedule E, which are precisely the rules under which, by this Amendment, he proposes to put a large number of people. Towards the end of his speech he said he did not wish to discuss the merits of the Clause. The merits of the Clause are rather remarkable. Only the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) has pointed out the effect of the Clause.
If one is under Schedule E, or Case II of Schedule D, one can get one-ninth of earned income relief up to£100,000, or£200,000, or£1 million if you happen to have it. That is rather a startling contribution from the Socialist Party to 481 mitigating the gross inequality we are constantly hearing that we suffer from. It would benefit the people we are not benefiting. We are not benefiting anyone with an earned income beyond £10,000 a year. The number of people in this class to be benefited is quite small. I understand that there are only 4,500 with an earned income of more than £10,000 a year.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I rise to correct the right hon. Gentleman on one point. Valuable as the contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) was, I also said exactly the same. I think the right hon. Gentleman was a little below his usual standard of listening at that point.
§ Mr. Birch
The hon. and learned Member certainly hid it under a bushel. It is quite a remarkable thing. I thought it was a tribute to the romantic figure of fiction invented by the Leader of the Opposition, the bachelor with £100,000 a year. I thought he was to come into his own again.
This Amendment is unacceptable for two reasons. The first is that there is no sufficient reason for drawing this distinction between income under Schedule D, Case I. and income under Schedule D, Case II, and under Schedule E. I shall give my reasons for saying that. The hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) produced the argument, which is a common one in this context, that under Schedule E and Schedule D, Case II, one is paid for work, whereas in other cases there may be some contribution of capital. I do not think that is altogether valid. Take the case of Schedule D, Case II. Quite often there is a considerable element of capital in the income earned. For example, a solicitor, an accountant, or a surveyor can buy a share in a practice. In fact, they very often do. Doctors, we know, do not do so any longer, but it is in the case of the solicitors and accountants that the big money arises under Schedule D, Case II.
§ Mr. Cronin
Let us get this right for the record. There is a very small proportion of the total number of prospective beneficiaries who would come under this Amendment, I said "in general", not "exclusively".
§ Mr. Birch
All I was saying is that I do not think it is possible to determine how many there are, but very often there is a capital element under Schedule D, Case II. Under Schedule E a director of a private company may have a salary of £50,000 a year. The reason he has that salary is because he is a large shareholder in the company. Under this proposition he would get one-ninth earned income relief on the whole £50,000 and, in fact, have his income increased by £1,892 10s. over what he would get under the provisions proposed by the Chancellor.
Is that man, are these people, in a more moral position than the man who is trading? Consider the man trying to start a business, perhaps working fourteen hours a day in a greengrocer's shop, or trying to start some engineering business—working and slaving away. I do not think the hon. Member for Loughborough is fair in suggesting that because such a man receives certain allowances he is living voluptuously.
The first reason why we wish to reject the Amendment is that we think it seeks to draw an unreal distinction. The second reason is that we think it goes too far. It contributes too much to inequality. My right hon. Friend thought very carefully when he fixed the limits of his earned income concession, and he thought that what he was doing was reasonable, particularly reasonable for someone who follows the Prime Minister, who believes in the middle way. We feel that these extreme measures suggested by the Opposition go rather too far.
I turn to the question of expense allowances. There must be some misconception about the differences between Schedule D, Case I, and Schedule E. Expense allowances under Schedule D, Case I, are not a special relief to those assessed under that Schedule. They are some compensation for them for what they have to do. Someone in that position has to go out, get the business and earn the profits. He can get these expense allowances only if the expenses are wholly and exclusively devoted to that purpose.
Hon. Members have pointed out that the difference between the two rules is simply the word "necessarily". If a trader, or someone in a business position, under either Case of Schedule D, were 483 assessed under Schedule E, it is extremely probable that he would get most, if not all, of his expenses allowed to him as necessary.
The reason the Revenue is so nervous about this is that if the Revenue had to decide in every case whether an expense was necessary, it would reach the stage of having to run somebody's business for him. If this arrangement were arrived at, we should have to wait some years before we knew what was to happen while case law was being built up both in the courts and in the practice of the Revenue.
Very clearly, there are expenses under Schedule D which are necessary to a man which would not be necessary to an employee whose employer paid that sort of expense for him. It is therefore not as easy as hon. Members have suggested. There is this distinction which we cannot avoid.
By definition, these expenses have to be justifiable under both business and accountancy principles. The system which is pursued about expenses is the same as it was under right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I have no doubt that it is the same as it was under the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), who is very anxious that people should not be able to get away with unnecessary expenses. The Revenue is extremely strict in these matters. It is a pity that people sometimes talk about Surtax and other taxes as being voluntary. I am bound to say that I myself have never found them voluntary. There must be some very clever people about if they find these taxes voluntary and, they must be on the other side of the Committee, because I have never heard of anyone on these benches who has got away with these things.
Although the Amendment is a bold conception, although it does much credit to the forward-looking thoughts of right hon. and hon. Members opposite, and although my right hon. Friend will undoubtedly meditate upon their proposal—indeed, he has assured me that he will—we cannot accept it for the two reasons which I have given: we think it draws an unreal distinction and we think it is overbold and gives too much away too quickly.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
The Economic Secretary grotesquely misrepresented our Amendment and made some jokes about it. It is perfectly true, and it is the intention, that for people who have an employer and are taxed under Schedule E we propose to remove the upper limit of the earned income relief at one-ninth, but what the right hon. Gentleman did not say was that our Amendment would also reduce, indeed, destroy, the earned income relief which the Chancellor intends to give to people under Schedule D, Case 1. The right hon. Gentleman spoke as though we were merely giving huge concessions to all Surtax payers without distinction, when we are, in fact, making a very important distinction for Surtax and all Income Tax payers between Schedule D, Case 1, and Schedule E. Those who come under Schedule D, Case 2, would have an option, under our Amendment.
This Amendment rests upon a distinction between two sorts of income, one of which is derived from work and the other of which is derived, in the main, from property. That is a distinction which the right hon. Gentleman can laugh at much as he wishes, but it has been very clearly argued in the minority Report of the Royal Commission. I presume that he has forgotten that he read it. That Report clearly says that that is the distinction which lies between those two sorts of income.
The right hon. Gentleman did not deal with the main intent and purpose of our Amendment, which is to cope with what is admittedly one of the great blots upon our taxation system—the distinction between the treatment of expenses according to whether the income is earned as an employee or in a trade or profession. If a man is in a trade and is employed by a company, not as a director, in effect he receives very generous expenses. We have heard a great deal about them. If he is an employee or a professional person, however, he does not get them at all. This is a great cause of injustice.
The right hon. Gentleman was excessively complacent about that, when we remember that both the majority and the minority of the Royal Commission condemned it and tried to find a way round that grave blot, that injustice, in our taxation system. He was far less than just to the purpose of our Amendment. 485 It is indeed bold, in that it tries to tackle that very grave injustice which rankles amongst Surtax and Income Tax payers.
It is very bad indeed that Income Tax payers and Surtax payers who, in effect, can get no expense allowance at all to keep themselves up to date and to buy books to keep themselves going in their profession, should see business people able to indulge themselves in big dinners and entertainment because they are allowed to charge those expenses against Income Tax.
The Royal Commission stated that that is a great source of injustice. The majority Report made one proposal for getting round it. which we do not think is a very good proposal; it would not remove the cause of injustice, and it would open the door to avoidance. A second proposal was put forward in the minority Report, and we are, in this Amendment, taking over the proposal in the minority Report, Incidentally, from its whole tone it was not the kind of Report which went out of its way to be tender to the better-off people in the country as against the less-well-off.
The purpose of the Amendment is to remove a very serious blot upon our taxation system. The right hon. Gentleman did nothing at all to meet the criticisms which have been poured upon this anomaly in our taxation system by the courts, by the Royal Commission, and by almost everyone else who has commented on it. He seems to be ignorant of the fact that this is widely regarded by all observers and by many Income Tax payers as a very grave anomaly which can be removed only by the approach made in the Amendment. It would benefit some Surtax payers more than the Chancellor wishes but, of course, it would give far fewer benefits to very many more Surtax payers than he desires.
We feel that this is an important matter. We are sorry that the Government treat it so complacently. It looks as though they do not intend to do anything at all to try to remedy this injustice, which springs from the way in which expenses are treated according to how the income is earned.
We should like to know what the proposal would cost. We know what the minority Report said it would cost, but the proposal in that Report was wider 486 than is ours. It estimated the cost at something over£25 million and up to about £40 million. Our proposal does not go as far as that and, as I say, we should like to know, if the right hon. Gentleman can tell us, what this Amendment would cost. Even if it is a fairly high figure, we feel that this matter has a very high priority and that something should be done, because it is a bad thing when Income Tax payers have a sense of injustice; of being treated differently although they are apparently in the same position as the others. We admit that that normally results from the fact that there are two sorts of Income Tax fixed under these Schedules, and that the injustice cannot be abolished in such a simple way as by extending the definition under Schedule D.
This Amendment is a bold way of dealing with the matter, I agree. Apparently, there is no other way of doing it. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that there was no other way of coping with this very grave anomaly. but unless he can give us a rather more forthcoming reply, showing greater recognition of the great injustice that there is in the existing situation—and if he does not like this way of dealing with it there may be some other way of overcoming the injustice—we feel that we shall have no alternative but to divide the Committee.
§ Mr. Birch
The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) asks about cost. In fact, as one of his hon. Friends pointed out, this Amendment would actually save a little money. It takes out of the benefit quite a large slice of people under Schedule D, Case I. It is not very easy to estimate, but the saving would be about£1 million. That assumes that all the Schedule E people go over, and that half of those coming under Schedule D, Case II, would opt for this proposal.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Am I right in supposing that this audacious proposal would save the Revenue about £1 million, as compared with the tentative approach of the Chancellor?
§ Question put, That.the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause:—488
§ The Committee divided;Ayes 239, Noes 192.489
|Division No. 124.]||AYES||[7.34 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Graham, Sir Fergus||Mawby, R. L.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Green, A.||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Gresham Cooke, R.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Grimond, J.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Neave, Airey|
|Ashton, H.||Gurden, Harold||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.|
|Barber, Anthony||Hay, John||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Barter, John||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Osborne, C.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Hesketh, R. F.||Page, R. G.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Partridge, E.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Hobson, John(Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Plckthorn, K. W. M.|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Holt, A. F.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Black, C. W.||Hornby, R. P.||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Body, R. F.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Horobin, Sir Ian||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Braine, B. R.||Howard, John (Test)||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hurd, A. R.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Bryan, P.||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hyde, Montgomery||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Iremonger, T. L.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Cole, Norman||Johnson, Eric (Blaokley)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Joseph, Sir Keith||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Cooke, Robert C.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Sharples, R. C.|
|Cooper, A. E.||Keegan, D.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Kerr, H. W,||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Craddook, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Kimball, M.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Kirk, P. M.||Speir, R. M.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Lagden, G. W.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Cunningham, Knox||Leather, E. H. C.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Leavey, J. A.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement(Montgomery)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|D' Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Storey, S.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Teeling, W.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Temple, John M.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||McAdden, S. J.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'castle upon Tyne, N.)||McKibbin, A. J.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Fell, A.||Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Fisher, Nigel||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold(Bromley)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Fort, R.||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Hornoastle)||Wade, D. W.|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Glover, D.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Godber, J. B.||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Mathew, R.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Goodhart, Philip||Maude, Angus||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Cower, H. R.||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Webbe, Sir H.||Wood, Hon. R.||Colonel J. H. Harrison and|
|Whitelaw, W. S. I.||Woollam, John Victor||Mr. Finlay|
|Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Hannan, W.||Padley, W. E.|
|Albu, A. H.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hastings, S.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hayman, F. H.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Healey, Denis||Palmer, A. M, F.|
|Baird, J.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Balfour, A.||Herbison, Miss M.||Parker, J.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Houghton, Douglas||Paton, John|
|Benson, G.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Pearson, A.|
|Beswick, Frank||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Pentland, N.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Hubbard, T. F.||Probert, A. R.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Randall, H. E.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Rankin, John|
|Boardman, H.||Hunter, A. E.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Reeves, J.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Reid, William|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Burke, W. A.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Janner, B.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Ross, William|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Royle, C.|
|Carmichael, J.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Champion, A. J.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Clunie, J.||Kenyon, C.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||King, Dr. H. M.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lawson, G. M.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cronin, J. D.||Ledger, R. J.||Steele, T.|
|Crossman, R, H. S.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Strauss, Rt. Hon, George (Vauxhail)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Lewis, Arthur||Stross, Dr. Barnett (stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lindgren, G. S.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Logan, D. G.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Deer, G.||MacDermot, Niall||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Dodds, N. N.||McGhee, H. G.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||McInnes, J.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Dye, S.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Tomney, F.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Marion, Simon||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Weitzman, D.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Wells Percy (Faversham)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||West, D. G.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mason, Roy||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mayhew, C. P.||Wilcook, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mellish, R. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Messer, Sir F.||Willey, Frederick|
|Finch, H. J.||Mikardo, Ian||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mitchison, G. R.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Forman, J. C.||Monslow, W.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Moody, A. S.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewls'm, S.)||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mort, D. L.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Moyle, A.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mulley, F. W.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Grey, C. F.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Hale, Leslie||Orbach, M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Owen, W. J.||Mr. Holmes and Mr. J. T. Price.|
§ Mr. Houghton
I beg to move, in page 7, line 39, at the end to insert:and there shall be added after the reference to age sixty-five years and upwards in subsection (2) the words (or, in the case of a woman who would be entitled to the lower relief under subsection (1) of section two hundred and ten of the Income Tax Act, 1952, sixty years or upwards)'".
