HC Deb 17 July 1969 vol 787 cc1058-75
Mr. Hordern

I beg to move Amendment No. 161, in page 70, line 11, after 'disclose', insert: '(in the case of such information as is mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection, only with the consent of the employers concerned)'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

With this Amendment we can also discuss Amendments No. 80, in page 70, line 11, after 'Revenue', insert: 'with the consent of the employer and the employees concerned' No. 82, in line 14, after 'employers', insert: 'with the consent of the employer concerned' No. 84, in line 28, at end insert: 'with the consent of the employee concerned'. and No. 85 in page 71, line 1, leave out subsection (5).

Mr. Hordern

This Amendment is concerned with the disclosure of information. This house has been surprised to find, when discussing milk-float men that information concerning gas and electricity showrooms has been revealed to it. It is becoming a habit of the Government, when disclosing such things as the trade figures that they find they are suddenly at an advantage of £10 million a month, due to research errors and another £8 million in a month due to a machine going wrong in the Central Statistical Office. Next week we shall find that we are without any international obligations of any kind.

This Amendment concerns disclosure of information by the Revenue to various Departments of State, but, in particular, to the Department of Employment and Productivity and the Statistics Office of the Board of Trade. That information is the names and addresses of employers and employees given under Section 157 of the Income Tax Act 1952 in connection with the "pay as you earn" scheme.

The Clause further provides that this information may be disclosed to any other Department of State apart from the Department of Employment and Productivity. Our Amendment says that such information shall only be provided if the permission of the employer and employee concerned has been given. We regard that as an important principle. In Committee, the Minister of State said that the receiving Departments could already obtain this information. He said: …the question is whether a special exception can be made to the general principle without harming the general principle. In this case it was felt there could be no possible harm to the general principle."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee F. 26th June, 1968; c. 837.] Once the general principle has been established, as this one has been, for many years, it is broken as soon as an exception is made. We should not regard this lightly. The fact that this long-established principle is breached for such a paltry reason makes the breach worse, not better. It might be argued that if this information is already available, why is it necessary to breach this important principle? To establish this it is worth looking at some of the history of this principle.

The oath of secrecy under which the Inland Revenue operates, was first mentioned in the Income Tax Act 1842, and is well over 120 years old. This Act was incorporated in the subsequent Income Tax Acts of 1918 and 1952.

In 1955, the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Incomes, in paragraph 949, stated: We think that occasion should be taken to make more general legal provision for secrecy in Revenue affairs. It was brought to our notice that the declarations of secrecy prescribed by law to be made by Inspectors of Taxes and other Revenue staff are drawn in terms which are limited to returns, statements and other documents relating to income tax chargeable under Schedule D. In fact, the Inland Revenue Department has a long and scrupulous tradition of secrecy with regard to the whole of the taxpayer's sources of income, so that the words of limitation are misleading. We think it would be advantageous if the wording was made more general". That recommendation was carried out under the last Conservative Government in 1964. The result of that Act was not to diminish the powers of the citizen, but to extend them in relation to the obligation of secrecy on the Inland Revenue Department.

We should turn now to the question whether the Government can provide this information to their various Departments in any other way. My feeling is that the experience of the United States could be followed. In the United States the Inland Revenue Department issues its own statistics, It is well aware of the requirements of every Department of State. If it is not, I am sure that those Departments of State make their requirements known to the Inland Revenue. So this information could be provided by the Inland Revenue sticking strictly to its obligations under the various Income Tax Acts.

The real difficulty arises, and will arise even more strongly in future, because of the development of statistics, the requirements of statisticians and, more particularly, the advance in techniques of computer technology.

I have been privileged to see some of the operations of computer networks in the United States. I believe that it will be very few years before the information that could be made available on large computers will be available for Government Departments and will cover everyone in the country. It will be possible in a few years for information from the Inland Revenue, the National Health Service and the National Insurance Service to be fed into several large machines. When this stage is reached an important matter of principle will arise in any case. Therefore, the House must consider carefully whether we should breach this important principle of confidentiality now when we know that these issues are likely to loom ever larger as time goes on.

I feel that this principle should only be breached in the sense that information that is provided by the Inland Revenue should only be provided with the consent of the citizen. The oath of secrecy on the Inland Revenue was designed to protect the citizen. Therefore, nothing should be revealed without his consent.

