HC Deb 30 May 1962 vol 660 cc1413-55

The following section shall be added to Part VIII of the Income Tax Act, 1952:— 228A. If the claimant proves that during the whole of the year of assessment—

  1. (a) he has been in receipt of a war disablement pension or an industrial injury pension granted by the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and determined by reference to one hundred per cent. disablement; or
  2. (b) though not in receipt of a one hundred per cent. disablement pension or industrial injury pension he nevertheless is 1415 disabled in manner and degree equivalent to one hundred per cent. disablement.
he shall be entitled to a deduction from the amount of income tax with which he is chargeable equal to tax at the standard rate on one hundred pounds".— [Mr. Jay.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Jay

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Robert Grimston)

We can discuss with this new Clause other new Clauses—Increase of relief for claimant depending on services of a daughter— Relief for blind man with guide dog— Relief for disabled persons— and— Blind persons.

Mr. Jay

These new Clauses propose various tax reliefs for those suffering from a disability of one kind or another. The principal new Clause is that entitledOne hundred per cent. disabled,which proposes a relief of £ 100 for those suffering from a 100 per cent. disablement. It is the most important proposal, and I will, therefore, concentrate on it.

I notice that the Economic Secretary has left us for some relief or refreshment and has been replaced by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The Economic Secretary spent a good deal of time in his speech, during the discussion on the last new Clause, in urging us to pay attention to the Radcliffe Commission's Report on the Taxation of Profits and Income. I ask the Chief Secretary to pay attention to that Report in this case, because this proposal for relief for a 100 per cent. disablement directly follows that Commission's Report in April, 1954. It is extraordinary that the Government, which have carried out so many of the Commission's recommendations and have so often quoted its arguments in defence of their policy, should have obstinately refused year after year to put into effect this unanimous recommendation for which there is the strongest possible case on fiscal and human grounds.

Throughout the debates on the Bill, the Government have made practically no concessions. It is making rather a farce of these debates if the Government, on every proposal, simply turn up with the old negative arguments and refuse to listen to the opinions of the Committee. As the Chief Secretary to the Treasury must know by this time, the Royal Commission argued that one could not defend the present situation, in which there were fragmentary and partial reliefs for certain forms of disability, and, also, that a more concrete and defensible relief should be given.

To the Economic Secretary, in our last discussion, the Commission's views were so important that he himself read them out to the Committee, and I will do the same for my case. Paragraph 201 of its Report said: … there are many kinds of disability… so severe that they modify the whole conditions of a person's life and impose upon him a constant levy of extra expense that may fairly be said to affect the taxable capacity of his income. The present isolated provision which we have mentioned "— that is what the Commission called the "second branch" of the dependent relief allowance— depends upon a combination of such special circumstances that it cannot be supported… Our general conclusion is that grave disability ought to be the subject of an allowance. After some consideration, the Commission decided that it would be administratively possible and, indeed, quite straightforward to make the standard to qualify for a disability allowance that of the 100 per cent., or total, disablement, as applied by the then Ministry of Pensions, which is now incorporated in the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance.

The argument of the Commission was that not merely earning power but also the commitments and liabilities of an individual are affected by disablement in a great many ways. It is not only the earning power with which we are concerned. Somebody suffering from a somewhat advanced disability may, so that he can carry out his work or live an ordinary life, have to acquire special forms of clothing or equipment. He may need special help and attendance. He may need special equipment to be able to travel to work.

In the unanimous view of the Royal Commission, this made out a case for a special form of relief. Obviously, the man in these circumstances has not the same taxable capacity as a perfectly fit man receiving the same income. The extraordinary thing is that this argument has been repeatedly advanced, but no good reasons have been advanced by the Treasury as to why the proposal should not be accepted. I asked the right hon. and learned Gentleman what the cost would be. It must surely be small. There cannot be a very large number of people in this situation. Probably, most of them are fairly small earners and, therefore, not a great amount of money would be involved. What is involved could hardly be better spent.

Two years ago, when the Financial Secretary to the Treasury explained why this could not be done, he said that it would not be of very much help to a number of disabled persons, because what they would gain on this allowance they would lose on others. If that is the Government's view, it shows that very little money would be lost by the Exchequer if this proposal were carried out.

The second argument adduced by the Financial Secretary two years ago is always the last refuge of Treasury Ministers in despair. We were told that if we did this it would open the door to doing a lot of things to other people. We always know that there is not a very great argument left when that is advanced. But notice that the Government are not averse to opening doors when it suits them. This year, the Chancellor has opened a lot of doors very wide by his decision on Schedule A. If he does not mind opening doors in that case, I wonder why he is opposed to opening a few small chinks by accepting this proposal.

The next argument put forward by the Financial Secretary two years ago was that, if the Government gave this Income Tax relief to disabled persons, it would not help people who were not paying Income Tax. On that argument we would never give any Income Tax reliefs at all because, whenever a new relief was suggested, it could be rejected on the ground that it would not help those who were not paying Income Tax.

6.15 p.m.

Then we were told that the difficulty was that the expenses and the commitments these people suffer vary from one person to another, so that one could not make a completely fair contribution to their troubles by this form of relief. That, again, could be said about a great many other Income Tax allowances. Indeed, it could be said about the vast range of business expenses, where, no doubt, the amounts vary very much from one man to another. But no one says that we should not have business expenses because of that. That argument does not carry much weight, either.

The Financial Secretary's final argument was that, though, no doubt, these people deserved help, and it was possible to do it this way, and the Commission had authoritatively recommended it, nevertheless the Government's view was that it was much better to help these people not by Income Tax reliefs, but by some form of social service payments.

Some of my hon. Friends then asked him whether, if he would not do something by way of tax reliefs, he would give an assurance there and then that he proposed to carry out the offer he was holding out to help in some other way. Of course, the hon. Gentleman took refuge in generalities and said: My right hon. Friend will certainly consult his colleagues in the social service Ministries and consider sympathetically whether there are detailed instances in which these examples "— that was the other forms of payment— ought to be increased. We have not closed our minds on these matters".— [OFFICIAL. REPORT, 21st June, 1960; Vol. 625, c. 350.] Two years ago, the Committee was asked not to press the matter further on the ground that the Government might be able to think of some other way of helping these people. I now ask the Chief Secretary whether anything has been done to carry out that assurance. If it has not been done, I think that the Committee is not being properly treated. The argument put forward by Ministers bereft of other arguments was that, though these people deserved help, this was not the way to do it, and the Government could help them in some other way. Then, with the Committee lulled into some sort of quietness by this argument, the Ministers went away and a year or two later we find that nothing has happened. That is not good enough.

I hope that the Chief Secretary will be able to tell us either that he will accept this proposal, or that the Government are carrying out the alternative proposals which they brandished before us two years ago. It will be exceedingly disappointing if he is not prepared to do one or the other today.

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak about the new Clause in my name—Blind persons.

My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary was kind enough to receive a deputation including a number of blind persons and myself. This is the third or fourth time that we have had a deputation to the Treasury on this question of Income Tax allowances for those who are working and who have to have constant help. We have had sympathetic hearings, but I regret to say that nothing has happened. Blindness is a disability which is so severe as to modify the whole condition of a blind person's life. It imposes upon a man a constant levy of extra expense which affects his taxable capacity. The time has now come to make a special allowance for these people.

Such blind people were recommended for this concession in the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income, which was presented to the House in April, 1961. Treasury Ministers always say that it is very difficult to divide one type of handicapped person from another, but that difficulty does not arise in this case, because blind persons have to be registered, so that their disability and their number are known. There is, therefore, no difficulty about making the distinction in this category of disabled persons.

Experience has shown that blind people have heavy expenses. They have to have guides and very often have to take a taxi or car when other people can travel by bus. Although they are capable of getting about remarkably well, traffic today is very thick and they need help to cross the roads and to get on crowded trains, and so on. If they have to go abroad, they have to take a secretary or a guide. Those things do not apply to other disabled persons who can get to work by themselves, or who are provided with special cars.

