Orders of the Day — Isle of Man Bill
Mr Jocelyn Simon (Middlesbrough West)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This short Bill puts a seal on the aspirations of the Manx people, which they have steadily and patiently pursued for many hundreds of years, to be given greater freedom to manage their own affairs and, in particular, to control their own revenues. It is a particular pleasure to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to be associated with the Bill, since his father was a Lieutenant-Governor of the Isle of Man and he himself has very close and dear ties with the island. My right hon. Friend asked me to apologise to the House for not being here at the moment. He is away on official Home Office business, but certainly hopes to be present later in the debate.
Many centuries ago, the Isle of Man was colonised by Norse settlers. It was an independent kingdom and it was not until nearly the sixteenth century that the English were treated otherwise than as aliens in the island and until then, they had to pay a fee to settle there. In due course, it passed by conquest to the Scots and then to the English, and from the early fifteenth century the island was, as the House knows, ruled by the Earls of Derby, first as kings and later as lords of Man.
Even in those early days, Customs Duties played an important part in the affairs of the island. Increasing mischief was caused by the growth of smuggling between the island and the mainland—and I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie), with his territorial interest, appreciates that point. In 1765, the British Government bought out the Duke of Atholl, to whom the island had by then passed in inheritance, and, in effect, took over control of the insular government. From then on, the island's revenues accrued to the Exchequer and Britain assumed complete responsibility for the government of the island, which is exercised through the Lieutenant-Governor.
However, the islanders never accepted as final the loss of their former independence and the island's constitutional history ever since then has reflected their continuing efforts to regain it. One hundred years passed before the first major step in that direction was taken with the passage of the Isle of Man Customs, Harbours, and Public Purposes Act, 1866. In 1887, Tynwald was empowered to alter Customs Duties with temporary effect, subject to confirmation by Act of the United Kingdom Parliament. Hon. Members will remember that the Isle of Man (Customs) Act, 1955, substituted confirmation by Order in Council.
Apart from that and other minor changes relating to Customs, the statutory framework established by the 1866 Act has remained unaltered to this day, but there is, however, quite a sharp difference between the theory and the practice of the relationship of the two governments. In theory, the sole executive authority in the Isle of Man is the Lieutenant-Governor. He is appointed by the Crown and the island's revenues are controlled by the Treasury. In practice, the present century has seen an increasing degree of power being placed in the hands of Tynwald.
The mere repeal of the Acts which I have mentioned, the 1866 Act and the 1887 Act, would have left many unresolved questions. Happily, those have been resolved in two agreements which have recently been laid before the House, agreements between Her Majesty's Governments in the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man. The purpose of the Bill is to implement the agreements and thus to give to the Isle of Man, in form as well as in substance, the control over their own affairs which the islanders have long sought and have for some time to a great extent enjoyed.
The first thing the Bill does is to repeal the Act of 1866 and, by doing that, remove the present Treasury control over the expenditure by the island of its Customs revenues, leaving it free to manage its own finances. Secondly, it hands over control of customs matters to Tynwald and, thirdly, by removing Treasury control and by the repeal of various other Statutes, which are set out in the Schedule, the Bill leaves the way clear for Tynwald itself to legislate on various matters, such as loans and harbours. I understand that it is Tynwald's intention to enact as a complementary Measure a Finance Bill which is likely to come into operation at the same time as this Bill, and which will provide for the control of the island's finances in future.
The next thing the Bill does, by the repeal of the Isle of Man (Customs) Act, 1887, and the Act of 1955, is to leave the island Government free to fix its Customs Duties and tariffs and other similar charges on goods. I understand that a Bill will be introduced in Tynwald at an early date for that purpose. As hon. Members will recollect, in the agreements which were laid before Parliament, the island agreed to keep its main duties in line with those of the United Kingdom and not to introduce fresh differences in Its duties without first consulting the United Kingdom Government. The existing duties will remain in force until altered by Tynwald—I think that the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) has just asked to which Government I was referring; it was Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom.
Mr Jocelyn Simon (Middlesbrough West)
Increasing disparity in any duties or taxes will first have to be discussed with United Kingdom Government.
