HL Deb 14 June 1910 vol 5 cc875-94

*THE EARL OF ONSLOW rose to call attention to the form issued by the Special Commissioners for the assessment of Super-Tax, and to their requirement that the returns shall be furnished to them at a date prior to the date (31st July, 1910) fixed in the Finance Act, 1909–10, as that on which persons chargeable with the Super-Tax must give notice that they are so chargeable; and to inquire whether the "regulations" referred to in Section 72, subsection (2) are not regulations made by Commissioners under the Act, which by Section 93 are required to be laid before Parliament.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I fancy that there must be a considerable number of your Lordships who will find yourselves [...] some difficulty to comply with the return which has been requested, I may say which has been demanded, by the Special Commissioners of Income Tax. I do not know whether my case is a peculiar one or whether it is shared by a number of those whom the Commissioners imagine to be liable to the Super-Tax. But at any rate I received a communication on May 4—I found it on my return from abroad, when, in common with many of your Lordships I returned to this country to pay the last homage and respect to my late revered Sovereign—from which I found that I was expected, within twenty-eight days from May 4—that is, on the 1st of this month—to make a return of my total income for the year 1908–09, giving full and detailed particulars of every separate holding, tenement, and hereditament, with the amount of the rent received and the name of the occupier. I wrote to the Commissioners, and they were pleased to inform me that the period might be extended to the fifteenth of this month; but I venture to think that such a period is wholly incommensurate with the immense amount of labour necessary to comply with the requirements of the Super-Tax Commissioners. I think that when the Finance Bill was passing through this House none of us could have supposed that we should be called upon for these elaborate returns before anybody need make the declaration whether or not he is chargeable for the Super-Tax.

It may be that my noble friend opposite who will reply to me will say that this has something to do with the action taken by your Lordships in regard to the Finance Bill. I have looked into that point. I find that the Finance Bill was presented to your Lordships by the noble Earl the Leader of the House on November 22, 1909, and that measure proposed that notice of chargeability should be given on the 31st of the following December—that is, thirty-eight days after the Second Reading of the Bill, supposing it to have passed through all its stages and received the Royal Assent the same day. But in the Bill which has now become an Act, which was read the second time in your Lordships' House on April 28 of this year and received the Royal Assent on April 29, the date upon which notice must be given of chargeability for Super-Tax is July 31, or ninety-two days after the passing of the Bill—ninety-two days as against thirty-eight days in the original measure. Therefore I do not think it can be said that it is owing in any way to the action of your Lordships' House that this extreme hurry is being pressed on by the Super-Tax Commissioners.

The Act provides that a return shall be made of the total income from all sources, estimated as for purposes of exemption under the Income Tax Act; and, further, by Section 72 every person is required to make a return of total income from all sources in the form and within the time required in the notice given by the Commissioners. I do not for a moment suggest that the Commissioners are not within their legal rights in demanding the return in such a form and at such a time as they may think fit, but I do venture to say that to call upon a large number of persons whose income is between £4,500 and £5,500 to make this return before they are obliged to say whether they are or are not liable to the tax at all is to inflict a very great hardship upon those people. I have looked at the form under which exemption may be claimed. It is a short form, and amongst other particulars of income is that from property, including the value of the property owned and occupied by the person making the return. But that differs materially from the return now demanded by the Commissioners of Super-Tax, who require that the particulars of the income arising from the ownership of land, tenements, or hereditaments should state the precise situation of each property, the name of the occupier, and the rent or annual value, including in it a statement of particulars of any house occupied by a person liable to pay Income Tax. I thought possibly this might be meant to apply to larger parcels of land and that it would not be necessary to return every cottage upon an estate, but, on inquiry of the Super-Tax Commissioners, I was informed that they would be unable to dispense with such a return, and that it would be necessary to make it for every acre of land down to, I imagine, even an allotment. We heard during the debates on another subject that the Great Protector spoke of the "horridest arbitrariness." I think this is the horridest arbitrariness in the matter of tax collection I ever heard of.

