§ Sir E. Boyle
I beg to move, in page 9, line 11, after "applies", to insert "(a)".
I think that with this Amendment it would foe convenient if we discussed the next Amendment, in line 18 at the end to insert:and(b) to any married man who is entitled for the year of assessment to the higher relief aforesaid but whose wife was throughout that year totally incapacitated by physical or mental infirmity".These two Amendments will enable a new category of claimant to benefit from the £40 allowance introduced by Clause 15 for widows, widowers and certain others with dependent children in the home who would be entitled to a housekeeper's allowance if they employed a resident housekeeper to look after the children. I will explain briefly the background to the Amendment.
1552 Under Section 218 of the Income Tax Act, 1952, a man entitled to the higher married personal allowance of £240 can claim the existing housekeeper allowance for a female person maintained or employed in the home to look after a child, if, but only if, his wife is totally incapacitated throughout the year by physical or mental infirmity. As Clause 15 is drafted, a married man getting the higher personal allowance is debarred from claiming the £40 alternative allowance even if the has a dependent child and his wife is totally incapacitated. This seems unfair to us when he could have had the £75 alternative if he employed a resident person to mind his child.
Therefore, we have decided on further consideration that a married man with a dependent child or children in the home, whose wife is totally incapacitated throughout the year, shall foe allowed to claim the £40 allowance if he does not employ a resident person to mind his child. I think this a justifiable Amendment. The cost of the extension will be negligible and I commend it to the Committee.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
I am sure the Committee is grateful to the Financial Secretary for having explained that this addition to the Clause removes what would otherwise have been an anomaly. We are now going to give a new relief corresponding to all groups who would be able to claim the housekeeper relief if they employed a housekeeper. I think this completes the circle of the new relief and we are grateful that it has been amplified in this way.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
I am grateful that my hon. Friend has introduced this Amendment. Income Tax allowances are difficult and complicated to follow and all the more so for a spinster, as I am, or indeed for a bachelor, as is my hon. Friend. But in spite of the fact that I am grateful, I wish to make a point which I consider of importance.
Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), I do not think that any contribution of mine in the House of Commons prior to the last General Election made any impression on the result of the General Election, because all the things I fought for were refused by the Chancellor. I think that the North Country did me pretty well 1553 from the point of view of the Parliamentary majority that I obtained, because I lost almost every battle that I fought.
I have always felt regarding Chancellors of the Exchequer—my right hon. Friend and his predecessors—that their responsibilities are great. I consider that there are some very wise officials at the Treasury, but it is very difficult for my right hon Friend ever to alter the pattern. I am not at all satisfied that small matters of this kind—taken by and large they are small—are sufficiently considered. When I approached the Chairman of Ways and Means about an Amendment I wished to table, he said that we could not have manuscript Amendments about small points. But I do not think that bachelors and spinsters can be regarded as "small points", nor do I think that a married man whose wife is totally incapacitated is a "small point".
When certain ideas and thoughts occur to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor they are embodied in his Budget and translated into the Finance Bill. Then it is discovered—as has been discovered in this case—that quite an important, if a small, section of the community has been overlooked. This state of affairs reveals to me that when the Chancellor, thinking out his Budget, decides what he will be able to do, he has not really gone into the details regarding small personal allowances and small tax reliefs and so on. If he had, he would have known about this matter before he introduced his Budget and put it into legislative form in the Finance Bill. I have not the slightest doubt that somebody made a suggestion to my right hon. Friend.
I wish to read a letter which appeared in the Daily Telegraph—my hon. Friend has not referred to it. I have the impression that Chancellors of the Exchequer and Financial Secretaries never wish to be influenced by the outside world. This is a very important letter, writen by the general secretary of the Infantile Paralysis Fellowship, an organisation which does a great deal of good work.
It would be a good thing if occasionally Ministers were to pay tribute to societies which, through voluntary committees, watch over the interests of people and try to see that they get fair play under our system, for that does not always happen. The point raised in the 1554 letter is exactly the point which I believe is embodied in this Amendment. I shall not read all the nice things said about me, because that would be rather presumptuous, but I shall go on to that part of the letter which says what is particular to this Amendment. The letter says:In the new Finance Act the only class of person who was previously eligible for the resident housekeeper allowance and who now does not apparently qualify for the nonresident housekeeper allowance is the family man whose wife is totally incapacitated as a result of poliomyelitis or other disabling disease.In all too many cases, and often in circumstances of extreme hardship, the family man has, in consequence of the tragedy of disabling illness, the added financial burden without tax relief, of employing someone to look after his family. In most such cases the employed housekeeper is a married woman non-resident, therefore attracting no tax relief. Tax relief in such cases would in the aggregate amount to a relatively insignificant sum— totally insignificant in fact when measured in terms of family tragedy.Then again, the writer pays tribute to me and also makes a reference to the "cheeseparing methods" of the Treasury.
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary has put this matter right, but at the same time I do not feel very happy about a Treasury which left out a case of this kind without recognising that it was being left out. It is extremely difficult for Members of Parliament such as myself, with very little knowledge, to know all that happens in family life. The Chancellor and Financial Secretary, although both are bachelors, could surely have obtained the advice of the Economic Secretary. Surely there must be some married man among the officials of the Treasury who could have told them about this. I should have thought some of them would have looked at a case of this kind and that it would not be left for an Amendment to be brought forward in Committee in order to cover such very tragic cases. I very much resent that fact.
