HC Deb 04 March 1976 vol 906 cc1514-6
8. Mr. Lane

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent representations he has received about the tax position of widows; and if he will make a statement.

21. Mr. George Rodgers

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received relating to income tax allowances for widows; and if he will make a statement.

3. Mr. Madden

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent representations he has received about taxation allowances available to widows.

The Minister of State, Treasury (Mr. Denzil Davies)

We have received many representations about the taxation of widows from hon. Members and others, including some from widows' organisations. My right hon. Friend will give them careful consideration in preparing his Budget.

Mr. Lane

As an increasing number of my widow constituents feel that they are being unfairly treated, in the widest sense, as compared with single women, will the Minister of State—without anticipating etcetera—at least say that he will do his best to persuade the Chancellor to give them some encouragement in the Budget?

Mr. Davies

I do not accept that widows are unfairly treated as compared with other single women. People on the same basic income pay the same basic taxation. However, I accept that widows often have low incomes and that the tax thresholds have been going down over the years. I entirely accept that this is a difficult problem.

Mr. Rodgers

Does my hon. Friend agree that in some circumstances widows are paying income tax when the social security department has recognised that their income is so low that it is having to subsidise them? Is that not an absurdity?

Mr. Davies

As I have said, I accept entirely that with the lowering of the tax threshold we have problems of this kind. The difficulty is in raising the tax threshold when thinking in terms of reducing public expenditure.

Mr. Luce

As a widow, particularly with children, has the same commitments as a married woman but has no husband's salary on which to rely, is she not in an unfair tax situation in relation to the married woman? Will the Minister consider raising the tax threshold for widows?

Mr. Davies

The widow with children gets the additional personal allowance, so in personal allowance she gets the equivalent of the married person's personal allowance.

Mr. Ovenden

Will my hon. Friend seek to persuade his right hon. Friend the Chacellor to do something in his Budget about this problem, and will he put to his right hon. Friend the discrimination that exists between working widows and married women who carry on working? Will he also take into account that married women enjoy generous tax provisions and that the same provisions ought to extend to widows?

Mr. Davies

I do not accept that there is discrimination here, but I accept that there is a problem.

Sir G. Howe

Does not the fact that the tax threshold is now below the level of pensions being received by certain widows indicate just how absurdly high the burden of taxation has become? Will the Minister of State agree that merely to restore the threshold to its level of last year in real terms it would now have to be increased for everyone from £675 to £850 a year? Will the Minister acknowledge that if the Chancellor does not go at least as far as that, he will not be lightening the burden of taxation for anyone, including widows?

Mr. Davies

That is a fair point. If one increases allowances, one increases them for everyone. Given the nature of our tax system, one cannot increase allowances for one group without giving some kind of benefit to other groups.