It is very strange that those who cannot help themselves are helped very adequately under the National Assistance Act, 1948, while those who are willing to help themselves and go out to work to compete in the world get no incentive. If the income of the people whom I am discussing is higher than what they would get from National Assistance, and what is given to those who cannot work, they get no special consideration.

The people in whom I am particularly interested are those who are doing an excellent job and serving their country well by not calling upon the taxpayer in any way to help them and who are supporting themselves and their family. I have particularly in mind the work which most of them do and which brings great help to a number of other people — the blind who work for the blind. The fact that they can direct an organisation working for the blind, or do secretarial work for it, must give enormous encouragement to other blind people who can then know that blind people can rise to these highly reponsible positions and earn good salaries.

Because the number of these people who are working is not large, the amount lost to the Treasury would be small. What is the objection to helping these people? If the amount is small and they can be distinguished from other types of disabled people, why cannot they be given some consideration? Why cannot we act as other countries do? For instance, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and Finland, to name only a few, all give the blind pensions without a means test. In this country, if a person is 100 per cent. disabled because of war or industrial injury, he can get a constant attendance allowance; but if he is born blind, or is blinded in some other accident, for instance, while he is at school, he does not get any help with Income Tax relief. But in other countries there are tax reliefs and constant attendance allowances. I should like this matter to be considered again.

Paragraphs 201 and 203 of the Royal Commission's Report recommended special allowances of £ 100 for the gravely disabled, and the Royal Commission particularly cited the blind. Blindness is a category which is mentioned in the Report as a disability demonstrably set apart from others, because everyone can tell who has this disability.

Canada has very good systems for the blind and has a tax allowance under an Act of 1945 which allows them 480 dollars per annum. In Canada, as in other countries, there is an allowance for an attendant if his salary is more than 480 dollars per annum. A single man has an allowance of 1,110 dollars and a married man an allowance of 1,600 dollars. I am glad to say the blind couples are separately assessed for Income Tax, and that particularly beneficial. In New Zealand, there is a tax-free pension of £ 414 0s. 6d. and, again, there is no means test. The blind in Malaya and Ceylon are freed from taxation on earned income. It is a fairly now thing for the people of those countries to be able to earn. During the last three or four years their numbers have greatly increased, but the relief is still allowed, In Switzerland, there is a tax-free concession of 900 francs and in the German Federal Republic a tax-free concession of 200 marks.

If other countries can manage to distinguish between this type of disablement and others, and are able to give this relief, I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will soon find it possible for this country to follow suit. We have given a lead in work for the blind as a whole, but in this respect we are considerably behind other countries. I hope that my new Clause will be accepted and that these blind persons will get What is their due for the service which they give to their country by being self-supporting and not asking for money from taxation.

Mr. H. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)

In September I shall have been disabled precisely twice as long as I was not disabled prior to 1918. I frequently go to Roehampton Hospital where I am a governor and the honorary treasurer. I see the results of the campaigns, particularly in Malaya, and also the people who are now approaching the end of their days and who need treatment in Roehampton and other hospitals. I think that these suggested provisions can go some way towards creating a feeling that these people are not forgotten.

I am not 100 per cent. disabled, but I know the consequences of disablement because I cannot stand for very long, for instance at a bus stop. The result is that to get through a day's work I have to use taxis. During the course of a Parliamentary day I probably spend 10s. or 12s. more than the average hon. Member who is able to take a bus. When I was putting in my return last year I applied to the Income Tax authorities for relief on account of the taxi fares which I needed to pay to get to the House, but I was turned down. It was said that I ought to be able to get a bus or some other form of public transport. If there is one case in the country— articulate in my case— there must be thousands more who are suffering simply because they cannot get about and who cannot bring their cases to the notice of those who are able to do something about it.

6.30 p.m.

It may be thought that there are not many of these cases, but let me give the Committee an example of what happened in my area not long ago. A few months ago the people in the community in which I live— which is a predominantly working-class community but, nevertheless, very well to do by comparison with many other areas— thought that we should start a scheme to provide meals on wheels. This caused an uproar because many people thought it was a disgrace that there should be anybody in our community who was suffering from a 100 per cent. incapacity and was not already being looked after. When it came-to the point, however, it was found that in our community of about 15,000 there were 82 people who were totally disabled. They were not noticed in the ordinary way, for the simple reason that they never went out and were not to be seen sitting on the pavement having a chat.

I ask the Chief Secretary to accede to this request. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be presenting a stony face to the Committee when my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) was talking about this new Clause, but I should like to take him to one or two places where the granting of this relief would bring great joy to many people. I apologise to the Committee for having brought in a personal note, but I hope that the Chief Secretary will do something to help these people.

Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)

The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. H. Rhodes) need not apologise to the Committee for introducing such a personal note, but I am sure that the Committee will be surprised to hear that he is partially disabled, because he always looks so fit and well when he comes into the precincts of the House. We naturally accept all that he said about his disability.

My plea to the Chief Secretary is to ask him to look favourably on the claim for help for those who are 100 per cent disabled. I am associated with the National Spastics Council and I know something of the financial difficulties of these people with a 100 per cent. disablement. I do not put forward any claim on grounds of sentiment. We are all sympathetic towards people who have this serious disability, but sympathy is not enough. In a Finance Bill we have to consider the expenses and costs to which these people are put, and it is on this ground that I support the pleas put forward to consider these 100 per cent. disabled people.

They have more expenses than the ordinary person who is not disabled. They have the cost of their appliances, their wheel chairs, or whatever it may be. I agree that some are provided under the National Health Service, but I do not think that this covers all the expenses to which they are necessarily put. They have much greater travelling expenses and much greater expenses in securing assistance of every kind.

The Chief Secretary may say that he cannot open the door to every one of these expenses being allowed. One knows that the Chief Secretary has to look after the finances of the country, but what is involved in this request? My right hon. Friend is able to get the figures, and I am not, but I am sure that it would not be too great a sum for the country to pay. I am sure that the country could afford to help these 100 per cent. disabled people who so much deserve this financial support and relief.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

I add my plea to those which have been made to the Government to consider helping the people referred to in the new Clauses which we are discussing.

It is significant that as these matters are discussed year after year on the Finance Bill very few back benchers oppose the attempts that are made to get relief for the blind and disabled. In the few years that I have been here, I cannot remember an occasion when back benchers have opposed attempts to provide help for these people. If that is true, and I believe it is, it is incumbent on Treasury Ministers to prove conclusively that it is not possible to meet the wishes of back benchers. If there is a division of opinion between back benchers, there may be some question whether the Treasury Minister concerned has a responsibility to prove why something cannot be done, but if there is unanimity among such hon. Members he is duty bound to prove conclusively that the concessions for which we are asking are impossible.

I do not think that an accurate estimate has been made of what these reliefs would cost, but I am convinced that the cost would be infinitesimal compared with the relief which would be provided to the people affected. Most of us accept what was said by the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), that these disabled people necessarily incur additional expenses, and I think that most of us can call to mind cases of people being involved in additional expense to provide themselves with appliances which are not provided under the National Health Service, appliances which are necessary to enable them to enjoy a reasonably full and complete life.

One case immediately comes to mind. I do not suggest that the person concerned pays Income Tax, though there are doubtless many cases where similarly disabled people do pay Income Tax. I take the view that if a person is handicapped it is essential to do everything we can to see that he leads as full and complete a life as possible, even to the point of being able to work alongside his fellow men.

