HC Deb 29 May 1963 vol 678 cc1467-84

(1) Where money passes or is deemed to pass on the death of a person dying after the commencement of this Act to a body to which this section applies, that money shall not be taken into account for the purpose of estimating the principal value of the estate passing on the death or the rate at which estate duty is chargeable thereon and that money shall be exempt from estate duty.

(2) The bodies to which this section applies are the National Gallery, the British Museum or any other similar national institution, the National Art Collections Fund, the society known as "the Friends of the National Libraries" or any other fund or society formed for the purpose of contributions to public museums, galleries or libraries and accepted by the Treasury as of public importance for that purpose. — [Dr. Stross.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

10.45 p.m.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

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

This Clause refers to exemption from Estate Duty of money passing to certain art galleries, museums, etc. I note that on this occasion the Economic Secretary is to reply whereas, in July, 1959, we received our answer from the then Financial Secretary. That leads me to hope that we shall fare better than on that occasion—when we could not have failed more. I well remember the answer we got then from the Financial Secretary—which, I thought, was a little specious—was completely demolished by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison).

Tonight, we are looking at the possibility of offering some further fiscal advantage to possible benefactors of art galleries and museums. What we ask for is not new; the door is at least three-quarters open, and we want to see it opened just a little further, because examination of the situation has shown me—and I think that many hon. and right hon. Members know that it is so —that there are already considerable incentives offered to would-be benefactors.

The present fiscal advantages fall into three categories. First, Estate Duty is remitted in respect of pictures, prints, books, manuscripts, works of art or scientific collections that appear to the Treasury to be of national scientific or historical interest and are given or bequeathed for national purposes to a university, a county council or a municipal corporation. That is a very real fiscal advantage, but there is a second one. Objects similar to those I have just mentioned are additionally exempted under Section 40 of the 1930 Finance Act, and subsequent Acts, when they are sold by private treaty to national or provincial museums. The third advantage is that gifts made inter vivos of money or money's worth to a museum or gallery are exempt if the donor survives for only the first year instead of the usual five.

By this Clause we ask only that if money is bequeathed it should not be aggregated, and that the heir should not have to pay Estate Duty on it. We argue that there is no serious distinction between bequeathing a Renoir or the value of a Renoir between the painting or the value of the painting. The fact that it is at present not possible so to treat such a bequest has been reviewed again and again by many authorities interested in the arts, including the Gulbenkian Committee in its 5th and 6th reports on museums and galleries, and in its recent excellent survey of provincial museums and galleries. They are satisfied that the present provisions are such that the lack of this further provision for which I am pleading is a deterrent to help that might well come to museums and art galleries, and they are particularly sensible of the need of museums and art galleries in the provinces.

I mentioned a Renoir or the value of a Renoir. It is quite possible that a spate of Renoirs will be bequeathed to the nation at some time in the future—possibly within half a generation. Every great builder or developer knows that he has not "arrived" if he has not got a Renoir. They all have one. This is fascinating; I like it. It is fashionable, and such people can afford it. Some of them, I hope, will give their Renoirs to the nation, and there will be no aggregation. But if they have not got a Renoir and say, "We will give £50,000 instead to the National Gallery or the Tate Gallery", their heirs must suffer. This does not seem reasonable.

I am aware of the kind of argument that has been used against this suggestion, because I have consulted the report of the debate that we had in 1959 on this subject and the answer that we had from the Financial Secretary at that time. The answer is that there is a difference between the two gifts—between a gift in kind such as a painting or a piece of sculpture, and a gift of money. We heard on the last Clause how eloquently the Financial Secretary pleaded that we must have Parliamentary control over money that there is no Parliamentary control if people bequeath it or if there is tax remission on it, whereas if it is given in a lump sum direct from the Treasury to the organisation concerned we know what we are doing and we can decide how it should be spent.

There is something to be said for that argument, but not as much as was suggested when we last debated this matter. I suggest that there is so little in this argument that I hope we shall this time recover some of the ground that we lost last time and attain our objective.

Everyone knows that in other countries different and much more far-reaching methods are used. This is a very modest proposal. Most hon. Members, I think, view with a good deal of caution the methods used in the United States. I certainly cannot agree with some of the expert advisers, whether in the Standing Commission or elsewhere, who think that we should go all out and use the American technique.

