HC Deb 21 May 1963 vol 678 cc377-94

Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. H. Lever

I crave the indulgence of the Committee at this hour but, as one of the primary functions of hon. Members is to enforce some elementary logic into the examination of the Government's proposals for taxation, we ought not to part with this Clause until we have some answer as to what thought processes justified this extraordinary Clause which amends the 1961 Act. I hope that the Economic Secretary to the Treasury wilt not think that I am complaining about him personally. His moderation, charm and courtesy are very much in evidence on all these occasions, but he will forgive me if I hope that I have a more satisfactory answer this time than I had on the other Clause. It is not intellectually satisfying to hear no satisfactory answer to my argument and to hear only that there is great weight of opinion in the Committee against it. I hope that I may be recompensed by a specific, detailed answer to the problem which I shall raise now.

In 1961, as far as my memory serves, the Tory Government, remarkably enough, decided to induce its followers in the House of Commons to accept the proposition that it was somewhat distasteful to allow tax relief on Rolls Royce cars or other expensive vehicles used in the course of business. I should have thought that the existing principle applying to tax on these matters before 1961 was sounder than the demagogic tomfoolery introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1961. The principle prior to that was coherent and logical. It made sense that if a businessman in pursuit of profits expended money on a car or any other article necessary to the promotion of his business he was to be allowed it in computing the profits of the business. That seemed a good principle and, as far as I know. it was a principle allowed in business since income Tax came into being and expenses were allowed in computing true profits.

The Tory Party, however, induced its supporters among hon. Members to accept the proposition that when it came to Rolls Royce cars all tax principles should be thrown aside and as a matter of demagogic urgency it was necessary to have a rule of thumb which said that anybody who used a Rolls Royce for his business, whether he needed it or not, should not have a tax allowance except on the first £2,000 of his expenditure when it came to computing profits.

I ventured to ask at the time what the Rolls Royce company, which was the chief target of this penal measure, had done to incur the wrath of the people and of the Tory Chancellor that he should seek to put the company out of business in this way. Up to then I had had the impression that the company—for which I hold no brief—all other things being equal, had placed the country, if anything, somewhat in its debt and was at least owed some explanation from a Tory Chancellor in that its cars by an absolute presumption of law were regarded as an unjustified expenditure for any business in so far as they cost over £2,000. It came to the ludicrous situation that if the Rolls Royce company bought one of its own cars for the promotion of its own business it was subject to this rule. I suppose the company should have bought a Ford, a Chevrolet or an Oldsmobile.

After this piece of acrobatic demagogy on the part of the Chancellor, accepted with supine indifference by the Tory Party's own obedient Lobby fodder and perhaps with some enthusiasm by my hon. Friends who had not examined critically the logic of the proposal, the Committee passed a Resolution that anything over £2,000 was irredeemable against profits. When one has spent that money on a motor car, however necessary it was in earning the profits of the business, however reasonable the expenditure might have been, one is not to be allowed tax relief on it.

12.45 a.m.

Incidentally, conversely, there was no objection to a man spending £2,000 on a Jaguar, for example, even though he did not prove that he needed that expenditure for his business. As long as he spent it modestly, he got it whether he proved that he needed it or not; but if he expended what the former Chancellor thought was extravagance or an undue display of opulence, he was not to be allowed this expenditure for tax purposes.

I said at the time that I could go with the Chancellor in breaching a fundamental principle of taxation that if a man proves that his expenditure was reasonably necessary for the promotion of his business and for the earning of profits, it must be set off against those profits. That is a fundamental principle of taxation law, of logic, equity, common sense and fair dealing. That principle was breached by the Chancellor.

I would have welcomed unconditional repentance by the Chancellor. There is more joy in Heaven when one sinner repenteth, I believe, than in the abundance of righteous men. Even the repentance of the Chancellor, wholeheartedly given, would have been welcomed and applauded by me. We get, however, this scurvy little measure in which, without rhyme, reason or attempt at logic, the Chancellor climbs back a little way from the demagogy of 1961.

