I beg to move Amendment No. 447, in page 164, line 9, at the end to insert:
(d) where the market value of an asset on a particular date, or an apportionment or any other matter, may affect the liability to capital gains tax of two or more persons, enabling any such person to have the matter determined by the tribunal having jurisdiction to determine that matter if arising on an appeal against art assessment, and prescribing a procedure by which the matter is not determined differently on different occasions".
The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that the Inland Revenue has power to make regulations so as to see that all determinations of market value of an asset at a particular date are made, in effect, by the same tribunal.
In line 14, leave out from "claim" to end of line 15 and insert:
or to disclose to a person whose liability to tax may be affected by the determination of the market value of an asset on a particular date, or an apportionment or any other matter, any decision on the matter made by an inspector or other officer of the Board".
I beg to move Amendment No. 180, in page 168, line 38, at the end to insert:
(3) Chargeable gains which accrue to an individual on the disposal of assets deemed to be made by him on his death shall be regarded for the purposes of this Part of this Act as accruing to an individual notwithstanding that capital gains tax in respect of the gains is chargeable and assessable on his personal representatives.
The Amendment proposes to insert a new sub-paragraph (3) and its purpose is to make clear that the alternative basis of charge is to apply to gains accruing on the death of an individual even though in form these gains are the gains of his personal representatives and are assessed on them.
In spite of the all-night sitting there are two paragraphs in the Schedule to which we must draw attention. They are causing grave disquiet to a large number of people, and we must ask for some explanation of them and an assurance from the hon. and learned Gentleman before we part with the Schedule.
The first paragraph is paragraph 6, which requires an auctioneer or dealer to give particulars of any transactions of over £1,000. This requirement will have a number of repercussions. It is quite a new requirement. In the first place, it imposes an almost intolerable clerical burden upon the auctioneers and dealers in question. Even in Sotheby's and Christie's more than 2,000 lots are sold every year at a value of more than £1,000—and they are only two of the auctioneers and dealers in London. There are many other auctioneers throughout the country. The clerical task of making a return of all transactions of more than £1,000 is stupendous.
Secondly, this at once destroys the confidential relationship between an auctioneer or dealer and his client. I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to explain how an auctioneer can, beyond doubt, discover the identity of any given buyer. It may be that the buyer wishes to remain anonymous, or that the buyer pays for the purchase in notes. At a sale not long ago a number of French dealers purchased furniture in London, anonymously in the names of Napoleons' marshals. It would be a paradox if, at some future date, we were to read in the Evening Standard that various works of art had been bought anonymously in the names of former Socialist politicians—£20,000 for a Cezanne bought anonymously in the name of Keir Hardie, a set of Georgian silver bought anonymously in the name of Mr. George Lansbury, or a copy of the well-known Victorian painting "Sentence of Death" by Collyer, bought in the name of Sir Stafford Cripps—although the latter might escape tax, because I do not think that it would go for £1,000. We must ask the hon. and learned Gentleman how this extraordinary provision will be translated into practice.
The next paragraph—and much the more serious of the two—is paragraph 13. This gives the most extraordinary powers of entry, which have never been given before. It empowers inspectors from the Board of Inland Revenue, and any other officer whom the inspectors may wish to take with them, to enter individuals' houses after due notice has been given to discover the value of any work of art or contents of the house which they think is likely to be sold in the near future.
Where are these inspectors to be found? How are they to be recruited? Does the hon. and learned Gentleman think that inspectors from the Board will be able to find experts from the Victoria and Albert Museum, or the National Gallery, or the National Portrait Gallery, to accompany them on weekend trips to houses in Northumberland, Cornwall, Lancashire, or anywhere else, to examine their contents and decide whether something there might be sold in the near future?
If so, what will happen? It may be that the expert accompanying the Board's inspector knows a lot about tapestry and nothing about books, or a lot about pictures and nothing about carpets. What happens then? Are they to be allowed to take an article out of a house and transport it to London, to be examined by another expert who will place a hypothetical value on it according to what he judges it would have been worth on Budget day, just in case a year from then it might be sold at some auction?