It does not matter how far computer technology develops or how much more convenient it will be to amass all this information centrally. I have no doubt that in time it will be possible to have a form of negative income tax; that rapid calculations can be made and all this information about the citizen can be stored in a large data bank.

But the important principle should be established that no information now held by the Inland Revenue should be revealed to other Departments of State without the consent of the citizen concerned.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I should like to speak to the Amendments in the names of myself and some of my hon. Friends. I think that there is no more private or personal matter to the ordinary citizen than his income tax return. This, above all else, is the instrument by which the State intrudes most of all into our private lives. It seeks out how we earn our living, how we bring up our children, how we spend our money and whether we are well or sick.

The instrument of the income tax return is one of the most intimate investigations into the private citizen. For that reason, as the Chief Secretary knows probably better than anyone else, it has always been the practice and the pride in this country that whatever else is kept confidential, the income tax return shall be. This principle is enshrined, as my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) mentioned, in the very solemn oath which is sworn by commissioners of Inland Revenue.

I wish to read the oath as it is sworn: 1, A.B., do solemnly declare that I will not disclose any information received by me in the execution of my duties, except for the purposes of those duties or for the purposes of any prosecution for an offence relating to the Inland Revenue. That oath is sworn by all commissioners of the Revenue. What the House is being asked to do in the Clause—as far as I have been able to ascertain, for the first time in history—is to breach that principle of confidentiality.

One can describe this as the thin end—a very thin end so far—of an extremely nasty wedge. It is a wedge that comes close to breaching the citizen's confidence that his income tax return is a matter personal to him and to the Revenue and to no one else. It strikes me as the beginning—only the beginning, of course —of a practice that each one of us as individuals, safeguarding the privacy of our lives, should regard as highly obnoxious and which we should most strenuously resist.

It is true that the power which is being taken by the Clause is very limited. All these things start in that fashion. The commissioners can make available, so far, more or less to any Government Department which asks for the information and which happens to be making a survey, only the names and addresses of employers who collect P.A.Y.E. The Revenue will also be able to disclose information regarding the numbers of people employed by those firms. Further, under subsection (2), the Revenue may select out of its list of employees the names and addresses of those who employ such groups of them as may be the subject of any sample survey or sample investigation being carried out by a Government Department.

When I read the Clause, the first thing I did was to attempt to find out exactly to how many people the Clause would allow the Revenue to disclose information. The important thing was to find out to whom it would, de disclosed. I therefore put down two Questions, to the Board of Trade and to the Department of Employment and Productivity, asking how many of these surveys they carry out each year, who does them and, therefore, who would be entitled to request and obtain this information from the Revenue.

The House will be surprised and, possibly, disturbed by the Answers, which shed some light on why Government spending is going up and why so many employers have to spend so much time answering questions; but that is on the side. The Board of Trade informed me that during the last five years the following Divisions had carried out statistical surveys: Accountants, Civil Aviation, Distribution of Industry, Economic Services, Industries, Insurance and Companies, and Tax. I have here an immensely long list, with which I will not weary the House of the many surveys that have been carried out by these Divisions of the Board of Trade.

I do not quarrel with that, but when I read of the surveys that have been conducted into the tax and private car hire business, the catering trades, the registered clubs and the 44 monthly inquiries which have been made into the production and textile converting businesses, I am disturbed that the Inland Revenue may now he required to provide the names and addresses of employers engaged in these multifarious activities throughout the whole nation to these many surveyors of the national scene.

11.30 p.m.

I had a similar answer from the D.E.P. As we all know, this Department is even more of a busybody than the Board of Trade. Indeed, the list of statistical surveys which is has conducted between 1965 and 1969 would take me the rest of tonight to read out, and I do not propose to do so. Here again, whether in respect of manpower studies in food retailing, the training of overseas nationals or scientific manpower—all of them justifiable activities—the Inland Revenue may be asked by these Departments to provide what has previously been confidential information, the names and addresses of employers. The House should hesitate to give authority for this to be done.

The Inland Revenue will be asked to do this, not with a "By your leave" or a "Please and thank you" to the individual firms whose names and addresses are to be supplied. On the contrary, in secrecy, from the files of income tax returns which the citizen has supplied in secret and which he believes to be confidential, the Inland Revenue will break out information and pass it on to any Government Department that requests it.