However, be that as it may—and it would be out of order to stress this point —I think it is generally accepted that I am asking for very little. This proposal is not likely to cost very much. The situation today is really urgent. I ask the Economic Secretary to say that he recognises that many of these institutions for which I am pleading need financial help, that in many cases the fabric is decaying and the roofs need patching. Some of them leak. Labelling, conservation and preservation of articles that must at all costs be well cared for are such that we are losing some of the very symbols of our past. Perhaps I have stated this badly, but I think hon. Members know what I mean when I speak of our history being wrapped up in the contents of many museums, which show how we live and what we have come from. We have no right to be careless of our own heritage.

I remember a few years ago in the House mentioning, I think almost with tears in my eyes, that I knew of one gallery in the South-West, a national institution, where priceless old masters' drawings had become mildewed because the roof was leaking. Conditions at that gallery are better now, but at that time the curator had to spend all his spare time on the roof patching it to prevent the rain from coming in because there was no money available. That fault was not necessarily Ours or that of the Treasury. The local authority was responsible in that case and should have taken much more care, as I know it is doing now. But in many of these institutions not owned or supported by local authorities, institutions which were privately endowed, most of them about eighty or ninety years ago, with endowments which were quite sufficient then but which are quite inadequate now, there is little or no help. It is high time that the pleas of the Standing Commission in the Report to which I have referred were accepted and the Treasury found some money at once to ensure that help is given.

In 1960, I think it was, when we had our last debate on the arts—it was on a Friday—the Standing Commission was asked to survey the whole subject with a view to enabling the Government to ascertain what help, and how much, was needed. In its Report the Standing Commission made clear that quite a lot of money is required immediately. The Economic Secretary knows that an offer of £10,000 for all the area organisations is not regarded as very much, and it is only £10,000 that the Government have offered towards the costs of the areas councils of the organisations concerned with all the provincial museums and galleries. Ten times that amount would do to start with.

If the Economic Secretary will give us a satisfactory reply showing that the Treasury take the matter seriously—I believe that that is its attitude—I should plead with my right hon. and hon. Friends not to divide the Committee on this issue. I would rather we did not divide. Over the years, there has been constant pressure for a generous attitude towards the arts by the Government of the day, whichever Government it may be. I like to think that this pressure has produced results. It has certainly produced quite excellent results fairly recently. But we cannot go on with a little help from the Government and nothing from the private benefactor. If we want help, as we do, from the private benefactor, we should give him the opportunity afforded by the new Clause. For those reasons, not taking the matter at length because of the time, I commend the new Clause to the Committee.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

I oppose the new Clause, so pleasantly and ably moved by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), for several reasons which I can state quite briefly. First, it is right to recall that this debate is similar in many respects to the debate we have just had about sport. Everyone was in favour of amateur sport. Everyone was in favour of being able to provide some sort of financial advantage to amateur sport. The real question related to the method by which that aim was to be achieved. In that case, hon. Members opposite were suggesting that it should be done by fiscal advantage, and they sought to argue that the method should be by the remission of tax.

In this case, it is suggested that a similar aim should be achieved by another technique, to divert bequests from other worthy objects to the benefit of the specific objects expressed in the new Clause. Both of them are wrong because both of them are the wrong system to achieve what is the right objective in itself. 11.0 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman and those hon. Gentlemen who support him no less than I are great advocates of trying to assist the fine arts, but I am quite satisfied that the method which he wishes to pursue is not the right method by which this can be pursued. I believe we must be equal in tax under the law. The principle must be the same, and if one is to be entitled, either by way of an object or by way of money, to be given a fiscal advantage in order to divert money to the National Gallery or museums it will merely mean that other worthy objects, be they research, natural history, birds, ornithology, or what have you, will as a result suffer, because the money will be left under bequests in this direction.

It does not entirely end there. In each of the objectives in subsection (2) of the new Clause the fact is that the Treasury would have to accept as of public importance for that purpose any bequest to the benefit of the National Gallery, the British Museum…the National Art Collections Fund…the Friends of the National Libraries' and indeed any public society, provincial or otherwise, for the purpose; because it is not applied to the object: it is applied to money, and obviously, each of these societies and museums would be able usefully, as being of public importance, to use that money.

The other reason I oppose it is this. This is again going perilously near to what one may call the American system, and I do not think this country is fully apprised of quite how unfortunate that system is. It of course was of great value to the Americans, particularly in years gone by, but I believe that it will not be long before they themselves abrogate that system which is really rapidly becoming a farce. The situation today is that the curators of the main museums in America are approached in advance by a millionaire or a potential millionaire. I can cite the names of the curators and I can cite examples, if need be, arising from my own visit there when I discussed these matters with the men concerned. They are asked, "What do you want us to give you?" They then proceed to beg the curators to allow them to purchase various works of art—of course, nothing less than about 50,000 dollars: the more the better—tax-free, the basis being that they enjoy them during their lifetime and they pass on their death to the museums concerned. This, of course, has been of use in America where they did not have the heritage which we are fortunate enough to have in this country. We are not so much concerned with obtaining new works of art as they have been during the last twenty or thirty years.

