In sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph (i) of Rule 2 of the General Rules (which provides, in the case of a clergyman or minister of any religious denomination, for the deduction from any profits, fees or emoluments of his profession or vocation of a part, not exceeding one-eighth, of the rent or annual value of a dwelling-house any part of which is used mainly and substantially for the purposes of his duty as a clergyman or minis- ter for the words "one-eighth" there shall be substituted the words "one-quarter."[Mr. Brooke.]
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
We have been discussing very difficult matters for the last three hours and now we come to a relatively simple one, so I hope to have better fortune with it. It is a standing principle of our Income Tax law that a taxpayer is allowed to deduct from his gross income those expenses which are necessarily and exclusively incurred in the earning of that income. Clergymen and ministers, to whom the Clause refers, are affected because they have to have a place to work, and that place is normally also their own home, and for that reason the 1918 Income Tax Act provided that a clergyman or minister of any religious denomination should be allowed to deduct from his gross income an amount not greater than one-eighth of the rent or value of the house that he occupies, on the theory that an eighth of that house would be used by him in the performance of his public duties. I submit that we should reconsider that rather arbitrary figure.
I would not stand for any compassionate concession to the clergy as a class. It is not for us in Committee to discriminate between one class of person and another, however deserving we may think a certain class is. But, in the case of the clergy, that makes it all the more important that we should be perfectly sure that we are being fair to a body of people who perhaps less than any other are likely to agitate for alterations in the Income Tax law affecting themselves. Would anyone familiar with the inside of a manse or a vicarage seriously contend that a minister can enjoy the untramelled use of seven-eighths of his house for himself and his family and that only one-eighth of it is utilised for his public duties? He must have a study. In these busy days the study must be not only a place for reading but a working office, and there is no one in the whole community more than the clergy who has to keep his door open to anyone who wishes to call and see him. Those are the grounds on which, I submit, it would be reasonable to increase this allowance of one-eighth, to an allowance of one-fourth. That would be a fairer and more accurate figure. The alteration would apply to clergy of all denominations. None of the denominational difficulties enter in here. I want to make clear beyond all doubt that in submitting this new Clause I am not asking for any concession to the clergy, but rather for the correction of an unfairness in the present law.
I put my name down in support of this new Clause mainly because I was unaware, until I found, to my surprise, that clergy were allowed only a reduction of one-eighth in the rateable value of their houses. Allowances are made in same other professions. I believe that barristers, for instance, are allowed a certain amount for the use of their private dwellings for work after office hours. The clergyman is in a different position from the barrister, for he must use his private dwelling to a much greater extent. I am influenced in my support of the new Clause by the fact that many of the clergy have houses on the large side which they use for all kinds of activities connected with the parish.
Speaking with the responsibility of a Church Estates Commissioner, I should like to commend strongly to the Chancellor this measure of justice, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) has proved it to be. It does not involve a very large sum, but it would be a great advantage to ministers and would be very welcome to them. I want to emphasise the point that there is no discrimination between the denominations and that any such discrimination would not be welcome to the Church Estates Commission or the Church of England itself. As regards its being a measure of justice, whether the rectory or vicarge or parsonage or manse be large or small, it is not only the office of the minister, but it is freely open to every member of his congregation almost any moment of the day or night to an extent which is far greater than is represented' by the one-eighth. No one knows this better than the wife of the minister. In these days, when domestic help is conspicuous by its absence, it is upon the wife that the duty falls of seeing that those rooms which are so freely put at the disposal of members of the congregation are in a fit and proper state, so that the husband's position as minister may be properly upheld.
I would like to support the arguments of my hon. Friends. The main consideration which I think the Chancellor should have in mind is that the house of a clergyman is really not his own. It is in reality a community house. It is used not only for the purposes of study, but for the reception of large numbers of visitors and for meetings of many kinds. It seems to me that one-eighth is a very small allowance, and is not comparable with allowances which are claimed by professional persons such as lawyers and doctors. As one who has been concerned in previous attempts to help the clergy I hope that the Minister will be able to accept this Amendment.
I am sorry that I have not heard all the discussion on the Amendment, but I hope that the representative of the Treasury, who knows a great deal about this matter, will lend a favourable ear to the statements which have been made. I have for some time been what is called a circuit steward, having to look after four different ministers and their successors and to provide them with the wherewithal, etc. In the case in which I am particularly interested, in Gateshead, the minister's house was large and, in these days of lack of domestic service, might be called an encumbrance. The minister has no choice but has to take the manse which is provided. He has four ministers under him and 33 churches in his charge. He has to have an office and a telephone. It must not be forgotten by the Treasury and the Committee that such a minister has very onerous duties to perform. He is responsible for many of the marriages in the churches in his circuit. There are many hard cases where congregations are away, and funds are short, and I think it is only equitable that the Treasury should give this matter favourable consideration.
Last year I had the unenviable task of resisting an Amendment, which was very strongly supported, in regard to the Easter Offerings of the clergy. I think Members were eventually convinced that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was right in the decision which he took. It is therefore all the more gratifying to me to be able to accept the proposed new Clause. It has been represented that the clergyman's study allowance should be increased from the present one-eighth, on the grounds that parsonage houses are now used more extensively than they were in the past. It has been represented by hon. Members that this would be a measure of justice. I think it is a measure of justice, and I have pleasure in commending the Clause to the Committee.