HC Deb 04 February 1964 vol 688 cc967-8
27. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that men on strike receive strike pay of up to £20 per week; and to what extent such payments are liable to Income Tax.

Mr. Green

Strike pay received by members of trade unions is not liable to Income Tax, but I think that my hon. Friend is possibly exaggerating the level of such pay.

Sir C. Osborne

Is my hon. Friend aware that in the Sunday Times two weeks ago it was stated that the men on strike at Port Talbot were receiving £20 a week? Is it not unjust that such pay should be free of tax when it is practically double what an agricultural worker gets for a full week's work?

Mr. Green

With respect, I do not think that the figure of £20 has very much to do with the level of strike pay received. It is possible that my hon. Friend and I are differing about the meaning of a word here.

Mr. Callaghan

Whatever the level of strike pay, would it be right to tax it if the original contributions to the union remained untaxed? In other words, should not an allowance be made for the original contribution if it was intended to tax the product of it?

Mr. Green

The hon. Gentleman has his tax principles right on this occasion.

Sir C. Osborne

Is my hon. Friend aware that agricultural workers earn about half this sum and will regard it as unjust if they have to pay tax on their earnings while strike pay on this scale is free of tax?

Mr. Green

I do not think that I can help my hon. Friend any further at this moment. If he would care to talk to me about the principle upon which these taxes are raised or are not raised, I shall be glad to have a word with him.

Mr. J. Morris

Will not the Financial Secretary agree that the statement by the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) is a gross exaggeration of the case at Port Talbot and that he should have some responsibility for what he is saying? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the strike pay is nearer £2 10s. than £20?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Ministers have to answer for lots of things, but not about the responsibilities of hon. Members behind them.