I cannot help suspecting that there must be some ulterior object in demanding this return, and that it is not wholly unconnected with the valuation clauses of the Finance Act. I am given to understand that, so far as regards personal property at any rate, there is no objection to the return being made in the aggregate, without describing every stock and share from which the income is derived. Up to now persons engaged in trades or professions have been required to make a return of their net profits. They have not been asked to give all these intricate details. And the penalty has been a severe one, but a light one compared with the penalty imposed by the last Finance Act. The penalty for making a wilfully false return is not less than six months hard labour. I should have thought that that would have been a sufficient deterrent even for such hardened criminals as those who are in the enjoyment of over £5,000 a year, and that they might have been relied upon to make a true and accurate return.

It is not only a return of our income from land that we are called upon to make; it is not only a return of our income during the present year, but it is a return for the year 1908–09; so that the whole of the old past must be dug up. We must find out how much our bankers have charged us for our overdrafts, and how much they have allowed us in interest on sums which may have been placed on deposit. I hope that the latter may be considerably in excess of the former. But, at any rate, all this has to be done, and to be done within twenty-eight days from May 4. My Lords, it is a ridiculous and absurd proposition. I am bound to admit that I have had most courteous replies from the Commissioners of Super-Tax, who have assured me that they desire to avoid the preparation of statements involving the separate consideration of each property, but how that is to be done consistently with a truthful and accurate return, I do not understand.

Section 93 of the Act provides that all regulations and rules made by the Treasury or by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue or the Commissioners of Customs and Excise shall be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as may be after they are made, and if an Address is presented to His Majesty that which usually happens takes place in such a case. I have made diligent inquiry as to whether these regulations are available, and I am told that they have been laid on the Table of the other House of Parliament but have not been printed. They certainly are not available, and I do not think that any of your Lordships or any Member of the other House has had an opportunity of perusing them. Perhaps the noble Lord who will answer this Question will give us some explanation of how we may make ourselves acquainted with these regulations, because it appears to have been the undoubted intention of Parliament that they should be laid on the Table of the House before they were acted upon.

The effect of all this is to duplicate the complicated machinery of the return for Income Tax. There is to be, as there always has been, a collection of Income Tax at the source, and, in addition, there has to be the compilation of the results of the Income Tax after it has been paid by other parties. That is to say, there is taken away from the Income Tax payer all the advantages—and they are great advantages—of receiving his income after the tax has been deducted, and in lieu thereof there is thrown upon him an additional burden which he has never had to suffer before. I sincerely hope that the Treasury will take these difficulties into consideration, and, remembering how heavy is the additional burden which has been placed upon the Income Tax payer, that instructions will be given to their officials to do everything in their power to lighten the burden and expense of making these returns.


My Lords, when the noble Lord opposite answers the Question which Lord Onslow has addressed to His Majesty's Government, I should be much obliged to him if he would tell the House whether the abatement of twenty-five per cent in respect of agricultural property—an abatement on which great stress was laid by His Majesty's Government when they brought forward the Finance Bill—is or is not to be allowed in the return for Super-Tax in respect of the year 1908–09. The instructions that have appeared on the form sent to us by the Special Commissioners leave that matter entirely in the dark, and as there is great diversity of opinion on the subject I am sure the House would be indebted to the noble Lord if he could give any information on that point.