The person about whom I am thinking is a war victim. Because of his disablement, he is in receipt of a war pension, and he has a clerical job at the local bus depot. We live in a small town. The distances to be travelled are very small in comparison with those in the larger towns and cities, and I think it is more significant in the sense that this constituent of mine, because of his war disabilities, has to have a motor car, which he himself purchased, so that he can go from his home to his work. It would be impossible for him to walk, and it is very difficult for him to board a bus. In addition to the initial cost of his motor car, there is also the cost of the petrol and of other expenses in which he is involved week by week. This is a case which comes readily to my mind and which, although I do not wish to exaggerate, I think would be one in which the person concerned would be paying Income Tax, so that this proposal would give him a measure of relief.

Most hon. Members of this Committee accept the principle which underlies these new Clauses. I appreciate that it might De that the amount involved in tax relief on this occasion is such that it would impose an undue burden upon the community. I believe that, where we have unanimity of opinion on an issue of this kind on both sides of the Committee— and I still feel that this is a Members' House and not the Executive's House— before it is refused by the Executive it is incumbent upon them to prove that it will indeed put an undue burden on the community which the community could not afford.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster-General (Mr. Henry Brooke)

There is nothing at all between us in our sympathy with the people whose difficulties we are discussing today. I think that a particularly moving element has been introduced into the debate this year by the personal reminiscences of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes). These 100 per cent. disabled, through no fault of their own, are severely handicapped as compared with the rest of us. Indeed, I sometimes think that the rest of us are not sufficiently frequently conscious of our good fortune.

Over years past the view has been taken by successive Chancellors of the Exchequer of different parties that the right way to deal with this problem is not by tax relief, but by direct social benefit. I must say, at the beginning of my speech, that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor takes the same view, and that he does not think that a case has been made for reversing that policy. The view I have expressed on his behalf is not based on the ground of cost. The amount of money involved here is not large. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) thought that perhaps it might be, but the financial effect of the new Clause to which the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) devoted most of his speech would be a loss of revenue of £ 750,000.

Mr. Loughlin

For the sake of the record, may I point out that I did not think it would be large at all? I simply said that the only ground on which the Minister could refuse to accept the new Clause, in face of the unanimity of the Committee, would be that it would constitute an undue burden on the community. I did not think that it would.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Brooke

Both the hon. Member himself and other right hon. and hon. Members have asked me what the cost would be. They said they had not heard it mentioned before, and I thought that, in candour to the Committee, I should give that figure at the outset of my speech.

Miss Vickers

How can my right hon. Friend give social benefits to somebody paying Income Tax?

Mr. Brooke

There are a number of services for the disabled through which a great many people benefit, even those who are working and who are relatively well off.

May I now develop my speech, and go back to the speech with which the right hon. Member for Battersea, North opened this discussion?

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the 1954 Report of the Royal Commission and said that he was seeking to get the Government to accept a recommendation of the Commission. In fact, as I am sure he himself appreciates, the new Clause which he has put forward does not reflect the Commission's recommendation. What the Commission said was that it favoured an allowance, which should not be less than £ 100 a year, for the 100 per cent. disabled, on the understanding that the same person should not receive both that allowance and tax-free benefits in relation to his disability.

The Commission also recommended that other reliefs, particularly the daughter's services allowance, to which one of the new Clauses refers, should be withdrawn if its recommendation was carried out. That makes the Commission's recommendation very much less attractive to a large number of people, because anybody who is 100 per cent. dsiabled and has the basic war disabled pension will be receiving a tax-free sum very much larger than the tax-free sum which this new Clause would give him.

Mr. Jay

Is the Chief Secretary willing to accept this proposal, either in the form put forward by the Royal Commission, or in the form which we are putting forward this afternoon?

Mr. Brooke

No. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, it has been discussed on four, if not five, different Finance Bills since the Royal Commission's Report was published, and on each occasion the spokesman on behalf of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has explained that this is not the best way of proceeding, because of the unfairness which would be involved if we were to do this. Naturally, a tax-free allowance is attractive to everybody, and it is helpful to everybody, but is this the right way to seek to take account of the variety of extra expenses to which the disabled person is put?

This new Clause refers solely to those with 100 per cent. disablement. Could one give a tax-free allowance to those with 100 per cent. disablement and deny anything at all to those with 90 per cent. disablement? If one did it, I feel quite sure that there would soon be people arguing, and arguing cogently, that the man who had lost one leg above the knee is just as much entitled to tax relief as those who are technically 100 per cent. disabled, though he himself is not. If we depart from the test of 100 per cent. disablement, where do we stop? How can we define those who are disabled in such a way that they should deserve this tax-free allowance?

That is the practical difficulty which I must ask the Committee to face. We are dealing with human beings, and we ought not to legislate so as to create unfairnesses between one class of person and another, with both of whom we all feel a very natural sympathy. That is why successive Governments have taken the view that special help to the disabled, however they are disabled, should be given in a way that will bring the greatest benefit to those who need help most.

Frankly, I must say to the Committee that that cannot be done by fiscal means. I say that not merely on the basis of the obvious point that the tax relief will help the poorest least. I say it because the degree of extra expense to which a disabled person may be put does not necessarily vary with the degree of his disablement. Some who are 100 per cent. disabled may, in fact, be put to much smaller expense in the course of their working life than others who suffer a technically slighter degree of disablement. The right way to help is, as we do, through direct social service benefits.

I come to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers), who was very persuasive. I think that she would probably argue that even if this could not be done for all the disabled it could be done for those who are blind, because they are a clearly defined class and one would not have the difficulty about 75 per cent., 90 per cent., or 100 per cent. disablement. I think that if my hon. Friend ponders on this she will see how difficult it would be to confine a relief like this to the totally blind without extending it to many other types of disablement.

It is the blind who attract a very, special sympathy because we all so greatly value our eyesight, but my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) mentioned the spastics and we can all think of people suffering from forms of paralysis, and so on, who may have just as great needs and difficulties as those who are wholly blind. There are about 11,000 blind people in employment. It is believed that about 4,000 of those are in sheltered employment, so there would be 7,000 who, as it were, are ordinarily employed. Some of those may be earning quite high salaries. It is very difficult to say that those people in particular should be singled out from all the other classes of disabled for tax relief.

We see the difficulty when we look at another Clause in this group, the one which suggests that there should be tax relief in respect of guide dogs for the blind. That, at first sight, seems attractive, but if we ask that there should be tax relief for the cost of a guide dog how can we defend ourselves against the charge that we were being unfair to those who go to work, not with the help of a guide dog, but by being driven by someone whom they have to pay, or by making some other arrangements at their own cost? We would have to look at all this together.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

Surely the Royal Commission was quite familiar with all these arguments, which are a survival from bumbledon. If we cannot remove all injustice must we not attempt to remove a partial injustice? The argument is that until we have universal virtue we must not deal with any vice which can be localised, or give a relief which can be a starting point of a new system of dispensing justice. The Royal Commission went through all this, yet in spite of that it made its recommendations. I cannot understand the right hon. Gentleman persisting in this line of argument.

Mr. Brooke

If the hon. Member says that everything recommended to the House by an outside body such as a Royal Commission should automatically be accepted, I should be very interested to hear him developing that argument when we come to deal with London local government.

The point is that if we are to embark on any system of tax relief for the disabled we must first be sure that the plan will be completely fair as between one person and another. No one has yet been able to discover a way of doing that. No one has been able to discover a way of tailoring the tax relief for people with various classes and degrees of disablement.

May I return to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Devon-port about the practice in other countries? It is true that in a number of countries there is tax relief for people who suffer from a variety of forms of disablement. It is normally given as a kind of extension of tax relief for various medical and surgical expenses. I am not sure if my hon. Friend was conveying this to the Committee, but she would be mistaken if she thought that it was common elsewhere to have what she is advocating, that is, a special form of tax relief for the blind. In fact, there are only three other countries, I am advised, which have a tax relief confined to the blind. I think that that proves the point I made about how hard and unfair it would be if we were to devise some form of tax relief for a particular class of disabled person and not for the others.