The present arrangements for the collection of Customs Duties in the island by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise will also continue in operation undisturbed and, for the time being, at any rate, the present body of United Kingdom law relating to the machinery of Customs administration in the island will remain in force. That is Clause 1.
Clause 2 relates to what is known as the Common Purse arrangements. It has been the practice, blessed by a provision of the Customs (Isle of Man) Tariff Act, 1874, to allow duty-paid goods to move between the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man without further payment of duty where the rates are equal. That practice was later extended to include Purchase Tax where Purchase Tax was equal in the two places. To compensate the island for the loss of Customs revenue thus entailed, it became the practice to allocate to the Manx Exchequer the appropriate proportion of the total revenue from equal duties collected both here and in the island. The effect of Clause 2 is to provide specifically for the continuance of that long-standing practice.
Mention of the Common Purse leads me to the Isle of Man's annual contribution to the United Kingdom Exchequer, which nowadays bears a direct relation to the Common Purse receipts. Section 7 of the 1866 Act required £10,000 to be paid annually into the Exchequer out of he Isle of Man Customs Duties. As hon. Members will be aware, the Isle of Man supplemented that sum during the war by making other sums available to the Exchequer.
In 1950, Tynwald resolved to pay, instead of the original £10,000 a year, an annual contribution of 5 per cent. of the Common Purse receipts. In round figures, that is about £100,000 a year. That increased contribution could not legally be paid at the time until the enactment of Section 2 of the 1955 Act, which enabled the island to pay to the United Kingdom out of the Isle of Man customs revenue a sum greater than £10,000 a year. As I have said, it was based thereafter on 5 per cent., equal to about £100,000 a year and operated retrospectively to 1950.
The island's present contribution rests on Tynwald's decision to pay an annual 5 per cent. of the Common Purse receipts and not on any imperial legislation. The island has agreed to continue to make a contribution each year, and has made such provision in an Act of Tynwald. The agreement is the second of the two that was laid before the House.
Mr Jocelyn Simon (Middlesbrough West)
The position, as I understand, is that Tynwald have already, in 1950, under an Act of Tynwald, agreed to pay 5 per cent. I do not think that they have passed fresh legislation; nor should I have thought that it was necessary for them to do so—but perhaps the right hon. Member will ask me that question again in his speech, and I will try to ascertain whether what I have told the House is correct.
It follows from what I have said that the provisiosn of the Imperial Acts of 1866 and 1955 are no longer necessary and are not being retained under the Bill. The Bill repeals a number of United Kingdom statutes relating to loans and to mines and quarries in the island. Future legislation in regard to those matters will be a matter for Tynwald. Certain minor provisions relating to loans are to be retained because they achieve objects which would be beyond the scope of insular legislation.
Harbours are also to become a subject for the legislative control of Tynwald, but since the insular legislation on this subject is not yet ready. Tynwald are empowered by the Bill to repeal, in due course, the existing United Kingdom legislation on harbours in the Isle of Man. Meanwhile, those remain in operation. The Bill also repeals the Isle of Man (Officers) Acts of 1876 and 1882, which are now obsolete.
The principle behind the Bill is that Her Majesty's Government believe that the time has come to give formal recognition to the desire of the people of the Isle of Man to achieve greater financial autonomy. The Bill will not mean the end of the close association between the United Kingdom and the island, or any substantial change in the present practice which I have described to the House. Co-operation between the two Governments on matters of common interest will continue. The introduction of the Bill has been warmly welcomed in the island, and two weeks ago Tynwald passed a resolution unanimously approving the proposals which are to be given effect to in the Bill if the House should pass it.
The reforms which in inaugurates are being implemented in an atmosphere of good will, and that provides the best insurance of a satisfactory future relationship between the United Kingdom and the island. I therefore commend the Bill to the House as a measure of reform which, I trust, will be as welcome to all those in the United Kingdom who have at heart the interests of the Isle of Man as it is welcome to the Government and people of the island.