I am bound to say—I do not say this in any sense offensively—that I do find it a most extraordinary situation that Socialists can support the suggestion which is coming tonight from the Socialist benches, when they of all people have done so much to try to break down, with heavy Estate Duty, the opportunities to preserve the very heritage which we seek. Let me give an example of this. Take the Duke of Devonshire, who has, I suppose, one of the finest art collections in this country, who in recent years has had to sell off many of the finest works of art in his collection—although I am happy to say he still retains a good many—for the purpose of paying heavy Estate Duty. We have here today in this country one of the greatest collections of silver which has probably ever been seen in the world, the Brownlow Collection, which the House of Commons cannot be bothered to buy and did not make an effort to preserve, with the Belton wine cistern which belonged to the Speaker two centuries ago. This is the way we go.

The fact is that if we want a heritage we do not want to put it all into museums. What is the point of putting all the finest eighteenth century furniture into museums`? It cannot be seen properly there. We want to retain it in the right surroundings. The hon. Gentleman has effectively debated with me the necessity of maintaining the historic homes, and the hon. Gentleman is one of those who, I know, share my view.

If we want to encourage this, do not let us tear down by heavy Estate Duty the great homes and heritages which can preserve the great works of art to be seen by all, but let us give every encouragement to enable them to be maintained, provided that they are open freely to the public. If hon. Members opposite like to criticise that these homes are not sufficiently open to the public, I will support them to ensure that they are more open and the public can more enjoy them. My argument is that where money is bequeathed or bequests are made in kind, in sculpture or pictures, the wrong approach is to try to give fiscal advantage either before or after death to encourage a man to divert money which should be regarded as absolutely equal for the purpose he wants. We should take a little less away in Estate Duty and give an opportunity for the great estates and the works of art to be maintained, and we should give a direct incentive to ensure that they are maintained so that the public can see them.

I know a great deal more about sport than I am ever likely to know about the arts.:rust as we should support sport though bodies like the A.A.A. by subsidy, so likewise we should give support here by direct subsidy to buy pictures for the nation and to encourage their showing to the public in the right setting. But, for heaven's sake, do not let us try to persuade the Cottons and the Clores to divert after their death money to the National Gallery which equally could go to helping the blind or to research work of some kind. I am not prepared that we should stand for the betterment of the fine arts by pinching for them what should equally belong to other institutions.

Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

I cannot understand the argument of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). It is entirely illogical in present circumstances. If an estate contains articles which an institution similar to those mentioned in the new Clause would want to buy or have in its collection, that article is anyhow exempt from Estate Duty. Its value is not included in the value of the estate, and if it is given by the trustees or an executor to an art gallery it carries no Estate Duty. Its value is not included for the purpose of estimating the amount due ad valorem for Estate Duty. What on earth, therefore, is the hon. Member talking about? If this is the case it means that precisely what the hon. Member wants is already possible. If it is kept in such a home and then transferred to an institution, no duty is payable on it. The only time that duty becomes payable on it is if it is sold.

In these circumstances, the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet gets all he wants. He says that Estate Duty should not be charged on residences and furniture and the other assets of an estate, excluding articles of art. I am sure the Economic Secretary will agree that that argument is not sustainable. I make this appeal to the Economic Secretary: why not allow the portion of an estate which is bequeathed to a gallery or museum to be treated in precisely the same way as if the individual concerned had brought a work of art for that gallery or museum?

If a person grants in his will a sum of money for precisely the same purpose, his beneficiaries have to pay full Estate Duty on the full amount, whereas if the money had been used a week before his death to buy an article which a museum would want it would be excluded.

I cannot see the logic of preventing the money itself from being exempt if the deceased could have avoided the duty on that sum by using it to buy an article of art a few minutes before his death. It may be argued that money bequeathed to an institution may be used for other purposes than purchasing works of art. That, too, is a false argument, because a museum exists for the purpose of exhibiting works of art. The money would only be used to further the objects of the institution, and as long as there were an undertaking that the money would be used for such purposes, perhaps the Government would be prepared to agree to this Clause. This would mean nothing other than what happens at present. 11.15 p.m.

