Clause 1. — (Hydrocarbon Oils.)

Orders of the Day — Isle of Man (Customs) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd July 1952.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

12.47 a.m.

Photo of Major Geoffrey Bing Major Geoffrey Bing , Hornchurch

I rise with diffidence in the hope that the Financial Secretary will be able to help the Committee in regard to the need for this Measure. Up to this year it has been usual to present to the House the Isle of Man Customs Accounts prior to the introduction of the Bill. Last year, my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench felt that it would be best to present these accounts in dummy. I believe that has been going on for a considerable period.

Therefore, hon. Members on both sides of the Committee were not able to study the Isle of Man (Customs) Bill before the accounts on which the Bill was based were introduced. The date on which this Bill is introduced is dictated in the original Act of 1867, by which it was decided that by 30th of June the accounts of the Isle of Man Customs should be laid before the House.

We have now reached the point where we have the cause preceded by its own effect by a great interval of time, because under the Amendment made in the Act it is not necessary to present the accounts on which this Measure is based until 31st of December. It is now a little difficult for the Committee to reach any proper conclusion on this matter. The accounts on which this calculation has been based will not be before the House for four or five months.

As I understand, this Clause is based on a resolution come to by the Tynwald. The difficulty hon. Members are in is that for some reason that resolution is not available to the House. It might be desirable if the resolution come to by the Isle of Man were at least reported to the House, and that there was some detail given of the reasons why they had seen fit to fix the tax at a particular rate. Sometimes the Isle of Man follows the level of taxation in this country; sometimes it does not.

Why they do, or do not, is shrouded in mystery, because we have not had an opportunity of seeing the resolution of the Tynwald. We previously defined the matter by examining the Isle of Man Customs Accounts and the Isle of Man Accumulated Fund. Then it was possible to decide whether the amount to be collected in Customs Duty was too high or too low; but until we have before us the figures of the Accumulated Fund it it difficult to reach any proper conclusion.

Once the House has come to that decision there is a new obligation presented to the Financial Secretary of explaining, in lieu of the accounts, why these measures are necessary in regard to the Isle of Man. I do not know whether the Financial Secretary would not think it better to reconsider this whole idea in case we perhaps came to a wrong conclusion on the last occasion without adequate explanation. We have not taken him by surprise because we have put down one or two Amendments, and perhaps he could tell us exactly what was the resolution of the Tynwald, why they came to it, whether the Lieutenant-Governor was able to veto it or alter it in any way, whether the Treasury gave their consent to it, and, if not, why not? What exactly is the position, and why is it necessary in relation to the general funds of the Isle of Man Customs that this particular tax should be imposed?

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I am sorry that the Amendment we tabled to this Clause was not fortunate enough to be selected by you, Mr. Hopkin Morris, because it seemed to me to raise a somewhat important point which would have many ramifications. The Isle of Man, as hon. Members know, is a comparatively small island, although long in history, being mentioned by Caesar, having a history as long as the history of this island. There is no point in the Isle of Man from which it is possible to walk 10 miles in more than one direction, and the result of that is that motoring there is under a very special difficulty.

I think that the consideration of this Clause raises a very fundamental issue in more than one connection. It is lamentably true that there have been very few debates dealing with the affairs of the Isle of Man for the last 17 years. Between 1945 and 1950 there was a great deal of legislation going through, and there might then have been a tendency for us to regard this as a comparatively small matter, although it is to the Isle of Man a very large matter.

It therefore seems to me that in this Session, in which no major Bill of any importance has been passed, that it would be very fit and proper that we should devote a little of our time to the affairs of the Isle of Man. Fortunately, we have 9½ hours before the Standing Committee sits tomorrow, in which we can deal with exceedingly important and very complicated affairs of taxation in the Isle of Man.