That is not all. Government Departments, having obtained this information, can do two things with it. They can pass it on, under subsection (4), to "another officer of the Department". What other officer—the P.R.O., the Press officer? What has it to do with him? If this information is to be supplied, there should be a limit on the Departments to which it can be given.

Secondly, they can, without restriction, summarise the information and hand it out in summary form to anyone—to a journalist, a foreign diplomat, even to a Member of Parliament, and he comes last, as usual. The only restriction is that the identity and the personal particulars of the employer or the employee should not become known through that summary.

Mr. William Hamling (Woolwich. West)

The hon. Gentleman must recognise that that is the basic qualification to everything which he has said.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I am dealing with one narrow point. The summaries may be handed to anyone. The information not in summary form is confined to this proliferating bureaucracy throughout the country, including Northern Ireland.

I understand why the Minister of State wanted this information to be made available. He said in Committee that it was necessary because statistics were necessary—one of those wonderful circular arguments—and that it was harmless. Business statistics are the heart of any kind of national planning, and with the rapid advance of the computer it is important to have statistical matter to feed into it. But we must weigh against the needs of the computer, the planner and the bureaucrat the higher principle of the citizen's right to privacy about his private affairs.

Our citizens take it for granted that their tax returns are private and confidential and they would be very disturbed if they felt that even the slightest chink was being driven into that armour of confidentiality. I am not accusing the Government of breaching confidentiality yet. Nevertheless, all these pernicious practices have small beginnings and I am concerned to prevent such a breach before and not after it gets out of hand.

My other objection is that businessmen of all kinds, particularly those employing large numbers, already have more than enough form-filling to do. I have lists here of some of those forms. If the Clause is not amended, it opens up the danger of even more statistical form-filling demanded by Government Departments. It will waste even more of the time of employers.

Will this power extend to Government agencies, as well as to Government Departments? When I put this question to the Board of Trade, I was told: There is no commonly accepted definition of what constitutes an agency of the Board of Trade, so I will write to the hon. Member about this part of the Question."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1969; Vol. 786, c. 339] There is no "later" after tonight. We are at the end of the line. Does this power extend to the very numerous agencies of the Board of Trade?

I also want an assurance about subsection 3, which says that the power …shall have effect notwithstanding any obligations as to secrecy… This is the heart of the matter. Nothing in the Bill suggests that the Government are about to breach confidentiality. In Committee, the Minister of State was quite clear. He said that the information was relatively harmless, that it could in any event be obtained in other ways through the National Insurance card, and that it was necessary. I accept his reassurances, but we are at the beginning of something new. We are crossing a frontier and breaching the principle of confidentiality for the first time. Parliament should be very hesitant about crossing that frontier.

I should like the Minister to ponder very carefully before he lets it be known that the secrecy of a man's tax returns may in future be breached because we have started here with a story that it is harmless. It may be harmless now: what we have to worry about is whether it will be harmless tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

Mr. Hamling

I had not intended to intervene until I heard the astonishing speech of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths). I am not sure whether he is aware of the discussions that have already taken place in the House on the Report of the Select Committee on the Government's statistical services, in which the points he made about Government statistics were made and countered.

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman reads not only that report—a lengthy document which is regarded by the Royal Statistical Society and other statisticians as a landmark in connection with Government policy for the collection of statistics—but also studies the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debate which subsequently took place, which lasted a whole day and which underlined the Government's attitude towards, in particular, the question of confidentiality.

The issue of confidentiality was one of the main questions asked of witnesses in the Select Committee's inquiries. I know because I was the Chairman. We constantly asked business people, civil servants and others about the extent to which the Government or any agency of the Government should be entitled to ask questions. Business people were particularly concerned about the absence of a great deal of statistical information; and obviously much of the information can be obtained only if the Government ask questions. It should not be forgotten that some of these questions must be asked if business and industry is to be more efficient.

Another piece of evidence which I commend to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds is the report of a conference which was held some time ago under the auspices of the Royal Statistical Society. It was attended by all the leading statisticians in the country and their papers have gone all over the world. I suggest that the lesson to be drawn from that exercise is that the Government seriously and conscientiously consider the important questions which the hon. Gentleman raised; but he should not think that he has just discovered something.

