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Royal Commission On Taxation (Chairmanship)

Volume 496: debated on Tuesday 26 February 1952

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The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

47.

To ask the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement about the chairmanship of the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income.

Is the Prime Minister to make a statement in reply to Question 47, about the Chairmanship of the Royal Commission on Taxation?

If there is a particular desire that I should make this statement, and you, Mr. Speaker, give your permission, I shall be very glad to do so. The reply is as follows:

On his appointment as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary Lord Cohen was unable, by reason of his judicial duties, to continue to serve as Chairman of the Commission. The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Lord Waverley as Chairman in succession to Lord Cohen. An opportunity has been taken by Her Majesty's Government to make an amendment in the terms of reference. The revised terms will be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Mr. J. Millard Tucker, Q.C., will act as Vice-Chairman of the Commission.

Following are the revised terms of reference:

To inquire into the present system of taxation of profits and income, including its incidence and effects, with particular reference to the taxation of business profits and the taxation of salaries and wages: to consider whether for the purposes of the national economy the present system is the best way of raising the required revenue from the taxation of profits and income, due regard being paid to the points of view of the taxpayer and of the Exchequer: to consider the present system of personal allowances, reliefs and rates of tax as a means of distributing the tax burden fairly among the individual members of the community: to make recommendations bearing in mind that in the present financial situation it may be necessary to maintain the revenue from profits and income: and, in so far as they make recommendations which would on balance entail a substantial loss of revenue, to indicate an order of priority in which such recommendations should be taken into consideration.

Is the Prime Minister aware that his announcement will be greeted with the greatest satisfaction throughout the entire business community?

Does the Prime Minister realise how important it is that the Chairman of this Royal Commission should be a man of acknowledged impartiality, of no political bias and accustomed to the exercise of judicial functions? Does he further realise that Sir Stafford Cripps had precisely those considerations in mind when he invited Lord Cohen to be Chairman of the Royal Commission? Does he also realise that Lord Waverley, of whose distinguished career we are all aware, has shown by his political speeches and by his bearing in the 1945–50 House of Commons, that he holds strong political opinions—[An HON. MEMBER: "He is patriotic."]—corresponding broadly to the right wing of the Conservative Party and is therefore quite unsuited to fill this post? The fact that the Prime Minister has recommended to Her Majesty that he should be appointed only shows that the Government are determined to influence the conclusions of this Commission for their own party advantage.

The diatribe to which we have just listened is of such a character that it warrants no answer except in debate.

In order to demonstrate that Lord Waverley will have time to undertake this very important task, particularly in view of what the Prime Minister said about Lord Cohen not being able to perform it because of his judicial duties, would the right hon. Gentleman publish a list of the directorships held by Lord Waverley and the number of his public offices?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is not this a matter of great public interest and may we not, therefore, have a few minutes in which to ask supplementary questions?

We have not the time to enter into a discussion on a question of such importance.

In view of what the Prime Minister has said, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he will make time for a debate on this important subject?

The answer to that, so far as the Government are concerned, is "No"; but, of course, there are certain opportunities open to the Opposition.

Is there not another important matter which arises? Is it not correct that Lord Waverley holds a position which, while it is not a Government appointment, is a public appointment carrying a substantial salary? Does he intend to resign his appointment with the Port of London Authority while he is Chairman of this Commission?

Every question asked and every answer given merely confirms me in my belief that this is too big a question to argue at the present time. I do say to hon. Members, and I give it as my Ruling, that if the House wishes to debate this matter, it must find another opportunity.