Mr William Hall (Colne Valley)
Like the rest of the House, I was fascinated by the account which the Joint Under-Secretary gave of the history of this island. It is certainly a small place. I believe that its population is about 54,000, which is less than any county council area in England except for three or four—Rutland, City of London, the Soke of Peterborough and, perhaps, another.
The Bill grants to such a tiny population rather considerable powers, which no United Kingdom county council, whatever its size or population, has so far thought fit to ask for. Nevertheless, I will say, at the outset, that we shall not oppose the Bill, although I want to comment upon one or two things which the hon. and learned Member touched upon and put one or two questions about parts of the Bill which are not entirely clear to some hon. Members on this side.
As the hon. and learned Gentleman said, Tynwald is a very ancient assembly. I believe that that part of it called the House of Keys claims to be one of the oldest assemblies in the world. This House is a rather ancient assembly, too, and as the Isle of Man is part of the United Kingdom, and if one or other of these assemblies is to have overriding authority, I should have thought that, certainly in matters of finance, it should be this Parliament. Nevertheless, as the Minister said, the Isle of Man has for many years had almost complete financial autonomy. By the Bill we shall pass to them the little authority and control remaining with us.
I have not the slightest doubt that the hon. and learned Gentleman was right when he said that up to now there has been ultimate Treasury control of the Isle of Man finances. This was news to me, however, because from about 1894 or 1898 to 1955, when the last of the Measures was before us, we have continuously, year after year, passed the Isle of Man (Customs) Bill, which gave legislative sanction to such changes as Tynwald had made by resolution following the introduction of the Budget by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I have always understood, though it may be that I am wrong—the hon. and learned Gentleman will no doubt correct me if he speaks again—that notwithstanding the fact that had we not passed this legislation, the Isle of Man would still have been its own judge of what Customs Duties it should levy. Not all of them, anyway, have always marched with those which the United Kingdom Parliament has laid down. One thing that has kept the island roughly in line with ourselves has been the knowledge that if there were a wide gap between the two sets of duties it might lead to a good deal of smuggling.
In addition to Customs Duties, the Isle of Man levies its own Income Tax and Surtax. Income Tax ranges from 2s. 3d. to 4s. 6d. in the £ and Surtax from 10d. on incomes of £2,000 and upwards to 7s. 6d. on those over £20,000. It is like the Channel Islands, where the higher rates of Income Tax and Surtax to which the United Kingdom taxpayer is now acclimatised do not apply. They are in a happy position in that they enjoy the protection which accrues to residents of the United Kingdom, besides many of the benefits, but do not have to bear the heavy burden residents in this country do.
I suppose that if a resident of some other country could be present in the Gallery this afternoon and realise just what we are doing he would be rather surprised that this Parliament should go to the trouble to which it is going on behalf of so small an island. All down the years—certainly for the last two or three centuries—in Act after Act we have had to take note of the fact that the Isle of Man was separately governed from this country, and we had to make provision to include it in, or exclude it from very many Bills which came before this House. Sometimes I have asked myself whether all this was really worth while, whether the benefits accruing to residents in the Isle of Man were worth all the trouble, difficulty and the work caused to the Parliamentary draftsmen.
The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to some of the Acts of Parliament which are here being repealed. He mentioned the Customs, Harbours, and Public Purposes Act, 1866. That Act makes provision for payment to the Exchequer of £10,000 a year, and the Act of 1955, of course, raised this limit and altered the formula to enable the Isle of Man to remit 5 per cent. of the proceeds of the Common Purse Fund. If I understood the hon. and learned Gentleman aright, there is nothing in the Bill making it obligatory upon the island, to continue to pay us the 5 per cent. I have not the slightest doubt that Tynwald will honour its bond, but so far as I can gather from what the hon. and learned Gentleman said, and from the Bill, there is nothing to ensure this in years to cone.
It strikes me as strange that, in a matter of this kind, the British Treasury should not have seen fit to have something definite on the Statute Book to regularise the position and make the position clear for all time. It might at some time lead to difficulties when the people who made the bargain with the Treasury are no longer there. There is something to be said, in our view, at any rate, for having it embodied in legislation so that for all time both the Isle of Man and this country shall know exactly where they are.