How much notice is to be given before these officers enter somebody's house? What reasonable objection will the owner be allowed to make? This will be a very happy hunting ground for the burglars. All they will have to do is dress up as an official after a couple of bogus telephone calls, take someone else with them and they can then do a splendid "recce" in force to discover what is where and how to get it—[Laughter.] This is a very serious matter. Hitherto. the right of entry into someone's premises has been most carefully restricted and supervised by the police, and even they cannot enter a house without the permission of the owner without a warrant.
Can my hon. Friend explain to us how it is that someone else can be taken, because all the Schedule says is
…an inspector or other officer"?
It does not provide, so far as I can see, for his taking anyone else with him. He
may be either an inspector or another officer of the Board—[An HON. MEMBER: "Whose side is he on?"] An independent valuer is not included.
I would not for a second disagree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald). If his interpretation is right—as I accept that it is—it makes the position much worse than I thought it was. I think that we require an explanation from the Government of exactly how these powers are to be given and what safeguards there will be before we can allow the Schedule to pass.
I do not want to speak at great length at this hour on the Schedule because my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. MottRadclyffe) has done more than justice to many of our fears on this side of the Committee. But there are 20 to 30 hon. Members on this side ready to speak who feel just as deeply and are just as worried about the provisions of the Schedule which my hon. Friend has outlined.
Although the Schedule has been hacked about by the Government, they have not gone anything like far enough, in my view. There are many unanswered questions on the matters which my hon. Friend was speaking about. The question of auctioneers and dealers becoming the unwilling agents of the Inland Revenue is raised by paragraph 6 subsection (6). Is there any parallel situation, or is this a provision which appears for the first time in this Bill? Have these people ever been put in this position before? I think that we are entitled to know that before we vote on the Schedule.
On my hon. Friend's second point about the inspectors or officers, I must say that I was in agreement with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald). Paragraph 13 says that the Board shall authorise an inspector or other officer. It would appear that an inspector or another officer would be allowed to make these inspections. Am I right in assuming that these gentlemen, whoever they are, will be authorised to look into people's homes, not just to value the object if there has been a sale or is to be a sale, but to see whether it is still there? I should like an answer on that. Are these people to be authorised by the Board—having decided when it is reasonable, because it says that the Board is to decide—to snoop, to inspect, to see whether the works of art are still there?
How is one person to deal with the matter? How can one expert hope to deal with the wide variety of objects which may be in the same collection? Is the officer entitled to remove the object for inspection and identification, and can the same person necessarily do the identification and valuation? All these are burning questions to which we must have answers before we can vote on the Schedule. There is a good deal more which I could have said about this. The Government have given no answers to practically all our questions, and now is their opportunity to do so. As we see it, this Schedule contains provisions which are alien to our way of life and which have never before been produced in an Act of Parliament.
At this early hour of the morning this does not seem to be an important matter for some hon. Members, but many hon. Members on this side of the Committee think that it is very serious. It may well be the beginning of similar things which we are to see later. All I can say in its favour is that the Government have shown themselves determined to get this Capital Gains Tax by one means or another. As one of my hon. Friends said, they have used pure blooded Socialism to get it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) pointed out that this provision is entirely on the side of the Inland Revenue. There is no reference to "householder", which is far too dangerous a word to use and instead it is something like "possession of the property" as a synonym. The householder is to have no say as to the time that the inspector calls and he is not able to stop the inspector from entering. Indeed, anyone wilfully delaying the entry of the inspector is to be liable to a fine of £5. The only way to keep the inspectors out of one's castle, which was the Englishman's home only a few years ago, is not to have anything which is subject to Capital Gains Tax, and even then an inspector can still enter to make sure that there is nothing which is subject to the tax. I prophesy that the inspectors will not like this any more than we do. A hierarchy of people will be brought in at the beginning, because, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) pointed out, only an inspector or other officer is to be allowed to enter, and if the householder has any sense he will see that no one else enters.