§ The Chairman
It might be convenient if at the same time the hon. Member dealt with the Amendment to Clause 11, page 8, line 26, at the end to insert:(or, in the case of a woman who would he entitled to the lower relief under subsection (1) of section two hundred and ten of the Income Tax Act, 1952, sixty years or upwards)".
§ Mr. Houghton
As you say, Sir Charles, I think that associated with the Amendment which I am moving is the Amendment to Clause 11 to which you have just referred.
This is a simple Amendment, and I need only briefly outline its purpose. At the present time age relief is granted to a person who is over 65 in the year of assessment, and in the case of a married couple where either spouse is over 65 in the year of assessment. As the Committee is aware, if the age qualification is satisfied and total income is within the limits prescribed, then earned income relief is given even on unearned income.
The principle behind this was acknowledged years ago when pensions were treated as earned income, being deferred pay, whereas those who had probably been in business or in a profession and had saved for their retirement were penalised by having their investment income taxed as unearned income, when in their view it was as much their pension as that received by one who had been in pensionable employment.
Age relief was first started in the Income Tax year 1925–26. At that time the retirement age for women was the same as for men. In fact, it was, I think, on 4th January, 1926, that the Widows and Orphans and Old-age Pensions Contributory Scheme began. Then the pension age for both men and women was 65. It was not surprising, therefore, that when age relief was introduced into the Income Tax code what was the pensionable age for men and women under that scheme should be taken for the purpose of this relief.
During the war the pension age for women was reduced to 60 but no corresponding adjustment has ever been made in the age relief, and now in Clause 11 the Chancellor is proposing a new form of relief to old people called age exemption; and there, total exemption from tax up to a certain limit of income is to be conceded on the same age conditions which applied to age relief.
This Amendment seeks to lower the qualifying age for a single woman or a widow from 65 to 60. It does not propose to interfere with the present arrangement whereby age relief or, under the new proposal of Clause 11, age exemption may be granted where either husband 492 or wife reaches the age of 65. I think it would complicate matters greatly if we were to try to distinguish between husband and wife for the granting of age relief or age exemption. It would mean complicated questions of allocation of income, and it would be extremely difficult to know how the relief could be equitably given. Therefore, I think that rough justice will be done if the qualifying age for the single woman or widow is reduced to 60, and I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to meet the purpose of this Amendment.
This is a small matter. It is fully in line with the right hon. Gentleman's own desires to give additional tax reliefs to older people especially who are living on small or moderate incomes, and especially those who have been thrifty in their working years and have saved for their old age. That is really all I need say about the purpose of this Amendment. I hope that the Chancellor is now going to begin on a series of minor concessions, because surely this is one with which he must sympathise. If there is any alternative or better way of dealing with it than the one proposed in the Amendment, clearly we shall be very glad if he will consider the matter, but we hope that he will be able to give a favourable response to this Amendment.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. J. Enoch Powell)
As the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) has said, we are here considering both the existing old-age relief and also the new exemption for elderly taxpayers which is contained in the next Clause. For both of those reliefs the qualification is the age either of the individual or, in the case of married persons, of the older of the spouses. Under the present law the qualifying age is 65 for both sexes.
The great difficulty about the proposed change is that it would create a discrimination in the application of that qualification between the woman who is a single woman and the woman who is a spouse. Of two women of the same age and of the same income, one would attract the relief if single or widowed and the other would not, if it were a question of considering her as one of a married couple.
When this matter was last raised on an earlier Finance Bill, I think by the same hon. Member four years ago, the 493 right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition suggested that this would be a proper matter for the Royal Commission to direct its attention to, and expressed the hope that it would give its opinion on it in its Report. This in fact it did.
Paragraph 204 of the Second Report of the Royal Commission said:We see no reason that would require an alteration in the measure of relief—this was directed only to old-age relief—or in the conditions of qualification. In particular, we should not approve of the suggestion that discrimination should be introduced by permitting a single woman or widow to qualify for the relief at the lower age of 60.The hon. Gentleman, therefore, has appealed unto Caesar and from Caesar he has had that reply. It may perhaps appear an anomaly that the qualification for the payment of post-war credits, for instance, or the qualification, as the hon. Gentleman mentioned, for the National Insurance retirement pension is on a different basis, the basis of age of 60 for a woman and 65 for a man; but those two cases are quite different from this one. The qualification for payment of post-war credits does not create the discrimination that this proposal would do, for a woman age 60 can claim her post-war credits whether a single person, a widow or a married woman.
Looking at the arrangements for retirement pensions, which I suggest to the Committee are really an entirely separate matter, there the question is the qualification of the contributor who has earned and qualified for a pension by his contributions. There, of course, it is the woman, if she is the contributor, and the retirement pensioner, who earns the pension at the age of 60, whereas in the case of a married couple, unless the woman has been contributing in her own right, it is the man who qualifies for pension at the age of 65. There is, therefore. no true analogy between the existing arrangement which prescribes 60 for a woman and 65 for a man. On the contrary, by introducing the age of 60 for a spinster or a widow in this case we should he introducing a discrimination which does not exist, and I think that we should arouse considerable ill-feeling and resentment on the part of married women at 494 the age of 60 who, and whose spouses, would otherwise qualify.
§ Mr. Houghton
I am sorry that the Financial Secretary has not given a more favourable reply. I was, of course, aware of what the Royal Commission said. I did not appeal to Caesar and I do not personally feel bound by the verdict of the Royal Commission on a matter of this kind. I think that we are all free to look at the Royal Commission's recommendations in the light of current opinion or of conditions. The Chancellor claims that right. He said in his Budget statement that he proposed to go a great deal further than the Royal Commission, and no one will hold him to what the Royal Commission said in paragraph 204.
The Financial Secretary has not commented on a possible way of removing the anomaly between single and married women There is, of course, a way, difficult administratively, no doubt, but a married woman reaching the age of 60 could be taxed on her own income and given the benefit of proportionate relief on that. It is not beyond the powers of the Inland Revenue to do the mathematics of a problem like that, although I agree that it would be rather difficult.
It seems anomalous that a relief given to correspond with retirement pensions of all kinds should still be retained at this higher level when for other purposes women have been given a lower retirement age. As the hon. Gentleman has just said, repayment of post-war credits is related to pensionable age and these things run together somewhat. It is a small matter, although, in our view, an important one. We are sorry that we apparently have not yet begun the constructive Committee stage of this Bill. If we do not begin it soon, we shall not have it, because there will not be enough left upon which the Chancellor will be able to do his constructive work. So, as a mark of our disapprobation and of the unforthcoming attitude of the Front Bench opposite, I must advise my hon. and right hon. Friends to divide the Committee on this Amendment.
§ Question put,That those words be there inserted:—
§ The Committee divided:Ayes 187, Noes 229.497
|Division No. 125.]||AYES||[7.56 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Hale, Leslie||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Albu, A. H.||Hamilton, W. W.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hannan, W.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Hastings, S.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Baird, J.||Hayman, F. H.||Parker, J.|
|Balfour, A.||Healey, Denis||Parkin, B. T.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Paton, John|
|Benton, G.||Hewltson, Capt. M.||Pearson, A.|
|Beswiek, Frank||Holt, A. F.||Pentland, N.|
|Blackburn, F.||Houghton, Douglas||Probert, A. R.|
|Blenkintop, A.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Proetor, W. T.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hubbard, T. F.||Randall, H. E.|
|Boardman, H.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Rankin, John|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Reeves, J.|
|Brookway, A. F.||Hunter, A. E.||Reid, William|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Burke, W. A.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Ross, William|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Janner, B.||Royle, C.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Carmichael, J.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Kenyon, C.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Clunie, J.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Colllok, P. H. (Birkenhead)||King, Dr. H. M.||Smlth, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Lawson, G. M.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Craddook, George (Bradford, 8.)||Ledger, R. J.||Steele, T.|
|Cronin, J. D.||Lee, Frederiok (Newton)||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lewis, Arthur||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Lindgren, G. S.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Logan, D. G.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement(Montgomery)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Daviet, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||MacDermot, Niall||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||McGhee, H. G.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Deer, G.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Dodds, N. N.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Mahon, Simon||Tomney, F.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Dye, S.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Wade, D. W.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Mason, Roy||Weitzman, D.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mayhew, C. P.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mellish, R. J.||West, D. G.|
|Edwards, W.J. (Stepney)||Messer, Sir F.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mikardo, Ian||Wiloock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mitchison, G. R.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Monalow, W.||Willey, Frederick|
|Fienburgh, W.||Moody, A. S.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Finch, H. J.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tlllery)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lcwis'm, S.)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mort, D. L.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don valley)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd(Car'then)||Moyle, A.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mulley, F. W.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Oliver, G. H.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Orbach, M.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Grey, C. F.||Owen, W. J.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Padley, W. E.|
|Grimond, J.||Paget, R. T.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Holmes and Mr. J. T. Price.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Barter, John||Brooman-White, R. C.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Baxter, Sir Beverley||Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Bryan, P.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Bell, Ronald (Buoks, S.)||Burden, F. F. A.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Butcher, Sir Herbert|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Campbell, Sir David|
|Ashton, H.||Bidgood, J. C.||Chichester-Clark, R.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)|
|Baldook, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Black, C. W.||Cole, Norman|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Body, R. F.||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger|
|Balniel, Lord||Boyle, Sir Edward||Cooke, Robert C.|
|Barber, Anthony||Braine, B. R.||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Corfield, Capt. F. V.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Iremonger, T. L.||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Crowder, Sir John (Flnchley)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Cunningham, Knox||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ralkes, Sir Victor|
|Danoe, J. C. G.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Ramsden, J. E.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmld, Sir Henry||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Deedes, W. F.||Keegan, D.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Kerr, H. W.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Kimball, M.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Doughty, C, J. A.||Kirk, P. M.||Rippon, A. G. F|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lagden, G. W.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Leather, E. H. C.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Leavey, J. A.||Ropner, Col, Sir Leonard|
|Duthie, W. S.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Schofleld, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'castle upon Tyne, N)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Sharples, R. C.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W,||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Shepherd, William|
|Fintay, Graeme||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Fort, R.||Longden, Gilbert||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Speir, R. M.|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Glover, D.||McAdden, S. J.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Godber, J. B.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||McKibbin, A. J.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mackie, J. H. (Calloway)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Gower, H. R.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Storey, S.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Green, A,||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Hornoastle)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Taylor, William (Bradford, H.)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Temple, John M.|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Mathew, R.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Gurden, Harold||Maude, Angus||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R.(Croydon, S.)|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Mawby, R. L.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Harvey, John (Walthamttow, E.)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hay, John||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Nairn, D. L. S.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Neave, Alrey||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Hesketh, R. F.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Oakshott, H. D.||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Hornby, R. P.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||Osborne, C.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Page, R. G.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Howard, John (Test)||Partridge, E.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Hurd, A. R.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Colonel J. H. Harrison and|
|Hyde, Montgomery||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Mr. Hughes-Young.|
|Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Pitman, I. J.|
§ The Chairman
It seems to me that this Amendment and the next two Amendments, in page 8, lines 7 and 11, might be discussed together.
