HC Deb 19 May 1960 vol 623 cc1579-97

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Kirk

I hope that I shall be more in order on this Clause than I was on the last one. It was difficult to see under which Clause the point I wanted to make arose.

The Financial Secretary has rightly said that the housekeeper's allowance is applicable only in the case of a man or woman, usually a man, who has a resident housekeeper. Resident, I understand, means a housekeeper who regularly passes the night in the house. The position arises of a man—I have written about a particular case to my hon. Friend but not in time to enable him to send me an answer—who, although he has children to look after—he is a divorced man but this may well apply to a widower as well—either cannot afford to have a person living in the house who will sleep there but who employs a married woman in the village to come in during the day because there is no room for a resident housekeeper. There is a lady in the village who comes in in the early morning, stays the whole day and leaves at ten o'clock at night to go back to her own home. In that case, I imagine that he would qualify under Clause 15. The disparity between Clauses 15 and 16 is a very great one.

In this case the expenses falling on the man are very much greater than those that fall on the man in the circumstance envisaged when we were discussing Clause 15. I know that this is a difficult problem, and I am not suggesting that my hon. Friend can give me an answer or any satisfaction tonight.

I do not know how many such people there are. Since the case to which I have referred to my hon. Friend came up I have heard of two further cases in my own constituency of men whose houses are too small for them to have a resident housekeeper but who have found people living nearby, who need extra money, and who are prepared to give their services. I feel that this is a matter which might possibly be considered for next year as a kind of halfway house. If it can be proved to the satisfaction of the Inland Revenue that there is genuinely a case in which a woman is a resident housekeeper in everything but the fact that she does not sleep in the house, there might be a case for a considerably higher allowance than that provided under Clause 15, although I suppose not as high as the one which we are now providing in this Clause.

I hope that my hon. Friend will give me some hope that this matter will be considered by the Treasury between now and next year to see whether this halfway house can be provided. The fact that I have found in the last ten days three cases of this kind seems to suggest that there must be a number of people in the country who are in this difficulty largely because of lack of accommodation or perhaps also because of finance, and there would seem to be a case for some kind of half-way house provision.

Mr. Dempsey

I would ask the Minister to clarify a point in this Clause which deals with Income Tax relief for housekeepers. It is a well-known fact that in adjudicating on these cases the Inland Revenue authorities act only where there are dependent children. I should like the Minister to clarify this position. In addition to other considerations, is the availability of dependent children the main criterion as to whether or not the recipient qualifies for this allowance?

Some of us have considerable experience of elderly persons who have invalid wives. These elderly persons are working, earning an income and paying Income Tax by P.A.Y.E. to the Revenue authorities. We discover, however, that when they apply for the allowance to assist them to maintain a housekeeper, they are normally told that as there are no dependent children in the family they do not qualify, in spite of the fact that these individuals have wives who are permanent invalids. Some of them in fact are confined to bed and unable to get about. Yet this type of Income Tax payer who works regularly to try to maintain a home and an invalid wife and provide a housekeeper receives no Income Tax allowance.

When we look at the Clause we recall cases from our own localities of people who actually have to work short time so that they may look after an invalid wife. Others have to take leave of absence for a time simply because the maintenance of a housekeeper with no Income Tax allowances forthcoming is a costly item especially when only one wage packet comes into the home.

I should like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to clarify the position. Can the Clause be interpreted to provide allowances in the instances such as I have quoted, namely, cases in which elderly persons still engaged in insurable occupations find it necessary to provide permanent assistance at home to look after a wife who is a permanent invalid? Does the Clause apply to categories of that nature or only to individuals who have dependent children? This is a heartburning issue in some parts of the country.

In my own area I have consistently had drawn to my attention instances of hard-working individuals who consider it unfair that they should be treated in this fashion when they work hard for an average pay packet a very large slice of which goes to maintain a housekeeper, yet no Income Tax allowance is given to them as a contribution towards the cost of the additional expenditure which they incur simply because they have invalid wives who require constant attention morning, noon and night, day after day, and week after week. I therefore ask the Chancellor to advise me whether the Clause can be interpreted to cover such categories as I have quoted.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)

I do not wish to make a long speech, as I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) wishes to make points similar to mine. I should like to know from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer why the Clause is restricted to widows and widowers only and why he cannot extend it to cover spinsters and bachelors.

