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Clause 14—(Relief Where A Person Is Employed Or Maintained To Take Charge Of Children)

Volume 390: debated on Wednesday 2 June 1943

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I beg to move, in page 8, line 38, to leave out "throughout," and to insert "for more than one-half of."

With your approval, Mr. Williams, and that of the Committee, I will speak on this Amendment and the next two Amendments together. These Amendments are intended to get the words "throughout" and "totally" better defined. If the word "throughout" is going to be interpreted literally, it might well be that after the Clause has been fully complied with on 364 days of the year, death may occur, and the relief which is provided for those taking charge of children will be completely lost. Clause 3 says that no relief shall be given under this Clause unless the claimant's wife was totally incapacitated throughout the year. It can be seen that the Clause may work extremely harshly, and I do not think that that is the intention of the Chancellor. Then there is the question of a person going away for a holiday. There could be no holiday for anyone who came under this Clause. Also, what would be the position of a person who was sick for a fortnight or longer? Now we come to the word "totally." This equally might result in extreme harshness. The phrase used is "total incapacity." Does that mean that the wife is not allowed to take a cup of tea up to her husband who is starting off for work at 5 or 5·30 in the morning? I think the Chancellor would be well-advised to soften these words. It is not he who is going to operate this Clause. Thousands of civil servants will be handling the Clause, and, therefore, we feel that we must have something definite from the Chancellor as to the meaning of these words.

I will gladly give some assurance and consolation to my hon. Friend-on the matter, which he has quite properly raised. The Committee will remember that in my Budget I was able, notwithstanding the difficulties of the time, to make a number of concessions of some importance to a considerable number of people. One of them was that, under Sub-section 3 of Clause 14, a man entitled to the married man's personal allowance of it 40 should be entitled to the new allowance on certain conditions, which I think were regarded as reasonable. One of the conditions was that where the housekeeper's allowance was given in this way the wife should be totally incapacitated throughout the year of assessment or be engaged for a time in employment or business. I based these concessions in the special circumstances of the times, also on another condition which was really the object of the further concessions that I desired to make, and that was that there was in the home a number of young children whose necessities and needs demanded attention even in the difficult financial times in which we are living.

These are the matters that operated with me at that time. When I was approached first about this matter the case was put to me of the husband with children who had them properly looked after and cared for and where the wife was away, as far as one could humanly see, for an indefinite period in some institution in the cOuntry—a very hard and terrible case for the husband and particularly the children. I was pressed very much that in a case of that kind I ought to make some further substantial contribution to the family. That was the case upon which I founded this concession. Having reached the conclusion that I would give an allowance in the case of a wife who is in some institution because of some permanent defect of health I could not see how, if a wife was permanently incapacitated and living at home, I could refuse the allowance to her. I said that in such a case, although the wife was living in the home, so long as she is totally incapacitated for the period mentioned in the Clause, the husband should equally have the advantage of the concession. That is how the Clause which we are now discussing developed.

I said, if my hon. Friend will do me the honour of looking at my observations, that in making these concessions I must ask the Committee not to press me further both as regards the cases and the conditions. When we use the word "totally," my hon. Friend can take it from me there will be no sort of silliness about whether there was a few days' or weeks' incapacity or anything of that kind or whether a person went for a fortnight's holiday. There will be nothing of that kind in the administration of these measures. But I cannot be landed into the position of being driven into going further. There will be endless trouble if a wife is not totally-incapacitated. One can imagine the situation that would arise among the authorities unless that condition was arrived at. I must also put down the period for that incapacity at some reasonable length of time. Again, following the analogy of the wife in an institution, I have therefore chosen, as I said in my Income Tax speech, the Income Tax year, which allows machinery to operate reasonably. If you go further than that, you will be in danger of the machinery and the administration of the Clause breaking down and not being satisfactory, and it may be abused.

This is the first time we have done this, and we shall be able to see how it works. I believe that it will work satisfactorily, and I know that the Inland Revenue will treat people fairly in these cases. We do not want to be driven into inquisitions in the administration of this Clause. My hon. Friend will appreciate that if you get outside these conditions, you will he in danger of having to set up machinery to inquire into this, that and the other, which people would naturally resent. I hope that my hon. Friend will feel that I have made a considerable concession, and will wait and see how the machinery works. He can take it that the Commissioners of Inland Revenue will interpret the Clause in a reasonable way in order to give help to those concerned.

My right hon. Friend has referred to a wife being, totally capacitated in an institution. What would be the definition of "total incapacity" of a wife at home? Would there be any objection to her perhaps brushing out her bedroom or preparing a cup of coffee or tea for her husband?

It is not in the interests of the public that I should give a precise definition, but we shall deal with this matter reasonably. We are net going to be too critical, because if I began to give exceptions, I should begin to put an imposition on the people concerned.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

I have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a point that I want to raise. It is a question where a sister is keeping house for her brother, The mother has been dead for 20 years and the sister has had the family in hand all this time. There is one brother left, and she is still keeping house for him. It is a very grave hardship that no allowance can be made in respect of Income Tax for her, and I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can give some idea whether he can make an allowance in such a case.

I want to tender my thanks to-the Chancellor of the Exchequer for this Clause. It corrects a matter to which I drew the attention of the Committee on the same stage of the Finance Bill last year. I know that it will ameliorate cases of hardship to which my attention has been drawn in my own constituency. I would not like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to think that what he has done by this Clause will perfect the housekeeper's allowance. It is still far from perfect. The reasons I have already given on the Second Reading of the Bill, and I do not propose to take up the time of the Committee with them now. I say this to warn the Chancellor that some of my friends and 'I will continue to study possible further improvements in the housekeeper's allowance, and I hope he will do the same.

I will take note of what my hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) has said. In regard to the case put by the hon. Gentleman opposite, I am not sure whether any allowance is payable or not, but my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General has pointed out to me that Section 10 of the Finance Act, 1920, provides that:

"If the claimant proves that he is a widower and that for the year of assessment a person being a female relative of his or 'of his deceased wife is resident with him for the purpose of having the charge and care of any child of his, or he proves that he has no female relative of his own or of his deceased wife who is able or willing to take such charge and that he has employed some other female person to undertake the same, he shall, subject as hereinafter provided, be entitled to a deduction…"
I would like to look at the case before I give any definite opinion.

This is the case of a single man who has a sister living with him who has brought up the whole family.

I must not mislead the hon. Gentleman. I take it that this is a case where there, are no young children in the home (HON. MEMBERS: "No.") and where there is a brother and sister (HON. MEMBERS: "Yes.") Then that is the case for an ordinary housekeeper's allowance, and I cannot hold out hope of a revision of the present allowance, which is made to a widower for a housekeeper, in a case where it is not particularly well justified, having regard to other people who might be in a much more serious position. I based my concession in this Budget on the fact that there are young children in the home.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.