Clause 13. — (Computation of standard profits.)

Part of Orders of the Day — FINANCE (No. 2) BILL. – in the House of Commons on 10th October 1939.

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Photo of Mr John Tinker Mr John Tinker , Leigh

I have been present at many Third Readings of Finance Bills but I have never known so much interest taken before. It seems to me rather strange that I have heard very little criticism with regard to the increased Estate Duties. Usually there is a great outcry from the other side against any proposals to increase them, but this time it has been recognised that that is one of the places where money can be found, and there is very little objection to it. I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer had gone rather deeper into the Estate Duties and got a little more money and left other things out. The next point is in regard to excess profits. We can have no doubt that there is some idea in the Chancellor's mind that excess profits will be made. It fills most of us with dismay to think that in a time of national crisis, when everyone ought to be giving all he can to help to bring the war to a sucessful issue, we have to try to meet people who use every means in their power to make excess profits out of the nation's need. I trust that a message will go forth to manufacturers and others who have to deal with these things to keep down their profits as much as possible. Let it be brought to their mind that this kind of thing is not altogether playing the game. I trust that hon. Members opposite will not try to protect these people. The purpose of certain Amendments on the Report stage seemed to mc to be to protect those who were making excess profits. They seemed to be trying to urge on the Chancellor not to be too hard on them, not to enact provisions which might make the burden worse for them than it is. If they are making excess profits, let us get as much out of them as we can. I hope that the words of the last speaker will be noted by manufacturers that patriotism ought to be the first thing in the mind of everyone.

In reference to Income Tax, there are one or two things with which I did not altogether agree in regard to children's allowances, but, on the whole, one cannot complain of the Income Tax increase. Neither can one complain about the Surtax increase. That, again, to my mind, is the right way to get the money. I have always held that whatever you take from the Surtax payer cannot very much reduce his standard of life. He has all that he wants to live upon. It may be that some luxury that he can very well do without will be cut away, but he ought not to complain of being called upon to pay Surtax on his income above £2,000. I think the Chancellor might very well have examined the question of indirect taxation more carefully.

The sugar tax, to my mind, is the worst of all the taxes in this Bill. The burden will fall very heavily on the poor homes, and it is one of the chief things to which we object in the Bill. We did not object to the Bill as a whole, but there are items in it to which we took strong objection. Sugar is used in every home in the land, and the increase will be a burden on poor homes more than on rich. One section which will be harder hit than any is the old age pension people. Everyone to whom we speak about the Budget, Conservative, Liberal or Labour, agrees that the old age pensioner is being the hardest hit of all and that something ought to be done. If that was the feeling of the House of Commons in July last, and it was evident that something would be done before the end of the year, how is it that, now that the burden has become greater, there is no attempt to meet it? We have had no promise at all from the Government that anything wil be done. Give us some kind of promise, some hope for the future for these aged people. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would reassure us on that matter I would almost compromise with him on many things. If he would say, "In a few months time we will see what we can do in regard to that," it would go a long way to winning my approval of the Budget. If he does not give that promise, then I can only say that the Government will be getting away with a point with which they have no right to get away. The case ought to be met by the Government. I trust that when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman replies to the Debate, we shall receive some assurance that he recognises the claims of these people, and that he will give us some promise.