I know the Chancellor is very much occupied. I feel sympathetic towards him in that connection, but I am always asking that some few people who really have these matters very much at heart and do a great deal of voluntary work in the interests of those who cannot fight for themselves, should be formed into a 1555 small committee to look into these matters. Then representations could be made to the Treasury to see if these problems could be met. This problem has got a little complicated. Even the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) did not appear to think that there was any discrimination in this Amendment. So probably I shall be told that I am wrong, but I want to know what has happened.
People who can employ housekeepers are those with a certain amount of affluence, for in these days one has to have a pretty good income to be able to employ a housekeeper. One does not employ a housekeeper if, as someone put it, one is "an old ex-Service widow", because the housekeeper's allowance is more than the widow's pension. We are not, therefore, talking about the poorest people in the country. I want to know whether a married woman who has a totally incapacitated husband whom she has to look after as well as her children will be able to get the benefit of this concession, or has the tax structure got so involved that there is no possible way of including her? If inquiries were made, it would be possible to find how many women there are in that situation. Is such a woman, with a totally disabled husband, who cannot go to work because she has to look after the home and the children, to take on the whole of this burden and not have the benefit?
I notice from the Amendment that the person concerned may be mentally incapacitated. Many of these women are tremendous heroines who became incapacitated through the burden and strain of trying to help the war effort, either in the First or the Second World War. Are there no means within our tax structure to help them? I gather that there are no such means, as they were not mentioned by the hon. Member for Sowerby, nor by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, but I know that the Treasury never goes further than it needs to go. Is a married woman with a totally incapacitated husband, or a mentally deranged husband, and who has the burden of looking after the family, to have a similar benefit to that provided in this Amendment?
1556 I suppose my hon. Friend will reply that a married man needs a married woman. I do not know; this is beyond me. I want to know if a married woman, under similar circumstances, is to benefit. May I have an assurance that on Report provision will be made so that these very gallant women, who do a great service to the country as a whole, shall be as fairly treated as a married man with an incapacitated wife? That is all I want to know and I do not know what I shall do if the answer is in the negative, for no one will want to divide against this Amendment. My goodness, sometimes I hate being a Member of Parliament because of the injustices which ought to be remedied but are not remedied and I do not know what to do about it.
If I cannot find a way of remedying this injustice, I do not know what to do about it. I throw myself—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—on the sympathy of my hon. Friend. I only hope that when he does get married, as I am sure he will, he will not have to stand up to some of the difficulties to which some people have had to stand up. I hope the hon. Gentleman—I call him my hon. Friend because I am very devoted to him—will not reject this plea.
§ Mr. Manuel
I want to put one or two points to the Financial Secretary. First, I wish to say how very fully I support the case put by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) for equality of treatment between the sexes in this matter. I do not think the Financial Secretary can produce any logical argument against the case which she has made for people who suffer in the way she instanced having this extension of personal allowance if either the man or the woman needs home help and support.
I thank the Financial Secretary for the extension provided by this Amendment. If I understand correctly, he indicated that there would be an extension of the personal allowance scheme to the extent of £40 a year. Am I correct?
§ Mr. Manuel
Whatever the figure is, I wonder if the qualifications would not necessarily be what the hon. Lady suggested—that it would not necessarily 1557 have to be a family in fairly affluent circumstances which could have a housekeeper. I take it that the case of a working-class family where a local authority made the home-help service available, and where the husband was going to work while his wife was totally incapacitated so that the help had to come in every day, would qualify. Many such cases would arise.
In explanation of the Amendment, the Financial Secretary said that this personal allowance extension would be made in the case of total incapacity of the man's wife during the whole year. I take it that the hon. Gentleman was talking about the financial year and not the calendar year—the whole of the year. I wonder if he could divert his thoughts to the type of case in which a man might be totally incapacitated for eleven months of the financial year. Would there be a graduated scale of personal allowance by which that family or that particular Income Tax payer could have the personal allowance to the extent of eleven-twelfths of the sum indicated by the Financial Secretary?
§ Mr. Shepherd
May I put a point to my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary? As I understand it, this concession applies only to those who have a child. I think that this limitation is not realistic.
I may quote the case of a constituent of mine. His wife has been struck down by a serious and apparently incurable disease. Very properly, he does not wish to send her into an institution provided by the State but wishes that, for the remaining time that she has to live, she should be in her own home with him. He will not, I understand—he certainly cannot at present—get any tax concession for the help which he must of necessity employ in order to carry out that very proper intention. This Amendment will not, in fact, enable that man, whose case in my view is on a par with many others, to get that concession and to receive relief. Therefore, I ask my hon. Friend to consider, between now and Report, whether he cannot incorporate some Amendment to enable that sort of case to be dealt with.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I will certainly take note of the points that have been made in the last few minutes and consider whether any Amendment is needed in detail on this suggestion on Report.
1558 I should like to answer the more substantial point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), who asked about the converse case in which the husband was incapacitated. I must confess that I started, when the point was first raised by my hon. Friend, by wondering why, as one might well feel, there was assymmetry here, but I do not now feel that the conditions are on all fours. I will try to explain.
The whole point of my right hon. Friend's Amendment is that the married man can already claim the existing housekeeper allowance fora female person maintained or employed in the home to look after a child for whom he gets a child allowance if the wife is totally incapacitated throughout the year.That is the extent of the provision. The point is that there are young children in the home, but there is no wife to perform the normal duty of looking after the children.