The Committee is entitled to some explanation, because as I read the Clause —I do not have the skill of the Economic Secretary in interpreting it, but using my best endeavours at interpreting it —it has the following effect. If I buy a Rolls Royce for my business and I run it for six, seven or eight years, I get exactly the same total result as if I bought a lesser car, namely, that the whole of the expenditure on the car is allowed for tax purposes. If, however, I buy a Rolls Royce and change it every year, in computing my profits I am allowed only the amount that I would have got had I bought a £2,000 car.

In other words, the Government, having persuaded their obedient followers, and, indeed, the House as a whole, to a generalised dislike of the people who spend more than £2,000 on cars for their business, even though it may be justified in a particular case, having made a general, penal, absolute prohibition on such expenditure, have now reduced that to a conditional penalisation of those who spend more than £2,000 on a car. We are asked to assent to the position not of unconditional penal consequences to people who spend more than £2,000 on a car. We are asked to assent to a conditional state. If a man is restless and keeps changing his expensive car each year, the Government tax collector will assume that he bought a Jaguar for £2,000 or some such automobile; but if he keeps his car over a long period, he is allowed the total cost to him of the car.

I want the Minister to tell me the reason for this remarkable ruling. Why do not the Government either adhere to their original demagogy once it is passed or restore in its purity the original and reasonable principle that what a businessman expends, and proves he expends, for the promotion of his business and his profits may be lawfully set against those profits in the ordinary way. If he does not want to restore the original purity, the Minister must surely tell us why he thinks that a man is entitled to better treatment taxwise if he keeps his expensive car for five years than if he changes it every year. We are entitled to know.

Finally, I want to know from the Minister whether or not he assents to the principle that it is for the businessman to decide what are reasonable expenses to make in promoting his business and that it is not for the Government to make a general law laying down what level of expenses he may incur. If he thinks that the Government are entitled to lay down this rule in relation to motor cars, will he say why it should not be extended into other spheres? Why do the Government not determine, for example, the amount that a businessman may spend on his hotel bedroom if that is a reasonable proposition? If it is a reasonable proposition to say that a man cannot have a luxury car for his business and that in principle it will be treated differently from another, why should not one establish the same principle for hotel bedrooms? Why do we not go on with the penal treatment and say that businessmen who go into luxury hotel bedrooms shall be treated similarly to the buyers of Rolls Royce cars?

I want to know, first, whether the Government have finally repudiated the principle that expenditure reasonably incurred in the promotion of a business and in the earning of its profits may always be set against those profits. Secondly, why do the Government discriminate between an expensive car buyer who keeps his car for five or six years and one who changes it every year? Thirdly, if the principle of allowing expenses incurred to promote business and earn profits is to he breached in relation to motor cars, why do not the Government in logic breach the principle in relation to every other form of business expenditure?

Mr. Barber

Whether or not an individual who is engaged in trade can set off against his profits the expenses of a hotel bedroom while he is travelling on the company's business is a matter concerned with the general rules governing deduction under Case I of Schedule D. Here we are concerned not with the general rules but with capital allowances, something quite different. I think that the hon. Gentleman will be the first to agree that different principles apply in these circumstances.

The hon. Member may well say that it is wrong in principle in dealing with capital allowances to take the line that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) took in 1961 or the line which to a lesser extent is proposed in the Clause, but I do not think that what we are considering here, which is concerned solely with capital allowances, can be considered in the same context as the general rules for expenses to be set against profits.

Mr. H. Lever

I do not want to get into technical quibbles with the Economic Secretary. I think that my point was valid. However, if he relies on the technical point that this is a capital allowance, will he tell us whether the principle that expenditure incurred, and reasonably incurred, in the promotion of a business should not qualify for the ordinary capital allowances whether it is on a motor car or plant of any other kind?

Mr. Barber

Again, obviously this is not the sort of matter that one can usefully pursue at this time of the morning.

Mr. Lever

But we are pursuing it.