My Lords, before the noble Lord replies, there is one question I should like to put to him. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has assumed that the inquiries which have been made by the Government officials are all in accordance with the Act, but there are many of us in the City—in fact I might say most of us in the City—who have not been able to see in the Act any authority for the inquiries which have been made. The Act requires every person on whom notice is served to make a return of his total income from all sources, and it is quite true that in the latter part of the clause it is provided that this is to be done in the form required. But surely these later words are governed by the earlier ones. I certainly was under the impression when the Bill was being discussed that the return which had to be made was a return of the total income. But the return which is demanded is an entirely different one. The return asks for all particulars of the income. I cannot speak as a lawyer but only as a layman, but I distinctly understood—and I know that many if not most of my friends in the City understood—that the duty imposed upon us under the Act was to make a return of our total income. Perhaps my noble friend, when he replies, will be good enough to give us some elucidation on that point, and explain how it can be made out that when we have the obligation of making a return of the total income we are also required to go into all the particulars which make up the total income. The task is rendered more difficult because the returns do not refer to the present year but demand particulars of a great number of incidents which when they took place we had no idea we should be called upon to set out, and which it is most difficult at this period of time to recover from the past. Take, for instance, Income Tax which has been deducted from dividends. We, of course, can all get the amount received in dividends, but it would involve a vast amount of trouble to make inquiries as to what particular amounts were deducted by the companies before those dividends were paid. The special question which I wish to put to my noble friend is—By what right are all these particulars demanded when the return we are bound to make under the Act is not a return of all these incidental particulars but a return of the total income?


My Lords, I have also been struggling with a Super-Tax form, and I entirely sympathise with what the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has said about it. It is a very difficult thing to get these details. They are, so far as one's ordinary business aspect of accounts is concerned, more or less fictitious details. They are not the amounts you have actually received, but the amounts which existed before the tax was deducted; and then you have to ascertain all sorts of Income Tax returns and annual values in connection with land. I confess I had not noticed that the return was required in twenty-eight days. I took it for granted that July 31 was the proper time.

I wish to take this opportunity of raising a kindred question, and if the noble Lord is not able to answer me without notice, which I am sorry to say I have not given him, perhaps he will allow me to ask it later. There is another class for whom it was understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a tenderness—the class who pay a tax of 9d. on earned incomes. This, I understand, survives for all people whose income is under £2,000; but I cannot discover from the present Finance Act or from any other Act when and how they are to claim it. I understand that those who have claimed have been told that they are out of date. Apparently the suggestion is that they ought to have claimed at some time or other before the Finance Act became law. I think the date suggested is September 30, 1909. I do not know whether it is seriously contended that people who are entitled to that abatement should have claimed it seven months before the Act was passed. That surely is a Gilbertian state of affairs. I should like to ask what is the date at which that exemption should have been claimed by those who are entitled to it, and, if the legal date was in fact a date that expired before the Act came into force, whether His Majesty's Treasury intend to insist on their pound of flesh, or will treat these people fairly and give them an opportunity of claiming the rebate to which Parliament understood they would be entitled.

The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, raised another question, to which I was also going to call your Lordships' attention, as to the laying of regulations on the Table. The particular regulations to which I refer are those made by the Treasury under this Act relating to the horse-power of motor cars. According to your Lordships' Minutes they appear to have been laid on the Table of this House some time ago—May 11, I think, was the actual date. I tried a fortnight ago, and again to-day, to get a copy of these regulations from the Printed Paper Office of your Lordships' House. They are not available, but, as I understand, the forty days during which this House is entitled to disapprove of or comment upon those regulations are still running. A great deal may be said as to the power of this House in matters of finance, but here an Act of Parliament has expressly given this House the power to present an Address adverse to any of these regulations. It is a tall order to say that the regulations are to be laid in dummy, and that the period fixed in the Act is to lapse before you have any chance of perusing them, and that at the end of the time you are to be told that the forty days have expired although you have never had an opportunity of obtaining a copy of the regulations. I venture to think that such a state of things ought not to occur, and that if a period of time is running as against your Lordships' House such regulations as are open to comment should be available. If my question about the 9d. tax cannot be answered to-day I will put it down for a subsequent date.


My Lords, I should like to say a word on one point on which Lord Onslow dwelt—I mean the conditions laid down for the returns with regard to land. It is an absolute impossibility for the returns to be made out within the time allotted, and even if a longer time were given I should think they would be unnecessary and useless to the Treasury. I pointed this out, and in reply the Commissioners told me they would be very glad to receive in total amounts the returns of any person who had to pay the Super-Tax, with a promise that when required schedules of the whole of the property would be sent in. That referred to agricultural property only. They admitted that with regard to town property it would be rather hard to ask the owner to send in a return of every small ground rent, and they thought that these might be given in larger sums provided they could be identified. It is with regard to that answer that I want to say a few words.