I am very glad to see so many hon. Gentlemen opposite listening to this debate, because they should realise that the whole question of taxation in the Isle of Man raises matters of very great importance to Britain and especially to Lancashire. There is much to be said for the island's point of view and much to be said for ours, but certainly, in Lancashire, it is regarded still as a very grave public scandal that people who make their money in Oldham can go to the Isle of Man and live the rest of their lives paying Income Tax which was 2s. 6d. in the £ and has, I believe, recently been increased to 4s. The time has come when we should consider our financial relationship.

The Financial Secretary will have all these matters at his finger tips. We, unfortunately, with the limited secretarial help we are able to get, have to try to extract figures from a mass of highly complicated documents, which are not very informative and are exceedingly difficult to find. In fact, it is fair to say that the documents that give the Isle of Man side of the matter are not in the Library at all, and practically every other document that gives any information on the subject has already been taken by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing).

However, in the limited time at my disposal I have tried to familiarise myself with a number of details. I am sure the Financial Secretary will agree that it is a matter of great complexity, and the time has come when there should be some effort at clarification. Things in the island have altered very much since it was purchased by this country for £70,000 in the reign of George III. It is fair to say—and this is an important matter in considering fiscal issues—that there has not been a great deal of alteration in the population.

The Deputy-Chairman:

I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that this debate is on the Motion that the Clause stand part and that the Clause deals with oil.

Photo of Major Geoffrey Bing Major Geoffrey Bing , Hornchurch

I think the point my hon. Friend was dealing with was the calculation of the fiscal population of the Isle of Man. Taxation in the Isle of Man is based on a complex calculation of fiscal population, which takes into account an average number of holidaymakers who visit the island. The tax is related not to the actual population, but to a term referred to in the earlier Isle of Man Customs Act of 1897.

Photo of Major Geoffrey Bing Major Geoffrey Bing , Hornchurch

I thank my hon. Friend for his assistance. The point is that it is the fiscal population.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for saying what I was about to say. This is an exceedingly complex matter. The original arrangements, which have lasted for 20 or 30 years, were based on the theory of the common purse. We are saying, in this Clause, to what is from many points of view an independent island, having its own curious and admirable form of government—

The Deputy-Chairman:

I hope that both for the sake of the Committee and the Chair there will be one speech at a time.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I am grateful, Mr. Hopkin Morris, for your protection.

We are now dealing with a Bill which commences with a whole series of impositions of Customs on an island which has independent government. Therefore, this Bill, even when it passes this House, has to be accepted by the Tynwald. Indeed, some of the Amendments that were tabled have not been accepted because they were not in accordance with the agreements made by the Tynwald.

The Deputy-Chairman:

I am sure that the hon. Member can raise a large number of very important constitutional issues, but I fail to see how they arise on this Question because the Clause deals merely with the taxation of oil.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I am doing my best to explain. This is the third time you have said that, Mr. Hopkin Morris, before I have finished the sentence in which I was trying to explain, courteously and fully, the complex machinery which makes it necessary for the Committee to discuss it on the consideration of this Bill.

I cannot produce the document, because there is only one document in the Library. It cannot be taken out, because it is the document laid on the Table which gives the revenues from this particular taxation under this Clause—the amount that is raised and how it is distributed. The only copy of that account is, indeed, a carbon copy from the Treasury, available in the Library.

The question arises, inevitably, on almost every Clause of the Bill, and if I can state quite briefly the exceptionally complex financial arrangements I am sure that we shall save a great deal of time. These complex arrangements have to be considered in relation to other Customs taxes we impose, because although we collect the money we pay it to the Isle of Man. Therefore, it is proper to consider whether we collect it or not, whether we pay it over, and many other circumstances that arise.

If I may go back: the original arrangement was that we should collect the whole of the Customs for the Isle of Man and deduct the cost of collection. As my hon. and learned Friend said, under the financial arrangement made in 1894 and varied since there has to be a computation of the fiscal population. The normal population of the Isle of Man has varied, according to recent figures, from something like 48,000 to 61,000, but the higher figure was taken at a time when there was a holiday population and some allowance has to be made. If we set the normal population at about 50,000—that is, the static, unvariable population—we should be giving a fair figure.