Are different officers to value different things, or will the man who values a valuable Chinese carpet also value Georgian silver? If so, he will soon become so expert that he will be able to get a much better job than he has with the Inland Revenue. If the inspector is to be an ordinary Income Tax inspector, he will know nothing about valuation. This provision should have been a non-starter not only on these grounds, but, more important, because it allows an incursion into the rights of the individual which he has successfully resisted until now. This proposal is quite new and this Schedule is being debated at nearly 5 o'clock in the morning. It is unfair to the Committee that we should be asked to decide this issue at this time and I will vote against it if only for that reason.
My hon. Friends have drawn attention to paragraph 11 of the Schedule to which I will return later. I should like to draw the attention of the Committee, although I am sure that hon. Members are familiar with it, to paragraph 6(4) which says:
A member of the Stock Exchange in the United Kingdom, other than a jobber, … may be required to make a return giving particulars of any transactions effected by him in the course of his business in the period specified in the notice requiring the return giving particulars of the parties to the transactions and the number and the amount of the shares or securities dealt with in the respective transactions.
This is something quite new. This is a general snooping provision. It is not ordinary but vicarious snooping and it goes far further than ever before, far further than the 1962 Act.
That taken together with paragraph 11, raises two very serious issues. The first is the issue of the relationship between the taxpayer and the Inland Revenue, be- cause tax gathering depends on the co-operation of the taxpayer and in this country that relationship has been good for about a thousand years. [Laughter.] Even before the Norman Conquest, funnily enough, this country had a far better tax-gathering system than any of its neighbours. This country has always been a tax gatherer's paradise because of this relationship, but it will be ended if the Government do not show good sense and restraint. The Stuarts found that out and this Government will do the same, because the Budget is so obsessed with the possibility of tax evasion and so obsessed with blocking up imaginary loopholes, that the Government are merely encouraging people to find real loopholes. They will encourage a frame of mind in which people will try all they can to do down the Revenue.
The second fundamental objection is that paragraph 11 and paragraph 6(4) are fundamentally at variance with the British tradition of law which is to deal with particular matters and particular persons and not with general matters and persons in general. But this provision is extremely wide and requires people to give information about the doings of others and there is nothing specific. The provision which I quoted relates to everybody.
The Committee may think that this matter was decided once and for all by all the Wilkes cases. If it does, it is wrong, because the Government are intent on aping George III, madness and all. In the great case of Entick and Carrington which finally decided the illegality of the general warrant, a thoroughly important case with which, I am sure, hon. Members are thoroughly familiar, it was laid down that the Executive should not wield its power purely arbitrarily. It found finally and crucially against the arbitrary power of the Executive. The general warrant was completely analogous to what the Schedule does in paragraphs 11 and 6.
I will read a short part of the judgment in that case. Lord Camden said
…because if this point should be determined in favour of the jurisdiction, the secret cabinets and bureaux of every subject in this kingdom will be thrown open to the search and inspection of a messenger, whenever the Secretary of State shall think fit to charge or even to suspect…
The Lord Chief Justice—and I am sure that the Financial Secretary is familiar with this case—thought that such a thing was absolutely out of the question, and every succeeding Government since that day has thought the same.
Later on in the judgment he said:
Lastly, it is urged as an argument of utility that such a search is a means of detecting offenders by discovering evidence … But our law has provided no paper search in these cases to help forward the conviction. Whether this proceedeth from the gentleness of the law towards criminals, or from a consideration that such a power could be more pernicious to the innocent than useful to the public, I will not say".
He made no bones about what he thought and he made it clear that he regarded such an idea as thoroughly pernicious.
In this Schedule the Government are going back on the whole tradition of English law since 1765. The Schedule is repugnant to the whole libertarian tradition of British law and the Government have produced nothing whatever to show why there should be a return to general inquisitorial powers. The Schedule should therefore be thrown out.