It is not a question of an art gallery buying it. The law at present is that these articles need not be sold to an art gallery. That is what the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet was talking about. A person can retain the article in his home. He can lend it to a gallery. The only thing he is prevented from doing is sending it out of the country. He would be prevented from sending it out of the country only if he intended to sell it to somebody abroad. If he intended to sell it to somebody abroad, the Board of Trade could insist upon the British Museum or other institution purchasing the article because it was of value to the nation. Museums are institutions which exist for the purpose of buying—not for the purpose of selling, but for the purpose of exhibiting.

In an attempt to compress this argument into a small space I may have confused the issue. The point is that the law at present is that the executors of someone who has works of art are not called upon to include the value of those works of art, if they are accepted as such, in the aggregate of the estate on which duty is assessed. For example, if a person left an estate of £500,000, of which £400,000 consisted of articles of that description, the assessment for duty purposes would be £100,000 only.

It might be an inducement to people to leave money to the various institutions. An honest person who wanted the finest articles preserved for the benefit of the nation would take the view that it would be better for him to save the money than to buy articles himself, because they might be of no value, whereas an institution would purchase articles it required and which were of value. if this concession is not granted, people who want to preserve articles of this description for the nation will be encouraged to purchase articles which may not be required by museums but which on the purchasers' death will go to museums, instead of museums being in a position to purchase exactly what they want.

This is an extremely important point. I ask the Economic Secretary to grant this concession.

Mr. du Cann

I first say to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) that the length of his speech—which we are all aware he deliberately compressed and we all understand and are grateful for that—was in inverse ratio to his sincerity, with which we are extremely familiar. To the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner), who seemed a little nervous about the precis work he had done on his speech, I say that I found his view extraordinarily clear. The fact that he spoke for less time than he might have done did not affect the vigour and clarity of his argument.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central described in detail the concessions there are in respect of Estate Duty in this field at present. I followed that description as closely as I could and could not fault it; therefore I shall not repeat it. He described the various substantial exemptions from Estate Duty of one form and another. A point which has a particular bearing on a question asked by the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West is that the object of these concessions is to keep works of art in the United Kingdom. We regard this as extremely important. I think it reasonable to claim that the present system which has merits, and may have demerits I dare say, has had great successes in that regard. I am sure that is something which the Committee will recognise.

I am bothered about one aspect of the new Clause. The bodies which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent specified in the Clause do not include universities or county councils and municipal corporations. It may well be that it was his intention to include them, but I am advised that the Clause does not. I think he would agree that this is a possible defect in the Clause.

Dr. Stross

I entirely agree. I apologise for the wording, which I thought better and more comprehensive, but in any event the Treasury can always put it right.

Mr. Mitchison

I am sorry that my hon. Friend has apologised for the wording. I may perhaps assure the Committee that the wording was deliberately very moderate. It was confined to museums and galleries. The reason it was confined to museums and galleries was that it follows the recommendation, now three limes repeated, of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries. I regard that distinguished body as singularly competent to make recommendations about museums and galleries, but not quite so competent to make recommendations about universities.

Mr. du Cann

I had assumed that the truth was something as the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) has described, but, if the Government were to accept this Clause we would immediately find very heavy pressure put by the universities and provincial museums and galleries—some of which are very important, such as the museum and art gallery in Birmingham—to have it extended to them. That is one of the problems which has a particular bearing. It is extraordinarily difficult to draw a line.

Mr. Mitchison

I am sorry to interrupt again, but I do not think that is a real difficulty. Even a small place like Kettering has the Friends of the Kettering Art Gallery. That is the way in which it would be possible to apply this Clause to university museums, the Birmingham one or any other place of this kind. They have only to form a society or fund for the purpose and it is done if the Treasury approves.

Mr. du Cann

That is exactly the point. I am not arguing that there would be difficulty about doing that, but that there would be tremendous pressure to see that this concession was extended as widely as possible. Pressure would come from Kettering, Taunton and all over the place. I am not saying that there is any physical difficulty about it. I am saying that the door would be open very wide.