In the first place, you are asked to make a return with regard to your income from property in land. You make that declaration upon oath, or at any rate upon your honour, and then the Commissioners ask you to supply them with information the only purpose of which can be to convict you for bad arithmetic in your own return. That appears to be an absurd proposal. Either you have done your best to make your return from the details at your command, in which case your return is probably right, or, if you have made a mistake, it is rather hard that you should be convicted out of your own mouth. What object can the Commissioners have in asking for these returns? I think the arithmetic which is at the command of any noble Lord who happens to be an owner of property is probably as good as that of the gentlemen who are being appointed Assistant Commissioners. Any one who has had experience of dealing with the supervisors of the Treasury, or who has been for any length of time a chairman of Income Tax Assessment and Appeal Committees in the country, knows with what care and courtesy the officials concerned always deal with every case. But the gentlemen who are to deal with this Super-Tax are not the courteous and painstaking members of the Civil Service with whom we have all had to do for years, but men specially appointed for the purpose. What their qualifications may be we none of us particularly know.

Why is it necessary that you should send in the name of every tenant on your estate, the size of his occupation, and the amount of his rent? The next year his occupation may be changed, the size of his farm altered, or his rent varied. Agricultural labourers—it certainly is the case in Lincolnshire—are very fond of flitting, and a man on one farm one year may be found on a neighbouring farm the next. What possible use can it be to put a landlord to the trouble of supplying all these details when they can be of no value to any one, and when they must involve a great deal of expense? When you come to the question of ground rents in towns, it is ridiculous and absurd. Ground rents in towns, in the case of leasehold property, are very small amounts, and to send in all these details would entail an enormous amount of Work. I know pretty well what it is with a small estate, and I cannot imagine that it can be done in anything like the time, even if extended to July 31, in the case of some of the large estates I know of. And when the Commissioners have obtained these returns, how much better off will they be? They will not be able, except on the point of arithmetic, to amend or alter the return sent in. Therefore why is it necessary to put this vast amount of trouble and throw this useless expense on landlords when it is not of the slightest use to the Treasury and can only delay the very return which they want? If we are to be liable to six months imprisonment for making a wrong return, it is only fair that we should be given as long a time as possible in which to make the return; and nobody can possibly make a return giving all these details within at least the next six weeks or two months.


My Lords, I should like to say a word on one point which has been raised. I submit that when any paper or form has to lie on the Table of either House for a certain period in order to enable objection to be raised, that paper or form should be bona fide laid and printed, and should be accessible to everybody. I remember that in the case of the Education Code the rule was that it should lie on the Table for forty days, during which time objection could be taken to it; but the Board of Education were in the habit of laying it in dummy, and I think Mr. Speaker in the House of Commons ruled that the time for objecting should run from the time when the document was accessible and not from the time when it was laid on the Table in dummy—a most important principle to insist upon.

This is not a question of politics at all; it is a question of the right of the public, through their representatives in Parliament, to have the full time granted to them by Statute for the examination of these documents. There are other persons interested besides members of the House itself. There are the other persons who come under the operation of this Super-Tax, and they might desire to communicate with noble Lords who are their friends or with Members of the other House of Parliament. It is essential, where Parliament gives a right of criticism of official documents before they become law, that this should be carried out in the fullest good faith; and I think it is merely trifling with the obligation to say that a document has been laid in dummy on the Table. I do not think it is enough even that the document should be laid in manuscript; we are entitled to have it printed.

I saw complaints in the newspapers that for a time apparently the officials at Somerset House were setting up a claim to withhold this document regarding the Super-Tax except on an assurance from the person applying for it that he admitted his liability. That seems to be waived now. I have had two of these documents myself. Therefore I do not complain of not receiving the necessary notice; but we are not concerned with ourselves now, but with the general rights of the public, and I think we ought to safeguard those rights as against the Civil administration of the country. In my opinion the period of time allowed should run from the production of the document in an accessible form.