Since the man with children and a totally incapacitated wife gets the £75 allowance if a resident person is employed to look after the children, my right hon. Friend came to the conclusion that it was only fair to give him the £40 alternative allowance if he made other arrangements. The hon. Member is quite right. It involves the resident housekeeper looking after the children —not arrangements which do not involve employing resident assistance
In the opposite case where the husband is incapacitated, there is no provision for the £75 housekeeper allowance to be made, and it is for that reason that that case is not covered by Clause 15. This is the answer to my hon. Friend. This is the alternative to arrangements already existing for the grant of the housekeeper allowance. Though the work of looking after an invalid husband may be a serious tie to the wife, it does not prevent her from undertaking the normal responsibilities of looking after the children, and it is the fact that some wives are unable to perform these responsibilities that leads to the housekeeper allowance being given in the first place. To give an allowance where a man is incapacitated would be to give an allowance not for the care of the children, but in respect 1559 of the husband's disability. This is a point which we have often discussed in the Committee—whether or not there should be a disability allowance. Ministers on both sides—my right hon. Friend and I think hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite—whenever this point has been raised, have always felt obliged to resist that suggestion. Now we have a new Clause drafted on this subject and no doubt we shall discuss it later on in our proceedings.
The short answer to my hon. Friend, and I say this not in any unsympathetic spirit, is that this £40 allowance is meant as an alternative to the £75 housekeeper allowance which already exists, but there is no such allowance to which the £40 widow's allowance could be an alternative. That would involve bringing in a new kind of disability allowance, which raises a completely separate subject.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd), and an hon. Gentleman opposite, asked whether this was an "all or nothing" allowance, and whether one could get this disability allowance for a proportion of the year. I am afraid that the answer is "No.". This was the condition made by the late Sir Kingsley Wood in 1943 for the resident housekeeper allowance, and it must apply to this alternative allowance, too.
§ Mr. Houghton
The Financial Secretary has explained the point very clearly, and the hon. Lady will now know that the case which she mentioned will not be covered by the Amendment which the Financial Secretary has proposed, because that case would not be covered by the main housekeeper relief in Section 218 of the Act of 1952.
It may be that there is a deficiency in the main housekeeper relief in Section 218 in the case of an incapacitated husband. I think there is, but this main relief is confined to the married man with children whose wife is totally incapacitated, physically or mentally, throughout the Income Tax year. As the Financial Secretary has explained, it is on the basis that the wife is incapacitated from looking after the children. Therefore, on the employment of a housekeeper, the husband is given additional relief for the housekeeper, in addition to that which he gets as a married man.
1560 What happens, then, if it is the husband who is totally incapacitated? The Financial Secretary says that if we gave relief for a totally incapacitated husband whose wife is able to look after the children, it could not be for the purpose of employing a housekeeper, because in fact she was physically able to take care of the children. But that overlooks the possibility that she may have to become the breadwinner, and therefore a housekeeper is necessary to look after the children while she goes out to earn the money for the support of the family. In such circumstances, it seems that relief should be given.
May I draw attention to the fact that a widow who employs a housekeeper to look after her children while she goes out to work is entitled to the housekeeper's allowance, and indeed, under the alternative relief in Clause 15, a widow who goes out to work full-time, or is herself totally incapacitated, will get this additional relief, even though in her case she has no children to look after.
In these circumstances, there are anomalies, and I think that everyone realises that there are anomalies in the housekeeper's allowance, and, therefore, they must be reproduced in the alternative relief now proposed in Clause 15. The Royal Commission had some criticisms to make of the housekeeper's relief, but its remedy was to restrict its application and not to extend it. The Committee may remember that the Radcliffe Commission suggested that the housekeeper's allowance should be confined in all cases to those where there were young children to be looked after, and should not be given, as it is at present, to widows and widowers who employ housekeepers even though they have no young children.
I suggest that we should allow the Financial Secretary to reconsider the matter in readiness for the later stages of the Bill, because if he is to alter Clause 15 to meet the point made by the hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward), he must at the same time alter the substantive relief in Section 218. The two things go together. Clause 15 is merely an alternative relief to the main relief, on a smaller scale, in cases where a resident 1561 housekeeper is not employed. The conditions of the relief are identical in both cases where there are young children.
I am afraid that we must leave the Financial Secretary with an obvious anomaly on his hands. I imagine that the amount of money involved is negligible, because, happily, the number of Income Tax claimants whose husbands are totally incapacitated is, I think, a small proportion of the total number of taxpayers. The hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth, however, has made a point which the Financial Secretary has not disposed of in his reply. But a bigger reform than the mere Amendment of this Clause will be necessary to put it right.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I think it would be convenient, Mr. Thomas, if I gave my answer on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill". I have some substantial points to make, and if I can catch your eye I will try to make them on that Question.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (Warrington)
If I cannot appeal to the Minister on the moral issue, may I put another consideration to him? I am glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is here and I hope that he will be sympathetic on this issue.
The Financial Secretary, in another rôle, asked married women to go back to teach in schools. The need for women teachers is very great, as is the need for women doctors in clinics. From the point of view of the economy, it is in the interests of the country that professional women should go back to work and use their time in the job for which they have been trained. If they do this and leave their homes, there is no one to look after their children, if their husbands are incapacitated, and no one to do the housekeeping. They are denied any help. As a consequence, the help which is very necessary in the schools and the Health Service is denied to the country.