Certain points are raised in other Clauses in this group. There is a Clause about investment income. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) or others will refer to that, but I should not like to pass it by without any mention. That, again, would not be a fair way of proceeding. That Clause, which, at first sight, looks attractive, would give a very large degree of tax relief to people with larger incomes, much larger than those referred to in the main new Clause under discussion.

There is another new Clause which suggests that the tax allowance for the services of a daughter should be increased from £ 40 to £ 50. That is an allowance which has not been abolished, as the Royal Commission recommended, but, because it contains all the anomalous features pointed out by the Commission, successive Governments have decided not to increase it.

No, the continuing view of this Government, as of its predecessors, is that the right way to try to help those who are disabled in any manner is through the social services. The right hon. Member for Battersea, North asked what was done about that. He will know of the continuous enlargement of the home help services of local authorities, of the services that are provided by the welfare authorities for the blind, the deaf and the otherwise handicapped, the provision of medical and surgical appliances, the cars for war pensioners, and so forth. He will know that since this matter was discussed in 1960 pensions generally have been increased, National Assistance rates have been increased, and, in particular, industrial injuries benefits have been increased. The right hon. Gentleman may recollect that the rates of clothing allowance for the disabled have also been increased by 25 per cent. since this matter was last under discussion. The undertaking given then by the Financial Secretary has been amply fulfilled. It will continue to be the determination of the Government to see that these people are looked after as well as possible in the right way, which is by social service benefits, With regret, I must ask the Committee not to accept the new principle embodied in these Clauses for direct tax relief, because that would not be the fairest way of helping these people.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Loughlin

Before the Chief Secretary sits down, will he now deal—particularly as he has dealt with some social service benefits—with the point raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers), who asked him to tell the Committee what social services were available to people already paying Income Tax?

Mr. Brooke

Those who are already paying Income Tax can have the assistance of all the services that are made available by the welfare authorities for the blind and the otherwise handicapped. The services are available to those people, as to everyone else.

Mr. Loughlin

They are all on the means test.

Mr. Brooke

They are not on the means test.

Mr. Jay

The right hon. Gentleman's speech was profoundly unsatisfactory, even for him, and it is a pity that he should have introduced party points about London local government into a human issue like this.

I agree, of course, that the fairest way to meet this problem is relief for 100 per cent. disablement, which would include the blind, about whom the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) spoke. What does the Chief Secretary really say? First, he admits that the cost is very small—almost trivial; about £¾ million. I cannot believe that the Committee would wish to deny help on that ground. Secondly, he returns to the argument which we have had year after year that the best way to give help is by social service payments rather than by relief from taxation. He says that all Governments of all parties have taken that view, but the Royal Commission reported in 1954 and there has only been a Government of one party and one view on this subject since then. That has entirely altered the situation, because the Royal Commission, which was a body of responsible people with a duty towards our tax system, considered all those arguments. Nevertheless, it made this recommendation.

What is so profoundly unsatisfactory is that two years ago we had from the Financial Secretary a virtual promise that if help was not given in this way it would be given in an alternative fashion through the social services. The Chief Secretary now tries to claim that this has been done, but what he mentioned was not special help for the 100 per cent. disabled but general increases in social service payments, such as National Assistance, which have, in fact, been made because of rises in the cost of living during that period. He mentioned the rises in benefits, but he did not mention the simultaneous rises in the cost of living which in the last twelve months have proceeded at 5½ per cent.—a rate greater than for many years past. It is, therefore, no fulfilment of that pledge to give special help to 100 per cent. disabled people to say that there have been certain rises in general social service payments.

The right hon. Gentleman has not given any good reason for turning down this proposal, and he has not been able to show that the Government have fulfilled that two-year-old pledge. Before the Committee comes to a decision, will he not give a vestige of evidence that something has been given, or will be given, to assist these people?

Mr. J. T. Price

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), I stand aghast at the Chief Secretary's perfunctory reply. We all have people in our constituencies, regardless of party politics, who have such an independent spirit and such an independent attitude to their own disability that they often hesitate to seek the advantage of the existing social services. The Chief Secretary's arguments, which we have heard before in different form, are quite unconvincing. They are defeated even on technical grounds, quite aside from all the human considerations which we have been trying to infuse into this debate.

His arguments are defeated on technical grounds by the very fact that the Government, in spite of what we regard as their defects and shortcomings, have at least given special exemption on grounds of age. In other words, the broad stream of citizens and taxpayers who are over 65 years of age but who may have no disability in the physical sense to which we are here referring, are accepted by the Government, by the State, and by the fiscal authorities as suffering from a form of disability, in that their old age distinguishes them from younger people. Those people get a special allowance of either £40 or £50 a year based on the extra expense to which they are put in getting about, in getting domestic service and in getting those little extra medicines and luxuries that they need. I take a broad conspectus of "medicine", because some old people may look upon a glass of whisky as the best tonic—

Mr. Loughlin

On a point of order, Sir Robert. May we have a little less noise from below the Bar?

The Deputy-Chairman

Hon. Members below the Bar should not talk loudly enough for other hon. Members to hear them.

Mr. Price

I do not want to labour this point because, from what has already been said, it is quite clear that if the Chamber had been relatively full of hon. Members who could have listened to the debate, a free vote would have shown that this Committee has a generous enough heart to grant such a concession as this to seriously disabled people.

It is no use Treasury Ministers telling us that there are other methods of giving this relief to the unfortunate people for whom we now plead. What social services are available to seriously disabled persons? War pensioners have special provision made for them in the form of wheel chairs, mechanically-propelled vehicles for the very seriously disabled, and so on. They also have the services of the welfare officers. But what services are available for such seriously disabled people as my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes), who told the Committee of his very grave First World War injury?

Mention has been made of the activities of certain Government Departments, but in many ways the present social services work in a very piecemeal fashion. There is the seriously disabled person who needs domestic assistance. We all know how difficult it is in these times for anyone, regardless of personal means, to obtain satisfactory or suitable domestic assistance. Perhaps the seriously disabled person would like a home help. In every locality there are devoted and dedicated people who do magnificent work as home helps, but the administration of that system is based on a means test—

Mr. Loughlin


Mr. Price

A home help is not avail, able to anyone, regardless of family income. Let not the Government ride off on the fairly tale that because someone is in need a sort of Father Christmas Government have someone round the corner waiting to help.

Again, the meals-on-wheels service is a godsend to many people, who get a good meal that they othewise would not have. But the meals are not necessarily free. In many districts there is a means test. The House of Commons is formed, by and large, of a set of reasonably intelligent people who are not prepared to be hoodwinked by the sort of blah we have just received. I am speaking in this way because I feel that hon. Members are sick and tired of having these hackneyed and tortuous arguments trotted out simply because some clerk in the Treasury does not like the sort of system we are proposing. I hope that those who share my views, including hon. Gentlemen opposite, will forgive me, for I have no wish to be discourteous. I hope that they will join with us in trying to persuade the Government to do something this year for these people.

Mr. Rhodes

It is distressing to hear the Chief Secretary reciting his objections and making the classic comparisons that are always so odious. I would remind him of the old saying that one half of the world does not know how the other half lives. Having listened to his reply, I am not at all surprised.

I would also remind the Chief Secretary about the conscript who is now in hospital, who has been 100 per cent. incapacitated for nearly twenty years, and who, throughout these years, has been trying to give his family, which is growing up, as good a start in life as anyone else. The strain that has been on him all these years in trying to do the best for his family puts him in hospital every year for at least three months.

When he goes into hospital he is 100 per cent. incapacitated—in more senses than one—but it so happens that he has not got a job for which he receives his money when he is in hospital. However, his earnings during the remaining nine months or so of the year bring him into the Income Tax paying category. It seems a really mean thing, when considering the plight of a man who could not please himself as to his occupation at an early age—as anyone in industry or commerce has been able to do—and who has had to spend the rest of his life under a severe handicap, that we should have had that sort of reply from the Chief Secretary.

