Clause 20. — (AMENDMENT OF FINANCE ACT, 1946, s. 27.)
Orders of the Day — Finance Bill
Lieut-Commander Joseph Braithwaite (Holderness)
I re-entered the Chamber while the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) was speaking, and I did not hear all that he said. If perchance I am repetitive, I apologise to the Committee. I gathered that the hon. Member was pointing out some of the accounting difficulties which arose from the proposals set forth in this Clause, particularly the large amount of unnecessary work that must be thrown, not only on accountants, but on office staffs in businesses, in apportioning the very trivial amounts which have to be set off in the books of small traders, professional men and so on. National Insurance charges will have to be more carefully segregated into their various compartments as between employees' insurance, employers' contribution which are allocated to sickness, unemployment and so forth; and, of course, there is maternity benefit.
These proposals seem to me to be particularly unfortunate. I do not want to repeat the argument already put before the Committee, because the Financial Secretary has emphasised it. Here there is a complete reversal of policy in every sense of the word. It is a retrograde step when one is trying to consider simplification of taxation and returns. It is, of course, also an ingenuous proposal and a cynical one. The disallowance of the proportion of the contributions relating to unemployment, sickness and maternity benefits will undoubtedly fall very largely on a class which will receive no benefit from this source.
The Debate which we have had on this Clause has been of value in underlining certain aspects of Government policy. It seems that not only will a lot of the old forms have to be destroyed, but a large number of Socialist leaflets will have to be destroyed. How much longer will it be possible for hon. Members opposite to tour the country claiming that all these social services are provided free to the people of this country? We have heard, at every by-election which has been fought that this Government are providing all these blessings free. The Financial Secretary has blown that argument sky high, and I am sorry that the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) was not present, because what he said this afternoon was that the return of a Tory Government would mean a slashing cut in social services.
Now we have the Socialists' inverted method. They are going to tax the social services to the tune of £10 million, and I do not think it makes any difference to the unfortunate working man by what method it is done. The £10 million is to be taken from his pocket. We think it necessary to divide against this Clause as a protest against the extremely cynical and unbusinesslike conduct of the Government. I shall be interested to see how many Members opposite support this proposal. It will be interesting to see whether the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) supports the imposition of a £10 million tax upon unemployment, sickness and maternity benefits. In view of all that hon. Members opposite have said and written in recent weeks and months at by-elections, there is only one course they can pursue. That is to accompany us into the Lobby and join in the protest we are making.