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Clause 15—(Increases Of Allowances For Dependent Relatives)

Volume 390: debated on Wednesday 2 June 1943

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I beg to move, in page 9, line 30, to leave out from "shall," to "have," in line 31.

This Amendment deals with the question of relief for the daughter of a man who has an invalid wife. The Chancellor has stated that in certain cases relief should be £50, but he exempts a daughter from that by that part of this Clause which I want to delete from the Bill. I cannot see why a daughter cannot be treated in a similar fashion, particularly where it is admitted that the test of incapacity will be dealt with by the Treasury and where the incapacity of the wife will not be in dispute. The man has a wife, and the allowance he gets for the daughter is to be only £25. I wrote to the Chancellor on this matter, because I could not understand why the daughter should be treated in this way. The man who carries the terrible burden and strain of a completely incapacitated wife ought not to be treated in any less favourable way than any other person. The daughter should receive the full £50 allowance. There may be an explanation, but I cannot see why the concession should not be granted. I raise this question chiefly because of the housing position in Glasgow. With us it is much worse, because the great bulk of our people live in three-apartment houses, which are fairly large. Two-apartment houses are common, and if a man has to bring in anyone else but his daughter, there is no accommodation. In such housing conditions the daughter is obviously the person to be asked to carry on the household duties.

I have never been an Income Tax expert and have not studied Income Tax until recently, because hardly anybody in Gorbals paid it. For many years my activities used to range over all sorts of other Departments, and I used to say that the Treasury was the only one that missed me. But recently I have—or at least my wife has—been conducting correspondence with the Chancellor regularly. As a recreation I began to take an interest in one or two other subjects, and I have been making a little research into Income Tax. It is most difficult, in the position in which we find ourselves in Glasgow, to make anybody else the housekeeper but a relative. If a man brings in a housekeeper from outside, he is placed in an almost impossible position, for a variety of reasons. I do not intend to make criticisms that the rich are bad and the poor are good, but if people could employ experts and knew the Income Tax law, they could get this £50 for the daughter and perhaps more. Why, even the Duke of Westminster in a court of law actually fought this matter. He pays his servants by what we call in Scotland a deed of annuity and by what you call in England a deed of covenant, By that means he gets not only the £50 allowance but a much greater sum. It is impossible for ordinary middle-class men to know the law and employ tax specialists. I understand, that there are firms in London who specialise in Income Tax work, and if the Chancellor cannot give me my concession, I hope that he will at least stop other people from getting the allowance or sums in excess of the maximum allowance by deeds of annuity or covenant.

I am sure that the Committee agrees that we have heard once again a case powerfully presented by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), and that they will be glad to note that the Treasury have a new client as a result of the increased operations of Income Tax. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will give due consideration and attention to all matters which the hon. Gentleman raises. There is a real answer to the case which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. I rather hinted at it in the observation I have just addressed to the Committee. The hon. Member has put forward the case of a man with an invalid wife who has a daughter who keeps house for the family. He is asking me to extend my concession by doubling the £25 and making it £50. That does not comply with the condition that I was bound to make that there must he young children in the home. Also it is most difficult for me, if I increase the allowance where there is a daughter looking after the home with no children, properly and fairly to stop there. I can quite appreciate the position in, Glasgow and the almost impossibility of introducing into the home a stranger to the family, but directly I put on one side my condition as regards there being no children and say I will give this double assistance where there is a daughter, I have no real answer where, instead of the daughter, there is a sister or an aunt. You could go to a variety of relationships of that kind. It is only the accident that the designation of daughter was used that enabled the hon. Member to move his. Amendment. The provision was inserted by my predecessor, Sir Austen Chamberlain. It came on rather late in the day, a good time for dealing with these matters, and the Mover himself said he did not see how the then Chancellor would be able to stay at the designation of daughter, and it may be that later he would have to face the position of other relatives. That, in fact, is the case.

I must adhere to the limitation of the concession. At some time or other we shall have to discuss this matter afresh on its merits, whether the allowance in fact is justified in regard to other claims which can now be made. I have always. felt the difficulty of justifying the allowance for the widower where, there are no children. It has made a great deal of difficulty, and there are many cases of unfairness. That may well have to be the subject of future discussion. The hon. Member has been looking into the Income Tax and deeds of covenant. I do not think that any case has been directly brought to my mind of the operation of deeds of covenant, but I have not been able to close my mind to the fact that they may have been very extensively operated. The question whether they could be wholly justified in respect, we will say, of charities is a matter we shall have to consider at some time or other. The hon. Member is quite right in bringing such a matter forward to day, but it is not really material to the major consideration of the Clause. I am anxious to satisfy him and to have at least his mental appreciation of my position, but I hope that he will feel that I am not "being unduly hard in saying that I must maintain the limitation of the concession that I have given.

This concession with regard to the daughter has been made, and my hon. Friend only wants to extend it. The right hon. Gentleman says that the word "daughter" got in by some mistake.