I have a sad case of a lady in my constituency—indeed, my brother fought for her for many years when he was in the House of Commons and I am quite prepared to carry on the battle—who was injured in a motor accident. She needs a full-time housekeeper. She does not get the allowance, but had she been married, she would have done. That does not seem to me to be sensible or fair. If it is a matter of money, can my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that he will look at the matter closely and make it a high priority for next year?

Mr. John Hall

I should like to add my support to the pleas already made to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to look at the matter again and see whether the Clause cannot be widened. Several examples have been quoted from constituency experience and I should like to quote two from my own. In going round my constituency, I have been surprised very often to find the number of weekly wage earners who, for one reason or another, have to provide housekeeper services of some kind for their family. It is extremely difficult for many of them to do so. Many of them, especially those living in small houses, do not have room to accommodate a housekeeper even if they could afford a full-time residential housekeeper. In other cases, people with, perhaps, more means would be able to afford such a housekeeper, but they cannot find one who is prepared to live in and they have to have one who comes in during the day and departs later in the evening. This imposes quite a burden on them for which they should, in justice, have the full tax relief.

It has been said quite properly that they would qualify under Clause 15. This seems to indicate that there should be a complete review of the whole question of the housekeeper allowances which are getting into a slight muddle. There are other classes of persons who should qualify—divorced persons, for example. One case from among the many in my constituency which comes to my memory is that of a man who is divorced and has a family of five children whom he has to look after. It is a difficult problem for him. As far as I can see, he does not qualify under the Clause.

I do not want to continue to add examples. All of us, on both sides, can think of many examples of people who should qualify under the Clause but who do not qualify as the Clause is drawn. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider it again and see whether, on Report, he can do something to make it a little more comprehensive.

Mr. Houghton

We on this side welcome the improvements in these two reliefs which the Chancellor proposes in the Clause. An improvement is long overdue. The last time that these reliefs were increased was in 1953–54, when they were raised from £50 to £60. In pre-war money terms, these reliefs should now be £140, not £75. Clearly, however, to press for any increase of that nature would involve a complete review of the personal reliefs as a whole, which, we hope, the Chancellor will undertake.

When I spoke on Second Reading, I expressed regret that the Chancellor had not been able this time to deal with personal reliefs more comprehensively than he has done. Last year, the right hon. Gentleman stressed throughout our debates, when we were asking for more personal reliefs, that it was the turn of the standard rate. That was his theme song in the debates on the Finance Bill last year. We therefore hoped that this year would be the turn of the personal allowances.

Circumstances, however, have prevented the Chancellor, in his view, from bringing forward a radical change in the personal reliefs as a Whole. He has confined his attention to those which, he thought, were in pressing need of favourable adjustment. Hence these two reliefs qualify for some increase because they have been without it longer, I think, than any other of the personal reliefs and we have just dealt with the additional relief in Clause 15.

I reinforce the plea of the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), who has asked that the Chancellor should as soon as possible examine all these reliefs. They are now in a jungle. Some of them have got out of scale and it is difficult to know why and where they are. Some of them have received special attention in the past in being increased, perhaps, out of scale with others. For example, the Committee and the House at different stages have been anxious to improve the reliefs for children and we have seen those reliefs go much higher in proportion to any of the other reliefs. If, however, one examines the scale of reliefs, when they were increased and how much increase they got, it is a little difficult to regard them as being in any logical scale. That is a plea that I certainly reinforce.

Although the Clause deals with the narrow question of the amount of the reliefs, and it would be unwise of me to attempt to enlarge the debate to cover the qualifying conditions for the reliefs, I certainly hope that these, too, may receive attention in the Chancellor's review, because in the debate on Clause 15 we discovered difficulties which need attention.