§ Mr. Cronin
Yes, Sir Charles. Clause 10 (3), if it is not amended, leaves the amount of relief at £100 for a child until the age of 11, and then it becomes 498 £125 provided that the child is aged 11 at the commencement of the year of assessment. If the child is aged 11 a few days or weeks after the commencement of the year of assessment, the relief is still only £100 during the whole of that year. A large proportion of children, therefore, will be aged nearly 12 before the parents receive the allowance appropriate to children aged 11.
If the subsection is unamended, £125 will be the amount of relief until the 499 child reaches the age of 16, when, provided that the child is receiving full-time instruction, the relief will become £150, again provided also that the child is 16 at the commencement of the year of assessment. If the child reaches the age of 16 within a few days or weeks after the commencement of the year of assessment, the benefit is lost.
The effect of Clause 10 (3), if unamended, is to retard the time for receiving child relief. This puts a burden on those who are, probably, the most deserving of the tax-paying class, those who have children over 11 and who have to maintain them without any income coming in for the child. As we all know, a child over 11 costs quite as much to maintain as a fully grown adult. Also, the subsection puts a burden on those who have children over 16 and who are struggling to maintain them at universities or technical colleges or in full-time apprenticeship. These also are particularly deserving people. We are all familiar with the desperate need for trained technicians and technologists, yet this Subsection as it stands tends to discourage people from arranging for their children to undergo such training.
Another unfortunate consequence of the subsection, if it is left unamended, is that it produces a lack of conformity with other sections of Income Tax law. For instance, a married man's personal relief and the commencement of child relief take effect, provided that the event occurs at any time during the year of assessment, in that year. It is only in this instance that the event must take place before the commencement of the year of assessment.
Originally, one must concede, child relief began only if the child was living at the commencement of the year of assessment. That was laid down in Section 21 of the Finance Act, 1920, but the qualification was removed in the Finance Act, 1928, so that child relief could begin during the year of assessment provided that the child was living at any time during the year.
The Financial Secretary probably knows that that change was initiated by his right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) when Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is noteworthy that there was no debate and no 500 comment whatsoever during the Committee stage of the Finance Bill of 1928. It was so obviously a piece of elementary equity for taxpayers that no comment was made, so one cannot feel that there could be a strong case against introducing this change in the Clause.
Most hon. Members will agree that the Board of Inland Revenue is rather unfortunate in its public relations. Most people speak of tax officials as persons to whom they feel decidedly inimical. The Treasury should do everything it can to avoid this feeling of irritation between the taxpayers and the tax assessors or collectors.
§ Mr. Cronin
We should, indeed, try to turn them into painless extractors. The extraction is far from painless when a parent finds that an allowance he expected to receive when his child reached the age of 11 or 16 is not really due at the time he thought but has to conform with the commencement of the year of assessment. That is a very powerful source of annoyance to taxpayers, and it would be very agreeable if the Inland Revenue could establish happier relations with the taxpayers by avoiding such a source of irritation.
A substantial section of the population tends to plan the arrival of its children. Such plans are not affected by the commencement of child relief. So long as the child is living at any time during the year of assessment, the full relief is obtained. However, it is possible, and probable, that the more far-seeing and intelligent of the people who plan their families will think ahead and say, "It will be a great disadvantage if our child reaches the age of 11 shortly after the commencement of the year of assessment." There may well be a tendency on the part of such people to have their children arrive somewhat after the commencement of the year of assessment rather than before. Obviously, on biological grounds and on the grounds of eugenics that is most undesirable.
The Financial Secretary is screwing up his face in profound thought, and is probably thinking up some objections. I will attempt some minor clairvoyance and suggest some of them. First of all, it must be conceded that a parent, although 501 the child's birthday falls shortly after beginning of the year of assessment and provided that the child does not receive full-time instruction, obtains the benefit of child relief for the whole year of assessment even when the child is over 16. He thus obtains with the Amendment an advantage in both the year of birth and the year of the sixteenth birthday. This applies, however, only to taxpayers in the lower income groups, and they can hardly control the circumstances, and there is no reason at all why they should be penalised.
The Financial Secretary may well point out a minor drafting objection. Section 212 (1) of the Income Tax Act, 1952. specifies that a child must be over 16 at the commencement of the year of assessment. It might be necessary for perfect clarity to alter the drafting of that Section. I have no doubt that the Financial Secretary has in mind the small additional cost to the Treasury, but I am sure he would not put that forward as a serious argument in respect of a Finance Bill which gives away £35 million to Surtax payers.
Subsection (3), as it stands, is a very enlightened piece of fiscal policy but, it lacks the small addition which the Amendment will supply. The Amendment will certainly make it a much more attractive Clause. If the Amendment is accepted, it will not only be a rather more generous Clause but it will obviously be a more generous one. If the Financial Secretary will give this matter some careful attention, I am sure that subsection (3) will become a masterpiece of enlightened fiscal policy and the object of universal parental gratitude.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
I support the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin). I have not done anything like the research into the matter that he has evidently done, and, as a layman venturing into a field which is unfamiliar, I would question his observations about the possible planning of the arrival of children in order to take the maximum advantage of the concession. I imagine there would be biological difficulties. I would point out that my experience has been that the medical profession, of which he is a distinguished member, is by no 502 means precise in its forecasts of the necessary time between the beginning and the end of the events necessary to qualify for this allowance. I cancelled engagements for three weeks in anticipation of celebrating the birth of my first child, only to find that the engagements which I had rearranged coinicided with the birth. The consequence was that I had three weeks of planned idleness, which was a very bad piece of planning indeed.
The Amendment is both just and necessary. The Clause as it stands will give rise to another complication to those arising in respect of the ages by which children are judged when they are at school. For example, a child born in March and another born in April may pursue the same educational course and leave school together at the age of 16, but one might get the benefit of the £150 allowance and the other might not. Yet we expect children born a mere month or a couple of months apart to begin and finish school at the same time.
The arbitrarily fixed date in April is quite different from the dates fixed by local authorities and the education administration generally for the purposes of the 11-plus examination and so on. There is no arbitrary rule in a school to the effect that children born before the beginning of the financial year are in one class and those born after the beginning of the financial year are in another. The provision introduces another arbitrary distinction into a sphere which is already complicated.
Like many other hon. Members, I have had deputations from parents, particularly about this time of the year, arguing that their children have been prejudiced in the 11-plus examination because they were born at the beginning rather than the end of the period arbitrarily chosen by the education authorities. I have very grave doubts about this method of selection on the basis of age, and it is wholly wrong to introduce another artificial barrier in a child's development.
It is spoiling the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar, because we congratulate the Chancellor upon the conception of the Clause and the additional allowances. I hope the Chancellor will not spoil what he is doing by going against the precedents and not following the usual practice in these matters of allowing the parent to benefit if the child reaches the necessary 503 age during the year. I hope we shall have an assurance from the Financial Secretary, if he cannot, for technical reasons, accept the Amendment, that he will look into the matter before Report and devise words to give effect to our intention.
§ Mr. Powell
As the Clause stands, the effect, as the Committee well knows, is to increase the child allowance from £100 to £125 at age 11-plus, and to £150 at age 16-plus. When I use those expressions, I mean that the average age of a child whose parents gain the advantage of the increased allowance will in the one case be 11½ and in the other 16½.
In the first of those two age barriers, there is conformity with the transition in our education system from the primary to the secondary school. That is the rough logic behind the selection of 11½ for this purpose, and the Amendment does not propose to alter the 11½ point of time. The Amendment seeks to reduce the second qualifying age from 16-plus to 15-plus. The hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) accused the Clause of lacking conformity with other Sections of the Income Tax law, but the age of 16-plus in this context is in complete conformity with the most relevant point of Income Tax law, because under Section 212 (1) of the Income Tax Act, 1952, a child allowance is payable in respect of a child who, if over the age of sixteen years at the commencement of the year of assessment, is either receiving full-time education, or fulfils the other qualifications set out in the Section.
At present, there is a dividing line in the qualification for child allowance at the point of 16-plus, because it is after 16-plus that it becomes, for the first time, a condition of receipt of the child allowance that the child shall be receiving full-time education, or the equivalent.
§ Mr. Cronin
I thought I had made it clear that it would be necessary also to modify the subsection to which the Financial Secretary has referred. That is the only part of the Income Tax Act which is not in conformity with the Clause.
§ Mr. Powell
But it happens to be the only relevant part, namely the point at which full-time education becomes a qualification for the child allowance. The 504 hon. Member is first claiming to make an Amendment to secure conformity with the existing Income Tax law and then, when the Income Tax law is found not to suit his purpose, he says that there will have to be a consequential Amendment to alter the principal Act to give him something with which to be in conformity.
The age 16½ was selected because under Income Tax law it has been the age after which full-time education, or the equivalent, became an essential condition of qualification for the child allowance. It is in order to provide an assistance and an inducement to parents for their children to continue in these types of full-time education that the second higher grade of child allowance has been introduced. I therefore suggest to the Committee that it would be in conformity with the present lay-out of the child allowance and with the educational system for these two steps to be at 11½ and 16½, as they are under the Clause as it now stands.
§ Mr. Houghton
This is most disappointing. Does not the Financial Secretary realise that for the first time we are bringing into the child allowance an age point which has not the same educational significance as that long-standing relief in Section 212 of the Income Tax Act, 1952, to which he has referred? It refers to a childwho is either under the age of sixteen years or who, if over the age of sixteen at the commencement of that year, is receiving full-time instruction at any university, college, school or other educational establishment.There has been a recognised change at sixteen in.the course of education. If one is over sixteen and is receiving full-time instruction at a school, college or university, then one is obviously undergoing further or higher education. One has passed the normal school-leaving age.
So long as that was the only dividing point for child relief based on age, it probably had some logical justification. Now, the age of eleven comes into it, and although we know that there may be a change in the type of education which a child will receive at 11-plus, that will not be so in all cases.
Another factor is that there will be much trouble over this phrase "over the age of sixteen"—or" over the age of eleven"—"at the commencement of the 505 year of assessment." A short time ago, I had to broadcast on the Budget changes, and the proposal which gave me most trouble and upon which I had to have much consultation with the Inland Revenue authorities was what was meant by "over the age of eleven at the commencement of the year of assessment." Many newspapers assumed that it meant a child had to be twelve. In the end, we decided that the child must have actually passed its eleventh birthday. That had to be repeated half-a-dozen times in a broadcast lasting a quarter of an hour so that there should be no doubt about it. That is the sort of problem which will be widely encountered now that the change is at the age of eleven.
In introducing this change, the Chancellor might well have altered the requirement of age at the commencement of the year of assessment in all cases. It is no criticism of the Amendment that my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) has not tidied the reference in Section 212 of the Income Tax Act. 1952.
In the past, a number of these personal reliefs were conditional upon the state of affairs at the commencement of the financial year. I remember the time when a person could not get wife allowance unless he had a wife living with him at the commencement of the year of assessment. Further, he could not get child allowance unless the child was living at the commencement of the year of assessment. There was one famous case where a taxpayer claimed that the child was actually living when the mother was in an advanced state of pregnancy but had not actually been born. He said that it was living within the meaning of the Income Tax Act, but the court decided that it was not. That is the sort of contest that we can get when a condition of this kind is imposed.
I do not know about family planning in relation to child allowance for Income Tax purposes, but we all know the number of people who try to arrange their marriages to best advantage for Income Tax relief, and I am sure that in the early days of April, and especially in the closing hours of the last day of the Income Tax year, many an anxious husband must be wondering whether his 506 child will be born before or after midnight. If it arrives at a minute before midnight, it is in; if it arrives a minute after, it is out. To have this sort of marginal problem repeated at a different age point is most undesirable.
I am not sure about the housekeeper. Section 214 says that a person must have a housekeeper for the year of assessment, which rather suggests that he must have her for the whole year of assessment. In any case, that is a somewhat different relief; but the other personal reliefs are related to any time in the year of assessment, and in the age relief and age exemption which we have just been discussing, if the person reaches the qualifying age during the year of assessment. he gets the allowance. It seems to me that the Financial Secretary is basin; everything upon the changes in the course of education. I doubt whether the relief was justified wholly upon that ground. There are other factors besides education which affect the expense of children.