It crept in somehow or other, and, because there has been a mistake, he cannot allow this extra concession to be given. I think my hon. Friend has made a very good case why this concession of £25 to £50 should carry all the way through to everyone who was getting the £25 before, and it is worth:testing whether or not we should have it put in.

I knew the right hon. Gentleman's distinguished predecessor, but I never knew him let a matter slip which was not properly argued. Having conceded the daughter in an earlier Act, is there any substantial reason why she should not now get them same concession as is given to other people? I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the matter between now and Report.

I do not want to lead the hon. Member astray, and I beg him to appreciate that the reason why I have given the further concession is the presence of children in the home.

Amendment negatived.

I beg to move, in page 9, line 40, at the end, to insert:

() "In this subsection aged means fifty-five years of age for a woman and sixty years for a man."
I have heard one or two complaints about the term "aged," because, when people have appealed for this allowance, there has been a difficulty in ascertaining the age and they have been told they must wait until they reach pensionable age in some cases, but it is not clear what "age" means. In order to get a clear definition, I propose 55 for a woman. It is recognised that a woman grows old more quickly than a man, and consequently it should be something earlier for her. I do not intend to press this Amendment to a Division. I simply want to clear the matter up so that there will be a guide to the Income Tax people as to what line they should take.

I am glad that my hon. Friend does not propose to press the Amendment to a Division because when he has heard what I have to say, I think he will come to the conclusion that the matter is best left as it is from his own point of view. The dependent relative's allowance, which was granted by Section 22 of the Finance Act, rq20, is given to a taxpayer who maintains a relative who is incapacitated by old age or by infirmity from maintaining himself. The general practice of the Board of Inland Revenue is to give this allowance if the dependant is 65 years old or above it. There is no distinction between men and women. The figure of 65 is not a rigid figure and the allowance can be given in respect of a younger person if it can be shown that his age incapacitates him from maintaining himself. In these circumstances I am sure my hon. Friend will see that it would e be wiser to leave the matter where it is, for if we were to adopt his suggestion et would put a stop to making the allowance for a man of 58 in cases where he was incapacitated on account of age.

'Is there any relaxation of the age of 65 for women, for it seems a big age in their cases? Is not some guide given to the Inland Revenue to take a lower age for women?

There is no limit. It's merely a question whether the woman is incapacitated on account of her age. It may well be 55. At whatever age she is incapacitated she comes under the terms of the Clause, but if we were to put a limit to the age it would cut out some people whom my hon. Friend would like to see included.

Is the Financial Secretary right in saying that if the Amendment were accepted, it would cut out some people? The phrase in the Clause, "old age or infirmity," provides an alternative. If the definition of old age as suggested by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) were made it would still enable people to get the allowance in spite of their age. The Financial Secretary states that the practice at present is to take the age of 65. The Amendment suggests that the position should remain the same in respect of age except that the practice in future should be to take the age of 60 for men and 55 for women. If that were accepted no cases would be cut out. I do not think it is asking too much from the Treasury to seek this small concession.

It would be a mistake to put a figure to the term "old age." If 55 is to be the definition of old age, many Members of this House would be in a difficulty to justify their presence here. The 'hon. Member who moved the Amendment is the very refutal of the necessity of putting a numerical figure on old age. From what the Financial Secretary says the question of age is a question of physical condition and not a numerical condition, and I support that point of view rather than accept a figure which automatically brings other people not contemplated within the Clause.

The bon. Member does not seem to realise that the Clause provides an alternative. If a person is 30 and incapacitated, he is entitled to the allowance. Whatever the age, a person is entitled to the allowance if he is infirm. The Clause says "old age or infirmity," not "old age and infirmity." A working class woman is entitled to some concession at 55 because she has had a hard life, and if she could get this little allowance it would be well worth while. The Amendment merely proposes that the practice of the Treasury should be altered from 65 to a lower age in respect of incapacity due to age.

Some clarification seems to be needed. I understand the Financial Secretary to argue in this way. There is a range of ages and we can take that range as covering a period in which we can describe a person as being aged. We do not describe him as infirm because that is an alternative incapacity and he can be infirm at any age.

If a figure is not stated how can we determine who are aged?

I do not think there is really any difficulty. The point we have to determine is whether a person is incapacitated by old age or infirmity. That is a matter of fact, and I suggest it would be unwise to put into an Act of Parliament words which would leave it to be supposed that a man Qr woman was necessarily incapacitated by old age or infirmity if he had reached the age of 60. That would sound odd to many hon. Members, in view of the age of our present Prime Minister. The matter is really quite satisfactory as it is. The Board of Inland Revenue has a discretion to deal with a man who is, let us say, aged 58, and there would not be such a discretion if we were to limit the age to 60. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) appreciates the point and thinks it wiser now to leave things as they are, and I suggest to the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) that he would be very much wiser to do the same.

In point of fact, the inclusion of the age is redundant. All one really needs is the reference to incapacity.

In view of the explanation which has been given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.