Mr. Barber

But I must remind the hon. Gentleman that there are different capital allowances for different types of equipment—for example, for plant and machinery and for industrial buildings. There is no annual allowance for capital expended on commercial buildings. So far as I know, the Committee has always taken the view that it is open to the Government to provide different rules and provisions for these capital allowances. We may differ as to which is right and which is wrong.

Under the provisions which the Committee passed in the Finance Act, 1961, the amount on which capital allowances can be claimed for cars used for business is limited to £2,000. Where a business car costs more than £2,000 the initial and annual allowances given for it are those which would be due if the car had cost exactly £2,000, and, as the hon. Gentleman will be aware, there are provisions for balancing allowances and charges. I well remember during the debates in 1961 making it clear that the Government had no wish to deter people from using the more expensive types of car, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be the first to agree are a credit to the motor industry and which I believe are of considerable prestige value to British engineering generally.

There can be little doubt that the way in which the 1961 provision worked has been unfair to those who manufacture the more expensive cars. Indeed, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral last year promised that he would give further consideration to the provision, which had been introduced only the year before. The unfairness arises simply because the more expensive car lasts longer and keeps its value better than the cheaper car. This is not recognised or taken into account by the £2,000 limit.

Perhaps I could give a short and concrete example. Mr. A buys a Rolls Royce for, say, £6,000, keeps it for six years and then sells it. He may spend no more in total than Mr. B who buys a new £2,000 Jaguar every two years. Over the six years Mr. B's cars, the cost of which will also amount to £6,000 in total, may bring in no more than Mr. A gets after six years. The Jaguar buyer, in fact, will not be restricted at all by the 1961 provision, whereas the Rolls buyer's total allowances will be only one-third of what they would otherwise have been.

This has been shown to be unfair. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would give the Government a little credit for looking at this again and for deciding, in the light of experience, to remedy the position. What we are trying to do is to meet the unfairness while still preserving some restriction on expenditure on cars allowed for purposes of capital allowances. This is done by imposing a limit on depreciation allowances given in respect of cars. These allowances are not to exceed certain specified annual amounts. The overriding limit on the total allowances imposed by the Finance Act, 1961, will disappear and the effect of this new provision will be that, providing a car costing over £2,000 is kept long enough, relief will eventually be given in reasonably yearly amounts on its full cost. But it will not be possible, as it was before 1961, to get allowances at 55 per cent.-30 per cent. initial allowance and 25 per cent. annual allowance—on the cost of the expensive car in the first year.

The main features of this proposal are as the hon. Gentleman has interpreted the Clause. In the first place, the first year's allowance for a new car costing over £2,000 will be limited to the same figure as at present under the 1961 legislation—that is to say, £1,100 made up of £600 in initial allowance and £500 by the first year's annual allowance. For subsequent years, there is to be a limit of £500 on the annual allowance for a car if the allowance would otherwise exceed that amount. The £500 limit will continue to operate only because the written down value for tax purposes is less than £2,000. Thereafter, the normal 25 per cent. annual allowance will be less than £500 and given without restriction. The normal provisions for balancing allowances and charges will follow on the consequential provisions I have referred to. I do not think that I need go into that.

1.0 a.m.

I believe that the new scheme is fair as between one type of car and another and that it is right that my right hon. Friend should have introduced it in the light of the way in which the 1961 legislation has worked out in practice, and I commend it to the Committee.

Mr. Diamond

Will the hon. Gentleman explain subsection (8), which refers to hiring? So far he has dealt only with outright purchase.

Mr. Barber

The hon. Member will recall that in the 1961 Act we had to include certain provisions which were not directly relevant to what we were trying to do, but which were concerned with the hiring of cars and which were to prevent avoidance. When my right hon. Friend was considering what relaxation he might make in the capital allowances in respect of the purchase of expensive motor cars to meet the sort of anomaly I have mentioned, he had also to consider whether it would be necessary to make any change in the provisions about hiring.

