HC Deb 14 July 1959 vol 609 cc206-8
43. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many appeals have been made to the appellate authority on questions concerning the admissibility of expenditure incurred by companies on political campaigns against taxable profit; and with what results.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Derick Heathcoat Amory)

I regret this information is not available.

Mr. Chetwynd

Can the Chancellor say why it is not available? Is it because there have been no appeals and, if so, is that because the Government have been allowing this expenditure to rank for tax purposes? Is it not entirely wrong that the taxpayers should pay for a political campaign?

Mr. Amory

The reason is that inspectors of taxes are not required to notify headquarters of all appeals from their decisions. I think the general position has been made amply clear by statements from my hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary and myself. Expenditure of a political nature is, prima facie, not allowable. Where the inspector of taxes is in any doubt about whether or not it is political expenditure, it is his invariable practice to challenge the claim.

Mr. H. Morrison

In view of the fact that past Governments, including Conservative Governments, have taken enormous trouble to control and pass laws on the political expenditure of the trade unions, can the right hon. Gentleman say why it is that the Government are so utterly indifferent to and standing aloof from the question of the political expenditure of private limited liability companies?

Mr. Amory

What the right hon. Gentleman has implied is not so. We are not standing aloof. The statement of policy which I have mentioned is a perfectly clear one. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, it is not the job of the Government to interfere in the settlement of the affairs of any individual taxpayer.

Mr. Woodburn

Does not the difficulty arise from the fact that, in the final result, civil servants are asked to judge what is political expenditure? Would it not be better to have a committee representing all parties which would judge in doubtful cases whether expenditure was political? Civil servants cannot be expected to judge that.

Mr. Amory

That is exactly what the appeal procedure is provided for. It is provided so that the civil servant's decision on a difficult matter of expenditure shall not be final.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Since the trade unions have to make clear what amount of money they receive from the political levy and how it is spent, should not the same apply to others who spend money on political work?

Mr. Amory

I do not think that arises from this Question.

Mr. Remnant

Will my right hon. Friend restate the position with regard to trade unions and their subventions to Members of Parliament and political parties?

Mr. Chetwynd

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise the matter on the Adjournment.