§ Mr. Barber
I beg to move, in page 30, line 22, at the beginning to insert:In the case of a transfer for value of the right to receive any such sums as are described in subsection (2) of section thirty-one of this Act, any tax chargeable by virtue of that section shall be charged in respect of the amount or value of the consideration (or, in the case of a transfer otherwise than at arm's length, in respect of the value of the right transferred as between parties at arm's length), and references in that section to sums received shall be construed accordingly.(2)".This Amendment introduces a new subsection at the beginning of the Clause 356 to deal with the case where a retired businessman assigns the right to a post-cessation receipt falling within Clause 31 —for example, a debt which was formerly written off as bad. The Clause as drafted would not charge the person who has retired on what he received for assigning the right to his post-cessation receipt. Under the existing law, the person who assigned the right to a business debt while still carrying on the business would have the consideration of the assignment brought in as a business receipt. The Committee will agree that it is only reasonable and logical that a retired businessman or his executor should be treated in a corresponding 357 way and should be taxed on the consideration. That is the effect of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Barber
No, Sir. This is an Amendment which arose out of further consideration after the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
Why is it that these considerations have only just been arrived at? Why were they not thought of during all the months when the Treasury was preparing the forthcoming Finance Bill and deciding, as it normally does, quite early, to do certain things about tax avoidance in order to close loopholes? Why is it that now, within two days of the Third Reading of the Bill, this has been brought to the attention of the House of Commons and authority is asked for this Amendment to the Bill?
§ Mr. Barber
The right hon. Gentleman will realise that from the moment when a Bill is published consideration is given to matters which arise not only from debates in the House of Commons. I cannot offhand inform the Committee exactly how the point arose, but, obviously, all the way through the various stages of the Bill consideration and reconsideration are given. Our sole purpose, which will commend itself to the Committee, is to produce the best and most effective Bill we can. In that aim, we are helped to a great extent by what is said in Committee by hon. Members, but we are also helped to some extent by what is said and written outside and by further consideration which is given by all concerned.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I am not criticising the hon. Gentleman or his right hon. Friend. In these matters, quite properly and naturally, they are in the hands of the Inland Revenue or the Customs and Excise Departments. My point is that the Treasury officials should have something quite strong to say to members of the Inland Revenue staff who fail to bring this kind of thing to their attention until now.
§ Mr. Barber
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was present when I dealt with a similar suggestion that was made earlier. It is much easier 358 to deal with tax avoidance devices which are actually taking place. Here we are dealing with provisions for tightening the tax code and we are trying to anticipate devices which may or may not be employed in the future. In other words, it is a much more difficult task to deal with possibilities that might arise on new legislation, many of them hypothetical matters, than to deal with actual cases of avoidance which have already come to light.
I want to be fair about this. Of course, it would have been much better had we been able to include this proposal in the first print of the Bill. I would be the first to agree to that, but it is a little unfair to blame those who assist us in the Inland Revenue or elsewhere with the preparation of these Bills. It is a very important and a very difficult task, and I would have thought that in general they would have deserved credit.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I do not for a moment desire to be unfair, but less than an hour ago we were dealing with a very important Amendment to Clause 26. The Financial Secretary was good enough to tell us that the kind of mischief being aimed at had been going on for quite a while. I admit that in this case this is something which has not yet happened, but which might happen. But during this debate we have dealt with matters which, quite frankly, have been going on for same time. Surely the Inland Revenue knew about them, and if it did I think that in all fairness to the Chancellor it should have called his attention to them when the Bill was being drafted.
Mr. J. T. Price
I have no desire unduly to delay the passing of the Amendment, to which I do not object, but I want to reinforce what my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) has said, for quite a different reason. It is that, when a very advanced stage of the Finance Bill has been reached—the sort of stage we are at now, and all the usual parleys have gone on between the usual channels to fix a time limit, which in this case happens to be two days—if at that stage the apparatus behind the Chancellor should bring out from the pigeon-holes all sorts of attractive ideas from the Minister's point of view and introduce 359 them when there is no chance of having their merits properly debated, I say that that is constitutionally objectionable. The House of Commons should be on its guard against this kind of thing.
If it is to be the accepted practice of the House or of the Committee to agree to the Treasury's right to introduce over a hundred Amendments at this stage, whatever their merits, merely for the convenience of the administration when hon. Members, and particularly backbenchers, cannot conceivably have the facilities at their disposal to discuss the merits of highly controversial questions, then I raise it as a matter of constitutional importance and I hope that in future whatever Chancellor of whatever party holds office will be on guard against this sort of thing to which many of us strongly object.
I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) was implying that my officials in any way had deliberately held back until a late stage of the Bill Amendments which they thought ought to be made. I assure him that there is nothing whatever in that. What we have done, and I think it is the right thing to do, is to listen to everything that is said in Committee and to read carefully every criticism that is made of the Bill as published. Each of these suggestions and proposals has been very carefully considered by us. We have, rightly or wrongly, adopted every one that seemed to us would improve the Bill, even though it has meant putting down Amendments after the Committee stage within the last fortnight.
I might have done the other thing and said, "Even though this is a good Amendment I will not put it forward. At this late stage the House would prefer that it was not made." If I have been guilty in that respect, I plead guilty. If the Committee or the House feels that I would have done better not to have brought forward Amendments which I was convinced would improve the Bill after I had received the suggestions, and that I was wrong in doing so, I am sorry. But on balance, even although it has involved, as I recognise, some inconvenience to the Committee and to the House. I still think that I was right to accept and bring forward Amendments which on 360 consideration I felt would improve the Bill.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I had not intended to address the Committee again on the Amendment, but I asked whether this was an Amendment which arose in any way from discussions in Committee. The answer was that it was not. I have asked similar questions about a number of similar Amendments, including an important one about transactions with foreigners which we were discussing a short time ago. The right hon. Gentleman ought to stop saying that all these Amendments come out of Amendments in Committee.
Really, I did not say that. I said at the beginning that many of the Amendments had come out of discussions in Committee, but since then I think on one occasion I said, and my hon. Friend has said it, that a number of them have arisen from representations which we have received or criticisms we have read of our proposals in the Bill to which we have given consideration and as a result have produced these Amendments.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I have listened to successive explanations about Amendments and I would add another considerable class—Amendments which have occurred to the Government or their advisers on further meditation about what they were doing. One of them, we were told, was the result of experience—an experience which, curiously enough, happened to mature into an Amendment between the Committee stage and the Report stage of the Finance Bill, an unfortunate moment for the maturing of Governmental lucubrations on financial matters. It puts the House of Commons in the position of not being able to deal properly with last-minute alterations where no Amendment from the back benches or either Front Bench is really possible unless one is able to hit the point exactly. But only my two hon. Friends who are accountants succeed from time to time in doing that. The rest of us find it very difficult, and the Treasury is pretty critical about Amendments.
This Amendment was introduced, we were told, as a matter of fairness. Well, I am quite prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's explanation that the 361 unfairness was brought to his attention in this instance by representations. That may well have been so. It was an expression of the Government's good intentions. I should like to say about the Government's good intentions that no doubt they exist—some of them at any rate—but unlike other good intentions, they do not pave the way to hell, even for tax dodgers.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.