Sir D. Glover

I, too, had not intended to intervene until this important subject had been raised. An extraordinary feature of our debates is that important matters which one would normally expect to arise early in the day often crop up late at night.

We live in a technological age in which a great deal of information is required. However, nothing said by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) or my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) alarmed me. However, they highlighted how close we are getting in our search for efficiency and statistical knowledge to interfering with the freedom of the individual. Indeed, many hon. Members consider that it is time we debated a new Bill of Rights for the citizen. We must be careful, in this search for efficiency, not to create a battery chicken atmosphere in which the individual matters less than the need for efficiency.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) has referred to the Royal Statistical Society, but we expect statisticians to be in favour, because this is their business. But I would like the hon. Gentleman, who is a very broadminded man when he gets away from his Socialist ideologies, to realise that we can go on searching for efficiency, but what have we produced in the end?

11.45 p.m.

Mr. Hamling

American business people are constantly saying that what is wrong with British industry is that our statistics are lacking in both quality and quantity.

Sir D. Glover

I accept that statement, but will the hon. Gentleman tell me—and I am sure he goes to America—whether there is a happy society there? America may be more efficient and more productive, but is it a happy society? Our job in Parliament is to try to produce an efficient but a happy society. We must not forget that we are dealing with human beings.

Mr. Hordern

The intervention by the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) was, in any case, irrelevant, because the Inland Revenue Department of the United States is specifically excluded from giving any information to any other Department in the United States.

Sir D. Glover

Quite contrary to what he has tried to convey, the hon. Member for Woolwich, West has conveyed to the House the impression that statisticians are prepared to grind all individuals down in order to get the information which they think is necessary to run an efficient society even though, in the process, they make the individual's position less substantial, less moral, less independent, and so on.

We are dealing now with a financial problem, but it is just a different facet of an idea, of which the House is becoming very well seized, that we can mould the population into some great machine because, though it may be bad for each individual it is good for the nation. Many hon. Members on both sides, and of all shades of opinion, are saying that it is about time that the House produced a Bill of Rights which would protect the rights of the individual much more substantially. My hon. Friends have referred to another aspect of this growing danger, and the House should deal with it much more urgently than has so far been the case.

There is a feeling which cuts right across party lines, that in the search for efficiency, and getting statistics, and this and that and the other, we are grinding down the individual into a cipher in a corporate State in which he becomes less and less important. That is why this demand has been growing up in the last two years for a new Bill of Rights. The subject is becoming much more urgent than we may previously have thought.

Mr. Robert Cooke

I hope that the Government will not be wholly bemused by the statistics they hope to get as a result of this provision. It is a great mistake wholly to rely on bald statistics—figures on punched cards. We must always remember that we are dealing with real people, and perhaps a few conversations with real people does a great deal more good than the collecting of this information, however it is done.

Statistics can be very misleading. Recently, we have seen some conclusions drawn from the published amounts claimed by hon. Members as expenses. One draws some most unhappy conclusions from that. Certainly, some newspapers have done so. Wholly misleading conclusions have been drawn about the way in which Members have been coping with their work from published statistics.

The provisions of the Bill which we are challenging are to replace those relating to the activities of—I am not sure which Department it is. It is a department which sends out questionnaires asking all sorts of questions about people engaged in commerce. So infuriated do people in industry become that a Socialist millionaire in my part of the country sent me a whole suitcase full of papers which he had been asked to fill up, under penalty of imprisonment. I cannot put my hands on these papers now, nor have I heard from the gentleman concerned for some time. Perhaps he is inside now.

Mr. Hamling

The reason the hon. Gentleman has not heard from the alleged Socialist millionaire for so long is that the Government have set up a committee to reassess the worth of this magnificent collection of paper that he is talking about and are in the process of streamlining this thing so that business people will not be harassed in future as they were in the past.

Mr. Cooke

It would be out of order for me to pursue that at length. It has taken a long time to streamline the system. I gather that the paper is still spewing out, whatever happens to it. I want an assurance from the Government that the spewing out of paper will stop. However, if the alternative is the somewhat secret operation involved in these proposals, I have my doubts about those, too.

Mr. Tom Boardman

The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) was right in saying that the quality and quantity of statistics within government leave much to be desired. The disturbing thing is that this is despite the vast amount of paper work and administrative form filling in which industry is engaged to provide so much information which apparently produces such a poor tale at the end of the day.