On a lower plane, may I remind the hon. Member that it costs the country £15 a week to keep a chronic invalid in an institution? A woman with a totally incapacitated husband—mentally incapacitated, which was a case mentioned by the hon. Lady the Member for Tyne- 1562 mouth (Dame Irene Ward)—is therefore tempted to say to the doctor, "Can you find a place in an institution for my husband?". That would cost the country £15 a week. The Minister should, therefore, be receptive of the idea which has been put to him, because it is more economic in those cases to give women the allowance which men are being given. Will he, between now and Report, seriously consider this appeal and put down an Amendment to meet it?
§ Sir E. Boyle
I thought my hon. Friend intended to wait for the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill".
I thought that the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) got to the root of the matter when he said that we are here discussing a subject which raises a wider issue than can properly be covered by an Amendment to the Amendment which I have moved. This question is whether we should have what may be considered a far-ranging Amendment to the whole principle of the housekeeper allowance, which on earlier occasions in the Committee has been called a disability allowance.
We are here dealing with an important subject. My right hon. Friend will certainly take due note of what the right hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill) said, but I cannot undertake to put down an Amendment to meet it on Report. We may have a latter opportunity of considering this subject if a new Clause on the Order Paper meets with the Chairman's favour.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In Clause 15, page 9, line 18, at the end insert:
(b) to any married man who is entitled for the year of assessment to the higher relief aforesaid but whose wife was throughout the year totally incapacitated by physical or mental infirmity".—[Sir E. Boyle.]
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. George Thomas)
May I suggest that with this Amendment we should discuss the new 1563 Clause in the name of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson),increase of relief for claimant depending on services of a daughter".
§ Mr. Houghton
That, I am sure, will be for the convenience of the Committee.
We come to the amount of this new relief. In Clause 15 the amount of this relief is to be tax on £40. It is one of the curiosities of the procedure of the Committee that we have to explain Amendments to a Clause before the Clause itself has been explained, and that sometimes puts us in a difficulty. By now, however, I think that the Committee understands that the new relief is the answer to a claim which has been made in Committee, particularly from benches on this side of the Committee, for some concession to be given to widows and widowers, and others similarly classed for the purpose of the housekeeper relief, where they do not employ a resident housekeeper and are therefore disqualified from the main housekeeper relief.
Part of that plea has been that many taxpayers are unable to afford a resident housekeeper and, under the main housekeeper relief, residence with the taxpayer is a condition. Many times hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have asked, "What about those people who for many reasons, mostly expense, are not able to employ a resident housekeeper but who have someone to come in for the main part of the day, to take care of the children, to see them off to school, to get their meals, to return in the evening and to put them to bed, and generally to take charge of the household, without actually living in it?" Under the present conditions of the housekeeper relief, the taxpayer can get no concession for employing such a person; she must be resident with him in all cases.
We have said that that is unnecessarily restrictive and that many people who are incurring expense on account of being widows or widowers with or without young children are unable to employ a resident housekeeper but nevertheless have to have some substantial help in the house.
The new relief meets that grievance up to a point. It proposes to give this modified relief to widows and widowers, and married men with totally incapacitated 1564 wives, who have young children but who do not employ a resident housekeeper. The Committee will realise that this new relief is confined to those taxpayers who have young children. The main housekeeper relief is not confined to widows and widowers with young children. A widow or widower without young children who employs a resident housekeeper can claim housekeeper relief, but this modified relief is restricted to those widows and widowers who have young children but who do not employ a resident housekeeper. I emphasise that fact because in all cases with which we are dealing in this modified relief there will be young children.
§ Sir James Duncan (South Angus)
The hon. Member persists in saying "young children". It is all children.
§ Mr. Houghton
I mean children qualifying for child relief. That is a convenient term to use in this connection.
§ Mr. Houghton
Yes, under 16, or even over 16 if they are continuing full-time education. I think the Committee appreciates that it is a sufficiently descriptive term for children who normally qualify for child relief under these Clauses.
Is £40 enough? Where does the £40 come from? The only other tax relief of the same amount is in Section 217 of the Income Tax Act, 1952, which is the relief given to a claimant by reason of old age or infirmity who is compelled to depend upon the services of a daughter resident with and maintained by him. In such a case, he is entitled to relief of tax on £40. That is the same amount as is proposed in Clause 15.
We shall have to look at the origin of the £40 and consider whether it is appropriate to the relief in Clause 15. When the housekeeper relief was £50 in 1952–53, the relief under Section 217 for a dependent daughter looking after an infirm father was raised from £25 to £40. In 1953–54 the housekeeper relief was increased from £50 to £60, but the relief for a dependent daughter under Section 217 remained at £40. It is proposed in a subsequent Clause to increase the relief for a housekeeper from £60 to £75, but the relief under Section 217 1565 remains at £40. That appears to be taken as the token for the relief under Clause 15.
Forty pounds is too low in relation to the higher relief given for a housekeeper since this £40 relief was debated in 1952–53. There is only £10 in it, and it is tax on £10, which makes it smaller still. The total cost of the new relief is shown in the Financial Statement to be only £2 million in a full year. Therefore, an increase from £40 to £50 is scarcely likely to cost more than a few hundred thousand pounds.