I assume that the Treasury has not discussed with representatives of the island what is to be done about the amount outstanding on their contribution towards the last war. As I think most hon. Gentlemen will remember, at the end of the 1914–18 war the Isle of Man made an outright gift, in, I think, two instalments, of about £750,000 in full settlement of its obligation towards the cost of that conflict. This worked out roughly at between £13 and £15 per head of the population. Can the hon. and learned Gentleman tell us what has happened about the cost of the last war? What have we received, if anything, from the Isle of Man? I believe that the Isle of Man lent us £1 million free of interest and afterwards made a free gift of half that sum.
If the population is what I think it is, that works out at about £10 per head, not a great sum when one remembers how badly bombed most towns in this country were and how much people here suffered in loss of life and in excessive taxation.
Mr Thomas Price (Westhoughton)
I am following what my right hon. Friend says, and I agree to a large extent, but in trying to make a balanced judgment on the contribution made by the Isle of Man towards the cost of the last war it ought to be borne in mind that the small population of the island made a very great sacrifice in the Navy and Mercantile Marine, suffering grievous casualties quite out of proportion to the size and resources of the population.
Mr William Hall (Colne Valley)
I agree, of course, with what my hon. Friend has said and I am delighted that I have been able to give him the opportunity to say it.
I am not denying for one moment that the Isle of Man did great service during the war. But, fortunately for them, the people of the island were not placed in a position where they suffered much from bombing, if at all. In addition, owing to the financial structure in the Isle of Man, which, in many ways, is different from that which applies in this country, the people there have not, according to my information, had to find so much per head as the people of this country have in respect of the last war. I am not blaming them for that; things just happened in that way.
While we are dealing with this Bill, I should be glad if the hon. and learned Gentleman would tell us what has happened to the £500,000 which, so far as I know, is still outstanding.
Why is it that the Metalliferous Mines Regulation Acts, 1872–1891, are being repealed? Those Acts, particularly the original one, are extremely useful. There is no reference in the Bill itself to any suggestion that the Isle of Man intends to re-enact the Measures as part of its own law. Does this mean that there are not any mines of that kind in the Isle of Man? What is the reason for these Acts being included in the repeal? Their provisions are extremely important.
As the hon. and learned Gentleman will know, the provisions regulate the employment of women, children and adolescents in mines, the appointment of inspectors, the payment of wages in public houses, and they make rules governing ventilation and many other things. Unless it is quite obvious that such regulations are no longer applicable, I, for one, cannot understand why that legislation, as it applies to the Isle of Man, is being repealed.
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman tell us about other legislation, also? What about our own welfare legislation? I gather that the island has passed almost identical statutes, and that our National Insurance schemes, including health insurance, industrial injuries insurance, family allowance schemes and, I suppose, old-age pensions, are all worked as a unified whole, the same rules, contributions and benefits applying there, as in Northern Ireland and in the United Kingdom.
Will that legislation continue? I understand that the Isle of Man has a Board of Social Services which controls these schemes. Will the United Kingdom Parliament have any control over them in the Isle of Man, or are they to be handed over to the Tynwald to do exactly as they wish? I have not the slightest doubt that they will continue this legislation, but are any safeguards being set up to prevent changes being made? The Isle of Man is part of the United Kingdom and we ought to know the position in order to protect people who might go to live there.
What sort of hospital accommodation is there there? I understand that when citizens of the United Kingdom go there they carry with them all the benefits that have accrued to them under the National Health Service. Are there regulations to ensure the same standards in both places? I have not the slightest doubt that such standards are in being in the island, but before we part with the Bill we ought to know what the position is.
What about post offices and telephones? Has the Isle of Man its own Acts of Parliament dealing with these services, or does the legislation, like liability for National Service, cover both the island and this country? I imagine that the legislation covers both. If that is so, perhaps we might have an assurance from the Minister and learn where the dividing line is.
We welcome the Bill. It is part of the way of life of this country to allow a small island of this kind to continue to enjoy its ancient liberties and in accord with the wishes and desires of the people of this country as it is of those who live there.