If the Chief Secretary will not agree to our proposals now, I suggest that there should be such an upsurge of feeling among hon. Members on behalf of those who are disabled and lying in hospital, or who have been forgotten and are in remote parts of our constituencies —as I illustrated earlier—and whom we rooted out when the meals on wheels service was started, as would persuade the Government to come to their aid. It is time that those who are thinking only in terms of raw materials thought of the poor beggars who are 100 per cent. disabled.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Loughlin

We are now seeing the contrast between the type of speech that was made before the Chief Secretary replied and the heated speeches of hon. Members following his reply. Previously, hon. Members were attempting to make a reasoned plea in favour of the case. We have tried not to be passionate about this. One hon. Member wondered why the Chief Secretary had been brought in to speak. It would seem that the right hon. Gentleman's reply itself answered that question.

I do not know of any hon. Member in the Committee who could have been so cold or more remotely unconcerned about the people for whom we are seeking relief which would cost so little. The Chief Secretary's performance was disgraceful. I do not wish to become over-passionate on the subject, because, with the exception of the Chief Secretary, all hon. Members could be impassioned on this issue. The Chief Secretary could not become passionate, for he is worse than any desiccated calculating machine I have ever known.

Since a number of hon. Members opposite obviously feel on this issue as do my hon. Friends, I appeal to them to join us in trying to persuade the Government of the equity of what is being claimed. After all, it would not cost a great deal, but it would do a lot to give justice to the few people who are desperately in need of help.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

I should like to add my plea to the Government, because I cannot see why, on some of the issues on which the Committee is in complete agreement, our desires—the desires of the back benchers —should not be met. I have listened to I do snot know how many Budgets and Finance Bills and we are always told that there will be a new system of taxation, that it will be brought up to date, that it will be altered, or that there will be a new approach. But every time a small thing like this comes along difficulties are placed in its way.

On this occasion I do not see why there should be any real difficulty despite the fact that we have been told that what is sought cannot be given. We have always made a distinction—at any rate, about the war disabled—and I wish to suggest two ways in which the money which is needed might be found. Pocket money is paid to people living in Part III accommodation. I was instrumental in introducing the first part of that scheme which provided pocket money, so I certainly could not oppose the system.

However, people living in Part III accommodation now have practically everything given to them, and rightly so. They are living in comfortable and happy circumstances, yet each week they receive 11s. pocket money which they are hardly able or in a position to spend. That has been carried forward, with increases, for many years so I do not see why we cannot make a move in another direction. We seem to be so set in our ways that we cannot take a single step forward in a good cause. Every time these issues come up we hear No, no, no "from the Government Front Bench, and that is most frustrating, unkind and devastating.

My second suggestion is concerned with the Income Tax allowances given to widows and widowers who keep resident housekeepers. If one can afford to keep a resident housekeeper—and the allowance is now up to £75—one must certainly be in reasonably good financial circumstances. Apparently this has gone on for forty years. When I protested to my right hon. Friend, and said that I should like that money spent on some of these other things, he said that it could not be altered because it had gone on for all those years. But we might now start doing something this year for somebody else. I am not trying to balance one section of the community against another, but if my right hon. Friend thinks that it is fair to have special allowances for widows and widowers, why cannot we have special tax allowances for these people?

I do not think that Ministers are so busy that they do not know about the kind of humane things which would not only please back-benchers on both sides of the Committee, but would please democracy and the people in this country. I sincerely hope that there will be second thoughts on this matter.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South East)

When I saw the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) arrive in the Committee I felt like Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo when Marshal Blucher arrived at teatime. She, too, arrived at a fortunate moment because I knew that we could rely upon her support and sympathy.

All of us who have watched the rhythm, the ebb and flow of the progress of Finance Bills realise that there is a time when the Government are at the sticking point. I say to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury that he has arrived at the sticking point now, and I hope that he will not force the Committee to dispose of the Clause without a much more detailed reply than we have had so far. We have spent five or six days in Committee on the Finance Bill without receiving a single concession from the Government. They have made up their mind to come to the Committee and announce their decisions and to give no concessions at all whatever the merits of the argument. Alas, the Chamber has not always been full enough to bring real pressure to bear upon the Government at any given time, but we are now fortunate enough to have many hon. Members listening to a debate on an issue which it should be impossible for the Government to resist and impossible for the sense of the Committee not to make itself felt.

I should like to rehearse the one simple point that a proposal was made by the expert Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income that persons who were industrially injured 100 per cent. or suffered war disability to that extent should be given a tax-free allowance, over and above their pension, from their other earnings. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury turns that aside and asks, "Are we going to accept every recommendation made by a Royal Commission?" He replies that of course we are not, but he is not entitled to ray on a point like that. He should produce substantive reasons for objecting to a proposal like this. He has produced none.

It does not interest me in the least to hear that this subject has been discussed four times before. If the answers on previous occasions have been of the character that we have heard this afternoon I can only say with respect that the Committee must then have been too easily satisfied, and much more easily satisfied than I hope it will be today. I hope that we shall go on with this debate until we have a satisfactory answer.

I do not know whether he included the concession of relief in respect of guide dogs and other things, but the main point made by the Chief Secretary today was that the present concession cost £750,000 at the maximum and was probably less. That is the total cost that even the Treasury can find and it may well be less. Even on a basis where the Budget is balanced to such a fine point that we have come to the position when £750,000 will disturb it, I very much doubt whether the Committee would feel that our national safety, the future of sterling, exchange rates and the whole of the Stock Exchange, not to mention the future of British industry, would be endangered by a measure of the kind that we propose. We all know that in the end the Budget will be several million pounds either side of the point at which the Chancellor has said it will stand, either on revenue or expenditure. The Chief Secretary has the duty to the Committee to give us frank reasons, apart from questions of precedence or of not accepting what a Royal Commission has said, why he refuses to give this concession.

As far as I could see, there was only one argument that the right hon. Gentleman could produce, and he produced it and made the best of it. It was that if the concession is made to the 100 per cent. disabled man, what about the man who is 90 per cent. disabled? I freely concede that point to the right hon. Gentleman. He may will be subject to pressure later on in respect of such a person. I agree that once we open the door to a concession of this sort the Government may well be subjected to further pressure to extend it at a later date. The Committee must acknowledge that point and give it to the right hon. Gentleman.

This does not apply to the proposal made by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers). Quite clearly, a person is either blind or is not, and therefore in that case there cannot be any real extension of this concession. But in the case of the new Clause moved from this side of the Committee the Chief Secretary might find himself on a slippery slope. But let us suppose that he is involved in the question of a concession costing £½ million in two or three years' time. Is this such a serious consequence that he must deny now a recommendation which has the support of every hon. Member?

It is not true to suggest that we do not have anomalies in the tax system now and that we should not do justice to one group of people because we cannot do justice to everyone. The whole taxation system is one of rough justice. We have exemptions now in the tax system based not on any logical foundation, but on the fact that the House of Commons decided that a particular group should not bear taxation in the way other groups must bear it. If the Committee cannot make a decision of that kind from time to time we might as well all pack up and go home. We have not been able to make any impression on the Government so far, but the Chief Secretary knows that the foundation of the Revenue and of the Treasury will not crumble if the Government make this concession.

I should like to make another point which I believe to be apposite and which I intend to rub home at every opportunity. It is that if the personal allowances were higher today, as they should be, there would be no call for this Clause, because not so many of these people would be affected by taxation levels as are affected today. If the personal allowances were higher, then obviously more people would secure the benefit of exemption from taxation. But this concession, proposed by both sides of the Committee, as so many others, the right hon. Gentleman regards from the viewpoint of a financial purist, as I am sure the Inland Revenue regards it. The right hon. Gentleman and the Inland Revenue look upon it as disfiguring the classical severe lines of our fiscal system. The right hon. Gentleman has got into difficulties and is being subjected to these pressures, and he is being called upon to disfigure the clean lines of the system because the present personal allowances are too low. I say to him, therefore, that if he will only take steps to increase the allowances he will be able to avoid the kind of discussion that we are having today.