As the hon. and learned Member rightly said, the Clause follows successive recommendations made by the Standing Commission, and, as he did not point out—though it would reinforce his argument—also made by the trustees of the National Gallery in 1960 and 1962. I remind the Committee quickly of the terms of reference of the Commission: To stimulate generosity and attract the efforts of those who aspire to become public benefactors. It is not surprising, perhaps, that the Commission concentrated on tax relief. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) said, by inference tonight and more directly on other occasions, there are other ways of encouraging private benefaction than at the expense of the Exchequer, which means at the expense of the taxpayer.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central primarily concentrated his attention on the suggestion that it is illogical to give exemptions for things and not to give some benefit for making gifts. I understand the point, but I am bound to say that the reasons for which exemptions were given in 1896 are still valid, and I genuinely believe them to be valid. I am all for modernisation, and I do not believe in old things when old things have outlived their usefulness, but the arguments here are incontrovertible. In the debate of 1959 the hon. Member will find those reasons, and I need not re-state them tonight.

Dr. Stross

I am sure the hon. Member agrees that if we are not careful we shall fill our art galleries and museums with things which, however precious and desirable in themselves, will overwhelm the institutions. We want to use these art galleries and museums as places of culture and education. Their collections must be balanced. More and more we should leave precious things in the possession of folk in their own homes. Galleries must have not everything but balanced collections. It is for this reason that I plead for assistance to the provincial museums.

Mr. du Cann

The hon. Member is leading me to a point which I intended to make in a moment. I am grateful to him for making the point clear. I appreciate his feeling and to some extent I share it, for we share the same objects. I hope that he will believe me in that.

I draw his attention to the fact that the Government feel strongly about this matter, and I draw his attention particularly to Clause 51, from which he will see that there is no exemption for maintenance funds there. This has been our view all along, and we believe it to be the right view and to be the inevitable view.

My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet said a good deal—in what I fully understand was a shortened speech —about the American practice. I well understand that he speaks with a special knowledge and expertise in these matters, of which we have had experience in our debates formerly. He rightly said that the American authorities are very much dissatisfied with the working of their present system. In a sense it is the American system which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central wishes to import. The difference between the Americans and ourselves lies in the fact that they have no state aid for the arts. The American system applies to charities as a whole, which brings me to a point which I tried to make in reply to an intervention by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering—that once we start with the proposal of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central it will be extraordinarily difficult to draw the line. I think that it will be quite impossible. I do not believe that it could be held anywhere.

Finally, the Americans do not have any parallel estate duty relief such as the hon. Member described and such as the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-West mentioned, and which has done a great deal of good.

11.30 p.m.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central referred to the speech last year of the then Financial Secretary, now my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education. He made the point then that the better way to help the arts was by direct grant over which Parliament had control. I do not think that any Government spokesman is entitled to make that claim unless be is prepared to back it up with evidence of what the Government are doing, and that evidence should be satisfactory as a whole to the Committee.

I should like, therefore, to make the point very shortly that provision for the arts has increased each year since 1959–60, and, to talk particularly about the arts museums and galleries, those grants have grown from £3.3 million in 1959–60 to £5.5 million in 1963–64. It is not as if we are resting just on a matter of principle, and that is that. We are actually doing something to improve and help these museums and galleries and to enable them to expand.

Nor is that all. The purchase grants will amount in all to over £400,000 in the current year, and, in addition, the Government have over the past five years supplemented the normal allocation for purchases by special grants totalling over £1.1 million. These are not inconsiderable sums.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the need for galleries to have what they want. This is enabling them to do just that very thing successfully and satisfactorily. In addition, the Government have also made full use of their powers under the Finance Act to accept outstanding pictures and furniture in lieu of Estate Duty. In the past year chattels to the value of about £158,000 have been acquired in this way from the estate of the Earl of Powis.

Total expenditure on the arts is estimated at over £11 million in the current year which compares with about £3.5 million in 1951–52. There is one piece of news which I am sure the Committee will be glad to hear. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Education—and I should like to pay a tribute to him for the work which he did for the arts as Financial Secretary—with the concurrence of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, who is now in his place I am pleased to see, has agreed in principle to a special grant towards the purchase for the Victoria and Albert Museum of a bust which has only recently come to light and which is a masterpiece of Italian Gothic sculpture by the great Giovanni Pisano. A Supplementary Estimate giving details of this grant will be laid before the House in due course. It may not be possible to show this acquisition for many months, but when it is on view I am sure it will be recognised as being among the most notable treasures of the Museum.

I am glad to be able to quote this in addition to the other factual information which I have given the House of monetary assistance, because it indicates that, when my right lion. Friend talked about this selective form of Parliamentary help as opposed to indiscriminate help, at least we have a system which is being successful and which is satisfying the kind of criteria which the hon. Gentleman quite rightly described to the Committee.

Dr. Stross

I wonder if it is possible to be told whether anything will be done in the very near future for the provincial galleries and museums following the outstanding Report to which the hon. Gentleman referred tonight.