I support the Amendment, because the information which the Clause seeks permission to make available comes under three headings—the name and address of the employer, the number of employees, and the specific employment. I find it impossible to tell what deductions can be drawn from that. I had not intended to speak. I therefore have not read the report of the proceedings in the Standing Committee. I will not prolong this argument.

I find it impossible to understand what the name and address of the employer will reveal which could not be found from any trade telephone directory. This is what gives rise to my worry and suspicion. What is the motive behind this? As my hon. Friends have said, it is the trend which we are worried about. If these statistics are needed for data processing, it would not be beyond the wit of the Treasury to provide the statistical information in the form of normal data processing. If what the Department of Employment and Productivity wants to know is the number of employers in the North of England who employ more than 100 people, the Revenue can go through its files and produce the information in coded form in a way which does not disclose the name and address.

I cannot understand why it is necessary to know the name and address. No doubt we shall be told. If the information is required, let it be produced in a coded form. I fear that this is the thin edge of the wedge, that it is breaching the confidentiality which we look to and which is such a tradition of the In- land Revenue. I urge the Government to accept the Amendment, which would place some brake upon this power.

Mr. Taverne

The hour is late, but I think it right that the House should spend some time on the Clause, because as hon. Members have said, I think rightly, there are important issues involved. In Committee, we had little time; we had to finish by one o'clock and there was a rapid reference only to some of the background to the Clause. I think that I should give slightly more information about the background on this occasion, particularly in view of the fears which have been expressed.

The information which will be obtained will not reveal any income or any personal circumstances or any other information given by taxpayers in confidence in their tax returns. That is the first and most important point about the power which is sought. The power is sought because at the moment the employment statistics which are vital to the running of the economy, as the right hon. Gentleman will agree, are obtained from the insurance cards, but in 1972, under the new earnings-related schemes, insurance cards will disappear and the source of information on which to base employment statistics will no longer be there.

The information is needed, first, in connection with employment statistics. If the Clause remains unamended by certain of the amendments, the Inland Revenue may supply the Department of Employment and Productivity with the names of all employers who operate the P.A.Y.E. scheme, and to replace the information which has been gathered so far from the cards. It is intended to have an annual employment census, and the P.A.Y.E. records are the best source of employers' names and addresses. One cannot get this information by leafing through telephone directories.

It is also intended to disclose to the Department of Employment and Productivity the number of employees of each employer to help carrying out the census.

Information is also needed for purposes of an earnings survey. The Inland Revenue would be authorised to supply the Department of Employment and Productivity with the names and addresses of employers and a sample of employees for the: purposes of an earnings survey, and the sample would consist of all employees whose insurance number ends with certain digits.

Safeguards in the Clause prevent some things being done about which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) is worried. It specifically prohibits the disclosure outside the Statistics Divisions of Government Departments. There is no question of supply to agencies.

When it comes to summaries, there are summaries of how many employers and employees are found and the summaries, which can be disclosed more widely, cannot refer to individual details with names and addresses.

Mr. Hordern

If the Minister of State will look at Clause 52(4)(b) he will see that it says that information may not be disclosed except— to another department (including a department of the Government of Northern Ireland) for the purpose of a statistical survey. It says nothing about a statistical section.

Mr. Taverne

It is part of the Department which is conducting the statistical survey.

Mr. Hordern

It does not say that.

Mr. Hamling

That is what it means.

Mr. Taverne

In particular, it is the Department of Productivity and the Business Statistics Office of the Board of Trade which will be getting the information from the Inland Revenue. Legislation is necessary because our law has recognised the importance of confidentiality of information supplied to the Inland Revenue. In the Income Tax Management Act 1964, Schedule 1, Part III, to which one hon. Member has referred, the board is bound not to disclose information received in the course of their duties except for the purposes of their duties or in such other cases as may be required by law". That is the kind of situation envisaged, where law is to specifically provide for a piece of information which can be passed on. It is a measure of the importance attached to the confidentiality of the information that a change in the law is needed.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

The Minister of State refers to the oath and says that this information can be passed on by law, but we are debating whether we should pass the law.

Mr. Taverne

I know that. The hon. Member is not making a new point.