1.0 a.m.

There must be added to that 50,000, for the purposes of the computation of Customs, a figure which I think has been estimated recently at about 38,000 or 39,000. That is based upon the number of visitors to the Principality which has amounted in recent years to about 60,000 a year. I think that every hon. Member will rejoice that so many people, including 25,000 who travelled by air in 1947, have taken the opportunity to visit the Isle of Man and to enjoy its benefits and study its customs. When I speak of customs I do not, of course, refer to them in the limited sense of this Bill.

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) does not question what the hon. Gentleman is saying except that he called the Isle of Man a Principality. I think that my hon. Friend will agree that it is not.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I am much obliged. This is a highly technical point. The Stanley family were originally Kings of Man until about the 15th or 16th century when one of the members of the family said that he would rather be a great lord than a small king and he himself adopted the title of lord. In 1765, when the island was sold by the Duke of Atholl to this country, the rights of lordship ceased from that point of view. It is interesting to note in passing that the terms of that purchase were £70,000 and an annuity of something like £2,000 a year for the joint lives of the Duke and Duchess.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

Yes, but we are dealing with hydrocarbon oils in this Clause.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

It is most difficult. I thought that I had just convinced your predecessor, Sir Charles, about the relevance of the argument I am putting. I do not want to weary the Committee by repeating it.

We are really dealing with the collection of Customs by the British Government not for the benefit of the British Government or the revenue of the British Government but for the revenue of an independent island, and this money has to he paid over.

Therefore, it is necessary for us to study at some time, during our consideration of this Bill, precisely how that machinery is working at the moment and to ascertain from the Financial Secretary whether the resolution of 1949 has yet been given effect to by the Tynwald. Therefore, I suggested to your predecessor that if one could cover these points roughly, and not too fully, we might clarify the discussion from both points of view and help to shorten it as far as possible.

The only point I was making at that stage was that the revenue which we collected for the island—although I agree that we charge the expenses of collection—has increased fantastically. The figures which were filed on 30th October last are of course, the figures for the year ending in 1951. I must say, having complimented the Comptroller and Auditor General on the accounts which he has prepared on a previous occasion, that these accounts are hopelessly inadequate.

In the accounts of the Revenue expenditure in respect of Customs there is a term "Miscellaneous insular receipts, £137,538 19s. 1d." which, with no other details given, receives precisely the amount of attention which a contribution by the Brewers' Society would receive in the Conservative Party accounts. It is said to be assessed under "T.L.F. 4840/2" which amounts to no less than £1,705,825. No one can tell me what "T.L.F." is. The Financial Secretary might nod his head. I thought perhaps it meant Treasury Letter. Someone else said that it meant "Times Leader," and someone else suggested that it might mean Tynwald Legislature.

I do not know where a Member of this Committee should go to ascertain whether these figures are accurate or not, where they have come from, on what basis they have been computed and how the division is made. It is unfortunate that according to the note in these accounts there was an agreement come to in 1949 which varied the existing arrangement very considerably. The old arrangement was that the Isle of Man would grant to the Revenue of this country an annual sum of £10,000, which sum was intended to be in respect of the defence of the Isle of Man by this country.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

The whole point we are discussing is whether we should continue to collect Customs in the Isle of Man—in this case it is oil, and it arises on every Clause—and render all these services to the island, and whether we should pass this Clause as it stands or suggest some alternative arrangement. It is fair to say that this is the only opportunity on which these important constitutional principles can be discussed in this House.

I understood it had been said that some of the Amendments I tabled came into conflict with the decision of the Tynwald, and we are in the fantastic position that the debates of the Tynwald are not available here at all. I have to rely on the fact that there is a note in these accounts saying that the new arrangement of 1949 has not yet come into force, that £84,000 has been put to reserve for that purpose, and that it is hoped the Tynwald will pass the resolution.

