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National Finance

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 26 April 1949

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Tax Payment (Legal Decision)

26.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has now come to any conclusion on the observations of Mr. Justice Vaisey on 16th March in Sebel Products Limited v. Commissioners of Customs and Excise; and if he will indicate his future policy with regard to the retention by the Crown of tax paid under mistake of law.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) on Tuesday, 12th April.

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been considering the matter for six weeks, is it not time he came to a conclusion on a matter of common honesty?

Income Tax Arrears

27.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much Income Tax of two or more years duration still remains unpaid; how many individuals or firms are concerned; between what amounts do the sums range; and why this failure to collect Income Tax is allowed, in view of the fact that it means higher taxation for those who do pay.

The hon. Member will find the latest available information in the Inland Revenue Appropriation Accounts for the accounting year 1947–48 which were published recently. I cannot accept the implication in the latter part of the hon. Member's Question. As pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor-General in paragraph 10 of his Report, the arrears due for collection show a marked fall between 1946 and 1947. The amount of tax due which is finally written off as irrecoverable is very small: in the year 1947, the total amount of Income Tax and other Inland Revenue duties remitted or written off as irrecoverable was only £1,500,000.

Is the Chancellor aware that concern is caused when publicity is given to the fact that certain individuals have been able to escape liability in this way? Is his Department able to take stronger measures to try to prevent these arrears accruing?

We take all the steps possible to prevent arrears accruing, but it is for the taxpayer to prevent the arrears accruing.

Tourist Traffic, Tangier (Currency)

28.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware of the benefits which would accrue to our hard currency trade if British tourists were able to visit Tangier; and if he will extend the basic currency facilities to that territory.

No advantage to our hard currency trade would result from increased sterling earnings by Tangier; on the other hand, there would be disadvantages in the accumulation of sterling on this free currency market. I do not, therefore, propose to extend facilities for tourist travel to Tangier.

In view of the fact that the Chancellor's view entirely differs from mine, will he allow me to discuss the matter with him?

I have examined the matter to see what view is the correct one, and I have stated it.

Will the Chancellor be careful to distinguish between tourists and those who go there to test the hardness of the currency?

European Economic Co-Operation

29.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what conversations have taken place between Mr. Tasca of the Economic Co-operation Administration and the Organisation of European Economic Co-operation and His Majesty's Government, respectively.

Can that answer be assumed to mean that Mr. Tasca has come over to discuss the devaluation of European currencies and that there is no question of sterling being devalued?

There is no question of sterling being devalued, but I do not know what that has to do with Mr. Tasca.

Anglo-Portuguese Trade

30.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has any further statement to make on the date by which Anglo-Portuguese trade will be fully restored.

As already announced in the Press, we have now made satisfactory arrangements with the Portuguese Government covering trade and payments during 1949, and the Portuguese authorities have resumed the grant of licences for United Kingdom goods. In view of internal measures taken by Portugal to improve her economic situation, Portugal could not agree to import United Kingdom goods in 1949 as freely as last year when our exports reached an exceptionally high level; imports of United Kingdom goods will now be regulated in accordance with quotas covering broad categories of goods.

Can the Chancellor of the Exchequer say by how much the overall figure of Anglo-Portuguese trade will he reduced by this modification?

It is difficult to say, but it is anticipated that it will be somewhere around £4 million, which means that it will be very much bigger than in 1947.

Can the Chancellor further say what steps he is taking to see that our favourable balance with Portugal is not offset by further sterling purchases?

I have taken no steps to try to defeat the objects of the sterling area.

Has not the Chancellor taken steps to see that in purchases in the sterling area Portugal is not to be paid by us in gold?

Sterling Balances

31.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total of unfunded sterling balances at the latest convenient date.

The total of sterling liabilities to residents outside the United Kingdom, excluding liabilities blocked by agreement, amounted at the end of 1948 to about £1,750 million.

What steps is the Chancellor taking to see that these sums are blocked so that they cannot seep into the sterling area and become available to purchase unrequited exports?

We do not wish to block all the sterling balances; otherwise all the trade of this country would be stifled.

What steps is the Chancellor taking to see that these sums are not used for the purchase of unrequited exports from this country?

We allow the expenditure of these sums upon whatever goods the owners of the sums can purchase in these markets. They are not blocked liabilities; these are the unblocked liabilities.

Anglo-American Council On Productivity

32.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make available to the House the Report of the Second Session of the Anglo-American Council on Productivity recently concluded in the United States of America.

Yes, Sir. The Report in its printed form should be ready on Thursday, and I am arranging to have a copy placed in the Library.

Will the report of the meetings of this Council go to show that it is a great pity that such a council were not instituted very many years ago?

Petrol Tax (Tractors)

33.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, with a view to avoiding penalising, by way of tax, farmers who have petrol-burning tractors, he will now consider removing the tax from agricultural petrol, or, alternatively, giving a rebate of 6d. per gallon on petrol used for agricultural purposes.

Does the Chancellor realise that, generally speaking, the petrol-burning tractor is the most efficient, and why do the Government continue to handicap the increased production of food at home by putting a tax on the use of petrol for food and other agricultural purposes? Surely there is some sense somewhere?

I should not like to become a partisan between the merits of the Diesel and the petrol engine.

Will the Chancellor see me afterwards? I have a great deal to tell him.

Income And Expenditure

34.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a statement explaining the differences in Table 8 of Command Paper No. 7649 and Table 5 of Command Paper No. 7371, National Income and Expenditure of the United Kingdom, 1948 and 1947, respectively, which, among other things, gives the 1947 wages before Income Tax as 42 per cent. and 40 per cent., respectively, and the profits, interest and rent as 33 per cent. and 41 per cent., respectively.

The explanation lies in the titles of the two tables. Table 5 of Command Paper No. 7371 gives the allocation of private income from work and property: Table 8 of Command Paper No. 7649 deals with personal income only. The earlier table therefore includes (in interest, profits and rent) that part of the national income which is neither paid out to persons nor accrues to public authorities as net income from property. A minor cause of difference between the percentages is the inclusion of the pay of the Armed Forces in Table 8 of Command Paper No. 7649.

While I appreciate that reply, may I ask the Chancellor whether in this year's White Paper there is a table comparable with that of last year, which shows the figures?

If the hon. Member will put that question on the Order Paper, I will try to answer it.

Playing Fields

35.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer in view of the great need for more playing fields in the industrial towns and cities and the great work done by the National Playing Fields Association in helping to buy and equip playing fields if he will now grant this association the sum of money promised to them by his predecessor.

The Minister of Education is empowered by statute to assist the purchase and equipment of playing-fields, and Parliament has provided funds which have enabled him to make considerable use of his powers. A direct Treasury grant for this purpose would not, therefore, be appropriate, and my predecessor was misunderstood if he was thought to be promising such a grant when he referred to the provision made for this purpose in the annual Estimates.

Inland Revenue Office, Llandudno

36.

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what is the present position with regard to the move of the offices of the Charity and Foreign Section of the Chief Inspector's (Claims) Branch of the Inland Revenue from Llandudno to Liverpool.

A suitable building has now been found in Liverpool and it is hoped that it will be ready for occupation in the autumn.