I know that if I ask for the £40 in Clause 15 to be lifted to £50 it will be necessary later to raise the relief in Section 217 from £40 to £50, but the cost of that Section is also negligible. Therefore, I hope that the Chancellor will be able to agree that we should lift the relief in Clause 15 from tax on £40 to tax on £50. That will still be very small. Indeed, all the personal reliefs are very small today, looked at in the light of the change in the value of money. I will not dilate on what some of the personal reliefs should be if they were in proportion to the pre-war value of money. They would certainly be very much higher than they are today.
Indeed, the relief about which we are now talking would not be £50 but £70 if it were put in its proper proportion in 1938–39 terms. Therefore, to raise it to £50 is a modest increase. I believe that it is in proportion to the other reliefs we are giving for other causes. It is a very small additional concession to ask for, and I hope that the Chancellor will be able to accept it.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I support the Amendment. I shall not go into all the arguments used by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). I have one or two pungent ones to put on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill". However, this is my opportunity to say something. It is the most difficult thing in the world to address the Committee or the House of Commons in detail on any of these matters, because, taking it by and large, very few people get down to the details of all this.
I return to my own complaint. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Financial Secretary just think, "This is what we will do". There has never been 1566 any proper consideration of how it all works out, whether it is right, whether it is fair, whether it is just, or whether it meets the case. It is absolutely true that the fall in the value of money has had the most tremendous effect on certain sections of the community who are not included in the general overall prosperity of the country.
There are plenty of people in the House of Commons, in the Government, and in the country, to argue for the people who have reasonably good incomes. Many of the reasonably good incomes belong to people who used to, and I dare say sometimes still do, support the Socialist Party. These people, with their little allowances, trying to do their best to prevent their relatives going into institutions, looking after them and behaving like Christians in the very best sense, do not mean a thing to the Treasury. The Treasury never gets down to looking at these facts.
I feel very strongly and deeply about this subject. I am not an emotional person, because I come from a tough part of the world where emotion does not go down. If my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary likes to come to a public debate with me in the north of England, he will realise that these people for whom we are trying to do something today are the kind of people who agree with the views which I am putting forward and which were put forward by the hon. Member for Sowerby.
I do not want to disagree too much with the hon. Member for Sowerby, because he and I have worked together in a number of good causes, and I am very proud of it. Further, in many things, but not all, the right hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill) and I think together. However, it is all very well the hon. Member for Sowerby saying that he and his hon. Friends have been more interested in this than the Conservatives.
I tabled an Amendment, but my Amendment was ruled out of order— heaven knows why. I was not called to move my Amendment, which was on the Notice Paper before anyone else's. It was on the Notice Paper before the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Sowerby, before the Treasury's Amendment, and before anyone else's Amendment. The Chancellor of the 1567 Exchequer had to table a starred Amendment because something suddenly came to his notice. I tabled my Amendment, and it was ruled out of order.
It is almost impossible for me to fight in the House of Commons for the people in whom I believe, but I shall fight for them to the death. I have every intention of voting for this increase. I cannot convince the nicest Chancellor of the Exchequer and the nicest Financial Secretary to look at these things. They do not look at them. I often ask myself what I can do to make them look at them.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer one day wrote me a most enchanting letter which I shall include in my memoirs when I write them. The Chancellor said to me, "Your letters are private hell". I want them to be public hell. It is no good my letters being private hell. If they are public hell, my right hon. Friend will have to do something about it.
I hope that we shall have a real promise, and not all this business of my right hon. Friend saying that it does not fit into this Act or that Act, or this part of the Finance Bill or that part of the Finance Bill, or that part of the tax structure, or this part of the tax structure. Such statements do not mean a thing to me. I do not care twopence about them. What I want is action now. I hope that I shall get it.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I think that the Committe was well aware, even before this evening, that my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) is a spinster and that my right hon. Friend and I are bachelors, but this is the first time I have heard that my hon. Friend has ever had any difficulty in addressing the Committee, as she says, on points of detail.
I should like to assure her, before replying to the debate on the Amendment, that it was quite untrue to suggest that my right hon. Friend skimps the work when it is a matter of considering what can be done for the social service classes and those who are less well off. My right hon. Friend has a record of helping those worse off, and those on small fixed incomes, that can bear comparison with the record of any other Chancellor of the Exchequer. Nobody 1568 could be more concerned about those people than he is.
It is always difficult to reply to this type of Amendment, because I cannot pretend to put to the Committee a cast-iron case for the £40 allowance as against the proposed £50, any more than I can put a cast-iron case for the £50 as against the £40. Any previous occupant of my office will know the difficulty of debating such an Amendment. It seemed to my right hon. Friend that the amount of the allowance proposed—£40 —was not ungenerous; it is just over half the amount of the allowance where there is a resident housekeeper to look after the child or children, which will be fixed, if the Committee agrees, in the next Clause at £75.
I do not think that one can say, a priori, that £40 is out of scale. All I can say is that my right hon. Friend does not feel that this year he can go beyond £40. This is a new type of alternative allowance, and we want first to see how successful it is in meeting the needs. My right hon. Friend certainly does not rule out for all time the possibility of increasing the amount. An allowance of the size proposed in the Amendment would cost about £½ million in a full year. My right hon. Friend does not feel that this year he can go beyond the £40 that has been put forward in the Clause. Therefore, in view of what I have said, I can only ask the Committee to come to such decision on the matter as it thinks right—
§ Sir E. Boyle
I do not think that that is true. The important thing here is the sort of relation between this alternative allowance and the £75 housekeeper allowance. As I say, I do not think that £75 or £40 is, a priori, unreasonable. At any rate, in this year's circumstances, my right hon. Friend does not feel that he can go further than he has.