I want the Financial Secretary to tell us before we pass this Clause whether the Tynwald have passed the resolution, whether the new arrangement has come into force, what revenue we shall get from it, and what will be the new basis between the Isle of Man and ourselves. The old basis was £10,000 a year and nothing else. We fixed the rate subject to the right of the Lieutenant-Governor of the island to make variations in special circumstances.

The Financial Secretary will, of course, recollect that the matter was raised shortly after the First World War when it was said that £10,000 was wholly inadequate and bore no relation whatever either to the defence position or to the cost of collection, or anything else. It was pointed out that the rate of taxation imposed by the islanders themselves was so much lower than the rate in this country, and there was a great scandal—

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I really cannot see how this links up with this Clause which deals with hydrocarbon oils.

Photo of Major Geoffrey Bing Major Geoffrey Bing , Hornchurch

With great respect, Sir Charles, my hon. Friend's argument is addressed to the point that possibly this duty is nothing like sufficient. What one has to consider is what is the object of imposing this particular duty. Until we know for what purpose the money is re- quired, it is surely impossible for us to judge whether the duty on hydrocarbon oils is or is not sufficient. As I understood it, my hon. Friend's argument is addressed to that point.

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

There was one further point which my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) made when your predecessor, Sir Charles, was in the Chair. I take it that most of his argument is based on what he then said which was that the Isle of Man is a very small island, that from any centre in it one cannot go more than 10 miles in any one direction, and that therefore this appears to be a gross imposition because the island is so small that people on it cannot go very far even if they have a motor car.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend and hon. and learned Friend who, quite accurately, represented the two points which I was addressing to the Chair.

What I am now talking about is what is going to happen to the money we are collecting. Who gets it? In what proportions, when, how and to what purpose? I have been trying to put this unusual picture, and I do not want to detain the Committee long, but apparently the position is that an agreement was reached in 1949, may be by Treasury letter, I do not know, which altered the whole basis of taxation so far as Customs were concerned, and oil is a big item in these accounts, so that instead of the old arrangement under which the Tynwald made a contribution of £10,000 to the revenue of Great Britain they were going to make a payment of 5 per cent. of the net product of—

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

That is the point I was making. The hon. Gentleman is going far beyond the Clause which deals with hydrocarbon oils.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I am in great difficulty here. May I address to you the points which. I think are points of great substance, Sir Charles? The House does not know, nor is there any information available in the Library whether any agreement has been reached or not. I would, I would submit, be in order in saying that this Clause should not be passed until we have the information. Secondly, we have not the figures showing what revenue has been raised from oil and how it is to be applied. Thirdly, we do not know what proportion goes back to the island until we know whether the Tynwald has ratified the Treasury letter. Fourthly, under a recent arrangement the accounts are postponed, so that when we discuss this Bill in July, as we normally do, we are discussing it in the face of figures relating to March of the previous year.

These are, I submit, substantial points. I understand the Treasury arrangement of 1949 was that, instead of a capital payment of £10,000 the Isle of Man should, with the approval of the Tynwald make a payment of 5 per cent. of the net revenue of the common Customs purse, which would come from Clause 1 of this Bill as well as other Clauses, and that is the revenue we collect in respect of Customs on the Isle of Man based on a notional figure of population, which takes into account a notional figure of visitors. The figure is about 600,000 for visitors and 38,000 for the population. I have not been able to find the fiscal figure at the moment, but—

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

The hon. Gentleman is trying my patience. If he persists in going wide of the Clause, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I cannot argue with the Chair, but may I put my questions to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury? I will await his answers and decide then whether they need elucidation. Before we impose this duty on oil going to the Isle of Man can he tell us whether the Tynwald has ratified the arrangement with the Treasury? Can he tell us now? Or does he not know?

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I shall make my speech in my own way as the hon. Gentleman is making his.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I am not making my own speech in my own way.