Mr. du Cann

The hon. Gentleman is extremely good at getting in just ahead of what I am about to say. He made the point, as he was entitled to do, that we were not being generous enough to the provincial museums and galleries. I do not think that he was quite fair in quoting the figure of £10,000. If I may I would refer him first to an Answer which my right hon. Friend gave to his colleague the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) on 23rd May and to an Answer which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) on 19th March. We tried to make between us—I am sorry if we did not do it clearly enough, though I always feel that my right hon. Friend is a master of clarity—two points. First, that the Report of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries makes a number of recommendations over a very wide field, and, secondly, that these recommendations must be considered. We cannot very well implement them, if we decide to do so, immediately. We must have time, for there are a number of people we have to consult and there are a number of bodies which it is right that we should consult.

Secondly, we felt able, in advance of detailed consideration of the Report, to accept in principle, subject to the approval of Parliament, the Standing Commission's recommendation that the Exchequer should give financial assistance, not exceeding the amount sub- scribed locally, towards the initial and continuing expenses of schemes of mutual help and co-operation on matters of conservation of authorities in the same area. This is the figure of only £10,000 which has been mentioned. The objects to which this amount is to be devoted are to be decided this year. This is therefore promptness, and my right hon. Friend is to be congratulated rather than criticised on having been so quick to translate willingness to help into action.

Finally, on the subject of cost; I have tried to explain that if we accepted this proposal we would open the door widely. I think that that point has probably been taken. The hon. Member said that he had estimated that his proposal would cost very little. In the first instance it might cost about £10 million, but we are perfectly certain that over the years the cost would grow very rapidly. We are not clear that the benefits to the nation would necessarily be commensurate with, equivalent to, or necessarily even better than, the present system.

Therefore, while we are all agreed on the objectives of the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet, and while we have every sympathy for them, I am sorry to say that, for the reasons I have given, a little inadequately in view of the time factor, we cannot agree with the specific proposal which has been made. None the less, we are all grateful to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central for giving us the opportunity to discuss an important matter about which we all feel strongly.

Question put and negatived.

Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)

I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again. I would do so very briefly in order to get an indication from the Government of what they have in mind. In view of the beneficent atmosphere of sweetness and light which has been spread on our deliberations by our recent debate on cultural matters, I would be very reluctant at this late hour to introduce the clouds of controversy. The issues which would be raised on this new Clause would be of a far-reaching character, touching the lives of the majority of the citizens of this country.

As I understood that there was a general feeling in the Committee that it would be for the convenience of the Committee that we should certainly not sit later than midnight, in view of the time that is still left to deal with the remainder of the Bill. I would have thought in all the circumstances that it would be possible for us to conclude our deliberations tonight and to start again fresh tomorrow afternoon on what is a substantial and controversial issue.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster-General (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

It is certainly not our wish to ask the Committee to take its proceedings tonight very late. On the other hand, the Committee must have in mind the fact that we still have a considerable amount of work to do to conclude the Committee stage.

If my calculations are right, on the basis of what I understand are the selections, we still have ahead of us, including the hon. Members new Clause, some 14 further issues to discuss, and I do not need to stress to any hon. Member experienced in this Committee, in view of the time of year, how essential it is to conclude this stage of the Bill before we part tomorrow night or Friday morning. It is a question, therefore, of a sensible distribution of our work as between the two days or nights.

I should have thought that while the hon. Member attaches importance to his Clause—and I suppose that we all attach importance to our Clauses and want them to come on at an agreeable time of the day—it would be wiser to deal with this matter in a proper way, and, I hope, without undue length, tonight. The new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) entitled "One hundred per cent. disablement pensions: relief"—which has the significance that there are likely in your view, Sir William, to be five other new Clauses which would be discussable with it—it is the series of Clauses relating to allowances in respect of disability—would, perhaps, be a more appropriate one with which to open our day's proceedings tomorrow.

I hope, therefore, that the Committee will feel able to deal with the new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Ash-field (Mr. Warbey) and then we might proceed with the feeling that we have given ourselves a reasonable chance of coping with our work tomorrow without imposing an inconveniently late sitting on a day which would, I think, be particularly inconvenient to a lot of hon. Members who may, no doubt, be not entirely disinterested in the times of the sleeping car expresses. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will not press the matter and thereby consume time at this stage on the Motion to report Progress.

Mr. Warbey

Having made a mild protest, in keeping with the general atmosphere of the Committee, and also, perhaps, having given a warning to hon. Members, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.