Skip to main content

Increases In Taxation

Volume 436: debated on Tuesday 15 April 1947

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I turn to increases in taxation. My task now is to recover all, and more than all, the revenue I have lost. I have carefully studied, as I promised last year I would, the possibility of a tax on betting. At first sight this is an attractive proposition, though it would unite against it strong and varied resistance ranging from bookmakers to bishops. But I would advise the Committee to face even this powerful combination if it seemed likely that I could get substantial revenue from this new tax. But I am convinced that I could not. It would, indeed, be possible, and not very difficult, to tax the "totes," both horse and dog, and the football pools. But we stand, and most of all the Labour Party stands, for justice; and to tax "totes" and pools alone, and let the bookmakers go free, would be wrong, it would be unjust, it would be repudiated by all right-thinking men and women. On the other hand, to tax all forms of betting would present the most formidable administrative difficulties. In 1929, when the present Leader of the Opposition repealed the Betting Duty, which had been imposed in 1926, he told us that:

"In practice the duty has failed. The volatile and elusive character of the betting population, and the precarious conditions in which they disport themselves, have proved incapable of bearing the weight even of the repeatedly reduced burdens which we have tried to place upon them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th April, 1929; Vol. 227, C. 49.]

These gentlemen have become no less volatile, elusive and precarious today. I have no hope that where the right hon. Gentleman failed, I should succeed. In order to cope with the very serious difficulties of collecting a tax on bets placed with bookmakers I should need to divert a number of trained Excise Officers from

the collection of other existing taxes, and so should lose revenue. I am against adding to the Civil Service what are sometimes called "hordes of officials," even in the high mission of tax collectors. It is a defect of every new tax that it requires new officials to collect it. Therefore, I have regretfully decided to reject a tax on betting, and, in the best conservative spirit, to look for my increase of revenue this year from well-tried, existing taxes, to which we have become accustomed.