§ 25. Mr. Nabarro
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer under what administrative arrangements officers of the Inland Revenue obtain information regarding tax matters from proceedings, findings, judgments and documents arising from proceedings heard in chambers, as in certain divorce proceedings when evidence is given, or allegations made, as to tax defalcations and evasion; if he is satisfied that such arrangements are adequate; and if he will make a statement.
I do not think it would be in the public interest to disclose arrangements for obtaining information in cases of suspected tax evasion.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Can my right hon. Friend tell the House how a Member of the House of Commons may obtain corroboratory evidence in regard to allegations of fraudulent behaviour in tax matters by company directors or others, as, for example, the scandalous story told by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) last Thursday week in the Finance Bill debates? How can we obtain corroboratory evidence as to the truth or otherwise of such a story and, in the public interest, what action is being taken by the Chancellor to apprehend persons if they are guilty in that sense?
As to the first part of the supplementary question asked by my hon. Friend, far be it from me to make any recommendations to him about anyone else and about what initiative he should take in any matter. As regards the second part of the question, the Inland Revenue takes all reasonable steps to see that taxpayers in fact pay the tax due from them.
With regard to Question No. 25, will the Chancellor bear in mind that a great deal of blackmail has been levied by the devices there referred to 1013 and is something about which one wants to be very careful?
§ 26. Mr. Nabarro
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that his refusal to answer tax questions in cases where individual groups, persons or companies are involved is frustrating the work of Parliament; and if he will waive his present practice in order to satisfy the House that appropriate action has been taken in the case of the Midlands' company with a single director who is alleged to have defrauded the revenue, details of which have been sent to him by the hon. Member for Kidderminster.
I think that the importance of the tax affairs of individual tax payers being kept confidential is generally recognised, and the House would not expect me to make any exception in this instance.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Is it not an act of gross impropriety for private and confidential judicial proceedings heard in chambers to which a barrister who happens also to be an hon. Member of this House has access, to be related by that barrister in this House? Should not the chairman of the Bar Council be asked to consider disgraceful behaviour of that kind?
§ Mr. MacDermot
As the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) appears to be trying to make a personal attack on me, may I ask the Chancellor if he is aware that the cases to which I referred in the debate were not cases in which I was engaged personally but the details of which were supplied to me by a member of the Bar knowing that I intended raising them in the House, with the intention that I should raise them, and that he gave the information in writing?
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
On a point of order. May I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on the following point? It arises from the first three lines of Question No. 26. On 21st April, the Chancellor refused to answer a Question not about individual tax payments but on a 1014 general principle whether expenditure by companies on political campaigns was allowable for Income Tax purposes. Subsequently, the Table has refused to accept Questions on this matter. Is it not frustrating the will of the House if we cannot be told whether such expenditure is chargeable against Income Tax? What course is open to an hon. Member to pursue the matter?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is a rule of the House that if a Question has been fully answered it cannot be asked again in the same Session. That is no doubt the rule which applies to the hon. Member's Question, although I have no personal knowledge of the Question.
§ Mr. Allaun
I appreciate that, but surely this is Parliament and this is a general principle of taxation law. We must know what the position is. What can we do about it?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
On a point of order. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) made a charge against my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) saying that he had disclosed facts in a case in which he had himself been involved. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] It was a case at which he had himself been present. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I think that what the hon. Member for Kidderminster said is within the recollection of the House. This was flatly denied by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North. Should not the charge, or any implication that such a charge had been made, be withdrawn by the hon. Member for Kidderminster?
§ Mr. Nabarro
Further to that point of order. When the words are seen in print tomorrow in the OFFICIAL REPORT, it will clearly be seen that I did not make any imputation at all that the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) was himself involved in this case. In fact, the hon. Member for Lewisham, North has divulged to me that the information which formed the subject of this Question was given to him by another barrister, who was involved in the case. In due course I shall ask the chairman of the Bar Council whether that is not highly unprofessional conduct.
§ Mr. Speaker
All this happened in Committee on the Finance Bill. I do not know what it is all about.
§ 29. Mr. Cronin
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many more people pay Income Tax now than in 1951; and how much more is paid now in direct taxation than in 1951.
It is estimated that about 2¾ million more people will pay Income Tax in 1959–60 than in 1951–52 and that the yield of Inland Revenue duties will be £494 million greater in 1959–60 than it was in 1951–52.
§ Mr. Cronin
Do not these astonishing figures indicate clearly that the Income Tax concessions given by the right hon. Gentleman in this Budget and by some of his predecessors are illusory and that more and more tax is being paid under Conservative Governments?
On the contrary, they show, first of all, how greatly the standard of living of people in this country has risen in the past six years. If these taxpayers had to pay at the same rates of Income Tax this year as they had to pay in 1951–52, they would be paying an extra £1,160 million. Individuals alone would be paying £1,010 million extra. Furthermore, 2 million more people would be paying Income Tax today.