The few moments that are left at my disposal, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to speak, are quite inadequate for the important matter to which I desire to draw his attention, namely, the position of the cooperative societies with regard to this tax. When the right hon. Gentleman made his Budget statement, I noticed that he said, with regard to the Royal Commission on Income Tax that he would reserve his judgment, as hon. Members would doubtless wish to reserve theirs. Not a word was said about the Corporation Profits Tax being applied to the co-operative movement, but on the Wednesday it was drawn out in the discussion, in answer to certain statements made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean), and we found for the first time, much to our surprise, that the co-operative movement would come within the scope of this tax. I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how he intends to apply this tax to the co-operative movement. There is an extremely keen feeling in the country against his attutude on this question. It will affect more than 4,000,000 men and women in this country, who are poor people from the beginning, and do not come within the scope of Income Tax. We are anxious to know whether the tax is to be levied on gross profits, on net profits, or on the amount allocated to members in the shape of repayment of the enhanced charges on commodities, or whether it will be levied on the amount allocated to reserve in the shape of grants for educational or even charitable purposes. Paying, as we do, hundreds of pounds towards charities in practically every town and village of the country, it seems a crying shame that we should be called upon to pay a tax for carrying out a duty of that character.
I admit that it is a complex problem, and I am anxious that the right hon. Gentleman should explain how he intends to deal with it I am sorry that so much time has been taken up already, because it is a most important matter, affecting, as I have said, 4,000,000 working people in this country. The hon. Member opposite (Sir A. Fell) spoke at considerable length in the interests of what he declared to be a few people in the City of London. His own words were, "a few friends in the City of London." Here is a matter which affects practically the destiny of 4,000,000 of the people of this country, and it is simply to be put on one side and ignored. It is exceedingly unfair, and I want to enter my emphatic protest against this procedure, and, if possible, to secure from the Chancellor of the Exchequer some explanation as to how he intends to apply the tax, so that we may know where we are and what we are to do in the future. The development of our movement is as important as that of any limited liability company, and we have a right to know where we are. It is exceedingly unjust, and I question the legality of it. It would be interesting to know if the right hon. Gentleman has taken a legal opinion with regard to it.