Orders of the Day — FINANCE (No.2) BILL

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1956.

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Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park 12:00 am, 13th July 1956

I am very glad to know that, and, of course, I accept the right hon. Gentleman's view, but it seems to me that a special Clause relating to a special fund for Members of Parliament could only mean that we were not covered by the ordinary law. As far as I understand it, this is a benevolent fund. Contributions to funds of a similar character would not entitle any person to relief of tax in that respect, unless it was done by way of covenant or something of that sort. If we fell within the ordinary law, we would not need a special exemption like this, and I regret that it is in the Bill.

A great deal has been said about what is now Clause 43, that dealing with the so-called Premium Bond lotteries. I do not take the view that there is anything wrong in the principle of a State conducting a lottery; and perhaps I should make it clear that it was for that reason that I did not vote against the Clause during the Committee stage. I think that it is rather narrow to find moral objection to the State conducting a lottery when, at the same time, the State derives revenue from football pools—and, I suggest, rather too much revenue—from betting and from similar activities. I agree with what has been said about the enormous administrative costs of the scheme.

I understand that already the Post Office is submitting a Supplementary Estimate of over £1 million for the salaries and expenses of staff concerned with the administration of this scheme. It would be interesting to know what the estimate is likely to be for a full year. Then, no doubt, in addition, there will be items on the Stationery Office Vote for printing probably 30 million, 40 million or 50 million copies of literature with which the Government flood the country in an attempt to procure investment in this scheme.

Not that the Chancellor has been the first to propose a new scheme. I was interested to find what I gather was the first instance of a premium bond scheme of this sort. I gather that a gentleman by the name of August Scherl made proposals of an almost identical character in Prussia in 1904. It was a scheme to promote thrift among the labouring classes. I do not think that that antecedent is a particularly happy one. In fact, in 1904, in Prussia they did not see fit to put this scheme into operation.

While I hope that if the scheme goes through it will succeed, I feel that it was introduced into this Bill by the Chancellor as a smoke screen to the total failure of his economic and fiscal policies in other respects. I am bound to say that in that device he has been very successful. He has been able to concentrate such discussion and interest as there has been in his Budget on this, which is, after all, a very small matter, and to take away the public discussion and interest in a matter of very much greater moment.

One could comment on other matters, of course. The incentive to saving by the remission of the first £15 of tax on savings of a certain character is to be welcomed, although I regret that the Chancellor has had to confine it to a very narrow field. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick said very forcibly, if the Chancellor is concerned with saving he should welcome it whether it is in Government securities or in some other form. Certainly the co-operative societies had cause to feel that this Clause discriminates against them.

On Clause 34 we welcome the acceptance of works of art in satisfaction of Estate Duty, and I hope that in subsequent years the Chancellor may feel able to go a little further into the possibility of Estate Duty being paid in kind. I should like to see, apart from works of art of a special aesthetic character, good equity shares accepted by the Treasury, and no doubt the test that could be applied in those cases would be their possibility of capital appreciation. Certainly, I think this is a move, although a very small one, along a path which would yield great advantage to the Treasury.

To sum up, this has not been a very exciting Bill. It is not, in my view, calculated to advance the economic prosperity of the country, and I am sure that those who voted for the party opposite at the Election just over a year ago did not expect to find this year a Finance Bill of this character. Certainly they did not expect that Government spokesmen in our debates would have taken such a pessimistic and serious view of the country's economy.

I do not want to detain the House. Indeed, I suspect that already too much time has gone into the passing of this Bill. We part with it today with no sorrow and with no joy, and, as far as I can see, next year's Finance Bill is likely to be just as bad.