§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. James Callaghan)
I should like to make a short statement on procedure.
I propose to table today Amendments to certain of the provisions in the Finance Bill dealing with Corporation Tax. These will appear on the Notice Paper tomorrow.
For the convenience of hon. Members, I propose to place copies of them in the Vote Office at 7 p.m. today.
At a later stage in the progress of the Bill, I shall table some further Amendments.
§ Mr. Heath
What crisis has occurred during the last 9½ hours which has brought the Chancellor to the House to make this extraordinary statement, which apparently, he was either unable or unprepared to make when the Committee was reporting Progress as recently as 9½ hours ago? Are we to deduce from the fact that he has adopted this extraordinary procedure that these Amendments concern Clauses with which he expects the Committee to deal tomorrow when it resumes?
If this is so, is it not again a monstrous procedure, when an announcement was made about Corporation Tax seven months ago and the Bill itself got published seven weeks ago, that we should now have an emergency statement from the Chancellor announcing Amendments which, apparently, are to be circulated specially through the Vote Office tonight so that we can debate them tomorrow?
§ Mr. Shinwell
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for your guidance? Is not the right hon. Gentleman raising a matter which is the concern of the Committee dealing with the Finance Bill?
§ Mr. Speaker
He is asking about the occasion, as I understand it, for the making of a statement in my presence here and now. He was asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer to agree that it was a monstrous procedure.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I quite understand the right hon. Gentleman's irritation after a late night, but he need not feel too alarmed about my statement. I am 1519 trying to meet his convenience and that of the whole Committee, as I have tried to do throughout the progress of the Bill. It seems to me that the more I try to meet the right hon. Gentleman's convenience the more determined he is to find fault. If the right hon. Gentleman would prefer it—I do not think that it would be for his convenience—I could, of course, leave the matter by just putting the Amendments down tonight so that they would appear on the Notice Paper tomorrow.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman will find it helpful if he sees them tonight, as we are to have a debate on the general introduction of the Corporation Tax tomorrow. He will have more time in which to consider his thoughts about certain matters which he may wish to put before the Committee. That is the whole purpose of what I am doing, and I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman receives it so ungraciously.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I should like to know what precedent there is for a Minister making a statement in the House to the effect that he proposes to table Amendments to a Finance Bill later in the afternoon. What is the point of doing this, unless the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to give us some idea of the contents of the Amendments? If he cannot give us an idea of what is in them, will he, please, explain why he has been unable to table them before?
Finally, may I return the compliment to him by informing him that I propose myself to table some Amendments on the Corporation Tax this afternoon?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I do not know why the Liberal Party wants to associate with the Conservatives in their lack of graciousness. I am doing my best to help the Committee in this matter, but it seems to me, from the response my effort is receiving, that I might as well not try and just put the Amendments down on the Notice Paper. I shall try to conduct the Finance Bill through the remainder of its proceedings in a way which is most in the interests of all hon. Members of the Committee when it meets, and that is all I am doing today.
§ Mr. Heath
Does not the Chancellor realise that we are not complaining that 1520 he is giving three or four extra hours this evening in which to work on these Amendments? What we are complaining about is that he is giving us less than 24 hours' notice of matters which he wants taken into account when we resume tomorrow afternoon.
§ Mr. Callaghan
With respect, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman waits and looks at them before he reaches these conclusions. We are to have a general debate tomorrow on the first Clause in the new Part of the Bill upon which we are embarking. I have no doubt that it will be within the competence of the Chair to admit certain general observations which will relate to later Clauses. The Amendments which I am putting down will relate to far later Clauses than we shall then reach; but, to assist the right hon. Gentleman in making his general observations, I am tabling these Amendments today and giving as much advance notice as is possible.