That is a most miserably lame reply, and we are very disappointed with it. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot go up from £40 to 1569 £50, we on this side must give him a "push, and I must ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide on this.
§ Question put, That "forty" stand part of the Clause: —
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 200, Noes 133.1571
|Division No. 87.]||AYES||[7.23 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Nugent, Sir Richard|
|Aitken, W. T.||Goodhart, Philip||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Allason, James||Green, Alan||Page, A. J. (Harrow, West)|
|Amory,Rt.Hn.D.Heathcoat(Tiv'tn)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Page, Graham|
|Barber, Anthony||Grimston, Sir Robert||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Partridge, E.|
|Barter, John||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Batsford, Brian||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Peel, John|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Percival, Ian|
|Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks.)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pilkington, Capt. Richard|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Hay, John||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hendry, Forbes||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Bingham, R. M.||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Prior-palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Bossom, Clive||Hirst, Geoffrey||Ramsden, James|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hobson, John||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Box, Donald||Holland, Philip||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hollingworth, John||Rees, Hugh|
|Brewis, John||Hopkins, Alan||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Hornby, R. P.||Ridley, on. Nicholas|
|Brooman-White, R.||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Hughes-Young, Michael||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Roots, William|
|Butler,Rt.Hn.R.A.(SaffronWaldon)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Russell, Ronald|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Iremonger, T. L.||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Jackson, John||Seymour, Leslie|
|Channon, H. P. G.||James, David||Shaw M.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Shepherd, William|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Jennings, J. C.||Simon, Sir Jocelyn|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Cole, Norman||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Collard, Richard||Kirk, Peter||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Kitson, Timothy||Stodart, J. A.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Lambton, Viscount||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Langford-Holt, J.||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Costain, A. P.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Talbot, John E.|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Lewis Kenneth (Rutland)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Llliey, F. J. P.||Teeling, William|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Temple, John M.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Litehfield, Capt. John||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Curran, Charles||Longden Gilbert||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Loveys, Walter H.||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Turner, Colin|
|de Ferranti, Basil||MacArthur, Ian||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||McLaren, Martin||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Maclean,Sir Fitzroy(Bute&N.Ayrs.)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Duncan, Sir James||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Wall, Patrick|
|Eden, John||Maddan, Martin||Watts, James|
|Elliott, R. W.||Maitland, Cdr. J. W.||Webster, David|
|Emery, Peter||Marlowe, Anthony||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Marshall, Douglas||Whitelaw, William|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Marten, Nell||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Farr, John||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Fell, Anthony||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Finlay, Graeme||Mawby, Ray||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Maydon, Lt.Cmdr. S. L. C.||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Mills, Stratton||Worsley, Marcus|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Montgomery, Fergus||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Freeth, Denzil||Morgan, William|
|Gammans, Lady||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gardner, Edward||Nabarro, Gerald||Colonel J. H. Harrison and|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Neave, Airey||Mr. Sharpies.|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Noble, Michael|
|Albu, Austen||Blyton, William||Boyden, James|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Boardman, H.||Brockway, A. Fenner|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.|
|Blackburn, F.||Bowles, Frank||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Cattle, Mrs. Barbara||Jeger, George||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Chapman, Donald||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Chetwynd, George||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Crosland, Anthony||Kenyon, Clifford||Roberts, Rt. Hon. Alfred|
|Darling, George||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||King, Dr. Horaoe||Ross, William|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Deer, George||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Short, Edward|
|Dempsey, James||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Diamond, John||Lipton, Marcus||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Dodds, Norman||Loughlin, Charles||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Driberg, Tom||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter||McInnes, James||Small, William|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Snow, Jullan|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||MoLeavy, Frank||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Forman, J. C.||Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Galtskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Manuel, A. C.||Stones, William|
|Ginsburg, David||Mason, Roy||Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Gordon walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mayhew, Christopher||Summerskill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mendelson, J, J.||Sylvester, George|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Millan, Bruce||Symonds, J. B.|
|Grimond, J.||Mitchison, G. R.||Taylor, John (West Lothlan)|
|Gunter, Ray||Monslow, Walter||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Moody, A. S.||Wade, Donald|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Morris, John||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Hannan, William||Moyle, Arthur||Warbey, William|
|Hayman, F. H.||Mulley, Frederick||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur(RwlyRegis)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Weltzman, David|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Noel-Baker,Rt. Hn. Philip(Derby,S.)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Holman, Percy||Oliver, G. H.||Whitlock, William|
|Holt, Arthur||Cram, A. E.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Owen, Will||Willey, Frederick|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Padley, W. E.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Paton, John||Zilliacus, K.|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Peart, Frederick||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Probert and Mr. Redhead|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Houghton
As the Financial Secretary explained, this is a new relief. A few minutes ago he said that his right hon. Friend wanted to see how it would work. I have one point to put on it, about which I have passed a note to him.
At the present time, one could qualify for housekeeper relief and in certain circumstances, as an alternative, one could claim dependent relative relief for the same person, but one could not have both reliefs. In the past, it has not mattered which a taxpayer elected to do because the amount of the relief for a dependent relative was the same as the amount of the relief for a housekeeper. Since the taxpayer could not have both, he probably claimed for a housekeeper.
