I should like an explanation as to what this Clause is about. The Government started the day quite well. They were to give us explanations on all sorts of things; we have had very few of them. We seem to be proceeding at too rapid a rate at present. We are not giving these matters the consideration which it is our duty to give them. This is not a sort of hopscotch race of the three Treasury Ministers with their legs bound together hopping along through this complicated Statute as fast as they can. They are taking off and putting on taxes. They are making people pay, and if they make a mistake the mistake may be an expensive one, and, more than that, it may, as appeared recently, be an unconstitutional one. Let us know what we are doing and what this Clause is all about.
I am only too delighted to give the hon. and learned Gentleman for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) some short explanation of this Clause. Speaking for myself, and, undoubtedly, for my hon. Friend as well, I was a bit disappointed that it did not seem as if the Committee wanted us to explain some of the earlier Clauses. Some of them, I thought, were rather neat and, having gone to a great deal of trouble in preparing happy little speeches, one hoped to have the opportunity of using them.
The hon. Gentleman offered to do this. It was up to him to do it. It was not up to us to dash into this foaming torrent of Clauses and try to stop the torrent on its way. It is his business.
What the hon. and learned Gentleman says is entirely right, but having spent a short and undistinguished period in the Navy during the war, I learnt never to volunteer for anything, even if I felt like it.
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will be good enough to read HANSARD tomorrow he will find that I said at the beginning that we were only too ready to give an explanation in appropriate cases, and he will agree—to be serious—that the majority of these matters that we have discussed so very quickly are entirely straightforward. I would not wish him to think that we were treating him with any discourtesy.
This Clause relates to Schedule A assessments made after the end of 1963–64 in respect of the tax for that year and previous years. The position is that although Schedule A assessments are normally made in the year to which they relate, some assessments are made later, for example, on a newly-erected house, because the facts are not known until subsequently. It is necessary to provide for that position and that is what this Clause does. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman and the Committee will think it an appropriate and proper provision to make in order to look after this slightly unusual situation.
I feel sorely tempted to describe the Clause as fiscal Choctaw. I wonder whether the Treasury could sometimes consider settling down and doing a suitable exercise in making sentences as short as possible and using a short word instead of a long one in so doing. I am sure that if that were tried there would be a good result which would be more intelligible to the taxpayer who otherwise is tempted to suppose that this is a region the language of which he does not know, and in which he must make no excursion, paying his taxes rightly or wrongly without the foggiest notion of what it is all about.
I see that the hon. and learned Member is a disciple of Gowers, and so are we at the Treasury. I have every sympathy with him and have no hesitation in giving him the assurance for which he asks.
I imagine that the assessments which the hon. Gentleman said would be made after 1963-64 would be few in number. It might well be that an occupier against whom the Inland Revenue would seek to recover tax—because it is recovered against the property and the occupier as a rule—could not recover the cost of the tax for which he might be liable. Do I understand that in these circumstances, if he has no right against his landlord to recover the tax, the Inland Revenue would abandon the claim?
I apologise for making this mistake a second time today. I can give the right hon. Gentleman similarly an unqualified assurance that that point will be dealt with, because the Clause specifically provides that where taxation is recovered from the occupier, in default of payment by the landlord, he is not required to pay tax which he cannot recover by deducting it from rent.