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Clause 26(Execution By The Crown)

Volume 439: debated on Friday 11 July 1947

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

I should like to raise a matter which was briefly referred to by the Attorney-General in moving the Second Reading, and that is the proviso to Subsection (2). As the Committee will appreciate, that is the proviso which keeps alive the provisions for committal in two specific cases of debts owed to the Crown—debts incurred in the case of Purchase Tax and in the case of Death Duties. On the Second Reading, the learned Attorney-General told the House that that power was preserved because in those cases, and apparently in only those cases, the money had come into the hands of the person concerned as a kind of trustee, and that, therefore, it was necessary to preserve it in this case. But I think we are entitled to hear a little more of the reason why, in the case of two specific taxes, this very considerable power is preserved. A variety of taxes are imposed by a variety of methods in this country today, and it seems a little oppressive that in the case of these two particular taxes, this very considerable power should be preserved. I do not think the Committee should part with the Clause without hearing some justification for it.

I rise in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Kings-ton-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) in order to give the learned Attorney-General an opportunity of perusing the paper which he has just recived and which, I trust, deals with this Clause.

The point that has been raised is one on which the Committee is entitled to have, and indeed would welcome, some further explanation from the Attorney-General. This power of the Crown to imprison people for debt is an anachronism. It has long since been given up in the ordinary way, in regard to private debts, and we have heard a good deal from the Attorney-General as to the desirability of the Crown being a good employer and on a par with private concerns, in other connections. Why should the Crown not also be on a par with the private individual in regard to the recovery of sums of money? The Committee should demand some further enlightenment on these two rather unusual and minor exceptions to the ordinary run of law, and as to why this power of imprisonment should be retained.

3.45 P.m.

I think there is a little confusion about this matter. The special Crown remedy, the writ of capias ad satisfaciendum will not survive. It will not be used even in regard to these two cases. What is being done by this provision is to add two cases, those of Purchase Tax and Death Duties, to the six special cases which are already provided for in the Debtors Act. I do not think any hon. Member will wish me to enumerate the six existing cases, but I would mentioned two because I think they are, in a sense, analogous—default by a trustee in paying over money in his possession, and default by a solicitor in paying costs under an order to make payment. There are analogous cases to those under Section 4 of the Debtors Act, where the trustee of money has failed to pay over. That is, in a sense, also the position of a man who is under a liability to pay Death Duties or to pay Purchase Tax. He has presumably had the money out of which he ought to have paid the Purchase Tax or out of which he ought to have paid the Death Duties, and experience with these two classes of case has shown that it is very useful to have in reserve this remedy, a remedy which is never utilised unless there is a real reason for thinking, as I indicated on Second Reading, that the person has the money salted away and could pay if he would. This is a method to encourage him to desire to pay.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.