Mr John Mackie (Galloway)
As representing two counties which are now merged into one constituency on the mainland of Scotland and nearest to the Isle of Man, it gives me great pleasure to say something in support of the Bill.
I no longer have to declare a personal interest or any interest on behalf of my constituency in regard to what used to be called "the fair trade," which will be remembered by hon. Members who have read Sir Walter Scott's great romance "Guy Mannering" and the works of S. R. Crockett as well. Smuggling between the Scottish mainland and the Isle of Man no longer exists. Many years have passed since there was any smuggling. Every day, from my home, when atmospheric conditions permit, I can see that island looking particularly beautiful, especially against the westering sun. Most hon. Members will realise that I have a sentimental interest in the Isle of Man, and, therefore, a great interest in any legislation which is presented in this House relating thereto.
The right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) said that we were doing more for the Isle of Man in this small Bill than had ever been attempted for any English county. He said nothing to suggest that the Opposition was inimical to the principle underlying the Bill; quite the opposite. I am delighted to think that that is the case. The smallness of the island should not prevent anyone with the historical knowledge and keen intellectual ability of the right hon. Gentleman saying that the island has a very particular position inside the framework of the British Commonwealth and of the United Kingdom.
Mr John Mackie (Galloway)
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) heard me say "British Commonwealth" and then "the United Kingdom." By using both those phrases I tried to ensure that I was right.
Mr William Ross (Kilmarnock)
In view of the hon. Gentleman's favourable comment on the Bill, may I ask whether he has inquired whether or not there is any local legislation in the Isle of Man inimical to Scotland?
Mr John Mackie (Galloway)
I am sure there is not, but I am very ready to give way to the hon. Gentleman again, so that we may have an opportunity of hearing him give us the benefit of his knowledge on this matter.
I was about to say that the Isle of Man is the seat of a bishopric. I mention that fact not because I have any great love for bishops, especially if there is any possibility of the extension of the episcopate to Scotland. I mention it as an historic fact and to show the very peculiar position that this island has for so long enjoyed. The Isle of Man has never had Parliamentary representation at Westminster. That fact is worth bearing in mind, in view of the possibility that in two or three years—I hope it is not a probability—we may have to consider the question of having representatives here from another island. I say that only in passing.
The right hon. Member for Colne Valley alluded to the antiquity of Tynwald and made comparisons between the age of this mother Parliament at Westminster and Tynwald. If I had looked up the facts in the Library I dare say I should have found that Tynwald was in existence even before Simon de Montfort called the Parliament on which this ancient assembly is still modelled.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State very rightly and properly alluded to the feelings of the proud little Manx people, with their long history. I am glad that the Bill will give effect to the desires which they have so long entertained and that it does nothing inimical to the interests of the United Kingdom. I am sure that the Minister who replies to the debate will clear away any doubt lingering in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman or any of his hon. Friends on that point.
It gives me very great pleasure to support this small Bill. I am delighted that it is not to receive any opposition on its Second Reading. I hope it will speedily pass through Committee, secure its Third Reading and be placed without delay on the Statute Book.
Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
I shall not detain the House for more than a minute or two. Coming from the north-west of England, where the Isle of Man has a particularly warm place in our hearts, all I want to do is to say how warmly I welcome the Bill. During the summer, I had the privilege of going over Tynwald and the House of Keys and seeing something of the administration in the Isle of Man. I am perfectly certain that although there may be only 54,000 people in the island, many of our county councils might examine its administration and learn a lesson in efficiency.
The Isle of Man is an old and ancient kingdom with close connections with Lancashire, and, I might mention, with Argyll.
Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
Many people from the North-West, especially Lancashire and Cheshire, have started their married life in the Isle of Man. It is not an island in the Irish Sea divorced and remote from England and Scotland: it is part of our common heritage. It adds a great deal to the colour of our national life to have the slight anachronisms of different taxation and other structures in the Isle of Man and in the other islands around our coast such as Jersey and Guernsey. It all leads to a diversity in our life.
When one thinks of the ancient traditions and sees how well the islanders have managed their affairs, it is with the warmest wishes that I hope the House, as I know it will, will give the Bill a Second Reading and show the people in the Isle of Man the warm affection that we have in our hearts for them.