Perhaps, in this and in other respects, the Income Tax Act is rather an old lady who is very much out of date. These reliefs were related to the life of taxpayers of a bygone age. They did not take into account how people had to manage amongst the wage-earning classes of taxpayer today. There is no doubt that in many cases the residence condition of the housekeeper relief is irksome. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) was in the Chamber when I was urging an increase of the relief under Clause 15.

Mr. Kirk indicated assent.

Mr. Houghton

I mentioned as an example the daytime housekeeper or the child-minder type of housekeeper who is undoubtedly one of the reasons in the Chancellor's mind for giving this alternative relief. I doubt whether he would have been moved to give it unless, in making this additional concession, he had regarded the widows and widowers with young children as needing, in many cases, help during the day for which they had to pay. The right hon. Gentleman must have had that very much in mind.

We are grateful for what the Chancellor proposes in the Clause. We would have wished it to go further and wider, but for small mercies in the Bill we have to be truly thankful. That is the mood in which we receive the Clause.

Dame Irene Ward

I have been trying to get an extension of this relief to spinsters and bachelors for a very long time. When the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) spoke about the old lady, I could almost see myself as an old lady trying to leap on the back of a Chancellor of the Exchequer. I should like to say how charmingly my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary answered my last complaint. I think that both he and the Chancellor—I have not yet crossed swords with the Economic Secretary—take what I have to say very well indeed, and I am very grateful for the little bits and pieces put into the Finance Bill.

I have been in the House of Commons for nearly twenty-five years and I have never really won the battle, but the value of that long service is that I can give the background to this business and ask the Chancellor for a proper explanation. No one really knows why this particular tax relief for widows and widowers was introduced. Many people are grateful for it, but it is given irrespective of means, of health conditions, and of age. In other words, millionaires—if there are any—will still get this relief. That is a most extraordinary thing.

When, during the war, we raised the question of extending the relief to spinsters and bachelors—I have no personal interest in this because my own household arrangements do not work that way—the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir John Anderson, who was a very great man and later became Lord Waverley, said that it was an anomaly. If my right hon. Friend can find time to look up the correspondence, he will see Sir John Anderson's reply to me. He said it was an anomaly, so there is no need to prove it now. He said that the way to get rid of the anomaly was not to extend it to spinsters and bachelors but to remove the allowance from widows and widowers.

No one wanted to do that, and one can imagine that every Chancellor, even the present Chancellor, has made that argument. It was made on the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Incomes. The Commission agreed that it was an anomaly, said that it did not understand why this special tax relief was given to widows and widowers, and recommended that it should be withdrawn.

Many of the women's organisations have made representations to the Chancellor. Not long ago I was asked if I would, once again, before the Budget was introduced, put this point to him. I replied that I did not feel I could do so, because I was afraid that it would result in the allowance being withdrawn from widows and widowers, and I did not think that was a very fair thing to do, in spite of the fact that many very affluent people—and I have seen it among members of my own family—have been able to get this allowance while widows of ex-Regular Service men are kept below the National Assistance scale—which is a very sore point with me.

I therefore did not make the representations, and then the Chancellor, in his Budget, proposed to increase the allowance. He does not extend it to batchelors and spinsters, however. What is the reason for dealing with what is an accepted anomaly in this way? It seems to me to be most monstrously unfair. Though I say a very great deal in criticism of my right hon. Friend, I simply do not believe that he cannot give proper consideration to this matter.