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us why it is not possible for the accounts up to 31st March in the current year to be available when the Bill passes in July? If it is not possible will he postpone the passing of the Bill in future? What is the estimated revenue which will come if the Tynwald ratifies the arrangements to pay a 5 per cent. of the revenue from the common pool? What is the estimated taxation levied in the Isle of Man if they bore the same rates as British citizens?

The fifth point which arises incidentally is: has there been any discussion on this question of Income Tax evasion by people leaving this country and living in the Isle of Man? That does not arise on Clause 1, but it seems to me that it would be convenient to the Committee if the Financial Secretary would answer those points, of which, I observe, he has not taken a note at all.

1.15 a.m.

Now I come to the second of my major points. It seems to me that there are two points of view to put in connection with this Clause. We have to consider whether the taxation is too high or too low. It seems to me that if the County of Rutland were entirely surrounded by sea, there would be powerful representations in Parliament to the effect that they were in a different position so far as motor, petrol and oil taxation was concerned, from that of the mainland of Great Britain. Although I appreciate that differential steps have not been taken in respect of other islands, it seems to me that it is appropriate to consider whether we are being entirely fair in this matter.

I know it can be said that taxation in the island is too low, but it can equally be said, as far as this tax is concerned, that when we are considering the general principle appertaining to a small island we ought seriously to consider whether it is not necessary to make special provision for petrol and motor taxation. Of course, we are not responsible for motor taxation in the Isle of Man; we are only responsible for petrol taxation. I would like the Financial Secretary to consider this matter.

I understand that this figure, as far as Clause 1 is concerned, has been agreed with the Tynwald, and if it has, it goes a long way towards satisfying my doubts on this Clause. But here again there is no record of this in the Library, so far as I can trace, and we ought to have the relevant documents available to us so that we can give more careful study to this Bill than appears to have been given during the last 17 or 18 years.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I shall endeavour to deal with the number of points which have been raised, occasionally rather antiphonously, on this Clause.

The first point that was raised related to the accounts, their date of submission and their effect on the date of this Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) rightly said that this was not a party matter. That is perhaps particularly applicable to this question. Up till last year the accounts were required by statute to be submitted before 30th June. I understand that in practice, submission in dummy was treated as adequate compliance for a good many years. Consequently, on last year's Bill my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) raised the question whether submission in dummy was not a somewhat farcical procedure and whether the matter could not be better dealt with by altering the submission of the accounts to a date which was more practical.

That argument weighed with the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) who introduced an Amendment which is now the present law, and is to be found in Section 6 of the Isle of Man Customs Act, 1951, under which the accounts have only to be submitted by 31st December; that is to say, the accounts for the year 1951–52 have, by statute, to be submitted by 31st December, 1952. That means inevitably—and no doubt, the right hon. Member for Battersea, North, appreciated it when he introduced the Amendment—that the Bill has to be before the House substantially before the accounts are submitted.

The duties imposed by the Act of last year, or a number of them, will lapse on 1st August. It is consequently necessary, if the duties are not to lapse and the whole revenues of the island to be endangered, that this Bill should not only be introduced but passed into law by the end of this month. Therefore, however disadvantageous hon. Members may find the interaction of the dates of the Bill and of the accounts, that is the existing situation which we have found; and unless the Committee are prepared, which I am sure they are not, to disorganise the whole financial administration of the island, it is essential that the Bill should be dealt with before the accounts are pre- sented on the dates for which the late Administration were responsible.

Then the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch and the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) asked whether this Clause, which alone we are discussing at the moment, was founded on resolutions of the Tynwald. Three Resolutions of Tynwald were carried which have the effect of placing the duties upon these oils in the island on the same level as those at present ruling in the United Kingdom. In point of fact, the Isle of Man, being a progressive place, had the provisional collection of taxes for many years before this country. These resolutions imposed by Tynwald require to be enacted by an Act of the Imperial Parliament.

