Charge of Excess Profits Tax.

Part of Orders of the Day — Miscellaneous. – in the House of Commons on 27th September 1939.

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Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

There is no difference in sacrifice so far as going overseas to fight is concerned, but you are calling for a different sacrifice from those who are left behind. Let us remember that the sacrifice exists. I believe that Income Tax is one of the fairest forms of taxation that could be devised, but I suggest that from all income there should be a contribution, no matter how that income is derived. A contribution should be demanded from every person in the community, from myself and from the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). Whether our incomes are derived from this country or from sources abroad does not matter. A contribution should be levied upon that income. If that be so and if the community is to have equal sacrifice, it would be fair to tax incomes, however small. The bigger incomes should pay the bigger contribution, but the smaller incomes should pay something proportionate in direct taxation.

I have always felt that to have allowances for this and that, a portion of income which pays no taxation and a portion which does is something which it would have been wiser never to have introduced. It is not right that any section of society should pay no Income Tax because the income is, say, £300. That encourages the man with £400 to say, "Why am I not exempt?" or the man with £500 to ask the same. In these circumstances it becomes manifest that these is a bartering at times of elections as to who should be exempt. The people of this country, and, above all, the working community, have always been willing to make a sacrifice if it has been put fairly to them, and the circumstances explained. I believe it would be fairer at this time of grave national crisis if a graduated contribution was asked for from every section of the community, from every individual. If you took some small contribution in direct taxation from the man with an income of £3 a week I believe it would be welcomed by the wage-earner as just. I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer had had the courage to sweep away all allowances in regard to Income Tax. I wish he had had the courage to say that a small graduated tax would be levied upon all wages, because wages are income just as much as is income derived from investments. I believe that would be fair and that it would be welcomed by the people.

What we want is equality of contribution and sacrifice. There is no difference in the equality of sacrifice for those who go into the Services. It is only when it comes to the organisation of economy behind the lines that the difficulty arises. It is right that no one should profit out of thenation's need, and that no one should amass an enormous fortune or have unduly enhanced conditions of life by reason of the necessities of the nation in the prosecution of the war. I know hon. Members opposite will absolve me from any desire to be offensive and I know they realise the truth when I say that it is just as important that there should not be undue demands for the raising of wages because of our war efforts as it is that there should not be demands for increased dividends from companies' profits as remuneration for their efforts in the war. Reference has been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to economy. That is something upon which not only hon. Members of this House but the community outside are most insistent. Everyone knows that money is being poured out at the present time for things which could easily be arranged to be done by voluntary effort. One hears of people in London and elsewhere doing air-raid defence work and being paid £2 and £3 per week whose services are available for nothing.

War, I suppose, is the most stupid and futile thing that man ever invented. Unfortunately, it makes inroads not only upon individual happiness and well-being and individual incomes, but also takes a terrible toll of the national resources not only in man-power but in finance. But there is something which is of more value than any amount of money or any quiet and ordered life, and that is the preservation of freedom and liberty. It is no good having material goods if freedom of the spirit and of the individual has gone. I believe that there is no sacrifice which this country will not make, there is nothing which the community will not do, to preserve the freedom and liberty which we possess in this country and in the Empire. But let us have from first to last real equality of sacrifice. I beg hon. Members to let this country become a real community, where there shall be no jubilation because one section is taxed and another section happens to go scot free. Let us put our heads together in amity and common sense and devise a system of direct taxation to which everyone shall contribute. I am not afraid of asking the working man to contribute something out of his weekly budget because I believe he knows, as I do, that it is only by the mass contribution of the men and women of this country, made in good will, that we shall bring the war to a satisfactory conclusion.