He concluded that it would be unfair to leave the provisions relating to hiring as they were in the 1961 legislation, because in that event the hirer would be penalised, whereas all we wanted to do in this Clause, as in the 1961 legislation, was to prevent avoidance of the main provisions by somebody simply hiring a car instead of purchasing one. If the hon. Member would like me to pursue the matter, I have the details of the way in which subsection (8) works, but I can assure him that the main purpose in dealing with hiring at all is to prevent avoidance of tax. All we have tried to do is to amend the provisions relating to hiring in such a way as to make it fair and reasonable, as we tried to do in the 1961 legislation.

Mr. H. Lever

I am sorry to weary the Committee but I must underline that the two points which I raised have been answered in the most extraordinary manner. I asked whether the Government were satisfied to continue to breach a principle, namely, that where one spends money for the purpose of one's business and for earning a profit, the only test for deciding whether that expenditure should rank for allowance in Income Tax assessments should be the reasonableness of that expenditure. I had no reply to that. The Financial Secretary sought to side-step it by saying that it was not an expenditure for the purposes of business of an ordinary kind, but was capital expenditure. Without discourtesy to him personally, I can only say that that is an unworthy quibble.

This was underlined by my hon. Friend's question about hiring. If someone hires a Rolls-Royce, under the 1961 Act he is making an expenditure not of a capital character but of a current income character in earning his profits, and it was disallowed for the same reason and on the same principle that capital expenditures were disallowed.

As a question of principle, does the hon. Gentleman think it right to continue in any form the principle annunciated by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), namely, that the Government should rule arbitrarily and at fixed amounts that certain capital expenditure or income expenditure should not rank fully as against profits, irrespective of whether it was reasonable to make that expenditure, but simply on an arbitrary amount of the expenditure? I had no answer to that question other than an unworthy quibble.

Some of my hon. Friends have given the impression that tonight I am pleading the case for the oppressed Rolls-Royce car owner, that I am seeking to wring tears of sympathy from hon. Members on behalf of the owners of Rolls-Royce car owner, that I am seeking to of reason and logic should be applied in taxation, and that if there is any demagogy or unfairness it should be exposed. The fact that a man owns a Rolls-Royce car does not disentitle him from the application of the ordinary principles of logic and fairness in the application of taxation principles which are well established in this country and have existed since Income Tax came into being, which were abrogated by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and which are being only partially and illogically restored by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I feel that it is my duty to underline the fact that in answer to my first question, "Are the Government ashamed of the disgraceful and demagogic provisions of the 1961 Act, and are they attempting to restore the original principles of our tax laws which were sound?", I was treated to an unworthy quibble about capital expenses and the like.

My second point was to ask what was the logic behind this amendment of the law relating to expensive cars. The effect of it, as the Financial Secretary agrees, is that anybody who keeps one of these expensive cars for a number of years will be treated as he would have been treated for all practical purposes before the 1961 Act, and the person who buys an inexpensive car and changes it every year will be penalised as before under the 1961 Act.

The reason given by the Financial Secretary was not a quibble, but an outright piece of nonsense. He attempted to persuade the Committee that if a man had a Rolls-Royce car and kept it for five years, his total depreciation over the period would be the same as in the case of a man who bought a Jaguar and changed it every year. This is untrue. This is an attractive argument, but it is pure bunkum. A man who buys a Rolls-Royce and keeps it for five years sustains a vastly greater depreciation than a man who buys a Jaguar and changes it every year.

I am not in the motor car business, and I am not especially good at mathematics, but every schoolboy knows that it is more expensive in terms of depreciation if a man owns a Rolls-Royce car costing £8,000 than if he owns a Jaguar car costing £2,000. Therefore, the excuse for this shabby little climb back from the 1961 nonsense will not stand up to examination, and we are left without any explanation for a ludicrous amendment of the law, the effect of which will be that a man can run an expensive car without any penal tax consequences as long as he keeps it for a number of years, but if he changes it every year, although it makes no difference in the long run, he is penalised with the original demagogic purity of the 1961 Act.