Under Clause 15, it is conceivable that a taxpayer having a relative as a housekeeper might elect to claim on behalf of that relative as a dependent relative, subject to the qualifying conditions for that relief, and then, possibly, get the new 1572 relief on top. The first two lines of Clause 15 read:This section applies to widows, widowers and other persons who are not entitled for the year of assessment",and so on. If the taxpayer is entitled to housekeeper relief and chooses not to claim it but, instead, to claim dependent relative relief for his housekeeper being a relative qualifying for that relief under the normal conditions, could he then ask for the relief on £40 in addition?
§ Dame Irene Ward
I think that my hon. Friend misunderstood me slightly when he answered what I said by discussing the Amendment and the Clause as if I was asking for the extension of tax reliefs for incapacitated people, either husbands or wives. I probably did not make it very clear, but I was asking for tax relief to be extended to a wife with an incapacitated husband who is looking after children. That was the point I was trying to make, and if I did not make it clear, I apologise.
I wish now to answer and to follow in certain respects what Che right hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill) said. All this adds to my 1573 criticism that these matters have never been properly examined. I resent it very bitterly. If a married woman has an incapacitated husband in the home and children to look after, she can, of course, look after the children and her husband as well. The burden imposed upon her is very great, particularly if the husband is really 100 per cent. incapacitated or mentally unstable. The injustice and unfairness in it, of course, is that if the husband is incapacitated, the wife, as the right hon. Lady pointed out, cannot possibly go out to work if she has young children.
In the Income Tax structure, a married woman who goes out to work in the normal way, whether she has children or not, has her own personal relief. She has the benefit of the graded income. A great many people consider, if I may say so—though here again neither the Chancellor nor the Financial Secretary has anything to do with children in this sense—that married women going out to work very often create a situation in which children become what are known as "latch-key" children. Those who are really interested in family life and children are inclined to think that "latch-key" children whose parents are away working very often get into trouble which sometimes leads to appearances in the courts for juvenile delinquency and possibly worse later.
If a married woman has an incapacitated husband and young children and she stays at home to look after them, she has to abandon any additional money she might otherwise earn, with the consequence that she does not then receive her own personal relief or the benefit of the graded income. In this whole concept there must be some taxable income. As my hon. Friend pointed out when winding up the debate on the last Clause, a great many people now do not pay Income Tax at all. This brings me to the point that I was trying to make. In the main, those who will benefit from this new relief must be people who already have some taxable income.
On the other hand, what one is saying to a married woman who has an incapacitated husband and children to look after is that she must bear the whole strain of that burden, a burden which in very many instances she gladly 1574 bears—we know that there are very many magnificent wives in the country —and that, at the same time, the standard of living of her children must be reduced because, in effect, the man cannot earn and the wife is prevented from earning because of the family burden. In those circumstances, the wife cannot have the Income Tax relief under this Clause which would be available if she were incapacitated and if the husband were able to go out to work.
This really is a monstrous human injustice. I cannot understand why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not really considered all this. The effect is really atrocious. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary said that the last Amendment which we discussed would cost £500,000 and that the Chancellor does not feel that he could find the money in his Budget. What I am saying is that by increasing indiscriminately the widower's and widow's allowance he is giving that addition to people who may be living in very good circumstances with no financial worries or burdens at all. My complaint is not about the stringency of the Bill—I absolutely understand that— but that the money that my right hon. Friend has been able to find has been badly allocated and that no one in the Treasury has taken the trouble to find out what are the problems. I can understand it if my right hon. Friend finds it difficult to find another £500,000, but what I want to emphasise is that he ought not to give money indiscriminately to people who are in a position to pay for their own housekeepers and to look after themselves jolly well.
I believe that my complaint is right and proper. I admit that I do not know the answer. The Treasury tells us, "You cannot have it", and we are told that Section so-and-so of some ancient Act—
§ Dame Irene Ward
I am discussing what is in the Clause. The Clause, if I may respectfully say so, is wider than the Amendment. I got it absolutely taped with your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Arbuthnot, that I would be able to 1575 answer the argument on the Amendment on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill". That is all I am doing. I will not develop the argument. I think that I have made my point quite well.
This, however, is not fair and it is not just, and I do not like to see my Government, of whom I am very proud, doing injustices and things which are not right. I do not see how I can make my complaint if, once again, the Chair says to me, "You cannot raise this or that. You cannot raise matters concerning these people, but you can talk about the Tobaco Duty, Purchase Tax and Income Tax."
§ Dame Irene Ward
Not on this Clause. The trouble is that members of the Front Bench are always allowed to stray as wide as they like. They give all the arguments and no one ever stops them.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I am sorry if that is a reflection on the Chair, but it is also a reflection on me, because it means that I cannot convince you, Mr. Arbuthnot, that I am doing right in answering what I said I would answer when the hon. Gentleman was allowed to make his speech. If he can be allowed to make his speech, I do not see why I should not be allowed to make mine.
I disagree with my hon. Friend's whole attitude and I hope that I shall have another opportunity, when I shall be in order, of making much more pungent and unpleasant speeches.
