Clause 15. — (Betting Duty.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill. – in the House of Commons on 15th July 1926.

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Photo of Mr Philip Snowden Mr Philip Snowden , Colne Valley

I beg to move, to leave out the Clause.

I do not propose to say very much in submitting this Amendment to the House as I have already spoken at some length on this proposal when this Bill was in Committee. I then submitted all the arguments of which I could think, which, in our opinion justified the opposition then put forward. I shall not repeat any of those general arguments, to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made no reply. The right hon. Gentleman has two methods of answering his opponents. The first is to point out that those who are opposed to some proposal which he has made, advance arguments or make statements which appear to contradict each other. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then jumps to the conclusion that his opponents have answered themselves, and that there is no case worthy of his consideration. The other favourite argument of the Chancellor, with which we have been made very familiar, is, where he cannot defend a proposal on its merits, to say it is supported by overwhelming public opinion. He stated that in his speech on the conclusion of the Debate on the Betting Duty, when this Bill was in Committee. He said it was supported by a preponderance of public opinion and his right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury apparently agreed with him.

If it be supported by a preponderance of public opinion, it certainly was not supported in the Division Lobby that night by a preponderance of the Tory Members of this House. That very tax was carried in Committee by what is, I believe, the smallest majority this Government have ever bad on any proposal of importance. They have, I think, 425 Members in this House, and after all the whipping up of their supporters into the Lobby on that occasion, they were able to show in favour of this Betting Duty only 231 votes, and a majority of only 79. A number of the supporters of the Government actually voted against this tax, and it was well known that there were nearly 200 Tory abstentions. There are 425 Tory Members, of whom only 231 voted in favour of the duty, leaving 194, and even allowing for some who voted against the duty, we find that nearly 200 abstained on that occasion for one reason or another. It is perfectly well known that the great majority of them did not care to go into the Lobby against the Government, but they were not prepared to go into the Lobby in support of the Betting Duty. There is not a shadow of support for the claim of the right hon. Gentleman that he has the support even of a united party, much less a preponderance of public opinion. He has not the support of his own Cabinet. There have been rumours, of course, of a division in the Cabinet on this question. What I may describe as the evangelical members of the Cabinet are well known to have been strongly opposed to the duty.