I should like to see the Committee really assert itself tonight. I believe that it could do so and that hon. Members opposite would not be endangering anything but would be saying that the Committee and the House of Commons believe that our industrial victims and war victims are entitled to this consideration. We pay honour to both. In South Wales it is probably true to say that we see more of the industrial victims than of the war-disabled victims. Many of the sights that we have seen in South Wales as in many industrial areas would lead all of us to believe that these men and women, totally disabled as a result of services to industry as well as in the Forces, are entitled to a little extra consideration from the Committee.

Not only is this plea made on the ground of pure sentiment but the Royal Commission found the case made out on the ground of cold logic and decided that this thing should be done. Now, only the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and £750,000 stand between us as a Committee and as a nation giving this concession. I hope that the Committee will continue to press the Chief Secretary and to hold him up on the Clause and refuse to let him move from it until we have had a satisfactory answer and the promise of some action.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Brooke

I think that the Committee would wish me to speak again, especially as a number of hon. Members who are now here were not present when I spoke before.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) is not correct in saying that the only difficulty apparent here is that of distinguishing between the person with 100 per cent. disablement and the person with 75 per cent. or 90 per cent. disablement. This is a very serious difficulty, as he was frank enough to recognise. He pointed out that if this concession were given to those with 100 per cent. disablement there would be pressure from the next level and it would go on and it would be extremely hard to know where one could draw the line with fairness.

I should like to take up a point made by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price), who said that it had been found easy to grant age relief to all those over 65. I am not sure whether he appreciates that the reason for that is quite different. The reason is to give to the elderly people living on income from their savings the same relief as they would have if they were living on a pension that they had earned. That is the justification of the age relief, and it is on rather a different basis.

I should like to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) that this is not a question of finding the money. I think it will be within the recollection of the Committee that from the beginning I have said that there was no difficulty as to the amount of money involved. The difficulty is in the question of fairness. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East drew attention to the unfairness that will always arise on the limit of any change which might be made here. There is also the fact that there is no way whatever of shaping tax relief so that it will in any way accord with the extra expense that is imposed on people suffering from different disablements. Not one of these Clauses would do the job that hon. Members want. It is perfectly true they would all give some tax relief to somebody—I do not deny that for a moment —but the Committee, in all its considerations of tax matters, is always concerned also about fairness between one person and another.

For the reasons which I gave—I will not repeat my previous speech—it has not been found possible to shape a plan for tax relief for disablement that would be fair and related to the different needs of different people. It is not that this proposal has been considered unsympathetically. It was first considered by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I do not think anyone on either side of the Committee would suggest that he was a hard and callous man. It has been considered by each Chancellor of the Exchequer since then, and each one of them has been so conscious of the difficulties which I have described and which have been described by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary and other Ministers on previous occasions that they have all come to the conclusion that, in the interests of fairness of the tax system, they could not recommend the Committee to proceed in this way, and that the right way to help disabled people is by social benefits of one kind or another directed to the specific needs of each class of person.

Mr. Jay

The right hon. Gentleman says that this proposal would not be appropriate because it would not give relief proportionate to the expenses involved with each individual. Would he not agree that that argument would apply to the child allowance? The child allowance does not give relief exactly or even roughly proportionate to the expenses of any particular person. Would he argue that we ought not to have child allowance?

Mr. Brooke

No, I was not arguing that. When it was put to me that there should be this tax relief in order to provide for additional expense that was incurred by people with 100 per cent. disablement, I had to point out to the Committee that it would be a very rough and ready way of doing it and would not, in fact, be related sufficiently closely to the relative needs of different people. That is why I say that it is better to help these people, with whom we all have the utmost sympathy, by direct and not by indirect means.

Mrs. Slater

I do not know how long Parliament and the country as a whole are prepared to continue listening to this kind of parsimonious argument which we continually get from the Chief Secretary. The trouble with him is that he speaks in a quiet voice with a charming little smile on his face—

Mr. Loughlin


Mrs. Slater

Yes, charming, but with a very hard heart and a hard face behind the smile. He thinks that he can get away almost with murder behind that smile.

The right hon. Gentleman's argument is that it would be difficult to give this concession because of unfairness as between one person and another. Does he not know that one of the Christian facts which everybody ought to learn is that we should help those whose need is greatest? Surely those who are suffering 100 per cent. war disablement or 100 per cent. industrial injury are among those who need the greatest help?

The right hon. Gentleman talks about the social services. Some of us have rather longer memories than others. Whenever we discuss the social services, including pensions and National Insurance, we are always reminded by hon. Members opposite that the time has arrived when a greater means test ought to be applied. Every one of the social services which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned is operated only by a means test. People do not get home help without a means test. They have to pay for it according to their income. The Meals on Wheels Service is a very good service, but it is only applied on a means test basis. These people, whom we ought to be helping in every possible way, are dealt with on a means test basis in exactly the same way as the old-age pensioners, disabled persons and every other person in need.

Sometimes we make exceptions. There are exceptions to every Act of Parliament. Here is a case where the right hon. Gentleman for once ought to put his heart behind his smile instead of regarding the matter in this cold-hearted, ruthless way. He ought to know that these people suffer very real disadvantages. Does he realise, for instance, that many of them with 100 per cent. disablement are dependent on other members of their families? Many of them have to be wheeled about. Their furniture, doors and other fitments in their houses are affected by the wheel chairs and other aids which they are obliged to employ.

All those things constitute an added burden on the family. Very often their clothes wear out more quickly because of the implements which they have to use. Many of them need extra nourishment. No doubt, we shall be told that they get extra benefit to enable them to obtain that nourishment, but the overriding fact is that much of the joy of life has been taken from these people because of their disablement. They cannot go out and enjoy God's fresh air as easily as we can. They cannot easily go out and enjoy culture like others of us. Many of them are dependent upon others to help them.

Surely, to help these people, the right hon. Gentleman could at least shift away from his cold facts. He says that it is not the money that matters, but simply the fairness of the tax system. We have been very unfair in the tax system in the last few years. This is a case in which we could be fair, just and generous to not a very large number of people. In appealing to the right hon. Gentleman, although I have no real hope of persuading him, I ask those hon. Members opposite who are guided very often by considerations of humanity either to vote with us or, at least, not to vote with the Government on the new Clause.

Miss Vickers

I wish to put only one point to my right hon. Friend concerning my new Clause. In reply to me, he said that three countries had instituted the provision for which I am asking. Will he assure me that he will examine the way in which they work the system in the hope that we may be able to get it in this country next year?

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

Surely the Chief Secretary has had ample opportunity to consider the matter. Why should he have a longer period in which to consider the humane request put forward by the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport (Miss Vickers) in her new Clause? I cannot see why, at this late stage, the hon. Lady should suggest that the Minister should have time to consider and to make another promise that, perhaps, this time next year he may consider it. When next year comes, he will say, "We have given it consideration, but we have not been able to come to a conclusion."

I cannot see how any hon. Member can support the Chief Secretary in his arguments. All that is being asked is consideration for men or women who have given literally almost all that they could give to their country except life itself and who are 100 per cent. disabled, either by industrial injury or as a result of military service. [Laughter.] This is no laughing matter. The hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) simply comes in to take part in a Division and takes no part in the discussion. Hon. Members opposite generally come in to divide so that they can then get out to a dinner, or to other engagements. Let them listen or go out again, but not laugh. This is not a laughing matter.

