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New Clause—(Amendment Of S46 (2) Of Finance Act, 1941, As To Relief From Death Duties)

Volume 390: debated on Thursday 3 June 1943

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Subsection (2) of Section forty-six of the Finance Act, 1941, shall cease to have effect and the following Subsection shall be substituted therefor:—

"(2) This Section applies to the death of any person from injuries received or disease contracted by him, whether before or after the passing of this Act, but during the period of the present emergency and within twelve months of his death, being injuries or disease caused by the operations of war or incurred whilst engaged in war work or other dillies in circumstances which, in the opinion of the Treasury, involve risks similar to those incurred in the operations of war:
Provided that this Section does not apply to deaths from such causes as are mentioned in Section thirty-eight of the Finance Act, 1924, of persons to whom that Section applies, or to deaths from such causes as are mentioned in Subsection (1) of Section sixty-four of the Finance Act, 1940, of persons to whom that Subsection applies."—[Mr. Barnes.]

Brought tip, and read the First time.

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

I have had correspondence with the Chancellor on this matter, and therefore it can be narrowed down in this Debate before the Committee. Section 38 of the Finance Act, 1924, made certain provision for the remission of Death Duties for Service personnel engaged in the operations of war. If I understand the interpretation which the Treasury puts upon this, it is that as soon as the Forces are mobilised for war every one of them becomes on active service against the enemy. Of course, everyone will agree with this, by being classified on active service against the enemy, every member of the Forces is entitled to this concession. Section 64 of the Finance Act, 1940, extended this to certain sections of the Merchant Service and fishing boats and other categories, who die from causes arising from the operations of war, and Section 46 of the Finance Act, 1941, extended it to civilians who die from injuries caused by the operations of war. I want to call attention to the difference in the language dealing with these three categories. Regarding the Services, the language used is:
"On active service against the enemy."
Under Section 64 of the 1940 Act dealing with classes of the Merchant Service the language is:
"Causes arising from the operations of war."
And with regard to the concession to civilians the language is:
"From injuries caused by the operations of war."
I wish to cite a particular case. It seems to me that here we have a problem of equity. On 7th June, 1942, an R.A.F. plane met with an accident, and the personnel of that plane were kilted. There were R.A.F. and civilian personnel in the plane. The coroner's verdict was very clear: "Death due to multiple injuries to Royal Air Force personnel on duty, and civilian personnel, as authorised passengers in the aeroplane, were also on duty." The estate of a high ranking officer in the R.A.F. who meets with an accident while flying in this country for any purpose, is exempt from Estate Duties. The estate of a high technical research civilian engaged on Government war work, who is refused permission to join the Services and is killed while flying on experimental duties with the officer referred to, is not exempt. The estate of a civilian not engaged on war work, who is accidentally killed by a plane returning from active operations against the enemy, is exempt from Estate Duties, while the estate of a civilian killed by a training plane is not exempt. In view of the time, I do not propose to argue the case at length. I think I have put the issue very clearly. The whole matter is one of interpretation. In each category it rests with the Treasury to decide whether the death arises from the operations of war, and, in so far as I have examined them, I fail to find how the Treasury excludes any of these cases.

I am indebted to my hon. Friend for dealing so briefly with the matter. We have had some correspondence about it, and I have endeavoured to give him some reasons for the conclusions which have been reached as to the payment of certain claims. It is true that when we reach conclusions we have to look at the provisions of the Act of Parliament. It is true that there is a differentiation between people in the Forces and civilians, as laid down by the Act. My hon. Friend is seeking to repeal Section 46, which relates to civilian deaths, and which is applied in the case of injuries caused by the operations of war. My hon. Friend desires, at any rate for the purposes of the discussion to-day, first, to include disease so far as civilians are concerned, and then—I know that this phraseology is very difficult to draft, but it would be more difficult to interpret—

"disease caused by the operations of war or incurred whilst engaged in war work or other duties in circumstances which, in the opinion of the Treasury, involve risks similar to those incurred in the operations of war."
There is this distinction in regard to disease. Members of the Forces are subject to a medical examination before they are taken into the Forces, and so we are able to come to some measure of reasonable conclusions as to whether——

I hope that my conclusions would be reasonable. I am not referring to the decisions of medical boards or anything like that. It gives some measure of guidance as to whether the disease from which a man may die arose out of war service. But I will not provoke a discussion on whether all the decisions are advisable or not. It would be impossible, in relation to the millions of civilians, to reach a conclusion of that kind at all as they have not undergone any medical examination. I am afraid that my hon. Friend's suggestion that the Treasury should endeavour to come to a conclusion on whether the disease was caused while the person was

"engaged in war work or other duties in circumstances which, in the opinion of the Treasury, involve risks similar to those incurred in the operations of war,
would be extremely difficult to carry out in practice. In the course of my correspondence with my hon. Friend, cases like this arose. You might have a scientist engaged in an experimental flight, on which he meets his death. Under the Clause, it would be for the Treasury to decide whether death was the result of the war or not. In a large number of cases, death might have happened in just the same way in peace-time. It would be difficult to say that it arose out of the war. All sorts of difficulties might arise. I have dealt briefly with this matter, but I hope my hon. Friend will not think that I do appreciate his argument because I have not replied at great length. I shall he glad to talk further with him about this subject. But the Clause would be very difficult to operate.

I appreciate the difficulty of framing an adequate Clause without the proper technical advice. In view of the Chancellor's intimation that he will give me facilities for again looking into the matter, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Clause.

Motion, and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.