My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has called attention this afternoon to the form issued by the Special Commissioners for the assessment of Super-Tax. As far as my own experience goes, I am bound to say that it is no easy task to give all the information which the Commissioners desire in the forms they have sent out. But I can assure the noble Earl that there is no ulterior motive on their part or on the part of the Government in asking for this information. It is really necessary for the Commissioners to have the information in order to make a fair assessment. I believe that the experience so far has been that people have shown every willingness to give the information and every anxiety to make correct returns; but it is possible that there may be people who would desire to evade the payment of the tax, and it would obviously be unfair to those who have paid the tax if such people were given a loophole of escape. The Commissioners must have the right to inquire into the details of individual incomes, in justice to themselves as well as to those persons whose incomes are to be taxed. This form follows as nearly as possible the ordinary forms used by taxpayers who claim exemptions or abatements from Income Tax. Persons liable to Super-Tax are required by the Act to make their return of income in the same manner as income is estimated for purposes of exemptions and abatements.

Then complaint was made by the noble Earl of the date on which the return has to be made. Subsection 2 of Section 72 gives the Special Commissioners power to require the return and to specify the time within which it should be rendered; but if in a particular case the time allowed is not long enough and the person can show reasons for delay the Commissioners will consider whether an extension of time can be given. Then Lord Onslow raised a point as to the regulations. These regulations were laid before the House of Commons on the 8th of this month. I believe they were ready some weeks earlier, but the meeting of Parliament on the occasion of the death of the late King was not considered to be an appropriate time for laying them on the Table.


May I ask whether copies of these regulations can be obtained, and, if so, how?


As they have been laid in the House of Commons I imagine that it is perfectly easy to obtain copies of them. [Several NOBLE LORDS: No, no.] I will make inquiries on the point. Indeed, I now understand from the Clerk at the Table that they have been laid in this House as well. Lord Hylton has raised the question of the abatement of Income Tax which was given in the Finance Act of last year. I think that point is met by the note on the form.


I know there is a note on the form, but it is not at all what was said by His Majesty's Government when the Finance Bill was brought in. Not only were we told that there would be no extra taxes on agricultural land, but we were to have a remission of twenty-five per cent. instead of the abatement hitherto allowed. But if we are to have the Super-Tax on agricultural land without the abatement of twenty-five per cent., that blows to the wind entirely the allegation of His Majesty's Government that no extra taxes were to be placed on agricultural land.


It is a little difficult for me to give definite answers to all the points that have been raised, as I have no official connection with the Treasury. But I believe it is the case that on application any person liable to the Super-Tax will be able to obtain the abatement to which the noble Lord refers. My noble friend behind me (Earl Russell) asked a question with regard to the date up to which the 9d. on earned incomes may be claimed. Again I must guard myself against giving an absolutely definite answer, but I believe that date is September 30 of this year.


Several people who have made a claim have been told that they are now out of date.


Perhaps the noble Earl will kindly give me notice of the question on a future occasion. With regard to his other point concerning the regulations in respect to motor cars which is, perhaps, scarcely relevant to the question before the House, I will see that they are available at the earliest possible opportunity.


I should like to ask whether an undertaking will be given on behalf of the Government that the regulations in regard to the Super-Tax will not only be printed immediately, but that the forty days during which they are to lie on the Table shall run from the time when they are available to the House in a clear and intelligible form.


