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Clause 45—(Extension Of Special Contribution To Northern Ireland)

Volume 466: debated on Monday 27 June 1949

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

The Clause extends and makes legal the extension of the Special Contribution to Northern Ireland. I understand that without the Clause the Special Contribution would not be legal in Northern Ireland because it was not one of those taxes which were reserved taxes as laid down in the Act of 1920. In Northern Ireland, we have always been prepared to agree to bear our share of all the burdens of the United Kingdom, and there has been no protest at the extension of this tax to Northern Ireland.

On the other hand, there is a very real objection, in that the tax is not legal until this Bill be passed, and that when it is collected, those who pay it will have to pay interest for a period when the tax was not legally recoverable. That is not only a hardship on individual people but a legal blemish. After all, one should have some regard for the law. The tax does not become legally due from the people upon whom it falls until this Finance Bill is passed. They cannot legally pay it, I understand, until that happens. Nevertheless, the Treasury propose to take interest from them for not having paid it when they could not have done so without an infringement of the law.

In fact, it means an addition to the tax. The people who pay promptly do not have to pay any interest, and pay less than those who pay later, and who have to meet the rates of interest laid down. It is not a great sum of money, but it is a serious and significant thing that the present Government should envisage what seems to be a definite breaking of the legal tradition by trying to extract a comparatively small sum of money by subsequent legislation. There was no protest against the fact that we should bear an equal burden with the rest of the United Kingdom, but it is most unjust that this attempt should be made to make people pay interest for a period when they could not have paid the money. I very much hope that the Chancellor will consider that aspect of the matter. He has that conscience which the law produces in those who serve the law. It will assist me in urging him to reconsider this matter and not to charge interest in this way.

I should like to be allowed to say a word. My hon. Friends will notice that there is an Amendment on the paper in the name of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), dealing with exactly the same point. My hon. and learned Friend did not move the Amendment. In view of the time that we have taken, he thought that it would be better discussed upon the Report stage. I would point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) that the Amendment, when moved, will not only allow us to have an answer, but an answer upon the particular point which has now been raised, and it will give us an opportunity to divide upon it.

In the circumstances, I do not wish to press the point now. I did not understand the position. The Amendment did not spring from us in Northern Ireland but from other Members independently. In the circumstances, I do not press the Chancellor for an answer now.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 41 to 48 ordered to stand part of the Bill.