§ Mr. Peter Kirk (Gravesend)
In view of what you have said, Mr. Arbuthnot, I hope that I shall be in order. Because I am not very well versed on Finance Bill procedure, I am not sure whether I should raise the point that I want to raise on this Clause or on the next Clause. However, I am sure that you, Mr. Arbuthnot, will stop me if I go wrong.
The point that I want to raise is small, but it concerns a matter of importance, namely, the man who has a non-residential housekeeper. I cannot expect my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary 1576 to give a detailed answer, since I gave him the minimum amount of notice, but I hope that he will consider the matter, because it gives rise to difficulties in certain cases.
I have written to my hon. Friend about the case—
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
I am in complete sympathy with all that the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) said, even though she found it very difficult to keep within the bounds of order. It would be ungenerous not to welcome the Clause as it stands. It makes at least some concession towards the point of view which hon. Members like the hon. Lady have been advocating for quite a long time. This Clause is a concession to certain widows in that it deals with widows who have large enough incomes to pay Income Tax. We cannot under the Clause benefit widows in general, as the hon. Lady would wish, and particularly the neediest widows of the lot, but I welcome what the Chancellor has done in the Clause towards helping those who are deprived of their breadwinner. I hope that in subsequent Finance Bills the Chancellor will bear this category of citizen very much in mind.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Collard (Norfolk, Central)
I welcome the main feature of the Clause, namely, the extension of the allowance to all widows and widowers who have children and not merely to those who employ housekeepers, whether they have children or not. Being a widower, I have a melancholy interest in the Clause. I cannot pretend that, with one child, I have any financial hardship to endure, but I know a little of the difficulties with which widowers who have children to look after are afflicted, irrespective of whether they have a full-time or part-time housekeeper.
An hon. Member opposite said that only affluent people have housekeepers. I can assure him that it is not aoquestion of affluence but of being able to 1577 obtain a housekeeper, either full-time or part-time. I speak only for widowers. I would not wish to speak for widows and much less for spinsters and bachelors, but I should like to refer to one or two of the difficulties. For instance, children have to be fed. If there is no one at home to prepare the meals they have to be taken out for them. In other words, one has to maintain a home of which one cannot make full use because one has to take the children out to feed them. Their washing of their clothes will certainly have to be done by a laundry. It is not likely that it will be done at home. Their mending also will probably have to be sent out. It is also fair to say that a man is rather vulnerable when it comes to buying children's clothes. The chances are that, without a wife to help him, he will spend much too much on them.
I therefore think that there is real hardship for widowers with a number of children, particularly widowers who have not much money. It would be nice if the allowance were greater, but we have discussed that already. It might be said that in that case I voted against my own interest. However, I welcome the main feature of the Clause Even though the Clause has some anomalies, I am sure that my right hon. Friend is right in introducing it.
§ Sir E. Boyle
We have been discussing the Clause for a little over an hour and perhaps the Committee is now ready to come to a conclusion on it. Whatever Amendments hon. Members may have wished to move, I am grateful for the welcome which the last two or three speakers, including the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) and my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Collard), have given to it. As it stands, it is a small but none the less useful addition to our system of allowances. It provides an alternative allowance, in cases where the housekeeper's allowance is not claimed, to widows, widowers and others responsible for the upbringing single-handed of children and not merely to people who have children.
As the Committee will realise, the housekeeper's allowance, which we have had for many years, is essentially an allowance in respect of expense falling 1578 on households where children have to be looked after and where there are not two parents to share the task. It has always been a condition of the housekeeper's allowance that there must be a female person maintained or employed to have charge and care of the children and that she must be resident with the taxpayer. The Radcliffe Commission has not been referred to tonight, but I think that it was struck by the possibility that extra expense other than the employment of a resident housekeeper could bring about a reduction in the capacity to bear taxation when a married person is left by the other's death with responsibility for dependent children.
The Radcliffe Commission thought that the underlying principle of the allowance would be better given effect to if it were made availableto any widow or widower with a child in respect of which he or she is in receipt of child allowance.Therefore, this Clause is in full accord with the views of the Radcliffe Commission. We have not been able to go quite as far in the amount as the Commission would have liked, but, none the less, it is in line with the Radcliffe Commission doctrine.
The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) raised the very fair question of whether a taxpayer with children who has a relative or housekeeper, switching from housekeeper relief to dependent relative relief, subject to the income and other qualifying conditions, can claim the £40 relief under Clause 15 in addition. The answer is "Yes". I shall write to the hon. Gentleman explaining the legal provision which enables that to be possible.
In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), it is most difficult when we have a very few millions to spare to know how best to give this money for the benefit of those less well off in our society. No one realises that more than I do. I have not had the experience of social work which I should like to have, but I know very well that there is a number of people in this country very badly off and not very well covered by what is conventionally referred to as the Welfare State. I think that it is the perpetual duty of the Government to find out who are the really poorest of the poor in our society and to do something for them.
1579 I cannot go further than that tonight and my right hon. Friend cannot go further than he has gone this year. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth that we are keen to get all the information we can which would enable us best to identify these classes. Any evidence which she or any other hon. Member can give us on this subject will be very carefully considered. I hope that she will not think that in our concern with the balance of payments and one thing and another we neglect those who are worst off. That is not our intention.
§ Mr. John Hall
Can my hon. Friend say whether the phrase "other persons" in the subsection covers divorced persons?
§ Sir E. Boyle
I think that I am right in saying that in certain circumstances it could cover a divorced person, but I will write to my hon. Friend on that subject.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.