Mr R.A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
I am glad that my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary was able to move the Second Reading of the Bill. He was doing so on my behalf as I, unfortunately, had a public engagement some distance from here in connection with my Home Office duties. I wish simply to intervene to support his words and to say what importance the Government attach to this stage in the constitutional development of the Isle of Man. Through many centuries, the islanders have looked forward to developments and following upon, notably, the Act of 1866, this Measure is an important one, although its scope is a good deal in the financial sphere.
The right hon. Member asked, in particular, what the island had contributed to us during the war, with a view, I think, to stressing the generosity of the islanders. I can give him the figures. En 1938 Tynwald voted £100,000 as a contribution to His Majesty's Government towards the cost of rearmament. Payment was spread over five years. Subsequently, the island made a number of other contributions to His Majesty's Government towards the cost of the war and the total amount of all these contributions was no less than £1,850,000. That is the measure of our debt to the island and the gratitude that we owe to her.
Mr R.A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
Yes, Sir. It is spread over a period, but does amount to that sum.
The island almost made an interest-free loan of £500,000 to His Majesty's Government in 1944 and this loan is still outstanding. That is the information which I have been able to derive which. I think, illustrates the generosity of the islanders.
The right hon. Gentleman referred also to his anxiety lest the mines and quarries legislation which is enshrined in Imperial Statutes should no longer apply to the Isle of Man and he drew attention to the unhappiness which might thereby ensue due to these powers and provisions not being available in the island. I would reassure him at once by saying that Tynwald have passed legislation on the same matters and that, therefore, his anxiety can be, I hope, allayed and he can rest in peace that these matters are dealt with by island legislation.
Towards the conclusion of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman was inclined to doubt whether the social conditions in the island would be satisfactory in the absence, again, of Imperial legislation. The answer is that there is local provision for the social facilities in the island, as I know from my own experience. The right hon. Gentleman's anxieties on that score may also be allayed in that the situation on the island is comparable to what we in our wisdom regard as suitable for the inhabitants of the mainland.
There are certain aspects of Imperial legislation connected with the Post Office, to which the right hon. Gentleman also made allusion, which remain in existence and there are certain provisions concerning, for example, civil aviation, which rather transcend the frontiers of the island and are, therefore, conceived on a broader canvas. The matters to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, however, are, I think, satisfactory from his point of view.
The right hon. Gentleman asked several points of detail which I do not wish to answer at great length. Concerning Income Tax, he will find that the standard rate is 4s. 6d. in the £—Nirvana, but not quite as beautiful as the right hon. Gentleman painted. He said that there was Surtax in excess of £20,000 per annum. The answer is that Surtax is in excess of £5,000 per annum on the rates to which he drew attention. I am taking the right hon. Gentleman's own observations and relating my answers to them.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred to his fear that Tynwald might alter its 5 per cent. contribution. He is, perhaps, underestimating what is affected by the Bill. It is, indeed, possible for that to happen, but we are relying on the flexibility which is available in the Bill not to inure to the disadvantage of the mainland but solely to the advantage of the island. We believe that if, in our relations with the island, we proceed in the atmosphere of good will in which the Bill has been conceived, it is better to leave the powers flexible than to make them as tight as the right hon. Gentleman suggested. His question was quite legitimate, but I am giving him the answer in the light of the drafting of the Bill.
I am very glad that before the debate concluded I have been able to make this shunt intervention on Second Reading to illustrate the importance which any Home Secretary would attach to the future of the island. The island is one which is geographically situated in an area which was vital to us in the last war, in the middle of the North-West Approaches. Its constitutional history is probably the oldest in this part of the Northern Hemisphere and the island is one in which the administrative Government per head of the population is, I think, cheaper and perhaps more efficient than in any other civilised country.
That in itself is something to which even our Administration here might turn with a look of admiration. This is a Bill about an island which is a favourite holiday haunt of many of our fellow countrymen and citizens. I trust, therefore, that the House will pass the Bill in the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman and those on this side have already approached it.