The Chancellor deliberately and rightly rejected the Royal Commission's proposal that child relief should be based upon total income, and in the course of my speech during the Second Reading debate I mentioned how inconvenient it would be, in connection with Pay-As-You-Earn, not to be able to decide the coding finally for the year until the total income for that year had been ascertained. The Chancellor chose the alternative of a graduated allowance based upon age, and we approve of that, but we are sorry that he has introduced this arbitrary condition regarding the age qualification.
Unless the Financial Secretary has something more favourable to say upon the Amendment, I am afraid that once more I shall have to advise my hon. and right hon. Friends to divide upon it, because the way we are going the Chancellor is giving absolutely nothing away —and we are getting extremely annoyed about it.
§ Mr. Mulley
I am sorry to trouble the Committee again, but I hope that the Financial Secretary will say a further word. In his previous reply he did not answer the point which I raised, and perhaps I did not make it clearly enough. As I see the matter, it is possible for two children, one born in March and the 507 other in April, to follow through the same educational career, both starting school at the end of the Easter holiday, when they are five years old; taking the 11-plus examination at the same time, and finishing at the same time their grammar school education at the age of sixteen, to qualify for different allowances. The parents of the child born in April might, as my hon. Friend said, celebrate the fact of that immediate benefit, but the total allowances which they later receive for that child, upon the basis of this subsection, will be £25 less than is received by the parents of the child born in the previous month. Why, if they both
§ follow a normal educational pattern, should there be this distinction between two children born only a few weeks apart?
§ Mr. Powell
I rise not to make a more favourable reply but simply to point out, in case hon. Members have been alarmed by the obstetric difficulty, that the obstetric difficulty arises identically in the Amendment and in the Clause, except that it happens a year earlier under the terms of the Amendment.
§ Question put,That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause:—
§ The Committee divided:Ayes 235, Noes 187.511
|Division No. 126.]||AYES||[8.35 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Drayson, G. B.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Aitken, W. T.||du Cann, E. D. L.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Duthie, W. S.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Anstruthcr-Gray, Major Sir William||Elliott, R. W. (N'castle upon Tyne, N)||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Arbuthnot, John||Errington, Sir Erie||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Keegan, D.|
|Ashton, H.||Fisher, Nigel||Kerby, Capt. H, B.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Kerr, H. W.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Fort, R.||Kimball, M.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Kirk, P. M.|
|Balniel, Lord||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lagden, G. W.|
|Barber, Anthony||Gibson-Watt, D.||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Glover, D.||Leavey, J. A.|
|Barter, John||Godber, J. B.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Batter, Sir Beverley||Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Goodhart, Philip||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Gower, H. R.||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Graham, Sir Fergus||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Green, A.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||McAdden, S. J.|
|Black, C. W.||Gurden, Harold||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Body, R. F.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Braine, B. R.||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Bryan, P.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hay, John||Maitland, Hon, Patrick (Lanark)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn, Sir R.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Campbell, Sir David||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hesketh, R. F.||Mathew, R.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Maude, Angus|
|Cole, Norman||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Mawby, R. L.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Cooke, Robert C.||Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hornby, R. P.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Craddook, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Horobin, Sir Ian||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Neave, Airey|
|Cunningham, Knox||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Howard, John (Test)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Oakshott, H. D.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Hurd, A. R.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hyde, Montgomery||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Iremonger, T. L.||Osborne, C.|
|Page, R. G.||Ropner, Col, Sir Leonard||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Partridge, E.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Peyton, J. W.W.||Sharpies, R. C.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Shepherd, William||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Pitman, I, J,||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Pitt, Miss E. M.||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Speir, R. M.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Stevens, Geoffrey||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Raikes, Sir Victor||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Ramsden, J. E.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Rawlinson, Peter||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Storey, S.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Remnant, Hon. P.||Studholme, Sir Henry||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Renton, D. L. M.||Summers, Sir Spencer||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Ridsdale, J. E.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Rippon, A. G. F.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Temple, John M.|
|Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Roper, Sir Harold||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)||Mr. Richard Thompson and|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Gibson, C. W.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Albu, A. H.||Gooch, E. G.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Monslow, W.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Moody, A. S.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Grey, C. F.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Baird, J.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)|
|Balfour, A.||Hale, Leslie||Mort, D. L.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hamilton, W. W.||Moyle, A.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Hannan, W.||Mulley, F. W.|
|Benson, G.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Beswick, Frank||Hastings, S.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hayman, F. H.||Orbach, M.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Healey, Denis||Owen, W. J.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Padley, W. E.|
|Boardman, H.||Herbison, Miss M.||Paget, R. T.|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Holmes, Horace||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Holt, A. F.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Houghton, Douglas||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Burke, W. A.||Howell Charles (Perry Barr)||Parker, J.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Howell, Denis (All saints)||Paton, John|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hubbard, T. F.||Pearson, A.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pentland, N.|
|Carmichael, J.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Probert, A. R.|
|Champion, A. J.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Randall, H. E.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Rankin, John|
|Clunie, J.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Coldrick, W.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Reeves, J.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Janner, B.||Reid, William|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Cronin, J. D.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Kenyon, C.||Ross, William|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Royle, C.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||King, Dr. H. M.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lawson, G. M.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Ledger, R. J.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Deer, G.||Lewis, Arthur||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lindgren, G. S.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Logan, D. G.||Steele, T.|
|Dye, S.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||MacDermot, Niall||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||McGhee, H. G.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Mahon, Simon||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Fienburgh, W.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Finch, H. J.||Mason, Roy||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mayhew, C. P.||Tomney, F.|
|Forman, J. C.||Mellish, R. J.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd(Car'then)||Mester, Sir F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Wade, D. W.||Willey, Frederick||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Weitzman, D.||Williams, David (Neath)||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Wells, Percy (Faveraham)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tlllery)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|West, D. G.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Wheeldon, W. E.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Wilkins, W. A.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. J. T. Price and Mr. Simmons.|
§ Mr. Houghton
I beg to move, in page 8, line 18, at the end to insert:(4) Section two hundred and twelve of the Income Tax Act, 1952, shall be amended by inserting the following subsection after subsection (4):—(4A) Notwithstanding subsection (4) of this section relief shall be allowed under this section in respect of any child who is entitled in his own right to an income of between eighty-five pounds and one hundred and seventy pounds a year if no more than eighty-five pounds of his income is unearned:Provided that the amount of such relief under the preceding provisions of this section shall be diminished by the amount of tax at the standard rate on the excess of the earned income over eighty-five pounds".
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)
I suggest that with this Amendment the Committee should discuss two proposed Amendments in the same line, namely, the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and other hon. Members, at the end to insert:(4) In section two hundred and twelve of the Income Tax Act, 1952 (which relates to the allowances for children), paragraph (b) of subsection (3) (as originally enacted) shall be reinserted and shall be amended—
- (a) by substituting for the words "thirteen" the words "three hunderd"; and
- (b) by inserting at the end of the paragraph the words:—Provided that where the emoluments exceed the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds, the deduction to which the claimant is entitled shall be reduced by an amount equal to income tax at the standard rate on one pound for every pound by which the said emoluments exceed one hundred and fifty pounds a year ".and the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) and other hon. Members, at the end to insert:(4) In subsection (4) of section two hundred and twelve of the Income Tax Act, 1952, as amended, for the reference to eighty-five pounds there shall be substituted a reference to one hundred pounds.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Houghton
This is a familiar Amendment in our Finance Bill discussions. It seeks to introduce a tapering 512 arrangement in connection with the application of child allowances where the child has an income in its own right. The Royal Commission dealt with this matter at some length in paragraphs 182 and 183 of its Report. It said:The present rule is that the allowance is due in full so long as the child's own income does not exceed £85, but no allowance is due at all if the child's income exceeds £85 by however so little.We know that in the application of that rule a child with an income in its own right of £84 will not disqualify the parent from any part of the child allowance, but if that income is £86 the parent will get no child allowance at all. The Royal Commission's Report said:There is no doubt an administrative advantage in a rule so simple as this which allows the parent £85 or nothing,"—£85 has, of course, been increased since to £100, and subject to certain conditions the allowance will now be higher still—but, despite our preference for simplicity in all these rules, we think that the present one is so arbitrary as to be unfair. Some sort of tapering' provision is required which would have the effect of reducing the parent's allowance in proportion as the child's income exceeds £85, but not of depriving him of it altogether at one blow.Surely the Chancellor must feel that something should be done in this direction in this Finance Bill. Now that he proposes, under Clause 12, that personal reliefs, subject to certain conditions, shall be allowed as a set-off against Surtax, the penalty for disqualification for child allowance can become much heavier than ever before. There have been letters in some of the professional journals pointing out how unfair this arbitrary rule will now become, since the additional allowance for children will increase the penalty when children have income in their own right of over £85.
Educational grants do not count as income and are clearly outside the scope of any penalty, which is right. There is no need for any Amendment of this kind to deal with them. The income of apprentices is also covered by the point, so long as the apprentice is not receiving wages over £85. Even so, in some cases, 513 apprentices who are being given a little more generous pocket money than others will disqualify their parents from relief. Then there is the case of the child who begins working towards the end of the Income Tax year and will disqualify the parent from receiving the allowance for that year, if the child's earnings exceed £85. These are all very harsh restrictions upon the granting of child allowance. Several Amendments on the Order Paper try to deal with the need for some tapering provision.
Our Amendment provides a taper in the case of earned income exceeding £85 but no taper in the case of unearned income exceeding £85. This is an attempt to deal with the special case of young persons undergoing a course of training for a special craft or technique or who are beginning to work towards the end of the Income Tax year and can disqualify their parents from the child allowance, which may have already been granted. Under-payments of tax can be recovered in one sum or spread over the following year. We hope we have provided the Chancellor here with the basis of some remedy for the existing situation. It seems very reasonable that this provision should now be introduced.
It was a considerable surprise to me, I confess, that the Chancellor did not make some provision of this kind when making such substantial changes in the child allowance. I hope, therefore, by persistent endeavour to improve this Bill we shall secure from the Chancellor an agreeable response to this Amendment, or a promise from him to consider the suggestions which are being made with a view to bringing forward some proposal of his own at a later stage of the Bill. I am quite sure that if things are left as they are, the existing grievances about the arbitrary limit to a child's income will grow. When in its Report the Royal Commission referred to an existing rule as being so arbitrary as to be unfair, I think that notice should be taken of that.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
I hope that something will he done this year on this issue. Many of us have spent so many weary years putting this subject forward that we feel that by now some impression must have been made on the Treasury. This is one of a number of comparatively small 514 reforms which the Royal Commission singled out and which many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have been putting forward year after year. It is very similar to the Amendments about housekeepers, dependant relatives and so on—the sort of thing which is almost in the way of an administrative reform rather than any great concession in principle.
I always thought that it was the idea of the Chancellor, a Chancellor who wants to be on good terms with the House in Committee on the Finance Bill, to have something up his sleeve which he always thought of giving away, but which would look so much better if given away during Committee stage in order to sweeten everyone. If he wants to contribute something like that to keep us happy, the Chancellor could not choose a better subject than this. and this would be the first occasion of the kind in Committee on this Finance Bill.
One of the main problems arises because the educational year and the tax year do not coincide. That is why, as individual Members of Parliament, we receive so many protests from parents with children at universities. I have received a letter which illustrates this very well and shows a new respect in which the matter is most unjust. A parent has written to me saying that the time lag is particularly difficult when a student leaves a university in June or July and does not start work until October or November.
The child starting work, possibly as a school teacher, in September, October or November, will earn, in the rest of the financial year, enough to penalise the parents by taking away any tax relief for that year as a whole. That not only covers the last three or four months when the child is at university, but also—what often is a very difficult period for parents—the interval of the university long vacation before the child begins to earn.
It seems to me most unjust that on top of looking after them in the final months of the university, when the parents have to carry the responsibility because of the absence of coincidence in the two years and have to provide them with pocket money throughout July, August and part of September, they are allowed no tax relief at all because of the young person's earnings for the rest of that financial year.