We are speaking of men who have been totally disabled in the service of their country, who get a 100 per cent. disability pension. All we ask is that they should get Income Tax relief. The Treasury has told us that the maximum cost in a year would be £¾ million. Hon. Members opposite who have been laughing made no complaint about the £84 million for the Surtax payers. They supported that. I am not arguing whether they should or should not have done so. If, however, they believed that that was right, how can they logically say that the people on whose behalf we are pleading should not have a miserly £¾ million a year by way of tax relief?

I suppose that when the Division is called, the few of those hon. Members opposite who have put their names to the new Clause, and who have listened to the debate, will troop into the Lobby to support the Government although they know in their heart of hearts that the attitude of the Government towards these new Clauses is entirely unjustified.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Loughlin

I am sorry that the Chief Secretary was in charge of the debate. Before he spoke, there was no question of political difference of any kind. There was unanimity on the back benches on both sides. I hope that irrespective of whatever passion has been aroused, hon. Members opposite will do something for the people of whom we are speaking.

Do not let us get into these passionate political differences, whether concerning Surtax or anything else, because we are dealing with a simple matter of human suffering and difficulty. I make a special plea to hon. Members on the Government side, because at one time this evening they were with us, as I am with the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) in her new Clause. I plead with hon. Members opposite to let us forget any political differences that we may have. Let us maintain our unanimity against the Executive on this issue.

The Executive have not been able to face my challenge that when there is back-bench unanimity on both sides it is incumbent upon the Treasury to prove conclusively that the cost of the proposed reform would be an undue burden on the community. The Executive have failed to do that and I ask hon. Members to challenge them on this issue.

Mr. Callaghan

I appreciate your anxiety to get on, Mr. Arbuthnot, and I agree that we have had a long time on the new Clause. I am entitled to deduce from that that there is considerable feeling about the new Clause, as there is. I also remind the Chief Secretary that not a voice has been raised against it in argument except his own.

I regard the right hon Gentleman as the rather unwilling tool of the Treasury on this occasion. I would not normally accuse him of being an unwilling tool, because he is too strong-minded, but I believe that this time he has been overborne by bureaucratic arguments which do not stand up and by administrative difficulties which, I admit, are real. I freely admit that there are administrative difficulties about this proposal, and that the right hon. Gentleman is right to emphasise them. Equally, if the Committee is convinced, it has the right to say, "Never mind the administrative difficulties. We quite agree that this proposal will not do 100 per cent. justice to everybody, but it will do 100 per cent. justice to 80 per cent. of the people." That is what we ask.

I am grateful for the new Clause which has been referred to by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) and by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), both of whom are stalwarts on this issue. We know that theirs is not a mere professional interest; but one which arises from the fact that they have both studied these matters carefully. I do not wish to say anything improper about hon. Gentlemen opposite. I believe that many of their hearts are with us, too, and that, if they felt like speaking, they would be speaking with us tonight. I realise that they will not vote against their Government, although that would not ruin the Government any more than they are ruined already.

Nevertheless, in view of what I may claim to be the unspoken support of a great many hon. Members below the Gangway, as well as the spoken support of everyone who has contributed to the debate, I make this claim to the Chief Secretary. The Committee is entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the matter before Report. We will come to a conclusion upon it, but in view of the feeling which has been expressed here, we ask him, as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, responsible to the House of Commons, to re-examine this issue once again.

Before we part with the matter, I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will be willing to do that and, having examined the administrative difficulties, to come back to the House and tell us whether, on merit as distinct from administrative difficulties, he does not believe that this proposal should be conceded, that he will help the Committee to find a way of meeting the difficulties of administrative inconvenience which have emerged, and find means of helping the people who, the whole Committee accepts, have a special claim on the compassion of the nation and upon our sense of propriety when dealing with fiscal issues of this sort. I ask the Chief Secretary to undertake to consider the matter again between now and Report.

Mr. Brooke

I am sure that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who is very fair-minded, will understand that I cannot commit my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I shall certainly report to him the sense of the Committee. It seems to me most unlikely that this problem, which has baffled successive Chancellors for a great number of years, will be found soluble in a few weeks. I shall certainly discuss the matter with my right hon. and learned Friend and tell him that views were very strongly expressed on both sides of the Committee.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East has been very frank in accepting that the difficulties we are in are not of my invention. They are genuine difficulties which over a period of years have held up action. I therefore cannot give any undertaking that we shall find a quick solution to them, but I shall certainly convey to my right hon. and learned Friend the fact that strong feeling was expressed on both sides of the Committee and that if some solution could be found the Committee would welcome it.

Mr. Callaghan

I thank the Chief Secretary to the Treasury for what he has said. I am sure that he will report it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I know that his right hon. and learned Friend has other engagements, but I wish that he were here to learn the sense of the Committee on this matter. I am, however, sure that it will be conveyed to him.

As to the administrative difficulties, I hope that the Chief Secretary will not rely on my support too much. I accept that there are administrative complications, but I do not accept, even if those complications cannot be set on one side, that they are of such a character that they ought to stand in the way of making these reforms. If I were in the position of the right hon. Gentleman I would make the reforms irrespective of administrative complications and tell the Inland Revenue to get on with them. I have seen this happen in the past in connection with P.A.Y.E. We were told for so long that we could not have the P.A.Y.E, system in this country, and we were rebuked for even attempting to devise one. We have, however, worked it, more or less successfully, for twenty years.

I do not accept the administrative difficulties as overriding the will of the Committee when it has clearly expressed a wish that this should be done. I know that there are in the Inland Revenue people who are ingenious enough to overcome the difficulties, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to come back to the Committee with a different answer.

Dame Irene Ward

I ask my right hon. Friend whether as an earnest of his good intentions, having listened very carefully to his last few words, he will accept the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) because there cannot be any administrative difficulties about it.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Arbuthnot)

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) has not moved an Amendment.

Dame Irene Ward

I refer to the new Clause moved on behalf of the blind. I apologise for not being in the Chamber because I was engaged on a committee. I want to know whether the Chief Secretary to the Treasury can say that he will accept that Clause. There can be no administrative difficulty if other countries have been able to put it into operation.

We are practical people on this side of the Committee and if my right hon. Friend can tell us that he will make a concession in respect of totally blind people, we know that he will try to get something done about it by his right hon. and learned Friend. If it is a fact that the Chief Secretary sits here and cannot give any concession because his right hon. and learned Friend is not here, then his right hon. and learned Friend should be on the Front Bench the whole time, otherwise it makes absolute nonsense of discussions in the Committee. Will my right hon. Friend please tell me whether he will accept this Clause as an earnest of his good intentions?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

May I ask the Chief Secretary for one other assurance? I am sure that we are all glad that he has met the sense of the Committee in the way he has. I am positive, too, that when he sees his right hon. and learned Friend he will put the case to him and make quite clear to him, which will not appear from reading the debate in HANSARD, just how deep feeling has run on both sides of the Committee.

It is possible that we shall have a Division on this Clause. It might be that the right hon. Gentleman would then say that it wiped out the promise that he has given and that the Committee, having come to a decision favourable to him, nothing further need be done on Report. That is one way of looking at it. During my fairly long experience in the House of Commons I have seen Ministers ride oft in that way. I am positive that the right hon. Gentleman will not do that. I ask him to give an assurance that if we proceed to a vote on this new Clause it will make no difference to him and that he will make the representations to his right hon. and learned Friend that he has promised.

Mr. Brooke

I should like to reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward). I am not quite sure whether my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth was in the Committee when I was dealing with the new Clause about the blind and said that it did not seem right to single out one class of disabled men and act for them while neglecting others. When referring to that Clause, I pointed out to my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport that there are only three countries in the world which provide a tax allowance for blind people, singling out blind people as distinct from all others. That is the reason why I cannot advise the Committee to accept that Clause any more than I can advise it to accept the Clause—100 per cent. disabled.