Both hon. Members raised a number of questions as to the precise merits of the proposals embodied in the Tynwald Resolutions and now in this Bill. It has been the practice for a good many years for this Committee and for the House to take the view that in these matters their ultimate legal authority rests undoubtedly in this House to deal with this matter on the basis that the Tynwald, as representing the inhabitants of the island, should be free to regulate in accordance with its own judgment of the local needs of its people the level of taxation in the island.

Undoubtedly since, as the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) said, 1765 this House has enjoyed the right to disregard the views of Tynwald and to impose its own views. That is the legal position. For many years the political position has been that proper regard, full regard, has been paid to the wishes of Tynwald, and I am perfectly certain that the Committee would not readily depart from that long-standing practice. Indeed, I understand the only basis on which for many years—

Photo of Mr Will Nally Mr Will Nally , Bilston

I have been listening with attention to what the Financial Secretary is saying. I would ask you, Sir Charles, whether you would consider, in view of the grounds upon which immediately before the Financial Secretary rose, you quite properly, as you were perfectly entitled to do, drew his attention to the extent he was getting out of order, how far for at least four minutes the Financial Secretary has been pursuing a line of argument which was in the mind of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) and which you thought was not appropriate to this Clause. Might I ask you whether you consider the present most informative general argument being developed by the Financial Secretary ought not to incur your displeasure rather more severely than the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Oldham, West?

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

I did my best, unsuccessfully, to try to keep the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) in what I considered to be order. I think that a reply is only reasonable.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

If I have incurred your displeasure I regret it, Sir Charles. What I was endeavouring to do—and what with your permission I shall endeavour to do—is to answer questions which were put to me and which, if put, I must assume to have been within the rules of order. If I have transgressed—and this discussion has gone rather wide—I apologise, and I will certainly take the warning which the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Nally) was good enough to address to me. I will be careful not to err further.

I think I may be allowed to say one thing on the general background. Reference was made again and again—the reference to this Clause was perhaps a trifle tenuous—to negotiations which began some years ago. The position is that these discussions are still proceeding, and it would be highly inconvenient if I entered into any expressions of opinion on the precise relationship of financial matters between the island and the United Kingdom. Some delicate negotiations, with a long background of recognition of the rights of the island, have been proceeding, and it is not very easy to go into details on the objectives for which one is striving.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

If my memory serves me rightly, the accounts for last year stated that agreement had been come to between the Treasury and the Isle of Man, which was awaiting ratification by Tynwald. What has happened since? Why, on an agreement of December, 1949, is it that delicate negotiations are still proceeding?

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

There have been elections, with fortunate results, in both the island and the United Kingdom, but unfortunate in that they have held up negotiations. I am sorry if I did not gratify the hon. Gentleman's feelings by taking notes simultaneous with his observations, but, in any event, I should not be within the bounds of order if I strayed into matters relevant to Income Tax. I must proceed on the basis that all matters relating to Income Tax are clearly outside the discussion now before the Committee. We are here concerned with Customs, and Customs have nothing at all to do with Income Tax.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

I think we are talking of two different things. There appears to be a genuine misunderstanding. I thought that the Financial Secretary's references were a continuation of the discussions originated in the Treasury Minute of December, 1949, concerned with the granting of 5 per cent. instead of the old sum of £10,000: there is a very big difference.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

If I pursue that aspect I shall be quite out of order.

So far as we are concerned with Income Tax matters—and whether they have anything to do with this Clause or not, the hon. Member twice referred to them—I have nothing more to say. So far as Customs are concerned, I have indicated what the position is: and even if in order, it would be extraordinarily difficult and inappropriate for me to go into the much wider field of the general financial relationship between the island and this country.

The Tynwald has passed three resolutions, the effect of which is to adjust the level of taxation on motor spirit, and similar fuels, to the same levels operating in the United Kingdom. The sole issue in this Clause is whether this Committee is agreed to that resolution of the Tynwald that taxation in the island on these particular commodities should be at the same level as in the United Kingdom. That is a very straightforward issue, but one which, I fear, has become a little befogged by some interesting, and historical, although perhaps, irrelevant observations.

1.30 a.m.