A number of interesting points have been made, but I cannot see anything fundamentally objectionable about the provisions of paragraphs 6 (4) or 6 (6) relating to the jobbers and the auctioneers. I think this is straightforward. The returns that are going to be required from these people are not wholly acceptable in our law. I think it possible that, if these powers conferred on the Government are exercised widely, this could be a tremendous nuisance for both jobbers and auctioneers and I should like to hear from the Government just what they have in mind. Are they going to require returns in the initial stages of all transactions of upwards of £1,000? Is this to be done on a sampling basis, or is this to be done just in the case where there is reason to suspect that tax evasion has taken place? If we knew the answer to those questions we might be better able to consider whether to pass this provision.
I agree with what has been said about paragraph 13. This is infinitely more important and requires very careful examination. The point was raised about the ability of the tax inspectors or officers of the Inland Revenue to judge what is the value of a particular object, or what is the gross gain.
People's views differ about works of art and I cannot imagine the tax inspectors going to a person's house and saying what is the value of an El Greco or a Renoir. There are disputes between art experts themselves as to the value of particular pictures or statues. How then are these people to go into a house and take a look at a work of art suddenly and say that it is worth so and so? It absolutely defeats me. Why is this provision necessary at all? In nearly every case the Capital Gains Tax is going to be collected when the assets are disposed of. The only explanation is that this is to deal with the case of assets held in trust.
Is this paragraph specially inserted to deal with this case and are we to have these snoopers going into a house where assets are held in trust every 10 years so that they can bring the valuation up to date and levy a Capital Gains Tax.
If a person sells a statue, it comes to the saleroom and the provision in paragraph 6 can be used to determine whether Capital Gains Tax is payable or not. The only reason for having this objectionable provision in the Schedule is so that one can have a valuation of assets held in trust.
I should like to draw the Committee's attention to paragraph 3 relating to married women. Paragraph 3 says:
… the amount of capital gains tax on chargeable gains accruing to a married woman in a year of assessment … shall be assessed and charged to her husband.
It goes on to say that this shall not affect the amount of Capital Gains Tax charged on a man over and above what otherwise would remain chargeable to a married woman.
I should like to ask the Chancellor about that. If a man paying Surtax is married to a woman with little or no income and she makes a capital gain, would this mean that the husband would be able to take advantage of this, and would the capital gain be charged at two-thirds the marginal rate of tax—that is in all probability 27½ per cent.? Does this paragraph mean that the husband will be charged only at 27½ per cent. Capital Gains Tax no matter what his income is? That is how I read the provision. It is complicated and I should be grateful for an explanation.
I will, first, answer the last question posed by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock). His reading of the provision is correct. The fact that the gains should be assessed and charged on the husband does not affect the amount of the charge in respect of his spouse's gains. It would remain exactly the same as if it were charged on the wife.
I turn to the wider questions that have been asked. It is clear that the imaginations of a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite boggle at the prospect of the result of some of these provisions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Those cries of "Hear, hear" are not surprising, since hon. Members have allowed their imaginations to run away with them. Even at 5 o'clock in the morning it is a splendid sight to see so many hon. Gentlemen opposite coming here to put up such a spirited defence on behalf of the tax dodgers, in the name of the defence of liberty. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] Even their cries of "Cheap" do not sound very forceful.
Something which appears to worry hon. Gentlemen opposite is the question of whether the provision gives the Revenue the power to require from auctioneers and other dealers who handle transactions in chattels the returns of transactions which they have effected and which are subject to charge. This is an essential provision if this tax is to be made effective.
I will make clear the scope of the power and the circumstances in which it would be used. It applies only to returns of chattels disposed of at a price of over £1,000. I do not know how many such disposals hon. Gentlemen opposite consider take place. We were given a figure for Sotheby's and Christie's of 2,000 a year. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree that a high percentage of chattels of over £1,000 which are disposed of by sale are disposed of through Sotheby's and Christie's. In any event, it is not the intention to call for returns of every transaction. Thus, there is no question of Sotheby's and Christie's being asked to make returns on 2,000 transactions a year.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to answer a few questions before being interrupted. I will give way soon, then I will answer more questions.
