Constitution and Terms of Reference.

Oral Answers to Questions — Income Tax. – in the House of Commons on 27th March 1919.

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Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Assheton Pownall Lieut-Colonel Sir Assheton Pownall , Lewisham East

60.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Royal Commission on the Income Tax has yet been appointed; and, if not, if he can state when it will be appointed?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

The consent of His Majesty has been obtained to the appointment of a Royal Commission with the following terms of reference:— To inquire into the Income Tax (including Super-tax) of the United Kingdom in all its aspects, including the scope, rates, and incidence of the tax, allowances and reliefs, administration, assessment, appeal and collection, and prevention of evasion, and to report what alterations of law and practice are in their opinion necessary or desirable and what effect they would have on rates of tax if it were necessary to maintain the total yield. I think hon. Members will desire to know the constitution of the Commission.

HON. MEMBERS:

Hear hear.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

It will be as follows:—

  • Lord Colwyn (Chairman).
  • The Right Hon. Sir T. Whittaker, M.P.
  • The Right Hon. Charles William Bowerman, M.P.
  • The Right Hon. William Brace, M.P.
  • The Right Hon. Ernest Pretyman, M.P.
  • Sir Edmund Nott-Bower, K.C.B.
  • Sir J. Harmood-Banner, M.P.
  • Sir Walter Trower.
  • Mr. Holland Martin, C.B.
  • Mr. N. F. Warren Fisher, C.B.
  • Mr. S. Armitage Smith, C.B.
  • Mr. Philip Birley.
  • Mr. William Graham, M.P.
  • Mr. Arthur Hill.
  • Mr. D. M. Kerley, K.C.
  • Mrs. Lilian Knowles.
  • Mr. H. J. Mackinder, M.P.
  • Mr. W. McLintock.
  • Mr. Edward Manville, M.P.
  • Mr. Geoffrey Marks.
  • Mr. Henry J. May.
  • Professor A. C. Pigou.
  • Mr. Nicholas J. Synnott.
The Secretary of the Commission will be Mr. Ernest Clark, of the Inland Revenue Department.

Hon. Members will no doubt remember that it was recently stated by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary that I was in communication with the Secretary of State for the Colonies on the subject of the representation of the Dominions on the Commission. I have since had the opportunity of discussing the question with my right hon. Friend, and we have decided that, as the work of the Commission will for the most part necessarily relate to points of purely United Kingdom interest, and often of a very highly technical character, it would not be desirable to invite representatives of the Dominions to sit on the Commission. It has, however, been arranged that the Commission shall confer with financial representatives of the Dominion Governments in regard to the question of double Income Tax before any final conclusions are reached on that subject.

Photo of Sir Donald Macmaster Sir Donald Macmaster , Chertsey

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the fact that it is very easy to separate the question of the way Income Tax should be imposed upon marriage from any of the other questions included in the reference, in view of the decreasing birthrate and the destruction of the manhood of the nation in the recent War, is it not merely an unjust and atrocious anomaly, but a breach of duty to the nation to continue the tax upon marriage?

Photo of Mr James Lowther Mr James Lowther , Penrith and Cockermouth

The hon. Member's question is more in the nature of a speech.

Photo of Sir Donald Macmaster Sir Donald Macmaster , Chertsey

It is a question, though.

Photo of Mr Godfrey Locker-Lampson Mr Godfrey Locker-Lampson , Wood Green

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House to-day whether this Commission is to be a bar to any alteration, in the meantime, to the Income Tax law?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

I refuse to give any pledge in regard to the matter. The House cannot be debarred from taking any steps it likes by the appointment of a Royal Commission to consider the subject, but I do very seriously submit to the House that there are grave inconveniences in dealing, or attempting to deal, with portions of the Income Tax law in advance of, and in anticipation of, any inquiry which will look into all these matters.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

Will the right hon. Gentleman do this: ask the Commission whether they could not consider making an interim report upon this question at an early date?

Photo of Mr Thomas Griffiths Mr Thomas Griffiths , Pontypool

Has the House to understand, from the reply just given, that a Committee is to be set up to consider the double Income Tax and is to include representatives of the Dominions?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

No, Sir. Answering the second question first, I would say that a Sub-committee of the Commission will confer with financial representatives of the Dominions Governments before taking any final decision on the subject. As regards the other question, I cannot say any more. Once the Commission is set up it must rest with the Commissioners to determine the procedure. But I will represent to the Chairman of the Commission the interest taken in the matter, and ask him to consider the suggestion made by my hon. Friend.

Photo of Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke , Plymouth, Devonport

Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House whether evidence will be taken from the Dominions in regard to the double Income Tax?

Photo of Mr James Lowther Mr James Lowther , Penrith and Cockermouth

That must be a matter for the Commission itself.