It is undoubtedly the fact that the practice for a very considerable time has been that where there is no clear damage to United Kingdom interests the wishes of the Tynwald with respect to Isle of Man taxation should be confirmed, and whereas in this case the Isle of Man is seeking to bring itself into line with the taxation ruling in the United Kingdom—a manifestly convenient procedure from the point of view both of the Island and the United Kingdom—it is clear that the right thing to do is what the Tynwald wants, that is to say, to put this Clause into the Bill and place the taxation of the island in relation to these fuels into the same position as that of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Will Nally Mr Will Nally , Bilston

I shall be quite brief. As the hon. and learned Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing) has said, this is not a party matter. So little is it a party matter that we are completely prepared to accept the view of the Financial Secretary that it becomes a question whether or not the Committee is prepared to accept the view that the Tynwald embodied in three resolutions on the particular subject of hydrocarbon oils. But assuming that to be so I do not think the Committee would be unreasonable in asking to know precisely what were the terms of the three resolutions; in what form they were passed; what are their implications; and what is the procedure under which the three resolutions become operative in relation to the Isle of Man?

That last question has been explained. They become operative in due course after the House has confirmed them; but what exactly are we confirming? I do not know what the resolutions are. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has simply told us, without an exact date being given, that the Tynwald have passed three resolutions, about the contents of which he has not troubled to inform us. Although I have the highest regard for him that is not sufficient for me, as a Member of the House of Commons.

He has not troubled to inform us of the contents of those resolutions; he has not troubled to explain their implications —because, I suspect, he is not quite certain himself—and we are then asked to approve this Clause. At this hour of the morning you, Sir Charles, have quite properly asked us to do our best to expedite business; but we are simply told that three resolutions of an unspecified date and of an unspecified content have been passed and that by the precedent of the whole history of this matter we ought to pass them.

That may well be so, but as far as I know there is no precedent under this or any other Government which lays it down that Members of the Opposition shall simply accept the authority of the Financial Secretary that three resolutions have been passed, all of which are to the glory of Clause 1, without being given any indication of what is embodied in those three resolutions. Why are there three resolutions? Why was there not only one? I should like to know, and the Financial Secretary ought to be able to explain why it is that we should accept Clause 1 on the basis of precedent. As a matter of courtesy he should give us the content of some of these resolutions.

There are the technical difficulties to which my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) drew attention. The Isle of Man has a very special place in relation to hydrocarbon oils. There is a little matter of the T.T. races. For a good many years it has been assumed—not only in relation to four-wheeled vehicles, but to other vehicles—that the Isle of Man consumes a slightly higher quantity of all sorts of things at different times of the year because of the T.T. races for which it is famous. It becomes, during the holiday season, a rendezvous.

Photo of Sir Charles MacAndrew Sir Charles MacAndrew , Bute and North Ayrshire

There was a little annoyance, because I would not allow the discussion to go too wide, but if the hon. Member is going to discuss the T.T. races there will be no end to it.

Photo of Mr Patrick Buchan-Hepburn Mr Patrick Buchan-Hepburn , Beckenham

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. P. G. T. Buchan-Hepburn) rose in his place, and claimed to move,

"That the Question be now put."

Photo of Mr Will Nally Mr Will Nally , Bilston

On a point of order. If I may say so with respect, Sir Charles, this is an unusual procedure. You rightly rose and drew my attention to the fact that you considered that I was out of order. It has happened on only one occasion since 1945 that an occupant of the Chair, without giving the hon. Member who had the Floor an opportunity to put himself in order, has proceeded to put the Question. I would ask whether it is to be assumed that I am to accept as proper your Ruling that, without giving me an opportunity to put myself in order and continuing my speech, you are entitled to put the Question.

Photo of Mr Will Nally Mr Will Nally , Bilston

Am I to understand that the Closure was moved?

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

Mr. DREWE and Mr. K. THOMPSON were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Noes, The CHAIRMAN declared that the Ayes had it.