The power will be used on a sample basis only and as a check that returns which have been made by taxpayers are accurate. As to the need for the powers contained in the provision, the Department must have powers which will enable it to administer the provision of the tax with efficiency and fairness. To deny these powers to the Department in respect of chattels would be an invitation to people to seek to avoid the tax on chattels.
We have listened to a number of speeches about how much avoidance there will be of the tax on chattels. I dealt with this matter during the early hours in a sitting of the Committee last week. I am surprised now to find hon. Gentlemen opposite wanting to remove from the Bill one of the few powers which will enable a check to be made to detect evasion. There is no reason why in this respect transactions with chattels should be dealt with on any different basis than that for stocks and shares.
This leads me to the question I was asked about stocks and shares. The intention is only to use this power on a sample basis. There is no question of asking stockbrokers and dealers to return every transaction or anything like it. An assurance had already been given in this respect by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Chairman of the Stock Exchange Council.
We have heard some most extravagant language on the subject of inspection. It was suggested by the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) that this provision was of a kind never been made before. It was suggested that the liberterian traditions of our law would be undermined by such inquisitorial powers being given to the Executive. I would remind the Committee that this is no new problem. The question of valuing chattels has been with us for a long time, for Estate Duty purposes. This is perfectly reasonably administered. We do not hear of the terrible oppression of the people, oppressed by snoopers. Hon. Gentlemen opposite think that there has been no such power before. They are
quite mistaken. This provision to which they are taking such exception, and about which they are quoting 18th century precedents in powerful language by the judiciary, is based up and follows very closely a provision in Section 7 of the Finance Act, 1894. So, since 1894 we have been living under this oppressive regime and I do not recall having heard any of those impassioned speeches—[HON. MEMBERS: "Can we have the words?"]—Certainly. The Section says:
Subject to the provisions of this Act, the value of any property for the purposes of Estate Duty shall be ascertained by the Commissioners in such manner and by such means as they think fit, and, if they authorise a person to inspect any property and report to them the value thereof for the purposes of this Act, the person having the custody or possession of that property shall permit the person so authorised to inspect it at such reasonable times as the Commissioners consider necessary.
This is the old despotism under which we have lived for 70 years—the oppressed citizens.
The hon. Gentleman quoted the case of Estate Duty. There is a world of difference in that case. The Act which he quoted quite clearly says that the Inland Revenue may appoint somebody suitable to make examination. That is generally done by a local firm of auctioneers or valuers. There is a world of difference between that and what is proposed in this Bill. which is a Government snooper or a paid public official.
I think it is most reprehensible for hon. Members opposite to talk in those terms. [Interruption.] We have been living for the last 13 years under a regime with Government snoopers under the Government of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They did not use those terms when they were in office. [Interruption.] One of the great advantages this country has over many other countries—
I should have thought that hon. Members opposite would have realised the advantages we have in this country of a Civil Service and, in this connection, Revenue officials who, I think by common accord, are uncorruptible and fair-minded in their administration of our tax laws. If hon. Members think that they will get any political advantage by abusing them and calling them snoopers, it is not an attitude that will find much favour outside this House.
The question of the valuation of assets is one that has arisen for a long time in connection with Estate Duty. I am asked how it will work out in practice. The answer is that the practice will operate much as it has done for a long time for Estate Duty purposes. Usually, when one is dealing with valuable chattels, their owner submits a report with a valuation from someone who is well recognised as a well-qualified expert in that field.
Usually, on the basis of that report, there is not much difficulty in reaching agreement about the valuation for Estate Duty purposes. It is extremely rare for there to be any dispute at all. The fact remains that in order that there shall be proper and fair administration of the law, it is necessary, as was found with the 1894 Act, to keep a reserve power of this kind to enable an inspection to take place, and this can operate for the benefit of the taxpayer. Let me explain why.
