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(Clauses 5, 14, 16, 17, 33 And 49)

Volume 884: debated on Tuesday 21 January 1975

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Considered in Committee [ Progress, 15th January].

[Mr. GEORGE THOMAS in the Chair]

4.3 p.m.

On a point of order, Mr. Thomas. It relates to Clause 16 and the selection of amendments. I do not query the selection as a matter of accuracy. However, the clause gives relief for certain businesses which may otherwise find themselves in financial difficulties. That relief is restricted to companies. Knowing that other people were in financial difficulties in running their businesses, it was our wish to extend that relief to sole traders and partnerships, whose need is just as great. I understand that the Opposition amendments which were tabled to enable us to discuss the scope of the tax are out of order and that the reason is that the Budget resolution has been very tightly drawn to restrict the relief to companies. What is more, another amendment has been ruled out of order because of the Budget resolution which prevents those with accounting periods falling between 31st March and 5th April from profiting by the clause.

I do not question the accuracy of your judgment. My complaint is about the Budget resolution. I understand that the Government cannot put down Budget resolutions which are so wide that hon. Members may raise any matter throughout the whole of the income tax Acts on what is, after all, a second Finance Bill. But this resolution prevents us from discussing the real scope of the tax.

Is it possible for the Government to put down an enabling resolution so as to enable hon. Members to discuss it? I should not like those who cannot claim the relief to think that we have not had their interests at heart.

I am obliged to the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). She has interpreted the ruling much better than I was about to try to do. Resolution No. 16, which this House approved on 12th November, is narrowly drawn, and Providence protects me from responsibility for the way that the Government draw their resolutions. I am afraid that I can only rule that the amendments are out of order because they are beyond the scope of the resolution.

I have looked at this difficulty in many ways to try to help the right hon. Lady. I am afraid that she must wait until the next Budget.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Thomas, but I am a little more impatient than that. Will it be in order to raise these matters on the Question "That the clause stand part of the Bill"?

On a further point of order, Mr. Thomas. Like the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), I do not query the accuracy of the selection of amendments. However, perhaps I might question its fairness. Neither the Scottish National Party nor Plaid Cymru is represented on the Standing Committee considering the Finance Bill. No amendment tabled in the name of either party has been selected for discussion. I suggest that none of those of us who represent the true voices of Scotland and Wales will be able to take part in any discussion of such important matters as agriculture, forestry and fishing.

If the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) tabled these amendments to the schedule, which is the proper place, he could have his discussion in the Standing Committee.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Thomas. The whole point is that the schedule is being considered in the Standing Committee, in which neither the Scottish National Party nor Plaid Cymru is represented. We have no voice on the Standing Committee. Indeed, the only hon. Member representing a Welsh constituency serving on the Standing Committee represents an industrial area of Wales which has nothing to do with these important social problems. That is why it is essential to discuss these matters in Committee here, if we have a chance to do so.

The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) knows that there will be a Report stage. At that stage it will be possible for him to table his amendments and, if they are selected, to discuss them.