515 This parent makes a new point which had not previously occurred to me. He writes:But there is a further anomaly in which the Inland Revenue gets two bites at the cherry and the parent loses the equivalent of a full year's tax relief. When a boy does his National Service before going to university, the parent here again loses the equivalent of six months' tax relief, because his son will have earned more than £85 in, say, Army pay during the financial year applying to his first six months in the university.This is true. The parent makes the sacrifice to get a student through university when he has finished his National Service. Indeed, the first year is the most difficult year for many people who send their sons to university. Yet in that first year as well as in the last year the parent receives no tax relief, because in the first half of the financial year his son has been completing National Service and has earned more than £85 in Army pay. I confess that this is a completely new point to me, but I think it is one which should weigh in the scales with the Treasury and should impress upon the Ministers today the fact that something ought to be done about it.
I sent this letter to the Financial Secretary on 30th January of this year. Many of us do such things in an effort to persuade the Chancellor before his Budget that these are the sort of points which he ought to keep in mind. I must protest at the treatment we get every year. It took the Treasury twenty-two days to reply to this letter, and when the reply came it did not answer any of the points in the letter. I believe that the Financial Secretary has just said that it is always also the case that he cannot really answer them just before the Budget, but if only the Treasury would be frank on these issues which We put forward year after year it would help. I do not expect the Treasury to be as blunt as to say, "We cannot answer all these points", but if the Treasury said, "There is something in this case and we accept the argument", we should then feel that the Treasury would begin to find a way round the problem. It would be an advance if we had a reply as helpful as that.
Instead, all we get is three miserable paragraphs not answering the letter but referring to some unacceptable point which they managed to pick up in the middle of the letter, hoping to get away 516 with it by demolishing that point. This was the reply received three weeks after I had sent the letter to the Financial Secretary. I protest, because this goes on year after year, with each of us sending letters to the Treasury and making speeches in Committee on the Finance Bill, bringing forward the legitimate grievances of parents who are trying to keep their sons and daughters at university and who are being penalised tax-wise for doing so. In reply we get nonsensical letters which get us no further forward or barren replies at the Dispatch Box.
If, as I hope. the Chancellor started out the Budget debate with the idea of keeping something up his sleeve to keep us sweet in Committee—I am sure those are the tactics; I have noticed that other Chancellors have done it in the past—this is the opportunity he should seize. I have noticed that in the past Chancellors have adopted the attitude, "We have not very much to give away in Committee. We will keep one thing back which we intended to give anyway and we will give it in Committee in order to keep them happy." if that is so this year, then I plead with the Chancellor that at last, after years and years of pressure upon this issue, he should listen to the voices of reason and justice which are speaking on behalf of these parents.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. John Arbuthnot (Dover)
I should like to speak to the Amendment standing in the names of some of my hon. Friends and myself, in page 8, line 18.
I have been particularly encouraged by some remarks made by the Chancellor earlier today, and two things which he said gave me hope that there may be a possibility of his acceptance of the ideas that we are putting forward. First, he said that taxes on families are far too high. With that I completely agree. He also said that tax relief is a duty to be earnestly pursued not only by Governments but by the House of Commons.
This Amendment seeks specifically to raise from £85 to £100 the income which a child may have in its own right before the parent becomes disqualified from relief for the child whom he supports. I know that my right hon. Friend recognises the troubles which parents have when a child is in the later stages of its education, and also realises that as the 517 child grows older so the expense increases. He is therefore proposing to increase to £125 the relief in respect of a child over 11, and to £150 the relief when the child is over 16, but there is no provision in the Bill to give similar relief in respect of the child with an income in its own right.
We believe it to be proper that the allowance to the parent should increase as the child advances in years, but we also believe that there is a great deal to be said for increasing the amount which the child may have in its awn right before the parent is deprived of the allowance. There are many ways in which that could be done. We might have put down an Amendment which would have increased the upper limit as the child grows older, in line with the provision made for education, but bearing in mind that the allowance of £100 a year would, in fact, yield to the parents the sum of £42 10s. we thought that the tidiest and most satisfactory way of dealing with this problem was to increase the amount that the child might have in its own right before its parent is deprived of relief. We think that the proper sum would be £100 a year, instead of the present £85 a year. I do most earnestly plead with my right hon. Friend, who has shown such sympathy and foresight in the way of dealing with child reliefs, also to deal with the child with an income in its own right in the way suggested by the Amendment.
§ Mr. Wade
I do not wish to commit myself to the view that this is the only nice thing the Chancellor will produce from his sleeve. I hope there will be other nice things as well, but I certainly express the wish that at the close of this debate the Chancellor will not only be sympathetic but will promise a reform which is long overdue.
The right hon. Gentleman has been firm on all other proposals which have been put forward today, and I think this is an occasion when he might very well give way to the representations which have been made to him. The principle is, I think, supported by Members in all parties. The Amendments which have been tabled differ somewhat, but the principle is the same. Furthermore, the idea underlining these Amendments has the backing of the Royal Commission, as the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) pointed out.
518 I raised this subject on the Second Reading, and I took as an illustration the difference in circumstances of the parent with a child who obtains a scholarship at a university and a parent with a child who has become an apprentice. In the case of the child at a university, the scholarship may be worth as much as £300 or £350 and the parent does not lose any of his allowance. On the other hand, if the child becomes an apprentice and earns a very modest amount of pocket money the parent may lose the whole child allowance, and that is a discouragement to parents who may be considering whether or not they should advise their children to become apprentices, Today more than ever, perhaps, there is a need for encouraging boys and girls to go through that rather wearisome period of apprenticeship.
There are some differences between the Liberal Amendment and the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Member for Sowerby, but I do not propose to indicate the differences in detail. I think our Amendment is rather more generous, more liberal, in some respects, and I prefer the tapering provisions in our Amendment, but I do not want to criticise the other Amendment in case it might in any way deter the Chancellor from accepting the general principle which we all want accepted. I think we have here a reform which is long overdue, and I hope we shall have a satisfactory reply from the Chancellor.
§ Mr. Powell
In these two Amendments the Committee is considering the amount of the disqualifying income for child allowance and the question whether that disqualifying income can be tapered. I think we should begin by recognising that the income limit is, always has been and must be, a quite arbitrary figure. It has no direct relationship to the amount of the child allowance.
Indeed, when the child allowance was first introduced, I think in 1920, the amount of the allowance and the amount of the income limit were different and they remained different for quite a number of years. Thereafter they diverged again, as is well known to the Committee, following the Finance Bill, 1955. But evidently, merely from that history, there is no necessary equivalence between the income limit and the amount of a child allowance.
519 Indeed, there would be no logical reason why the two figures should be the same. The benefit of a child allowance, even when it is increased to £150 at age 16-plus under this Clause, will of course only be an increase in net income of about £64, even calculated at the standard rate of 8s. 6d. in the £ with no earned income relief. My hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) made a similar calculation and arrived in different circumstances at a smaller figure.
I suppose that in strict logic it could be argued that it is on considerations of that sort that the amount of the income limit should be determined. But, as I say, the figure has always been an arbitrary one, only related very roughly to the amount of the child allowance. Nor do I think it has ever been doubted that some income limit is necessary. After all, what we are doing by the child allowance is to relieve from tax part of the parental income and also the child's income. We shall, for example, under this Clause be leaving in some cases £150 in the hands of the parent plus a maximum of £85 in the hands of the child untaxed, a total of £235, and clearly there must be some limit upon the amount of total income to which relief is applied.
Nevertheless, as the amount of the child allowance increases—it has parted company since 1955 with the income limit, and it has been increased further in the present Bill, which has been welcomed on all sides—the case for an upward adjustment of the income limit becomes stronger, and my right hon. Friend would advise the Committee to accept the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Dover and to amend the Bill accordingly.
The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton)—coming now to the question of tapering—quoted the arguments in favour of tapering which are to be found in the Royal Commission's Report. Of course, it is now an accepted part of the game that we quote the Royal Commission's Report to one another as and when, but only as and when, it suits our particular purpose. I think that there is undeniably a theoretical case for tapering, although I am not sure that the theoretical case, if one looks at it coldly and carefully, would not be for tapering the 520 allowance out altogether at an income of £85 or £100. After all, that is a sum exceeding the sum which the child allowance is worth to the family income of the parent.
But I am afraid that tapering in the form proposed by the Opposition in the Amendment would be quite indefensible. Any attempt to distinguish between unearned and earned income would, for example, have the effect, as between two children, each with an income of £169, that the whole allowance would be received if £84 were unearned but only a fraction would be received if the whole amount were earned. That would be one result of that Amendment, and without going into further difficulties which would arise, the attempt to distinguish for this purpose between earned and unearned income absolutely wrecks the equity of the attempt to taper.
Nor does the attempt to taper solve the problem to which the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman) referred. Of course, difficulty does arise in the year in which a child ends its full-time education that during the first half of that year the parents are responsible and bear a burden in the maintenance of the child, and in the second half of the year the income it earns may be sufficient to disqualify them for the whole of the year for child allowance.
The very example which the hon. Member quoted illustrates that this Amendment would not solve the problem. He quoted the example of a university student entering into full-time employment as a teacher half way through the tax year. Of course, there the parent would still be disqualified by the amount of income which would be earned during the second half of the year. This is a difficulty inherent in any income limit applied for tax allowance purposes.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Chapman
Does the Financial Secretary mean that they would earn too much because teaching is sufficiently highly paid to do that?
§ Mr. Powell
In that example, the earnings in the second half of the year would have that effect. Of course, I appreciate that there are instances where the earnings are lower.
§ Mr. Chapman
There is another point to this; I did not read the whole letter. The parents find, when a child leaves university at the long vacation. that they have to spend actual cash in order to establish their child in the town in which he goes to work. That example is quoted in this letter. There is often a net expenditure of cash at that point to set someone up in a job. These things are important.
§ Mr. Powell
But this is a difficulty inherent in any income limit at all, unless it be fixed at a level which no hon. Member would be prepared to defend.
As regards the problem mentioned by the hon. Member for Sowerby, about an under-payment of tax, arising particularly under P.A.Y.E., which has afterwards to be recovered in a subsequent year, every endeavour is made to avoid that by making allowance in advance for cessation of the child allowance where there is a reasonable probability that, during the tax year, the income limit will be exceeded and the qualification will be lost.
That brings me to what is really the insurmountable difficulty in introducing any form of tapered income limit, the difficulty of knowing in advance whether the limit is to be exceeded or not and by how much. For the great mass of Income Tax collected by P.A.Y.E., the great virtue of the system is that it tends to eliminate, both for administrative reasons and for the convenience of the taxpayer, the necessity for subsequent adjustments of tax liability. It is very successful in that object, for I am told that in only one case out of seven under P.A.Y.E. does an adjustment after the end of the tax year have to be made.
It would be impossible to bring within such a system of P.A.Y.E. a tapered income allowance because, instead of the qualification depending upon the prospect of the child earning £85 or £100 or more—instead of the question being whether the allowance was on or off—it would depend upon the exact amount which, at the end of the year, proved to have been earned during the year of assessment. No assessment, therefore, could be firm, and almost any P.A.Y.E. coding which was adopted would have to be adjusted. That would mean that about 300,000 codings a year would be affected. 522 I have been into this very carefully, and I understand that it would mean about 450 extra staff to cope with the reassessments which a tapered income limit alone would involve.
This is, after all, quite a different matter from other cases in which tapering arises. I have particularly in mind the dependent relative allowance, where, in the vast majority of cases, the income is a static income and only in a minority does it prove, after the end of the tax year, that an adjustment has to be made. On the other hand, where a child or youth starts to earn, the amount of income which it will receive in the remainder of the tax year is quite speculative; the rate of increment is very considerable and, in the vast majority of cases, a reassessment would be necessary, with great inconvenience to the parents as well as immense and quite disproportionate administrative cost.
Therefore, both because tapering would not solve many of the real difficulties which are inherent in an income limit at all, and because it would be administratively impracticable and, indeed, in the long run not to the convenience of taxpayers, I must advise the Committee to reject the Amendment moved 'by the hon. Member for Sowerby.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
We are gratified, though astonished, that the Chancellor has in this case to some extent listened to common sense. Hitherto his attitude in the Committee has been that he thinks that all taxes are too high and that he is in favour, in the abstract, of reducing them but he resists any concrete proposal from any part of the Committee to reduce them. In this case, I understand, he is accepting the Amendment put forward by his hon. Friend for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot). We are thankful for that, but it does not seem to us that he has gone far enough.