The paragraph is directed to the situation in which, for example, one individual has given an asset to another. The calculation of the gain accruing to the donor and, therefore, of the tax to which he is liable, will turn on the market value of the gift either at the date of the gift or on Budget day. In such a situation, the asset in question is outside the control of the person whose tax liability is affected at the time when the question of valuation arises. It follows, therefore, if only in the interests of the person whose tax liability is at stake, that there must be powers for the Revenue to inspect the asset for the purpose of valuation.
The valuation that is arrived at, incidentally, may well at a future date affect the rights of the person who then has the custody of the chattel, and is its owner. There is provision in the Schedules whereby the Revenue can serve a notice on him and he then becomes a party to the determination of the valuation which will affect him in the future.
As I say, this kind of difficulty that hon. Members are imagining is something that in practice arises only extremely rarely. It is dealt with administratively as a commonsense matter. It is dealt with with courtesy and consideration, and it is obvious that one must have reserve powers of this kind to deal with recalcitrant people—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly, we must have such reserve powers to deal with recalcitrant people, people who are adopting an utterly obstructive attitude which will otherwise prevent a reasonable inspection from taking place to ascertain the value of the chattel—a matter which will affect not merely their rights, but the rights of other taxpayers as well—
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman explain what the reason is for the difference between this Schedule and the Section be read from the Act of 1894? In this Schedule we have the inspector or the officer of the Board carrying out the inspection, while under the Section the Financial Secretary read out the Board has power to appoint a qualified person to carry out the valuation.
In the Section that I read, the powers are at large; it does not have to be an inspector or other officer. The Board authorises "a person". The power in the 1894 Act is very much wider as to the number of people who can be authorised to carry out the inspection. We have restricted it in a way not done in that earlier Act, so I do not know what the hon. Member is complaining of.
In practice, if an inspection of this kind took place, it would, in the normal course, be the inspector himself who would carry out the inspection, but it may be done by some other member of his staff, or by a Revenue expert.
As I have said, the number of cases, judging by the Estate Duty experience, where the powers would have to be used are extremely rare, and in practice these valuation problems are matters which are determined usually with the assistance of expert valuation where that is required and by a reasonable amount of give and take between the Revenue and the parties involved.
When one listens to the sort of speech to which we have just had to listen one is not surprised that the Bill is so difficult to understand. The hon. and learned Gentleman tried to ride our criticism off by saying that there were only about 2,000 cases a year of £1,000 or more where chattels were concerned. Does he not know what the First Secretary is doing? The First Secretary has so lost control of the wages front—
With great respect, Dr. King, the point that I am about to make about the valuation of chattels is entirely relevant. The First Secretary and the Chancellor have so lost control of the wages front that there will not be 2,000 cases a year; before long there will be millions, because the £ will be worthless and every one of the chattels will then have to be valued.
I turn to paragraph 13, which deals with the question of valuation. I have never known a Financial Secretary so mislead the House of Commons when quoting an earlier Act. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at this paragraph—if he can understand it; I do not know from what language it is translated—he will see that it says that the Board can authorize:
an inspector or other officer of the Board".
I should like to get the contract for putting up the school which will train the valuers. There are no valuers available to join the Board of Inland Revenue today. It is very difficult to get an effective valuer. Anyone who has had the ordeal of discussing this Finance Bill knows how difficult it has been to get anything valued over the last few months. If the hon. and learned Gentleman puts up the buildings necessary to train valuers he may begin to get some valuers in the Inland Revenue. It is no good his saying that he can obtain them easily. They are not available.
If the hon. and learned Gentleman looks at paragraph 13(1) he will see that the Board can authorise only:
an inspector or other officer of the Board to inspect any property for the purpose of ascertaining its market value".
So he cannot use Sotheby's or any of the other well-known valuers to value a picture or a piece of architecture. He has to use an officer of the Board. Therefore, he must recruit hundreds of valuers to join the Inland Revenue to carry out the burdensome task that he is unnecessarily placing upon it. Whether there will be any advantage to the country in increased revenue as a result of all this activity is very problematical. One of the first things that will happen will be that people will start exporting works of art over the next few months to avoid this taxation.