One hon. Member raised the point that he was disturbed that there might be a breach of the obligation in the 1964 Act. I read out the specific provision in the 1964 Act which enshrines that confidentiality. The only information which is passed on is the names and addresses of employers and numbers of employees. It can be said that this information derived from the function of the employer in collecting P.A.Y.E. for the Revenue rather than information supplied by him or by employees as taxpayers. It is in their collecting capacity that they are being asked to supply information. There will be no breach of confidentiality.

12 m.

The receiving Departments could, with enormous expenditure of time, obtain this information. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) expostulated about the proliferation of bureaucracy, about increasing work, and about extra civil servants, which he wants to avoid. This is one of the ways to avoid extra civil servants and to prevent a proliferation of bureaucracy. In Committee, I was criticised for this proposal on the ground that the statistics were not necessary. The hon. Gentleman must agree that statistics are necessary. Of course, employment statistics are important.

The suggestion was made by the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern), and echoed by his hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South-West (Mr. Tom Boardman), that the information should be available from the Inland Revenue itself. But the information needed is not necessarily available within the Inland Revenue. The P.A.Y.E. information does not cover people who are outside the P.A.Y.E. system. Moreover, the industry classification used for P.A.Y.E. purposes is that of the employer and does not distinguish between different establishments of the same employer, which might be classified as different industries and, perhaps, be in different areas. The only way in which this information can be adequately obtained in the way it is now obtained from insurance cards is by sending a questionnaire to the employers concerned.

The second group of Amendments, to which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds has put his name, would make it totally impossible for this information to be collected, and that is, in a way, what I understand he wants.

Mr. Tom Boardman

What possible use is the name and address of the employer? It will not necessarily give the locations where the people are employed. I cannot see the relevance of that as opposed to a code number.

Mr. Taverne

One finds out from the employer by asking him, once one has his name and address, how many people he employs, and where. That is in the questionnaire which is sent out.

In effect, Amendment No. 161 does not raise objection to this procedure in general, but it would lay down that it should be done only if the employer himself consents. There is nothing confidential involved here. There are two objections to that proposal. First, it would create an enormous amount of extra work and would again lead to the proliferation of bureaucracy, which hon. Members want to avoid. It would be an enormously expensive business to write to each one to obtain his consent.

Further, if only a few employers refused consent, the whole employment statistic operation would be rendered nugatory and would be frustrated. Therefore, that Amendment also would prevent the collection of the employment statistics which, I am sure, all hon. Members will, on reflection, regard as extremely important to collect.

It is right that hon. Members should be deeply concerned about this matter. But it is not a serious breach of any rule of confidentiality. It is not really a breach of the rule which prevents the giving of information supplied by people as taxpayers. It is information being supplied by employers in their capacity as tax collectors. The information is extremely valuable and necessary for the running of the country. It is information which can only in this way be cheaply and efficiently collected when the national insurance card disappears.

Mr. Hordern

The more the Minister of State has dealt with the matter, the more concerned I have become. It is not the revelation of information by individuals that matters, nor the information provided by employers. The point of principle is the information provided by the Inland Revenue; this is the new principle.

The Minister of State admitted in Committee that it was a breach of principle, and what we have tried to adduce is that although it is a small breach it is a breach of a most important and ancient principle, which we should be very careful before we break.

Furthermore, we have adduced that the information and statistics could be provided by the Inland Revenue, which knows very well what information is required by other Departments. The Minister said that the information would be given only to statistical Departments of other Ministries, but that is not what the Bill says.

It was a most unsatisfactory reply, and but for the fact that the House was kept up discussing the Bill after late last night and is discussing it after midnight tonight the reaction to the Amendment and the hon. and learned Gentleman's reply would have been very different.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

In seeking to withdraw the Amendments in my name, I just wish to say—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot withdraw them, because they are not down for Division. The debate arises on Amendment No. 161, so the hon. Gentleman cannot use that device to speak again.

Mr. Griffiths

With the leave of the House, may I just put this point to the Minister on the names and addresses. I forgot to ask him an important question: which address will be provided? Will he make it clear that if any address is to be provided it will be the business address of the employer and not his private address? That would be wholly wrong.

Mr. Taverne

Of course, it is the business address in which they are interested. It is the business address which appears on the P.A.Y.E. cards. It is the busines address that the Inland Revenue has, and would want to supply for the statistical purposes of other Departments.

Amendment negatived.

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