8.15 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison) referred to the case of one of his constituents. I had a letter from that lady, because she had spoken to him and asked whether she could write to me on the subject, and he and I joined hands in the matter. He has referred in his speech to her case and now I shall read her letter, because it is tremendously important. I am sorry to inflict this on the Committee but it is a good thing for the Chancellor to hear. This lady refers to the letter on the anomaly which I wrote in the Daily Telegraph and goes on: Since 1941 my case has been put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer many times by Sir Ian Clark Hutchison, and now his brother Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison is taking it up, as he is my own M.P. He has today been to see me, and he says he will speak to you on this subject. I broke my back in a car smash in Hampshire in 1939, and am paralysed from the waist down (100 per cent. disabled, and unable to do regular employment). My income is derived from an annuity purchased with damages awarded at the time of the accident. The Committee will note the thrift of this lady. One of my complaints is that in this century we do not really acknowledge thrift sufficiently. The letter continues: As you will appreciate this is unearned income and it has dropped considerably in value since 1939 when Income Tax was 5s. 6d. in the £. I am entitled to no disability benefits, pension or allowance as my accident occurred when I was on holiday and I was not covered at that time by National Insurance. I am obliged to employ a full-time resident housekeeper to look after me, and as I am a single woman I am unable to get any tax relief to meet her wages. A recommendation contained in paragraphs 201–7 of the Report of the Royal Commission … referring to the Ministry of Pensions as an assessor of total disablement has not been implemented, in fact completely ignored, and yet I am classified as 100 per cent. disabled by the Ministry of Pensions for the purpose of issuing me with an invalid tricycle. I feel very bitter that the Chancellor has just raised the widow's and widower's housekeeper allowances to £75 per annum and has again ignored the relatively small category of people such as myself who, owing to total disablement, cannot live without paid help, and find the cost of living harder and harder to face. This lady goes on to refer to post-war credits repayment and says that her case has been represented to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and she says I … continue to hit my head against a brick wall. I suppose that she is referring to the Chancellor as the brick wall and I feel that way about it myself. She refers also to the battle that her Member and I propose to wage. I wanted to read that letter to show the inconsistency of increasing, irrespective of means, age or health conditions, the relief for widows and widowers and doing nothing to meet that kind of case.

I have had a very big national correspondence. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary said he was seeking evidence but this lady has written to the Chancellor. The evidence is already in the Treasury. I have not been in the House of Commons for twenty-five years without meeting many people who have written to the Treasury. I do not know whether all those letters were sold during the war when we needed paper for pulp.

I find it very difficult to answer questions about why widows and widowers of substantial means who are not working and who probably have no dependent relatives receive this allowance. I can get this increased allowance and so can thousands of people. Many jokes are made against spinsters and far more than against bachelors. Spinsters do not mind; but considering the magnificent war record of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, I must point out that many women remain spinsters because their men were killed in the First World War. They have not remained spinsters because there has never been anyone who wanted to marry them. The best of their and my generation were killed in the First World War. Now many of these people are elderly and many of them are thrifty, but all that happens is that as long as a person is a rich widow or widower the allowance can be increased.

I feel very strongly about this. I think that the Prime Minister feels the same about people of my generation because he never makes a speech without referring to how lucky he was to come out alive. The same applies to Sir Anthony Eden. Many were lucky to come out of the First World War alive but a great many did not come out and they have left many of my generation to battle on in a very difficult, grim and anxious world.

I do not expect vast sums to be set aside in this Budget for spending on social welfare. All I have ever suggested is that out of the modest sums that my right hon. Friend has to spend he has not spent the money in the best way. Some people have said that, because he is a bachelor, widows and widowers naturally appeal to my right hon. Friend's heart. I understand that. Widows and widowers appeal much more to the nation than do bachelors and spinsters. It is remarkable that my right hon. Friend has had so much admiration from the nation when one remembers that he is a bachelor. It shows how magnificent he is and what a wonderful personality he has. But the fact remains that widows and widowers appeal to the very highest in the people of this couuntry. They feel that if they can do something for them they have done all that is necessary.

I am glad to have the support of some of my hon. Friends and of some hon. Members opposite when I make a little plea for the bachelors and spinsters. I know that my right hon. Friend does not keep a resident housekeeper and I do not think that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary keeps one. We hear a good deal about my right hon. Friend cooking his own eggs. We have not heard so very much about the domestic life of the Financial Secretary, but he has a very distinguished mother and she is a widow. She would be able to get this allowance. This is terribly unfair.

The Chancellor is so conservative that he must be interested in precedent. Precedent can be quoted by the Conservative Party until one nearly goes dotty. If all my right hon. Friend's predecessors have said that this is an anomaly, then, if I understand the word aright, one either has to alter it and cease to make it an anomaly or one has to wipe it out altogether. I do not mind the most glamorous and wealthy bachelors or widows having this little allowance, though I should much prefer that something should be done for Service widows who are below the National Assistance scale, and I include widows of officers and other ranks. They have been treated very badly by my right hon. Friend, but one can never get at him. When he sits at the next table to me in the Dining Room he gets up with a charming smile—

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. John Arbuthnot)

Order. This does not arise on the Question.