The Financial Secretary raised technical objections to our Amendment which might well be valid, and he attempted I thought, to blind the Committee with tax science in arguing that it was technically impossible to go a step further and introduce full tapering provisions. I hope that my hon. Friends will press our Amendment, if only to spur the Government to make another effort before Report to overcome the technical 523 difficulties. After all, the Royal Commission, which had a good deal of expert advice at its command, made a proposal very much on the lines of ours, and I can scarcely believe that it would have done so if there had been some insuperable objection.
While discussing this issue, I should like to ask the Chancellor to have another look at the difficulties which are arising in the matter of child allowance for educational purposes. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman), I have had letters from constituents pointing out that anomalies are arising which I am sure that no Government Department intended. These arise because of the coincidence of three factors: first, National Service, and the abrupt end of National Service which is now occurring; secondly, the absence of any tapering provision hitherto for child allowance; and, thirdly, the fact of the means test for university grants.
I would confess an interest in this matter if I were able to understand it clearly enough to say whether or not I should benefit from the Amendment. I am one of those unfortunate people who may have two sons at the university at the same time as the result of the Government's manipulations of National Service. However, I prefer to rest my case on a letter from a constituent which is similar to that received by my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin).
Under the present law, a situation of the following kind can arise. First, one loses the child allowance because one's son has an income of rather over £85 a year as he was doing a certain amount of National Service in the year before he went to the university or undertook whatever the training was. Secondly, one loses the grant from the State for university purposes because one's income, after all sorts of calculations, happens to be above the means test level, whatever it may be. Thirdly, although a certain proportion of ones' income is assumed to be spent in lieu of the grant for maintaining the son at the university, one pays full Income Tax and Surtax on that part of the income.
If we take those three considerations together, there really are some anomalies and injustices which ought to be looked at. I feel inclined to say—I hope that the 524 Chancellor and the Government will think about this—that there is a case for abolishing altogether the means test in respect of those grants. If that is not done, somebody might argue that the logical step would be to abolish the means test and apply Income Tax to the grants for educational purposes. I would not recommend that for various reasons, but that would be more logical than remaining in our present position in which we have the means test and under which, if we are not eligible for a grant, we have to pay Income Tax and Surtax.
I want to ask the Chancellor seriously and apart from the party argument, and even apart from the technicalities of the Amendment, to study the difficulties created by the coincidence of these three problems which are creating hardships and anomalies. Meanwhile, I thank him for having gone as far as he has done, but, in order to spur on the Financial Secretary's ingenious brain to apply itself to overcoming the further technical problems, I hope that my hon. Friends will divide in favour of our Amendment.
§ Mr. Holt
Can the Financial Secretary give the Committee any idea how much the concession which he has so graciously given will cost? It would be of some passing interest to those who still have further interest in Amendments, because he has given some indication that the Chancellor has £6 million to give away and we would have an idea of what to expect of future Amendments. Is this a very expensive concession, and has he been able to make any estimate of what our Amendments would have cost, or what the Labour Party Amendment would have cost, as it has been beyond our ability to assess that?
This is the first time that the Government Front Bench has argued that it is administratively impossible, very difficult, or very expensive to accept the principle of tapering. Many of us will want carefully to study what the Financial Secretary has said on the subject. We cannot feel that this is necessarily the end of the argument on tapering charges on this kind of thing. Although it might be very expensive to make adjustments during the tax year, I cannot see why an arbitrary adjustment should not be made for the current year, and any necessary minor adjustment carried into the next year on the basis of the assessment 525 for the next year. No doubt that is raising a new principle, or is a new development. However, we want to study the Financial Secretary's arguments and will no doubt return to this matter on a future occasion.
§ Mr. Mulley
In considering the cost of the concession, will the Financial Secretary also consider how much the concession will add to the loss to the Treasury by the tax avoidance device of seven-year covenants? As the Financial Secretary knows, it is not unusual for fond grandparents to make a generous gesture and endow grandchildren with an amount which, when added to the tax reclaimed on behalf of the child, amounts to £85. I am sure that as a result of the new concession many such covenants will now be made up to £100.
The general range of the device should be considered. I do not complain about it, because as the law stands anybody can take advantage of any loopholes. but in assessing what the concession will cost, the Financial Secretary should bear in mind not only the increase in the existing kind of covenants, but the possibility of the concession stimulating larger covenants.
What would be the legal position if two brothers decided to make cross covenants in respect of each other's children? There are infinite possibilities, because the Chancellor has chosen unearned income for a concession. If he had accepted the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), that would have helped the kind of case which has been mentioned, National Service and the beginning of careers, apprenticeships, university study and so on. The main contention that he is now making is going to assist those who make covenants as a means of tax avoidance. I would like to know, in relation to the question of cost, what consideration has been given to this point.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Chapman
I want to say a word of thanks to the Financial Secretary. What came out of his speech was that he certainly had the will to do something on these grounds, the evidence being that he had even gone to the length of calculating that it would cost 450 staff in order to do it. There must have been some effort, right 526 the way down the line, to follow through the possibility of making this concession. lf, as it seems, it is really only a question of the administrative difficulty, I hope that he will reply to the suggestion of my right hon. Friend that the Government should keep on trying.
He did not reply to my point about National Service. I am wondering if I made it clear. In this case the parents lose a full year of tax relief which they should have by any standard of justice. They lose the first year of the boy's entry to the university after completing National Service, and, at the other end, they also lose because of the completion of the university course in June or July and the boy's subsequent earnings. In a four-year university course, however, the months involved are spread, the parent ends by receiving financial relief for one year less than the boy actually does at the university. It is not merely a question of some injustice for the last few months of the course. As far as I can reckon, the parents lose a full year's tax relief which they would receive but for the boy's doing National Service.
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
I thank the Financial Secretary and also the Chancellor for having seen fit to accede to the pleas that we have made and accept the Amendment. In doing so they will have done a great deal to satisfy those people who feel rather out on a limb as compared with those parents who are in receipt of child allowance. I thank them for what they have done.
§ Mr. Powell
In response to the question raised by the hon. Member for Bolton. West (Mr. Holt), the cost of the Opposition Amendment is entirely speculative, because we cannot know in advance what would be the incomes and the taperings which would occur in any particular case; so I would rather not risk an estimate of the cost.
The Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) is estimated to cost about £100,000 in a full year. though I do not know what deduction, one way or the other, the hon. Member for Bolton, West will draw from that. In reply to the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), I will certainly look at the particular types of case to which he has referred because, as the 527 hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman) implied, my right hon. Friend is by no means unconscious of the difficulties which arise here. I think that the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Northfield was partly covered by one of those
§ mentioned by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 191 Noes 238.529
|Division No. 127.||AYES||[9.40 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Hannan, W.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Albu, A. H.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hastings S.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Allen, Scholefleld (Crewe)||Hayman, F. H.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Healey, Denis||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Baird, J.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Parker, J.|
|Balfour, A.||Herbison, Miss M.||Paton, John|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Pearson, A.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Pentland, N.|
|Benson, G.||Holmes, Horace||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Beswick, Frank||Holt, A. F.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Blackburn, F.||Houghton, Douglas||Probert, A. R.|
|Blenklntop, A.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Randall, H. E.|
|Boardman, H.||Hubbard, T. F.||Rankin, John|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Reeves, J.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hunter, A. E.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Burke, W. A.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Ross, William|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Royle, C.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Janner, B.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Carmichael, J.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Champion, A. J.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, N.)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Clunie, J.||Kenyon, C.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Coldrick, W.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W,||Steele, T.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||King, Dr. H. M.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Lawson, G. M.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Ledger, R. J.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Cronin, J. D.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Lewis, Arthur||Swingler, S. T.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lindgren, G. S.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Logan, D. G.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||MacDermot, Niall||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||McGhee, H. G.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Deer, G.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Tomney, F.|
|Dodds. N. N.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Marion, Simon||Usborne, H. C.|
|Dye, S.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Wade, D. W.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Weitzman, D.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mason, Roy||West, D. G.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Mayhew, C. P.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mellish, R. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mikardo, Ian||Willey, Frederick|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mitchison, G. R.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Fienburgh, W.||Monslow, W.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tlllery)|
|Finch, H. J.||Moody, A. S.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Forman, J. C.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert(Lewis' m, S.)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd(Car' then)||Mort, D. L.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Moyle, A.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mulley, F. W.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Oliver, G. H.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Grey, C. F.||Orbach, M.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Owen, W. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hale, Leslie||Padley, W. E.||Mr. John Taylor and|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Paget, R. T.||Mr. Simmons.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Nieolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Gurden, Harold||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Ashton, H.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Osborne, C.|
|Baldoek, Lt. Cmdr. J. M.||Hay, John||Page, R. G.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Balnlel, Lord||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Partridge, E.|
|Barber, Anthony||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Hesketh, R. F.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Barter, John||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Pllkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Beamish, Mai. Tufton||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Hobson, John(Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Hornby, R. P.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Horobin, Sir Ian||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Howard, John (Test)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Black, C. W.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Body, R. F.||Hurd, A. R.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Braine, B. R.||Hyde, Montgomery||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Iremonger, T. L.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Butoher, Sir Herbert||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Sharples, R. C.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Johnson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Shepherd, William|
|Cole, Norman||Keegan, D.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Cooke, Robert C.||Kerr, H. W.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Cooper, A. E.||Kimball, M.||Speir, R. M.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Kirk, P. M.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P.(Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Lagden, G. W.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Craddook, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Crosthwalte-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Luather, E. H. C.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchiey)||Loavey, J. A.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Storey, S.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|D'Avigdor-Goldstnid, Sir Henry||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Teeling, W.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Longden, Gilbert||Temple, John M.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||McAdden, S. J.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr.R.(Croydon, S.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Duthie, W. S.||McKibbin, A. J.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'castle upon Tyne, N)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McLaughlin, Mrs, P.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Finlay, Graeme||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Maddan, Martin||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Fort, R.||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Wall, Major Patrick|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Glover, D.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Godber, J. B.||Mathew, R.||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Mawby, R. L.||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Gower, H. R.||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Green, A.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Neave, Airey||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Mr. Hughes-Young and Mr. Bryan.|
§ Amendment made:In page 8, line 18, at end insert:
§ (4) In subsection (4) of section two hundred and twelve of the Income Tax Act, 1952, as amended, for the reference to eighty-five pounds there shall be substituted a reference to one hundred pounds.—[Mr. Arbuthnot.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Jay
Before we part with the Clause, which gives large Surtax reliefs in the name of incentives to greater effort, we might have one more look at this theory of incentives, which has been discussed in the course of the afternoon. I would invite the Chancellor, or at any rate his assistants, to lay aside all political slogans on the matter and to look at the truth about incentives. I use "truth" in this case in an un-Parliamentary sense.
When we apply our minds impartially to the question we find that there is remarkably little evidence that direct taxation, at any rate at the levels prevailing in this country, is a marked disincentive, on balance, to productive effort. Of course, it is unpopular, and of course. we do not like paying the tax; but it does not necessarily follow from that that there is a disincentive.
The hon. Member for Langstone (Mr. Stevens) referred earlier today to the social survey which was carried out under the auspices of the Royal Commission and which was the first effort by actual observation and experiment—as distinct from mere theorising—to discover how income earners react to the effects of direct taxation. We ought to pay rather more attention than we normally do to the conclusions of that investigation which are set out in the Royal Commission's Report. In the survey 4,000 Income Tax payers were closely questioned—they were Income Tax payers rather than Surtax payers. The investigators reached three conclusions.
The first was that most of the people whom they questioned were not very much affected one way or another by income Tax in respect of the amount of work they did. The second was that some of them, mainly wage earners, probably did, as a result of the tax on their marginal earnings, work rather less hard, at any rate on some occasions. The third conclusion was that others, for 532 family reasons or to maintain a net income in order to cover weekly or monthly commitments—a position in which many of us find ourselves—were compelled by the tax to work harder and to earn more in order to cover those commitments.
If we want seriously to consider the effect of direct taxation on the amount of work, we have to consider whether the one group which works less hard because of taxation is outweighed, on balance, by the group which works harder. That was the task of this inquiry. The hon. Member for Langstone was rather misleading because he read out partial quotations and bits of the inquiry but did not give the Committee the substantial sentence in the summary of the conclusions which are in page 92 of the Royal Commission's Report. which is:There was no evidence from this inquiry of productive effort being inhibited by the Income Tax structure within its present limits.That is not just my comment but is the conclusion of the social survey, and it was a conclusion accepted by the Royal Commission which, after all, included not just a lot of Socialists, but Lord Radcliffe, Lord Heyworth, Mr. Millard Tucker and other experts of that kind.