My Lords, the noble Lord who spoke for His Majesty's Government towards the close of his observations made something of the nature of an appeal for indulgence to the House upon the ground that he was not himself officially connected with the Treasury. I am quite sure that noble Lords on this side would not desire to press the noble Lord unduly, for he, no doubt, was not prepared for the somewhat extensive catechism of questions to which he was asked to reply. But he must expect, and His Majesty's Government must expect, to be pressed for full explanation upon the points which have been raised this evening. I am sure I do not misinterpret the feeling of the House when I say that, however much we may disapprove of the taxation now under discussion, it is our genuine desire to facilitate the task of those officials who are entrusted with the duty of collecting it, and that nothing is further from our thoughts than to create vexatious difficulties in their way. But if that is our feeling, we have a right to expect that we shall be treated on the one hand legally, and, on the other hand, with all the consideration which the circumstances admit; and I must say that this discussion does seem to me to show that in both these directions there have been very considerable shortcomings on the part of the Department entrusted with this special work.

First, as to the question of legality. My noble friend Lord Avebury raises specifically the question whether these particular demands with which we have all been supplied are of a nature which is fully authorised by the text of the Finance Act. He has been advised that that is not so, and I trust that we shall be told from the Bench opposite whether that point has been fully considered. But, my Lords, there is another point as to which there is no doubt whatever, and that is the very grave—I would almost say scandalous—omission which has taken place in the failure to supply us with the regulations which, under the terms of the Act, we were entitled to have laid for forty days on the Table of this House. We are told that they have been technically laid, but beyond all question they have not been accessible to noble Lords who might desire to inspect them, and, if necessary, call attention to them. The result is that a considerable part of the time allowed us under the Act has passed, and that we have to that extent, at all events, lost the opportunity we might have had of challenging the regulations.

May I refer particularly to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Heneage—I mean the demand that we shall supply particulars, not only of our total income from property, but of the income derived from every single plot and parcel, no matter how insignificant, upon our estates. There is no doubt that that is what the document on the face of it asks us to provide; that is clearly stated. The noble Earl who is going to reply to me must realise as fully as we do what an extraordinarily vexatious demand this is. I am tempted to mention my own case. I have a considerable amount of property let in allotments of half an acre and an acre in Great Britain. In another part of the United Kingdom—in the West of Ireland—I have a great number of extremely small tenancies. Now the work of compiling a return in which every scrap and shred of a holding, every dwelling-house, every tenement, no matter how minute and insignificant, is included, is a work of the most formidable and onerous description, and a work which one naturally hesitates to throw upon the gentlemen who are employed in connection with the management of these estates.

And may I mention one other little point bearing upon this. We were each of us supplied with a single copy of the form on which this demand is made. When I received my form I very naturally wrote to my representatives in different parts of the country. I referred them to the number of the form, and told them that I wished as soon as possible to be supplied with all the materials for filling my form up. But, my Lords, they one and all gave me the same answer: there was not a form to be had. They were told that these forms were not to be issued except to people who were themselves called upon to pay Super-Tax, and I saw the same statement made in a letter to The Times the day before yesterday. A gentleman there gave a graphic account of the manner in which he pursued and eventually ran to ground the responsible official, living in some remote office, by whom he was, apparently, not received genially. I do not wish to be too exacting in this matter. This is all new machinery which will not work at first without a certain amount of creaking, but I do hope that every effort will be made by His Majesty's Government to make matters as easy as possible for the parties concerned.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Marquess for what he said with regard to the difficulty which my noble friend behind me has to encounter in answering a number of questions on this intricate subject. As the noble Marquess knows very well, it always happens here, by the nature of the case, that there is nobody who has first-hand knowledge of Treasury work, and therefore it is always difficult for the Government spokesman, whoever he may be, to deal with the question as fully as other questions can be dealt with by those who are conversant with the work of the different Departments. Consequently my noble friend has found it necessary to ask in one or two instances for further notice of questions put to him.

The point brought forward by Lord Avebury, which had not come within my cognisance before, no doubt raises an interesting legal question. I understand the noble Lord to argue that the demand for any details of income is, or may be, ultra vires, according to the wording of the Act. I cannot express an opinion on that point, and, of course, this House cannot as such, except finally in its legal capacity, express an opinion on a matter of that kind. I imagine it would be open to anybody to refuse to supply details, and, if he desired, to take the question to a Court of Law; but personally I will not venture to express any opinion upon it, although I should be as much interested as the noble Lord to know what high legal authority would say on the subject.