I think that the Clause is reprehensible, even more reprehensible than the 1961 Act. It is lamentable that no hon. Gentleman opposite has demanded some logic or explanation from his Government for this remarkable situation.

Mr. Diamond

The hour is very late, but, nevertheless, I seek to detain the Committee for a few minutes on this Clause because we are unhappy about it.

I start with the words of the Chancellor in his Budget speech. I do not propose to quote them exactly, but he thought that in introducing this new provision he was preserving the basic purposes of the original proposals. He led us to believe that by this amendment of the 1961 Act he was removing the misfortune to which Rolls-Royce were being put, but, at the same time, was helping and sustaining the main objects of those proposals, namely, to prevent extravagant ostentatious expenditure being incurred.

I am not sure that his purposes have been achieved. We have been given, by way of example, the case of a man who buys a £6,000 ear and changes it once in six years and the man who buys a £2,000 car and changes it every year. It has been shown that the same depreciation allowance is given, whereas before a different allowance would have been given. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to this example in his Second Reading speech. On every occasion when a Government spokesman has referred to this subject he has been careful to avoid giving an example of what the balancing charges would be, no doubt to avoid complication, but my suspicions were aroused immediately I heard the Government explanation, and they have been reinforced by the knowledge that the suspicions of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever) have also been aroused.

Neither he nor I have the advantage of knowing the secondhand value of Jaguars which are two years old, or Bentleys or Roll-Royces which are six years old, but my strong suspicion is that the example given is completely misleading, because it does not tell us what we want to know. We want to know not what the comparison between these two cars is in terms purely of capital allowances, but the difference between the cost to which the Inland Revenue would be put—that is to say, the amount of tax it would have had to allow and the amount of tax which it will allow, which is at the moment being borne by the taxpayers in general. None of us, without the help of the Government, could give a precise indication of the secondhand values, and, therefore, the cost to the Treasury, in the circumstances outlined.

As I was unable to do that I took the only course open to a person who can add up but does not know anything about secondhand values. I looked up the cost, because it seemed that we were not likely to be saving the Inland Revenue much by the proposals in the Clause. The Clause affects the tax position to the extent of £2½ million. According to the Financial Statement, in a full year this proposal will cost the Revenue that amount. That is not a very great amount—until we look up the 1961 provision and find that the original proposals were designed to benefit the Treasury by the large sum not of £2½ million but £3 million.

In other words, there has been a variation in the estimate of £500,000, which can surely be omitted for this purpose. Nobody can say, at a particular point of time, that the estimate of £2½ million was dead right, or that the estimate of £3 million was dead right. For all practical purposes the two figures are the same.

My suspicions have been confirmed that the Government have said one thing and are doing another. This is a very difficult thing to say unless one is capable of proving it. The Government have said, through the Chancellor, that they are observing the basic purpose of the original proposals, but what they are doing financially is precisely the opposite they are throwing them away completely. They are giving back the £3 million or £2½ million which was being saved by the original proposals. Unless there is anything wrong in the Financial Statement—and the Treasury is responsible for that—what I charge the Government with is justified. That is why I was anxious that the Government should be a little more forthcoming about subsection (8).

1.15 a.m.

We have not had a word about the hiring. We recollect what happened in 1961, when the Chancellor of the day mentioned in his Budget speech that he was proposing to do this and he gave the reasons. Immediately—my recollection is that it was the very next day—there appeared advertisements in The Times from well-known suppliers of Bentley cars, stating, "Why should you bother about the Budget proposals limiting the purchase of Bentley cars when you can hire them from us and get away with the full hiring charge?"

This was followed by a proposal in the Finance Bill, and it subsequently became law, that the purposes of the provision could not be avoided by hiring as opposed to buying. Hiring limitations were brought in, to prevent the circumvention of the proposal, that for a car which might have been bought for £2,000 the maximum travel expenses would be £2,000 and if the car was hired there would be only a proportionate charge—£2,000 on a £4,000 car and up to X amount for the hire. Half of X would be allowed.