Dame Irene Ward

I wrote a letter to my right hon. Friend about bachelors and spinsters—

The Temporary Chairman


Mr. Mitchison

Are we not to be told what happened after the charming smile?

The Temporary Chairman

That is not in the Clause.

Dame Irene Ward

I want these matters treated in a human way in the Committee. I have to listen to people with great brains talking about the balance of payments. I follow my leader on balance of payments problems and I always will, but I shall not follow him on this matter, and I do not see why I should not have the opportunity of saying so.

As I was saying, I write my right hon. Friend a letter, but when I hand it to him he puts the letter in his pocket with a charming smile and then he does not answer it. I should like to see the files on widows and widowers and bachelors and spinsters in my right hon. Friend's office. I do not believe that he ever hands my letters over to his officials. I will send my right hon. Friend a list of some of the widows and widowers who receive this allowance. I do not see why taxes should be taken from people who are not so well off in order to make this allowance to people who are well off.

I have received a most pathetic letter from a widow who cannot obtain a resident housekeeper's allowance and yet the tax reliefs which my right hon. Friend is giving are greater than her pension. She is the widow of an ex-Regular officer. The whole thing is absolutely indefensible. Bachelors and spinsters form a great part of this great nation and we would never have won the war without them. The women were in the Services or in industry during the war and the men in the fighting Services. As the hon. Member for Sowerby said, we must adopt a modern tax structure, and the Prime Minister has said that all these people must benefit from our increased prosperity. If that structure is adopted the Chancellor must include bachelors and spinsters. He would not dare to do otherwise.

The Chancellor has now promised money to these more wealthy people, and I do not suppose that he will go back on that. If I were in the Treasury I would have a good time. The difficulty of altering the pattern of Treasury expenditure is fantastic. I do not know what members of the Treasury do. They never emerge from their little boxes, and no one knows what they are thinking, or what they are doing.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will give me a full explanation. I warn him that I do not want arguments about tax structures, Clauses, or dead Acts. I want a firm promise that bachelors and spinsters will get their rights, just as much as widows and widowers get theirs.

Dr. King

I hesitate to intervene between the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) and the Chancellor, but I have one or two things to say. The hon. Lady occasionally rises to moments of great eloquence, and one of those moments was when she referred to the sacrifice which the spinsters of England who lost their potential husbands and children made in the first World War, and, indeed, in the Second World War.

8.30 p.m.

It would be unfair if the Committee did not express its thanks to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the concession which he has made in the housekeeper allowance. I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) said, and I hope that between now and the next Finance Bill the Chancellor will look at this again, and, indeed, at all the concessions that are made inside the Income Tax structure. This one dates back to the day when the housekeeper was either a genteel lady who was glad to work as a housekeeper for her keep, or being a widow was glad to work for anyone who would provide her with a home.

Let us consider the rate of pay for the domestic home help. If one could get a domestic home help from the local authority for as little as half a crown an hour, that would amount to about £250 a year. If one considers the amount of money that one now has to pay for a housekeeper it shows how unreal this concession is in relation to modern times.

I nevertheless welcome the concession in this Clause. I hope that from the reception which this and the previous Clause has had the Chancellor will take it that the Committee wish him to look at the concessional element in Income Tax between now and next year because this is well worthy of his attention.

Mr. Geoffrey Hirst (Shipley)

I welcome the reliefs given under the Clause. After all, in a rather miserable Budget and an even more miserable Finance Bill, any relief is welcome. I support the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) in his contention that the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to look at the various allowances that fall in the framework of this and the previous Clause, because the whole thing is definitely haywire.

I do not think that it is all one way. Great social progress has been made in this country, but some people have been left far behind in the race while others have gone ahead, and these latter people do not require all the allowances which have been given in previous Acts. It therefore seems that there is room for a proper study to ensure that the resources of the nation are spread where they are needed, and there are many places today where they are needed but which are not getting them.

