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New Clause—(Entertainments Duty)

Volume 155: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1922

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Notwithstanding anything in Section one of the Finance (New Duties) Act. 1916, as amended by any subsequent enactment. Entertainments Duty shall not be charged for admission to any entertainment where the Commissioners of Customs and Excise are satisfied that the whole of the profits thereof are devoted to philanthropic or charitable purposes.—[Mr. Rose.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

I am in some trepidation in moving this. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer has existing somewhere something in the nature of a benevolent fund, though we know it is not of very considerable dimensions. I can only hope he has enough left to do what we are asking in this proposed Clause. I consider it to be an act simple justice, if not a matter of simple propriety. The object of this Amendment is to exempt from Entertainments Duty all such entertainments as are bonâ fide for charitable objects As the law stands to-day, as T understand it, Entertainments Duty is not payable on entertainments the profits of which are entirely devoted to charitable or philanthropic objects. If the promoters of charitable entertainments have to pay artists or attendants they have to pay the Entertainments Duty. I do not know what this proposal will cost. I suppose that is generally the determining factor in a matter of this sort. But whether it costs much or little I do not for a moment care. I am not appealing to the sentiments or the sympathy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not believe in a sympathetic Chancellor of the Exchequer.

If you find the Chancellor of the Exchequer sympathetic, be sure he is not fit for his job. The right hon. Gentleman is a respectable man, and that is all I am asking him to he. That is the only trait in his character that at present I am asking him to justify. If people get up entertainments of the kind referred to in the proposed new Clause, if they want to be exempt from Entertainments Duty, they have to find some even more benevolent persons who will stand the whole of the expenses; then they can be free. This request comes from a very important town in Scotland which I have the honour to represent. The particulars I am about to give I think are typical, but not peculiar.

The District Hospitals Fund Association of Aberdeen during the last year got up entertainments and were able to pay to the local hospitals, infirmaries, dispensaries, nursing associations, and so forth, £1,000; but they had also to pay Entertainments Duty to the extent of £232. That does not seem to me to be quite the right thing. I daresay the Chancellor will say that he cannot accept my proposal because it would mean a reduction of, roughly, 25 per cent. of the money realised. He will probably say that that sort of thing spread over the kingdom would mean a considerable sum lost to him. I do not know whether that is so or not. The Chancellor may have figures from which he can tell us the cost of this proposal. Frankly, I do not care a bit what it costs. It is something which seems to me ought to be done. It is not. right, after all—and I suppose right and wrong do sometimes enter into the consideration even of Cabinet Ministers—when these entertainments are got up for the purpose of raising money for helping the poor, the infirm, the sick and ailing, it is utterly wrongful and utterly improper for such money or enterprises to be taxed. I am not going to supplicate the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have heard so many Members hope that the Chancellor will be so good or so considerate as to make certain concessions. I do not put it that way. I merely state the case, and leave it to the good sense of the right hon. Gentleman.

On a point of Order. May I ask, Mr. Hope, whether the Debate on this proposed new Clause excludes the Debate on the next proposed new Clause, standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Howdenshire (Lieut.-Colonel Jackson), which seeks to exempt sports clubs under specified conditions? In the one case the Clause speaks of philanthropic or charitable purposes, and in the other, games, athletic exercises, physical recreation, etc. Whatever difference there may be in the immediate objectives of the two proposed Clauses, the Debate will run in much the same way, and I was wondering whether the Division upon the first would exclude discussion upon the second. It seems to be of wider scope and open to more detailed argument.

No. The Debate on the first proposed Clause will be confined to charity, and on the second to sport.

I imagine that most, if not all of us, have been pestered by, principally, the clergy in our constituencies to move the Chancellor, so far as posible, into giving some relief in this matter. Might I suggest that if the right hon. Gentleman cannot take off the tax, he might make the deduction for expenses on a more liberal scale? At the present moment it is 20 per cent.

I was a little startled at the beginning of the speech of the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Rose) and his references to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but when I remember the part of the country which he represents I readily understood. I do not think that he has yet entirely acquired the habit of those whom he represents. He seems to have missed the most important point in connection with the imposition of the Entertainments Duty which has just been elucidated by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Sir E. Bartley-Denniss). The assumption of the Mover of this Clause was that at the present time no allowance is made for any of the expenses incurred by promoters of entertainments for philanthropic and charitable purposes, but that is not so. Originally it was provided that only those entertainments in regard to which the whole proceeds were given to the charity were exempt from the duty, but that has been modified to the effect that where not more than 20 per cent of the proceeds has been spent upon expenses in such a case the entertainment shall be exempted from the duty.

The suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham is that the allowance in regard to expenses should be increased, and I am willing to accede to that suggestion. I cannot, however, go so far as my hon. Friend desires, because that would mean the loss of much more money than the people of his constituency would think wise on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I am certainly moved by the representations made to me to the effect that many quite justifiable philanthropic and charitable objects are defeated in the chance of holding profitable entertainments because of the fact that the expenses cannot be kept within the narrow limits at present imposed. I have gone into the figures, and I have come to the conclusion that we ought to increase the amount from 20 per cent. to 30 per cent. I think by that increase we shall really meet the most deserving cases.

I beg my hon. Friend to notice that, in doing this, I am not departing from the high standard of unsympathetic Chancellors of the Exchequer whom he desires me to follow. I anticipate by making this slight advance in the percentage of expenses which will be allowed that I shall in connection with the hospitals be likely to escape from burdens which might possibly be imposed upon the Treasury. T am doing this with an entirely selfish object, and whilst it may cost £50,000 to perform this operation, I expect to be more than recouped by the advantageous results of the suggestion I am making to the House. If my hon. Friend will consent to withdraw his particular proposal I will put down on the Report Stage a Clause which will give the increased allowance for expenses to which I have referred.

After what the right hon. Gentleman has said I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.