§ Mr. Stevens
The right hon. Gentleman has just accused me of misleading the Committee by giving a partial quotation. He himself does precisely the same thing because he reads one of three conclusions of this survey. The final conclusion is:Those having strong anti-Income Tax views tended slightly more often than others to work less than average hours, but this attitude was not associated with facts.Maybe it was not associated with facts. but they did work less and they produced less.
§ Mr. Jay
The report does not say that they worked less because of the tax. However, I invite any hon. Member to read the full conclusions and to judge for themselves. All I am doing now is to invite the Chancellor, the Government and the rest of the Committee to look at the evidence and to form their own conclusions.
This social survey which the Commission quoted, referred, I understand, almost entirely to wage earners and Income Tax payers rather than to Surtax payers. It would be open to the Chancellor to argue, 533 as I think he was inclined to argue in his Budget statement, that in his view a very severe disincentive effect applied at the higher levels of income because of the higher ranges of progressive taxation which fall on those levels. Of course that was not the view which the Royal Commission took.
The Royal Commission, in paragraph 149, to which the hon. Member for Lang-stone referred, although naturally he did not read the whole paragraph, took quite a clear view of that issue. It said:if we arc asked to infer from this that the heavy rates have any special disincentive effect upon the receivers of the higher levels of income, so as to justify a shifting of the existing weight of taxation from these lower levels of income, we are bound to reply that we see no evidence that the higher income earners are specially affected by disincentive.That was a quite clear conclusion of the Royal Commission. Nevertheless, to be fair to the hon. Member for Langstone and anyone who takes the other view, I agree that that conclusion of the Royal Commission was not based on evidence so far as Surtax payers were concerned, but merely based on the sort of general judgment that we are all asked to make.
This is what I wish to draw to the attention of the Chancellor. I have been interested to see the conclusion of an inquiry recently undertaken by a very excellent paper, theBritish Tax Review,with which I expect the hon. Member for Langstone is familiar, with the same kind of questionnaire into the reaction of Surtax payers to direct taxation. The results of that inquiry are being published in the June number of theBritish Tax Review.The investigator in this case made inquiries among 300 Surtax paying accountants and solicitors and conducted his questions in ways, fully explained in the report, which to me seemed fair, convincing, impartial and objective. I shall not go into them in detail. The Editor of theReviewsums up the conclusions in this way:His conclusions are very similar to those of the social survey, and certainly offer little support for the theory that a reduction in taxation of earned incomes leads to a large increase in productivity.
§ Mr. Jay
Yes, on Surtax.
What the investigator found was very similar to what the social survey found 534 in the case of the lower Income Tax payers. Most of the people questioned. so long as it did not arise from their political prejudice on the whole subject of taxation, as it were, did not really react differently one way or the other according to changes in tax. Some of them, a minority, did appear to work less hard because of the marginal impact of the tax on additional earnings, but others, as in the case of people on lower incomes, were, in the words of the Report, "forced … to work harder" in order to maintain their net incomes and standard of living.
The investigator said that when he first put about among some of the people with whom he was conversing the idea that some people worked harder because of tax, he was looked on almost like someone in the sixteenth century who argued that the earth went round the sun and not the sun round the earth. Curiously enough, according to this Report—which I invite hon. Members to study; and I am not giving my views to the Committee but merely trying to bring to their attention some impartial evidence—one of the most pronounced reactions he had from these accountants and solicitors paying Surtax was that as a result of taxation they intended to retire later and to go on working rather longer than they would otherwise have done.
§ Mr. Jay
Exactly; as the hon. Member said, the effect of direct taxation was an incentive to extra years of work. In some cases they informed this investigator that apparently the main response to the reduction of Surtax in the present Budget was that they might retire a little earlier.
Finally, may I read the conclusion of this investigator? This is not a statement of my opinion but is a result of the evidence collected.A country experiencing economic tribulations may encounter certain scarcities but she is sure to be blessed with an abundance of economic diagnosticians ready to point out the trouble spots. A favourite conclusion for present-day Britain is that penal 'taxation is killing of incentives to work. Both the survey described in this paper and the one carried out for the Royal Commission provide evidence that casts considerable doubt on this judgment. It is significant that although the two 535 studies dealt with widely different segments of the population, each found the influence of taxation on incentives to work to be remarkably small. Some people do indeed react to high Income Tax rates by working less than they otherwise would, but others behave in exactly the opposite way, being more or less forced by taxation to work harder. These opposing groups are not only small but of approximately the same size, being separated in our own study by only a few percentage points, and significantly (depending on the interpretation given to the evidence) the incentive group is frequently the larger of the two.That means the group who respond by working harder. I do not rest any special significance on that, but that is what the investigator says. To continue my quotation:Whatever may be the important causes behind Britain's post-war economic difficulties, a lack of incentives to work because of high income taxation does not appear to be one of hem.I am simply reading this in order to express the hope that the Chancellor and his colleagues will look at this evidence for what it is worth when they are considering any further changes of taxation on the ground of incentive.
Quite apart from the prejudices which any of us may have or the sweeping judgments that we may be inclined to make from time to time, in my view the objective evidence does not justify the sweeping reductions in Surtax which are made in the Clause. I think that is also the view of most of my hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I was very much interested in the speech of the right hon. Member for Battersea. North (Mr. Jay). I am sure he did his best to approach the subject in an impartial spirit. I was interested not only in what he said but also in the fact that it disclosed the fundamental difference in philosophy between the two sides of the Committee. The view of hon. Members opposite apparently is that we should apply taxation, extort taxation, to the very greatest degree possible until we see an actual falling off in production. They believe that that can be measured and judged by statistics. I do not believe that we can assess by statistical methods the important question at issue, and that is this—not only are we getting more production, which incidentally can be measured only in concrete terms, but are 536 we getting the very best people in the places where they are most needed?
Take, for instance, the professions. One of the results of the modern system of penal taxation is that people going into the professions cannot save. The right hon. Gentleman himself said that the more highly-paid solicitors, chartered accountants and other professional men concluded that they must retire later, and indeed continue work until they drop in their tracks, because they cannot save. Can anybody claim that a young man today whose parents are considering his future has the same inducement to enter into a learned or any other profession as he would have had if there had been a possibility of saving?
Take the medical profession. Can any doctor save? Is the differential in earning capacity between that profession and some mercantile calling such as to encourage a young man to enter or his parents to encourage him to enter the medical profession? There is the Bar. What inducements are there for a man to be called to the Bar? The same applies to the solicitor or to the chartered accountant. It is virtually impossible for any professional man to accumulate capital.
The philosophy on this side is different. We believe in paying for the job the rate which will get the best men for the job. and that it is right and proper that people with fine intelligences. character and great industry should be allowed to accumulate capital and to leave it to their children. We do not hold that it is right or just for the State to view taxation in this exceedingly penal and extortionate way. That is the fundamental difference in our philosophies. We do not believe that the best men will be found for the best places in the professions or in industry unless they have sufficient inducement to struggle to those places.
The question is not whether people in those places work harder or less hard because of the present system of taxation, but whether there is sufficient inducement for those men to want those positions. It is a fundamental difference, and I very much hope that the Conservative Party, to which I am proud to belong, and the present Conservative Government will move in the direction 537 of seeing that people in the professions and in industry have sufficient inducement to reach the highest posts and to accumulate and to leave capital.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) said that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) indicated the difference in the philosophy of the two sides of the Committee. I quite agree. This Clause itself indicates that difference, because in essence it says:For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.We all know that the relief being given to the higher taxpayers was filched from the general mass of the people by liquidating the bread subsidy and by substantially reducing the subsidy on milk. The hon. Member said that the party opposite believes in paying the rate for the job. Had he lived where I do in the inter-war years he would have thought it a very low rate for the job, when one got it—and very often one did not get the job at all. The rate for the job has not always been the Tory philosophy, or, if they have believed in it, they have believed that thousands of working men in the past were worth next to nothing, because that is what those men were paid when they could be hired and fired at will.
I readily agree with the hon. Member for Farnham. It is very natural that professional people should want to save. It is very desirable that a doctor should want his son to follow him in that profession, but I do not know that, at the moment, there is any shortage of applicants. In fact, there are more people wanting to be doctors today than ever before, and I presume that they must be undertaking this vocation, not only because it will be rewarding in the spiritual, the healing, sense, but also in a material sense.
When the Chancellor introduced his Budget he said that if the theme was to he opportunity and incentive, then concessions had to be made of the kind which we are now discussing. But what does this country want at present? More than anything else it needs a substantial increase in production in coal mining, in engineering, and in every one of our basic and important export industries. That is 538 what we want. That would solve the economic problems facing the country.
This is supposed to be an incentive Budget. How many miners will benefit from this Clause? We have heard of miners getting£20, £25 and £30 a week, but those of us who have lived among miners all our lives have seldom met such people, though apparently they exist according to the newspapers. But not one miner will benefit from this Clause. In other words, the Conservative Party philosophy says, "We believe it is more important to give incentives to millionaires than to miners."
We are very short of labour. There is a demand in most parts of the country for unskilled labour. But there is no incentive to the unskilled labourer. The incentive is for the high income lawyer. Therefore, the Conservative Party appears to regard the lawyer as far more important than the labourer. Yet these people who are doing the hard, dirty, dangerous work are basic. If we are to get out of our difficulties we shall need all the drive, vigour and enthusiasm of the men in the mines, factories and fields. Yet it is obvious that this Budget made no appeal to them.
I should like to illustrate who really does matter and to whom, therefore, the incentives should be given. We recently had a strike in the engineering and shipbuilding industries. Every Surtax payer employed in those industries went to work while the strike was on. Yet not a ship was repaired or constructed because the men to whom the hon. Member for Farnham did not refer did not go to work. In other words, ships are produced and repaired only if those men go to work. Production goes on in our engineering and electrical industries only if those men work.
§ Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell me who got the orders in the first place?
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I very much doubt whether the orders were obtained by the shareholders who get the main benefit from the profits which result from the labour of these men. The orders were probably obtained by men who are not in the supertax class and who, therefore, would not benefit from this Budget. I hope that when the party to which I belong is returned to power—and that will 539 not be very long—we shall look after our friends as well as hon. Members opposite are looking after their friends in supporting this Clause.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I did not really intend to intervene in this debate. It is a good many years since I have spoken in a debate on the Finance Bill, and I do so only because of one or two words' which fell from the lips of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) and from the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay).
I take it that both sides of the Committee will agree that Britain's economy, and with it our standard of living, including the standard of living of the shipyard workers, of the old-age pensioners to which the party opposite pay such lip service, and of everybody in this country, depends upon our capacity to sell our goods in a highly competitive world.
I do not think there will be any difference of opinion between the two sides of the Committee upon that point. Where, I think, the two sides of the Committee disagree is on how far it is wise or equitable or right to discourage success. There obviously is a point beyond which it is very unwise to discourage success. The party opposite put the point a good deal lower than we would. That is really what the difference of opinion is about on the Surtax concessions in this Clause. In other words, how far, with Britain fighting for her life-blood in a highly competitive world, it is wise to go along on the principle that the more one earns the less one keeps.
I should have thought that of all the countries in the world in Britain it would be the most dangerous to discourage incentives. The party opposite—and I do not think this is an unfair paraphrase, broadly speaking say that anyone who earns up to about £3,500 is a very good citizen and ought to be encouraged, and anyone who earns above £3,500 is a progressively less good citizen and the more he earns above £3,500 the more he should be discouraged.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
That is not at all what we are saying. If that is a fair deduction from what we are saying, I am sure that the hon. Member will be the first 540 to agree that it is a fair deduction from the Chancellor's own proposals to say that anyone who earns up to £10,000 a year is a good citizen and that anyone who earns more than £10,000 a year is not such a good citizen and ought not to be encouraged. If his argument is a fair representation of what we said in support of £3,500, the same argument must surely apply to the Chancellor's £10,000 limit.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
The right hon. Gentleman is much too intelligent to misunderstand to that extent. There is nothing clear-cut about this. It is a sliding scale, as the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well. The party opposite wish to have the scale of tax above £3,500 raised very high. They bitterly accuse us of favouring the higher salary earner by giving him concessions on up to £10,000.