I fail to see, therefore, and it has not been explained, why it is necessary to increase the amount which may be paid by way of hire. I appreciate that the Financial Secretary said that he had the details and would be willing to give an explanation were he pressed to do so. But I still make the point that the explanation has not been forthcoming so far, and mention would not have been made of it had I not asked about a particular subsection.

At present, we have a provision under which instead of limiting the figure to £2,000, it is £2,000 plus half of the excess. I understand that in the case of a car costing £4,000 the hire charge would be limited to a proportion based on a fraction of which one side would be the full cost of the car and the other £2,000 plus half of the excess—threequarters of the total instead of one half. I fail to understand why the Government should wish that a person who wants to avoid these proposals should be able to increase the hire charges for tax purposes from a half to three-quarters in an example such as I have given. That is one reason why the Financial Statement shows that the benefits obtained for the taxpayer under the 1961 proposals are being wholly returned.

I wish to return to the principle referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham. He will be pleased with what I say at the start. But he will be very displeased with what I shall say subsequently. He will be pleased when I say chat I agree with him that it is a mere quibble for the Financial Secretary to try to maintain that there is any difference between the principle adopted in treating certain items as liable because they are deductions under Case 11 in the ordinary way of expenditure as compared with the capital allowances which come under a slightly different part of the Bill arid are something different in nature.

It is not whether we calculate the amount to be allowed by reference to the amount the taxpayer pays or whether we calculate it by capital allowances which is merely a method of getting what the taxpayer pays over a period. There is no difference whatever. My hon. Friend will not mind my saying that, although I think that he is right in drawing attention to this fundamental breach of principle, I and my hon. Friends regard it as a most important breach of a principle which must be maintained.

I agree with my hon. Friend that this, so far as I am aware, is the only case in which the Revenue departs from its normal principle. The normal principle for the Revenue in dealing with assessments of business is to say that it is for the businessman to make profits or losses and to run his business as he thinks fit. It takes no share in running his business and expresses no opinion on how he runs it, but collects its share of the profits he makes. The case of luxury, ostentation, extravagance in using cars which are more expensive than necessary for the efficient conduct of the business, which adds status, dignity, a feeling of comfort, is one example—there are others—of how businessmen have gradually built up a standard of extravagance which, sooner or later, the State has to come in and limit in some way. The Financial Secretary is smiling, but the Government have limited it and were the first to do it. They quite properly did it two years ago.

These various expenses have been challenged for some time. The normal way in which the Government have attempted to deal with the matter was to see that businessmen did not get expenses to which they were not entitled. The Revenue and taxpayers have been put to considerable trouble and the net result of all that trouble has been that the amount of tax collected has not varied very much in this respect and travelling and entertainment expenses have gone on in this increasingly ostentatious way. The only way to put a limit to it was for the Revenue to step in and say, "This has gone far enough. We agree that people must have motor cars to run their business. They can run them satisfactorily with a £2,000 car, they do not need a £4,000 or a £8,000 car."

Mr. H. Lever

My hon. Friend is saying that it is necessary to have legislation so that when a Rolls-Royce car is an unnecessary extravagance it should be disallowable in computing profits of a business, but surely if the Rolls-Royce is in any particular case an unnecessary extravagance, that is caught by the general law on tax computation and is disallowable in any event.

Mr. Diamond

My hon. Friend is thinking of the farmer who had the benefit. That is a very special case and it is not the normal case at all. There is no question whatever that the Revenue is absolutely powerless to prevent practically every man now running a £1,000 car having a £6,000 car and charging it against his business profits.

The only way to set a limit was the way it was set in 1961. That is a very important principle and we regard it as equally important as the Government did at the time. We are most anxious that that principle should not be forgotten or lost, or that it should disappear as it seems to be disappearing if one looks at the purely financial figures involved. It seems to be maintained up to a point in the amended proposals before us, but we feel very unhappy about it. It is too late to go into this in any great detail, but we want to reserve the right, although we shall let this Clause go, to come back to it on Report, if necessary, to amend it in any way which on closer examination may seem necessary.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 41 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Houghton

I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

The Finance Bill is rather like the Bible; we get through a chapter at a time. We have reached the end of Chapter III, and if we break off now we shall have the whole of Chapter IV to do, and we can hope to finish the Bill on Thursday and to start the new Clauses on Monday. That is our hope and intention on this side of the Committee, and I hope that it will be satisfactory to the Chancellor.

