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National Finance

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 6 May 1943

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Income Tax Evasions, Sheffield

58.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many prosecutions have taken place for Income Tax evasions, involving amounts of £50,000 or more, in the Sheffield district during the last 10 years?

Wage-Earners (Income Tax)

59.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that in many branches of industry girl piece-workers receive no wages during sickness and that when they recover and return they find accumulated Income Tax charges awaiting them so that they have not enough to live on for the time being; and whether he will investigate such tax enforcement with a view to mitigating its severity?

As the answer is rather long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

The regulations governing the deduction of tax from wages provide, with a view to avoiding hardship, that the wages for any week shall not be reduced by deduction of tax below certain specified amounts, the amount in the case of a single person being £2. With regard to the recovery of arrears of tax, the general rule in the case of manual wage-earners is that any tax which cannot be deducted in a given week, owing to the absence of the employee through sickness or for any other reason, is carried forward and deducted in the last fortnight of the deduction period. There may, however, be some advantage from the employee's point of view in recalculating the weekly deduction when the employee returns to work, as the deductions of the accumulated tax is thus spread over a longer period. No objection is taken to the adoption of this alternative method where the employees concerned desire it.

61.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what experts, other than the Trades Union Council and the British Employers' Confederation, he has consulted in his efforts to find a satisfactory system of levying Income Tax on the current wages of industrial workers; and whether he can state their views?

While, as indicated in the Budget Debates, I look to the Trades Union Congress and the British Employers' Confederation as the principal consultative bodies in considering any changes that may be proposed, the Board of Inland Revenue, who are now actively engaged in considering the question, will gladly consider representations or suggestions from any quarter in regard to the arrangements for deduction of tax. Various suggestions for a current earnings basis have been made from time to time, but I do not consider that any useful purpose would at present be served by entering into any exposition of them. Certain aspects of the matter are discussed in the White Paper issued last year.

Is the Chancellor keeping in close touch with America and Canada in connection with pay-as-you-go arrangements?

Yes, Sir, but the hon. Member will remember the controversy that has arisen there.

Has the Chancellor made inquiries among the working people themselves, who, like most people, appear to say that they would much prefer to have the deduction made from their pay and then recover what remains afterwards as a bonus? It seems to me to be a universal desire.

The hon. Member will see a full statement on the matter in the White Paper.

War Damage Payments

60.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the extent to which the War Damage Commission has in its payments overdrawn the amount provided by the public in premiums and contributions?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answers I gave on 22nd April to the hon. Members for South-West St. Pancras (Sir G. Mitcheson) and Bournemouth (Sir L. Lyle).

64.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much has been paid out in war damage payments up to 31st December, 1942, or other convenient date?

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave to him on 15th April last; as regards payments by the War Damage Commission, he will doubtless remember that the Chairman announced on 5th April that they had reached the sum of approximately £100,000,000.

Blind Persons' Pensions (Wives, War Work)

62.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will take action to remove the hardship caused to blind persons who lose their pensions if their wives, responding to the call for more female labour in factories of national importance, go out to work leaving their husbands unattended?

The conditions under which these pensions are.awarded are laid down by Statute. Entitlement to pension depends upon the amount of the claimant's yearly means, and the Act provides that, in calculating the means of a person who is one of a married couple living together in the same house, the means shall be taken to be half the joint means of the couple.

Does the Chancellor not agree that this does constitute in fact a particularly grave hardship, and will consider the possibility of making some alteration?

External Loans

63.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the amount in borrowing, up to 31st December, 1942, or near date, from each of the countries who are making common cause with us and whom we are defending, together with interest rates attached to such borrowing?

I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the external loans contracted by His Majesty's Government in the course of the war as at 31st December, 1942. This figure must be distinguished from the much greater figure of the external liabilities of the country at large, which mostly takes the form of deposits of sterling or sterling securities held by overseas countries.

Can the Chancellor give the House some indication what these rates are? Would it be correct to say there are no interest rates above 3 per cent.?

Following is the list:

The following table shows amounts borrowed by His Majesty's Government and outstanding at 31st December, 1942:

Country.

Rate of Interest.

Amount.

Per cent.

£000
Canadian GovernmentFree157,303
U.S.A.: Reconstruction390,819
Finance Corporation.
Belgian GovernmentFree25,200
Indian Government30,054
East African Governments2½ & Free5,650
Ceylon Government3, 2½, & Free4,324
Federated Malay States Government.Free2,038
Trinidad Government3, 2 & Free2,016
Newfoundland Government.Free1,528
Miscellaneous Loans from Colonies, etc. (under £1 million).4,759
323,691

House Of Commons Staff Canteen

65.

asked the hon. Member for Dulwich, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, what improvements he proposes to make in the House of Commons Canteen?

The Kitchen Committee have not recently considered any proposal for making further improvements in the House of Commons Staff Canteen, which we understand is giving every satisfaction to those using it.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a common feeling that they are not supplied efficiently? Is he further aware that the servants of the House, the soldiers, the messengers, and the clerks are not able to obtain a meal at a reasonable price, and will he consider whether it is possible to instal something on the lines of a British Restaurant here for the workers?

I can assure the hon. Member we have not had any complaint or proposal. If a proposal is put before us, we shall be very glad to consider it.

May I ask the hon. Member whether he himself has taken the opportunity of lunching in that canteen recently, because I can assure him that, if he will consult some of the staff who are in this Chamber at the moment, he will find that there is considerable dissatisfaction.

There are five canteens in the Palace of Westminster under licence by the Ministry of Food, in addition to certain mess rooms.

Will my hon. Friend accept the, assurance that at some of these staff canteens very excellent meals are provided at a very moderate price?