I wonder whether those who take the big decisions which make all the difference between success or failure in the various walks of life, whether it be in commerce, engineering or in any of the medical or scientific professions—the key men—are really in the category of those who are earning less than £3,500 a year. I do not believe that it is so. At any rate, let me say this to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He talked about high taxation being no disincentive and quoted a rather carefully extracted paragraph from the Royal Commission's Report.
When the party opposite nationalised a number of industries, including the coal mines to which reference has been made, they had to find men who were capable of becoming chairmen of the National and regional coal boards. One would have thought that if the principle applied that really high taxation was not much of a disincentive, that people were quite prepared to work for not very much in the way of salary—it was not the salary that counted; it was the job and the glory and so on—the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues when setting up these Boards, could have found men willing and able to run the great nationalised industries of this country for much lower salaries than £10,000 a year. But they did not. Not only were they unable to get people to do it for less—
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I am told that the Chairman of the National Coal Board was offered£8,500 a year.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
In addition to that, the party opposite was unable to persuade anybody to take those big jobs involving great responsibility without a substantial expense allowance also. I have always regarded the expense allowance as a highly undesirable feature, but necessary, perhaps, in post-war Britain when taxation is so high. If we could reduce taxation we should not need such high expense allowances with all the abuse and anomalies they create. The party opposite, when sitting on these benches, was bound to give to key men in the nationalised industries a very large expense allowance so that they could carry out their functions. I am not complaining about that; I am merely stating the fact.
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) referred to the distinction between earned and unearned income. I am not sure whether we can continue to have a completely clear-cut division, a kind of gulf fixed, between earned and unearned income, as a result of which the one is, so to speak, regarded as highly moral by the party opposite, up to £3,500 a year, at any rate, and the other is regarded as thoroughly immoral. Unearned income cannot be put in one category and earned income in another.
The real urge for a man to use his wits so that he can command a high salary is not fundamentally immoral; it is not always entirely selfish by any means. It is an urge to put something by, if he can—heaven knows, it is difficult enough, even with the reliefs proposed by my right hon. Friend—either for his retirement or old age or for his wife and children. That is not a bad urge, and there is nothing unworthy about it. If he can put something by from the salary he earns during his working life, that goes into savings, as we call it. Interest from savings, in the view of the inspector of taxes, becomes unearned income. The interest on all the savings that a man may accumulate 542 during his working life, whether he exercises great skill with his hands and brain or whatever his ability may be, is unearned income when he comes to retire. It is not, therefore, wise or right that any hon. Member of this Committee should try to draw a rigid dividing line between earned and unearned income. If we wish to encourage saving, it is not right to call all earned income white and all unearned income black.
Britain is in a position when it is not wise or safe. to discourage success. After all, our competitors are tough competitors in a highly competitive world: They do not make that mistake.
§ Mr. Stevens
The Financial Secretary was probably right when he said that hon. Members on either side of the Committee quote from the Report of the Royal Commission whenever it happens to suit their book. I am sure that we could keep a considerable rally going by making selective quotations from the Report.
The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) made a long attack upon me, accusing me of making selective quotations from the Report, and then he proceeded to make highly selective quotations. I want to give another quotation from a paragraph which he quoted, paragraph 149, which seems adequately to sum up the whole thing. It says:These effects …That is, disincentive effects:… can only be studied properly when a generation has grown to maturity which has never known a régime in which high earnings are not largely absorbed in tax.That is very true.
I also think it is true that on this side of the Committee we are rather inclined to over-emphasise the disincentive effect of high tax rates, and I am certain that it is also true that hon. Gentlemen opposite are inclined to underemphasise the disincentive effect of high tax rates. However, it is certainly the case that wherever one looks in the Report or the social survey which was carried out at the request of the Royal Commission, one finds all the way through references to a disincentive effect of some kind. It may be remarkably small, but it is there.
The difference between success and failure in our economic life is also remarkably small. Earlier today the hon. 543 Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) referred to Mr. Micawber's sixpence and the difference between spending 19s. 6d. and spending 20s. 6d., a difference of about 2½ per cent. The difference between success and failure in our economic life is of much the same order, 2½–3 per cent. of the gross national product. The dividing line is very finely drawn. If the disincentive effect of high tax rates on all income groups is remarkably small but there none the less, it seems to me that it is the duty of the Government to do what they can to get rid of that disincentive effect and restore productivity to the maximum of which we are capable.
Much of the discussion about the Clause has centred around the Surtax payers and the larger income groups as though they were the only ones for whom the Clause provided. That is not so. Subsection (2) provides further relief for old people with modest incomes. It raises the earned income relief for old people from £600 to £700. That has not been referred to in any of the discussions on Clause 10. On behalf of the older people with small incomes, I thank my right hon. Friend for the concession, which shows that he pays attention to income groups of all kinds.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
I had not intended to intervene, but in view of the turn that the discussion has taken I think it right that before the Clause is disposed of we should consider rather seriously the effect which the proposals in it are undoubtedly likely to have upon very large numbers of people upon whose effort the country very much depends.
A few moments ago my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) appeared to be laughed at by hon. Members opposite when he pointed out the simple fact of our complete dependence in, for example, the shipbuilding and engineering industries upon the efforts of the men in those industries. My hon. Friend was referring to the recent disputes. He comes from an area where these industries are paramount. One is bound to be concerned about the effect of a Clause like this upon the efforts of the men in those industries.
What I find difficult to understand is that hon. Members opposite apparently 544 regard it as right and proper to make concessions which will result in very considerable spending power being made available to a relatively small group of people when, on the other hand, they hold up their hands in horror at proposals for wage advances because they say that these will put purchasing power in the hands of the people concerned. Of course, it will be said that one of the objects of the concession is to enable those who are already very rich to provide more for savings. Indeed, the point made by the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) was that many professional groups were not able to save. I do not know whether that is borne out by the reports of insurance companies and other bodies. One thing which is rather striking is the amount of savings which are being provided.
In any case, what sort of guarantee is there that an effective proportion of this extra sum which is being made available as purchasing power will be saved? Hon. Members opposite have not attempted to make clear how they will achieve a guarantee of saving, and the Committee ought to have such a guarantee before this sum is made available. Why do hon. Members opposite insist on regarding wage advances which are claimed by shipyard workers and others as reprehensible? Why should we not welcome wage advances, if this is the attitude of hon. Members opposite, on the ground that they also will make more savings available?
Surely, on this argument, there is an urgent need to raise the general level of incomes in order that high savings can be made. Apparently, the higher one goes the better in this process. The more one can make available, The more one can reduce tax at the higher levels and the better the economy will be because savings will be relatively greater. Just as hon. Members opposite have not provided any proper evidence of disincentive from high taxation, so they are incapable of providing evidence that people in professional ranks are unable to make savings, or that it would be wrong for large sections of the working population to have bigger incomes out of which they in their turn could save and help the economy.
It is a healthy thing that hon. Members opposite have so clearly and obviously 545 declared their special interest in this matter and their concern for those whom they no doubt claim to represent, because that also clarifies the matter for the workers in the shipyards and in the engineering plants who undoubtedly take note of the arguments developed here.
There should be some word of warning about the effect of action of this kind directed so specifically to a small minority. This is bound to have an effect—whether it is fully justified or not—upon very large numbers of ordinary working people who are the people who make it possible or not for ships to go out, who make it possible or not for power stations to be built, who make it possible or not for the atomic energy programme to be developed.
§ Mr. Birch
The subject matter of Clause 10 has been very well chewed over since 9th April and almost all the matters which it contains have been keenly debated although, as my hon. Friend the Member for Langstone (Mr. Stevens) pointed out, rather less has been said about reliefs for the old. The right hon. Member for Battresea, North (Mr. Jay) devoted his attention to incentives and to whether incentives were obtained by these Income Tax reliefs. He made a very interesting speech. In respect of his main point, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor gave a fairly robust answer this afternoon.
I should like to make one comment. It is perfectly true that many of those with higher incomes have extremely interesting jobs, jobs to which they are determined to give their best, whatever happens. However, I think it is wrong and foolish to suppose that people's psychology is any different, whether they are paid by the week, by the month or by the year: they are all exactly the same people. Nobody has ever doubted that tax on overtime is a disincentive. If taxation is a disincentive to some people I cannot see any reason to suppose it is not a disincentive to other people. It is certainly a disincentive to risk taking. If one makes a profit the Chancellor takes 18s. 6d. of it. If one sustains a loss it is all one's own.
There is some reason to suppose that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite see some force at all events in my right 546 hon. Friend's argument because they did, by their first Amendment, come part of the way with us in the matter, and by their second Amendment, in some ways, they went further. However, I shall not go into that again. I would say, on this question of incentive, which has been the main one in this short debate on this Motion, that both sides agree that some incentive will be produced. We may disagree about how much the incentive will be, and about how far up the scale the relief ought to have gone, but that this Clause will be good not only as an incentive to those in the higher income groups but because of the provision for the children's allowance and the old people etc. we are all agreed.
§ Mr. Mitchison
This Clause, of course, contains some useful provisions. It does, however, also contain a concession to Surtax payers which will cost rather less than £30 million this year and rather more than £30 million in succeeding years. That is a very large sum indeed. We have heard this concession justified on some very peculiar grounds. I quote first the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe), who explained that Britain was fighting for its lifeblood in a highly competitive world and that, according to him, was a reason for remitting £30 million to the Surtax payers. He further explained, if I understood him aright, that the Surtax payers sold the goods. Perhaps I am wrong.
I should like to point out to him and to other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that those who manage businesses and those who sell goods depend in the last resort on having goods made in this country to sell, and that those goods are made by a number of honest people none of whom pays any Surtax at all and none of whom will get any benefit whatever out of this very remarkable concession. I should like further to point out to them that this concession comes in a Budget which, while recognising the criminal folly of trying to save the country by imposing Purchase Tax on pots and pans, meets the criticism that that remarkable measure proceeds not by removing the tax but merely by cutting half of it; that it comes at the moment when the country will be able to remit £30 million a year to its Surtax payers but is unfortunately unable to concede to the housewife the full relief, 547 and her reversion to the state of affairs which she enjoyed before Purchase Tax was put on her pots, pans, blankets, and so on.
That is one aspect of the matter, but there is another. It is explained to us with great clarity by one Chancellor of the Exchequer after another that the remission of tax is not the same as paying money. It is perfectly true, of course, that it is different, but I would point out that a remission is made to Surtax payers or others only because the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the moment thinks he can afford to make that concession, and that is, of course, the reason why this concession is made. It is made at the moment when, as everybody knows, the rates upon which old folk have to live, and the whole scale of National Assistance rates, are scandalously inadequate to their needs in face of the rising cost of living. I confess that I was annoyed beyond words by the hon. Member for Windsor talking about lip service paid by hon. Members on this side of the Committee to the needs of those people. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that so far as I and my right hon. and hon. Friends are concerned we go to our constituencies and meet those people and we know full well the amount of hardship and suffering which the insane cruelty of keeping rates at that level necessitates.
We ask hon. Members opposite what motives can induce them at this moment to remit £30 million to the Surtax payers of the country when, at the same time, they refuse to raise the standard of living of these people to anything like a tolerable standard. What possible philosophy and what possible sense of justice can inspire hon. Members opposite to do that sort of thing?
We are told that this shows the difference between the philosophy on the two sides of the Committee. I am inclined to think that it does not show the difference between the philosophy. It shows the difference between the sources of the income of the Tory Party and the honest views held by us on this side of the Committee. I cannot see on any moral or philosophical grounds any possible reason or right for a concession of this sort while that wrong, among others, remains unremitted.
548 I will go even further. We know perfectly well that in one way after another the Chancellor has in recent months and years cut every possible social service in the country. [Laughter.] Is any one of the hon. Gentlemen opposite who are laughing prepared to say that at the moment the expenditure on hospitals in the country is sufficient? Are they prepared to say that the Guillebaud Report ought not to be implemented?
I would point out to right hon. and hon. Members opposite that the concession that is being made in this Finance Bill to Surtax payers means that the Chancellor has not got the money at the moment with which to provide the country with an adequate hospital service that it so urgently needs. That is only one of millions of cases. The housing subsidies have been cut because the Chancellor did not think it right to spend the money. Yet that money is conceded by way of a remission of tax to Surtax payers.
I wish to say one last thing about the Budget, and it is the worst that I can say about it. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. This is a Tory Budget, and this Clause dealing with Surtax payers is the most Tory part of it.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.