HC Deb 28 January 1969 vol 776 cc1084-5
8. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the latest estimate available of the percentage of the population which owns 75 per cent. of Great Britain's personal wealth; what estimate he has made of the number of people who have private wealth amounting to over £2 million, over £200,000 and over £20,000, respectively; if he will estimate the yield from wealth taxes payable by such persons; and what plans he has for the introduction of wealth taxation.

Mr. Taverne

It is estimated that in 1967 about 10½ per cent. of the population aged 15 and over owned 75 per cent. of the wealth owned by individuals, and that in that year there were about 14,000 people with wealth amounting to over £200,000 and 596,000 with over £20,000.

It is estimated that a 1 per cent. tax on all wealth owned by individuals in excess of £200,000 would yield about £40 million, and on wealth in excess of £20,000 would yield about £240 million. No estimate can be made for individuals with over £2 million. At this time of year my hon. Friend will not expect me to make any statement about the last part of his Question.

Mr. Roberts

Would not my hon. and learned Friend accept that any society where one has this maldistribution of wealth is not only unjust but is basically inefficient, irrespective of the control of wealth? Will he not agree that the urgent introduction of a wealth tax would make it far easier for the industrial workers to bear the ramifications of the prices and incomes policy?

Mr. Taverne

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that there is a maldistribution of wealth in the country. As to the second part of his question, he is asking me to comment on what may or may not be considered for a Budget.

Mr. Biffen

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that his Government have a record of unhappy and malicious hostility towards private capital, and that the best he could do to offer at least some atonement would be to make an outright rejection of the suggestion of his hon. Friend?

Mr. Taverne

I am not commenting one way or the other on the last part of my hon. Friend's Question. As to the first point of the hon. Member's supplementary question, my heart bleeds for those whose share values have suffered so very considerably.

Mr. Shinwell

In view of the figures my hon. and learned Friend has given, is he able to say how long it will be before we reach the objective of the Labour Party—an egalitarian society?

Mr. Taverne

I can tell my right hon. Friend that over the last few years there has been a process whereby the distribution of wealth has become somewhat less concentrated.

Mr. Lubbock

In calculating the potential yield from such a tax, has the hon. and learned Gentleman taken into account the fall in revenues which would have been received from other sources? Before introducing any new taxes will he please bear in mind the urgent need for simplification of those that we already have?

Mr. Taverne

All I was concerned to answer in the Question was the actual yield of a 1 per cent. wealth tax at different figures. As for tax changes, at this time of the year one cannot give details, or even answers, to such questions.