I regret that spinsters and bachelors have been excluded. I am surprised that the Treasury's argument is that it has not had sufficient evidence. In the past I have forwarded many letters, which I do not propose to read to the Committee unless I am asked to do so. I have received many letters, but I recently stopped forwarding them for the simple reason that I got the same long-winded answer which one gets from the Treasury when it has nothing to say. The answers have never meant a thing, and it is right that we should now have some explanation because it is about time that a proper one was given.

This is a piece of downright ridiculous mid-Victorianism. That is the basis of this, and there is no reason why we should not call a spade a spade in this generation. For some extraordinary reason it was considered not quite respectable for a bachelor or a spinster to have a housekeeper. That is the real illogicality. That is the real reason why Lord Waverley dodged the issue. I suppose he was a bit Victorian. At any rate, he looked it, however brainy he was, and he was not prepared to call a spade a spade. It is about time this was cleared up. It is the biggest piece of nonsense that has existed within the framework of a relatively small matter. It is extremely important to those who need this assistance.

I hope that we will not get the same stodgy rubbish that I have had in letters in the past which has prevented me from forwarding further letters to the Treasury. If the Chancellor wants those letters he can have them in duplicate.

Mr. Amory

I own that when my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) rises I am always overcome with an extreme attack of nervousness. On the last occasion when we debated this subject she reminded me that I was getting on and would soon require a housekeeper. She said it so delightfully and coyly that I found my heart fluttering agreeably. Since then she has told me off in no uncertain fashion, and tonight she likened me to a brick wall. I do not quite know where I am with her at the moment. When she said that, I thought for one moment of returning to her the large collection of letters I have from her, which I still prize. But she ended by saying such nice things about me that I am now beginning to wonder whether things are quite as bad as I thought. I had made a note to say that I noted the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth, but my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary saw it and told me that in the circumstances it might be a little dangerous to make use of it.

Before I deal with the points raised by my hon. Friend, I should like to mention two other points which have been raised. The first was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), who asked whether a divorced person who employed a resident housekeeper to look after children is ineligible for this allowance. The answer is that he is not ineligible. But if the taxpayer concerned was a woman she would be eligible only if she were occupied full-time in business or employment.

The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) asked whether a man who had a totally incapacitated wife and who employed a resident housekeeper would be eligible. The answer is that he would be only if the housekeeper were employed to look after dependent children.

I want to make it clear that this is a limited operation only, to increase the amount and not to change the conditions. I agree with what hon. Members have said, that a case may be made out for reviewing these allowances. I have not carried out that review, and this year I have put forward only this limited proposal But I agree that a review would be justified, in the light of other considerations, and that before another year passes we should compare this allowance with the other personal allowances in order to see whether the money is being used to the best advantage.

Once or twice my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth has spoken as if the allowance is confined to rich or relatively rich people. I would remind the Committee that the resident housekeeper does not have to be remunerated; she can be a resident member of a household, whose keep and board is paid for by the taxpayer concerned.

I now want to explain why I have not thought it right to extend the increase as suggested by my hon. Friends the Member for Tynemouth and the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison). My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth said that she joined hands with my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South, which made me feel a trifle jealous. I must not pursue that matter or I shall be out of order.

We must look back at the history of this allowance. When it started, it was one made to a widower with dependent children who had a resident housekeeper; that was the original position. After the Royal Commission on Income Tax had reported in 1920, the allowance was given to widows and widowers alike where a female person was employed and again where there were dependants. It was also granted to a single taxpayer who had living with him a female relative who was looking after a younger brother or sister.

In 1924 the requirement that there should be always a dependent child was dropped in the case of the widow or widower and, in the view of many of my predecessors—I think that I share it —on the whole the allowance took a wrong turning at that time. The allowance to the childless widow or widower naturally led to other claims or extensions, but no Government ever felt that they should concede those things.