Mr. Maudling

I am a little disturbed by the fact that today we have covered only nine Clauses and there are no fewer than 28 more to cover. It will be for the general convenience if we finish the Bill on Thursday and start the new Clauses next week, but it is not always convenient for hon. Members to sit late on Thursdays and I should very much like to conclude the Bill at a reasonable hour on Thursday. We should be more likely to achieve that if we completed Chapter IV. [HON. MEMBERS: "Be reasonable."] I am being reasonable.

We have spent rather a long time arguing Clauses to which there has been no opposition, and if we leave ourselves 28 Clauses for Thursday I think that that will be less convenient than taking the next few Clauses now. We could quickly run through the miscellaneous provisions in Clauses 42 to 48, and start on the Estate Duty provisions, in Part III, and the Stamp Duties provisions, on Thursday. It would be more convenient if we did it that way.

Mr. H. Lever

I am surprised at the Chancellor, because he was courteously present when the Economic Secretary explained that it was too late to give the Clauses the attention which they required when I raised points which were not so complex as the points which will inevitably arise if we proceed now. He candidly admitted that it was too late for us to discuss these complex matters in detail. He shakes his head, but if he reads HANSARD he will find that that is what he said.

I do not want the Chancellor to impose the unfair burden not only on the Economic Secretary but on all of us of giving attention to these complex points and destroying the ridiculously illogical arguments put forward by the Government. The Chancellor enjoys a great measure of good will. We have great admiration for his talents and his courtesy to the House. I feel that he will further his own case and promote the speedy handling of the Bill if he accepts my hon Friend's very reasonable request.

1.30 a.m.

Mr. Mitchison

I feel rather hard done by over this. I omitted to ask the Government searching questions about what happens if one has a hovercraft instead of a motor car. I feel that they ought to keep up with the times, if they are to look into the 1970s; they are a forward-looking party. But we did not hear a word about that, only about motor cars. They are quite out of date.

Taking the matter more seriously, must the Chancellor do this? These are not lengthy Clauses, and he will see that there is little in them or in the Amendments. I cannot claim much experience, but I have been through many Finance Bills, and, looking through the Bill, I began to wonder whether we might not run dry on Thursday if we went on much longer. There is a substantial point about Estate Duty and another about Stamp Duty. They are fascinating subjects, but they do not have the local interest and excitement attaching to some of the matters we have discussed today.

I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to accept what is as good an offer as we can make from this side of the Committee. I am sure that my hon. and right hon. Friends will do their best to see that we get the Bill by Thursday. We cannot guarantee these things, but we can try.

Mr. Maudling

I am trying to consider the convenience of the Committee and, as I have said, it would be a pity to have to sit until a very late hour on Thursday to finish the Clauses of the Bill. I recognise that no guarantees can be given in these matters, but I have the impression from what the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) was saying that there would be an effort made on both sides of the Committee, if we ceased now, to deal with the remaining points on the Clauses of the Bill on Thursday by a reasonable hour.

There are some important points—Stamp Duty, for example—but otherwise I think that it would be generally agreed that, while there may be matters for immense speech making, it would probably not be necessary for there to be a compulsion on hon. Members to make immense speeches on the remaining 28 Clause. I think that if we resolve on both sides of the Committee to make a real effort to complete the Clauses of the Bill by a reasonable hour on Thursday, then, in that spirit, I would be prepared to accept the Motion.

Mr. Houghton

I have given that assurance on several occasions. There has never been any doubt as to our intention to try to finish the Bill at a reasonable hour on Thursday. Who knows, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever) may not turn up.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.