With regard to the general question of the laying of regulations, I have no hesitation in saying that there cannot possibly be two opinions that when it is provided in an Act of Parliament that regulations should be laid upon the Table of either House or of both Houses during a fixed time, that period should be a real period, and that the regulations should be available during the whole of it. In this particular case I understand that these regulations were laid on June 8—to-day is the 14th—and if they are not available to noble Lords generally I can only say that I personally regret it, and I will make inquiry as to how it occurred. Noble Lords will realise that the Departments have been working under great pressure in this matter; and before he sat down the noble Marquess admitted that machinery of this kind could not be brought into perfect operation in the first year—that it could hardly be expected that its operation would be quite perfect. But, as I have said, I will inquire as to how this has happened. I am certain, if there has been a lapse from what we all agree should be the usual practice, that it was unintentional, and not in any sense malevolent.

As regards the question of the noble Marquess as to the necessity for supplying the great number of particulars which are asked for on the form sent out to those who are presumed to be liable to Super-Tax, I have not had the opportunity, I frankly confess, of going into this matter with the Treasury officials, but it occurs to me that the difficulty with which they were confronted was probably this. Either they had merely to rely on a general statement of income without any details whatever, or else they had to get a complete set of details; and, if noble Lords come to think of it, as regards land there seems to be no middle course between taking a man's single statement of his total income from land or adopting the course which has been pursued of asking for each individual holding. At least, speaking without preparation or having thought out this matter, it is very difficult to devise any middle course which would afford an assurance to the Revenue authorities that the facts had been carefully looked into by the person liable, and that he was not merely making a sort of general statement of what he believed to be his income—a middle course between that and the demand for all these particulars, which I frankly admit, speaking as an individual, do seem in some degree needless. I am quite prepared to admit that it is a vexatious thing for a landowner to have to go through the process which the noble Marquess opposite has mentioned with regard to every allotment; yet I expect the Treasury answer would be that they either have to take a man's statement that his land brings in five, ten, or twenty thousand a year, or else ask for these details.

Should the matter be raised again, as seems likely, I have no doubt my noble friend behind me—and I will do the same myself—will take care to be furnished somewhat more fully with the reasons which have actuated the Revenue authorities in asking for these particular returns. I will also inquire as to the other point which was raised by the noble Marquess, as to the difficulty of supplying a number of forms in cases where, for instance, there are a number of scattered properties under different management, or where different sources of income may be looked after by different persons. I have dealt, so far as I can, with the various points raised, and, as I say, I think it very likely that we shall hear more on the matter from noble Lords on a future occasion.


My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Earl for his promise with regard to a future occasion, and I have no doubt opportunity will be taken to put further questions to the Government. But I only rose to ask one question as to regulations being laid in dummy on the Table and not being available to noble Lords in accordance with the evident intention of the Statute. Nothing could be more complete than the noble Earl's apology for any failing in this respect which has arisen under the administration of the Finance Act. He told us that, in his opinion, the forty days ought to run, not from the moment when the regulations are laid in dummy, but from the moment when they become available to your Lordships. This is a very old grievance, as was pointed out by the noble Lord opposite, Lord Sheffield. I have been familiar with it in both Houses for many years. There is a tendency on the part of Government Departments not to follow out the spirit of Acts of Parliament, but to lay regulations in dummy, and so curtail, or deprive Parliament of altogether, the period during which regulations may be called in question. The noble Earl has expressed complete concurrence with our view, but he ought to have gone further. As we have lost a certain time through the regulations being laid in dummy, will be give those days back to us? The noble Earl must feel that, whether in this House or the other, the complete remedy is not an expression of regret from the Government, but what is in their power—an extension of the time, so that the period of grace shall be the real one intended by Parliament.