Sir Kingsley Wood, who had great knowledge of these matters, gave close study to the scope of the allowance before he added new categories of claims in 1943, and although he did not ask Parliament to undo what had been done in 1924, his proposals for widening the sphere of the allowance were centred on the presence in the home of dependent children and the absence of a wife able to perform the normal maternal duty of looking after them. So the matter stood when the Radcliffe Committee reviewed it. What that Committee said is well worth studying. Here I should acknowledge—and I think the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) understands— that the alternative allowance to which effect is given in the previous Clause dealt with by the Committee is largely based on the report of the Radcliffe Committee.

The Committee was very forthright indeed when it came to discuss the branch of allowances available to childless widows and widowers. It said that the provision was an anomaly. So far I think that the Commission would carry with it my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth. It went on to say: That it is anomalous is supported by the many suggestions made to us for its extension, some of which advocate even a general household allowance … or an allowance for domestic help. Such suggestions, which are primarily an attempt to rationalise the existing housekeeper allowance, carry us far from any proper idea of taxable capacity. In our view the right course is not to extend the conception into other fields but to cut out this branch of housekeeper allowance altogether. When I decided this year that the time had come when, if these allowances were to go on, there should be a modest increase in the housekeeper allowance, I considered seriously whether at the same time I ought to ask the Committee to act on the view of the Commission and sanction the withdrawal of the allowance from all cases not involving the care of children. I do not know whether I have been too soft-hearted, but I came to the conclusion that I should be justified in not doing that Though to me the Commission's reason seems to be correct, I could see that some hardship might be caused by the sudden cessation of relief in cases where it has been enjoyed for many years.

The Committee may consider that I should have allowed for it continuing where it was already received, but complications like that sometimes result in legislation which is not good. So, rightly or wrongly—I am not sure whether I was right or not—I felt that on the whole the increase of £15—the modest increase I was making—in the existing allowance should be a general one. Although my conclusion was as I have described, I am still sure that the allowance to childless widows and widowers is foreign to the true purpose of the housekeeper allowance. Since I accept that its justification is so very doubtful it is quite clear to me, and, I hope, to the Committee, that it would be wrong to extend the allowance for the benefit of other categories of claimant who have not the responsibilities of children. If one is not quite sure that the present arrangement is justified, I think one is even more sure that it would be wrong to extend it to a wider field.

8.45 p.m.

My hon. Friend, I am sure, will not think that I have not given careful consideration to her eloquent argument, but as I see the matter, here is a difficulty of principle which stands in the way of doing what she wants me to do. The increase under this Clause is a general increase of £15 to all existing categories of claimant, and it is coupled with the same increase for the dependent relative, The Committee will see that the Clause also raises the limit to which the latter allowance, the dependent relative allowance, runs up when the relative has a small income of his or her own. In this way, the full benefit of the £15 will be felt in all cases where the relief was under the law as it stood last year.

Before I sit down, I want to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) that he was quite wrong in the reasons he adduced why I was doing this and not extending it to spinsters. I also wish to say to him that I was very sorry about the criticism he implied, as I understood, of Sir John Anderson, whom I have always regarded as one of the finest and most distinguished Englishmen of his generation.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

He was a Scotsman.

Mr. Amory

I am deeply sorry, Sir William Anstruther-Gray. I am surprised that you did not rule me out of order. I am glad to withdraw the word "Englishman" and to substitute the word "Scotsman".

I think I have said enough to show why in this case I feel it would be wrong to extend this allowance. It represents a very limited operation to give a moderate increase in the allowance under the present conditions, but I do not disagree with the Committee that there are anomalies in this allowance and I think it would justify having a further look at it before another year.

Mr. Dempsey

In view of the Chancellor's reply to my query, to the effect that the yardstick to be employed in determining the eligibility of a householder for the receipt of the housekeeper's allowance is the existence of children of school age or under school age, may I suggest that the Ministers when reviewing the matter should bear this in mind? There could foe one child of school age in a household where several incomes are coming in which would be eligible to receive the housekeeper's allowance, whereas an elderly man maintaining an elderly invalid wife out of a single income would be receiving no allowance. In my opinion, that is a little unfair. I appeal to the Ministers, when reviewing the matter in the near future, to bear these companisons in mind and to give sympathetic consideration to the elderly man still working in modern society and trying to maintain his permanently disabled wife and also a housekeeper.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.