I would say to the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall)—he and I have been in the House of Commons together for a long time and he was a Treasury Minister at one time—that I am sure he will accept my word that I do not regard a Division as wiping out any words that I have spoken in the Committee.

Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 152, Noes 203.

Division No. 210.] AYES [7.58 p.m.
Abse, Leo Hooson, H. E. Peart, Frederick
Albu, Austen Houghton, Douglas Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Probert, Arthur
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Hoy, James H. Proctor, W. T.
Awbery, Stan Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Bacon, Miss Alice Hunter, A. E. Randall, Harry
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Redhead, E. C.
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Rhodes, H.
Benson, Sir George Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Blackburn, F. Jeger, George Robertson, John (Paisley)
Boardman, H. Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Leica, S.W.) Johnson, Carol (Lewlsham, S.) Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)
Bowles, Frank Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Brockway, A. Fenner Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Ross, William
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Short, Edward
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Kelley, Richard Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Kenyon, Clifford Skeffington, Arthur
Callaghan, James Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Collick, Percy Lawson, George Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Lee, Frederick (Newton) Snow, Julian
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Sorensen, R. W.
Crosland, Anthony Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Spriggs, Leslie
Darling, George Loughlin, Charles Steele, Thomas
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lubbock, Eric Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Stones, William
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) McKay, John (Wallsend) Swingler, Stephen
Diamond, John Mackie, John (Enfield, East) Taverne, D.
Dodds, Norman McLeavy, Frank Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Edelman, Maurice Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.) Thornton, Ernest
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Manuel, Archie Timmons, John
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mason, Roy Tomney, Frank
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Mayhew, Christopher Wade, Donald
Evans, Albert Mendelson, J. J. Wainwright, Edwin
Finch, Harold Millan, Bruce Warbey, William
Fitch, Alan Mitchlson, G. R. Ward, Dame Irene
Fletcher, Eric Monslow, Walter Watkins, Tudor
Forman, J. C. Moody, A. S. Weltzman, David
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Morris, John Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Galpern, Sir Myer Moyle, Arthur Willey, Frederick
Ginsburg, David Neal, Harold Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Williams, LI. (Abertillery)
Gourlay, Harry Oliver, G. H. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Lianelly) Oswald, Thomas Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Owen, Will Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Padley, W. E. Woof, Robert
Harper, Joseph Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.) Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Hayman, F. H. Pargiter, G. A. Zilliacus, K.
Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur (RwlyRegis) Parker, John
Herbison, Miss Margaret Paton, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hill, J. (Midlothian) Pavitt, Laurence Mr. Ifor Davies and Mr. Grey.
Holman, Percy Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Agnew, Sir Peter Boyle, Sir Edward Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.
Altken, W. T. Brewis, John Corfield, F. V.
Ashton, Sir Hubert Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.SirWalter Costain, A. P.
Atkins, Humphrey Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Coulson, Michael
Barber, Anthony Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Courtney, Cdr. Anthony
Barlow, Sir John Browne, Percy (Torrington) Craddock, Sir Beresford
Barter, John Bullard, Denys Currie, G. B. H.
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Dalkeith, Earl of
Bell, Ronald Burden, F. A. Dance, James
Berkeley, Humphry Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Deedes, W. F.
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Carr, Robert (Mitcham) de Ferranti, Basil
Biffen, John Cary, Sir Robert Digby, Simon Wingfield
Biggs-Davison, John Channon, H. P. G. Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.
Bingham, R. M. Chichester-Clark, R. Doughty, Charles
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) du Cann, Edward
Bishop, F. P. Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Duncan, Sir James
Black, Sir Cyril Cole, Norman Eden, John
Bossom, Clive Collard, Richard Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)
Box, Donald Cooke, Robert Elliott,R.W.(Nwcastle-upon-Tyne,N.)
Boyd-Carpenter Rt. Hon. John Cooper, A. E. Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn
Errington, Sir Eric Loveys, Walter H. Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Farr, John Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Rippon, Geoffrey
Finlay, Graeme McAdden, Stephen Roots, William
Fisher, Nigel MacArthur, Ian Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Gammans, Lady McLaren, Martin Russell, Ronald
Gibson-Watt, David Maclean, SirFitzroy(Bute&N.Ayrs.) Scott-Hopkins, James
Gilmour, Sir John McLean, Neil (Inverness) Shaw, M.
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Skeet, T. H. H.
Goodhew, Victor Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswlck)
Cower, Raymond Maddan, Martin Smithers, Peter
Grant, Rt. Hon. William Maitland, Sir John Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. Markham, Major Sir Frank Spearman, Sir Alexander
Green, Alan Marten, Neil Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Mathew, Robert (Honlton) Stodart, J. A.
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Storey, Sir Samuel
Harris, Reader (Heston) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Studholme, Sir Henry
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Summers, Sir Spencer
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Miscampbell, Norman Tapsell, Peter
Harvie Anderson, Miss More, Jasper (Ludlow) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Hastings, Stephen Morgan, William Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Morrison, John Teeling, Sir William
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Temple, John M.
Hiley, Joseph Nabarro, Gerald Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Noble, Michael Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Hirst, Geoffrey Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Thornton- Kemsley, Sir Colin
Hocking, Philip N. Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Holland, Philip Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Hollingworth, John Page, Graham (Crosby) Turner, Colin
Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Page, John (Harrow, West) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale) Vane, W. M. F.
Hughes-Young, Michael Partridge, E. Vosper, Rt. Hon. Denis
Hulbert, Sir Norman Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Wakefield, Sir Waved
Hurd, Sir Anthony Percival, Ian Walker, Peter
Iremonger, T. L. Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Pike, Miss Mervyn Wells, John (Maidstone)
James, David Pilkington, Sir Richard Whitelaw, William
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Pitt, Miss Edith Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Pott, Percivall Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Price, David (Eastleigh) Wise, A. R.
Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Prior, J. M. L. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Kerby, Capt. Henry Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Leather, E. H. C. Profumo, Rt. Hon. John Woollam, John
Leavey, J. A. Pym, Francis Worsley, Marcus
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Rawlinson, Peter
Lilley, F. J. P. Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Litchfield, Capt. John Rees, Hugh Mr. Batsford and Mr. Ian Fraser.
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Renton, David
The Temporary Chairman

The next new Clause selected is that in the name of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis)—Abolition of pool betting duty on bets on dog racecourses.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

On a point of order. Surely there must be an error. The next new Clause after the one we have just disposed of is one relating to Scotland—Exemption from excise duty of Scottish shale oil. Surely we ought to be going on to that matter, which concerns Scotland very much because many people in Scotland have lost their jobs lately, yet we have passed over that new Clause to come to a new Clause about—

The Temporary Chairman

Order. The next new Clause selected is in the name of the hon. Member for West Ham, North and the Chair's selection is not debatable.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

Further to that point of order—

The Temporary Chairman

It cannot be. There was not a point of order.

Mr. Ross

On a point of order. I know that it is outwith the bounds of probability to probe the mysteries of selection by the Chairman of Ways and Means, but could you give me your guidance, Mr. Arbuthnot, as to how the failure to select the new Clause—Exemption from excise duty of Scottish shale oil —will affect the selection—

The Temporary Chairman

Order. The selection by the Chair is not debatable. Mr. Lewis.

Mr. Bruce Millan (Glasgow, Craigton) rose

The Temporary Chairman

Order, Mr. Lewis.

Mr. Millan

On a point of order. May I at least have your guidance, Mr. Arbuthnot, on this? Does the fact that the new Clause about Scottish shale oil has not been selected at this stage preclude it from being set down again for consideration on Report?

The Temporary Chairman

It does not preclude it from being set down again, but it cannot be discussed now.

Dr. Mabon

On a point of order. How can we find out—outside this Chamber, of course—what are the reasons for the selection? I am not asking for them just now, but how do hon. Members ascertain how they can have justice done?

The Temporary Chairman

The Chair does not give reasons for selection.

Dr. Mabon

That is not a reason.