By the indulgence of the House I will endeavour to answer the question of the noble Marquess. I understand that, as a matter of fact, the regulations were laid in full, but for some reason they were not ordered to be printed. As regards the question of further extension of time, I should be quite disposed to admit that that would be reasonable if it could be shown that within the period still lasting for the discussion of the regulations it was for some reason or other really inconvenient for the House to consider them—that is to say, that an extension of time was seriously demanded for practical reasons. I am bound to say that I think if that could be shown there would be a good case for extending the time. I do not know how far it would be legally possible to do so. That is a question which perhaps the noble Marquess would consider. The Act of Parliament says forty days, and I do not know whether it is in the power of the Government of the day to extend the time.


The Treasury can lay fresh regulations.


On the merits of the case I take the view I have explained—that if it could be shown that the curtailment by a certain number of days had rendered it impossible or difficult to discuss the regulations there would be a strong case for the course suggested.


My Lords, I venture to think the point before us has reference not merely to the particular case to which attention has been called. The point is, What does Parliament mean when it says that regulations are to be laid and to remain on the Table for forty days before they become law? and therefore any interpretation adopted on this occasion ought necessarily to apply to all similar cases. As to what is legal in the matter, it really is what is the interpretation which is placed on the wording of the Statute. Surely Parliament, when it said that the regulations were to lie on the Table for forty days, did not mean that they were to be merely laid in dummy and not printed, and that the days on which the regulations had so lain in dummy on the Table were to be included as part of the forty days contemplated by the Act.


We have not yet seen these regulations. Surely we should have some assurance that they will be printed, and that we shall have an opportunity of seeing them.


I think the noble Earl the Leader of the House could meet the suggestion of the noble Marquess opposite by withdrawing those regulations and laying them again. I cannot help feeling that unless something of that sort is done you rather encourage the Departments in thinking that Parliament can be treated in this way. I trust the noble Earl will see his way to comply with the suggestion.


My Lords, I should like, with the permission of the House, to say a word before the debate closes. I think a good deal of useful information has been elicited from His Majesty's Government, and the promise from the Front Bench opposite that further consideration will be given to the points raised this evening which have not been answered will materially satisfy those who are interested in the matter. The noble Earl the Leader of the House said he could not see that there was any via media between a man returning his total income from all sources and returning a detailed statement of every separate holding that he possessed. I would like to call the noble Earl's attention to the form which is issued to those who wish to claim a rebate of Income Tax, because that is the form which governs the method in which the return for Super-Tax is to be made. As to income derived from real property, the return has to be sent in with the precise situation of all such property. I would suggest to the noble Earl that it might be quite sufficient to require that the parish, or possibly even a larger area—the district or the county—should be stated; and the reason I throw out that suggestion is, of course, this—that the Income Tax return is based upon the assessment for Income Tax. The assessment for Income Tax is something quite different from the total rent payable. Obviously if you cannot be made liable for Income Tax you cannot be made liable for Super-Tax, and therefore the amount on which you have to pay is the assessed value. If there is any suspicion in the minds of the Income Tax Commissioners that a return has been improperly made, the whole of the facts and figures are in the possession of the local authority, and all they have to do is to write down to the district where the property is said to be situated to ascertain whether or not the individual has made a correct return. One word as to what fell from Lord Hylton. If he referred, as I think he did, to the special allowance which is to be made under the Finance Act in the case of an outlay for the purposes of repairs and maintenance, I would point out to him that that allowance only conies into operation after the passing of the Finance Act—namely, in the current year. The returns which are being asked for by the Commissioners are in respect of the year 1908–09, to which year the allowance does not apply.


That, I believe, is not in accordance with what was said in another place and also here by representatives of His Majesty's Government when the Finance Bill was brought in.


I was speaking only from a perusal of the Statute, and not with reference to anything that was said while it was passing through Parliament. In any case I welcome the announcement made by the noble Earl the Leader of the House that the matter will be more carefully inquired into, and that instructions will be given to the Commissioners of Super-Tax to ease, so far as may be, what I venture to think is a very heavy and unexpected burden put upon all owners of real property.

House adjourned at twenty minutes before Six o'clock, till Tomorrow, a quarter past Four o'clock.