Paragraph 13(2)—I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will do me the courtesy of listening—
Now I come to the second paragraph—and I hope that I shall have the attention of the Financial Secretary. Indeed, I thought that we might have had the First Secretary here to explain how all this will be related to his wages policy. The second paragraph of subsection 13 states that
If any person wilfully delays or obstructs an inspector or other officer of the Board …
he shall be guilty of an offence. While he may not, under this subsection obstruct or delay an inspector, he can do what he likes to an outside valuer. Is that what the Treasury wants? Is that the Government's indication that it will have to recruit a vast number of people in order to carry out this duty? Such legislation is frightening. In the West Country last night there was a discussion on whether the Chancellor was trying to get rid of his office. It may well be that he is, but we want him to have a few
seats left after the next election. If he continues in this way he will have none.
One has to draw the line between trying to prevent tax avoidance and maintaining the liberty of the subject. I have some sympathy with the Financial Secretary when he tries to point out how the line is drawn, but the rule of law is infringed here to the extent that there is the right in this Schedule to make people answer questions and to inspect property without a warrant. In the unimportant crime, such as exceeding the speed limit, where the police cannot insist on statements, the subject is protected; but there is always this difficulty when one is dealing with property, and the State has to be very careful to protect the liberty of the subject while taking sufficient power to prevent tax avoidance.
The State has taken power in the Control of Exchange Act to ask people where they obtained foreign currency and, if they do not answer, to put them in prison. Under this Schedule, the Government have gone over the line and infringed the liberty of the subject beyond what they are entitled to do.
Paragraph 10 of this Schedule states that if a person has shares in a company which is not resident in the United Kingdom, or if he is one of a number of beneficiaries under a foreign trust, he can be asked questions which the Inland Revenue requires him to answer. If he does not answer them he is subject to the penalties set out in the Finance Act, 1960. That is a very serious power. Does the Committee realise that if there is a trust abroad with foreign trustees, and all the property is abroad, there can be a number of discretionary beneficiaries who can include, without their knowing it, every hon. Member of this Committee? If a person wanted to be capricious or eccentric, is it realised that every member of the Front Bench opposite could be put down as a beneficiary? The person concerned might never get any money from the trust. Or there might be many other beneficiaries who would get it first. He is only a long stop, in the Chancery phrase. But he may be asked all these questions about what the trust does.
When he is prosecuted for not answering, presumably he will get off on the ground that he does not know—but he will have been prosecuted. This is a great infringement of the liberty of the subject. He may be a shareholder in a foreign company about which he knows nothing. He may be asked questions about whether it is a close company and about the relationship of the other shareholders to each other. He could be punished if he failed to reply.
It is not clear whether there is a duty on him to find things out. The trouble with arguing such matters at this hour is that hon. Members opposite think that anyone who rises to speak is trying to delay proceedings. If it had been taken at an earlier hour hon. Members would have realised that there was a serious issue underlying the Financial Secretary's speech. In English law, one cannot be forced to answer questions if one does not want to answer them. There is to right in ordinary law to seize a witness and to say to him, "You must answer these questions." There is no law that says that one must help the police by telling them what one knows.
This is the position with serious crime. Where a murder is committed the police are hampered because they cannot say, "You must answer these questions". But the Government take such power where property is concerned. It has been recognised that it is more important to find out about property than about murder. That may be an unfair way of putting it, but that is the effect of it. When dealing with property we must have some power to make people answer; when a bankrupt will not answer he can be compelled to do so and punished for refusing to do so. But we must be careful what we do.
It is not always sufficient for a Minister to say, "This power will be exercised in a reasonable manner. It will only rarely be exercised." In such cases we must safeguard the subject by having an independent person before whom the questions are asked. It is not safe to extend these property inspections in this manner.
I have given the example of beneficiaries in a foreign trust who do not know that they are beneficiaries. They can be questioned and subjected to prosecution and made to answer. If they say, "I could not answer this because I did not know", presumably that is a defence, although it is not clear from the Bill. Presumably there would be no mens rea. But there is the other argument that the provision is mandatory, like the provision concerning serving drink to a minor in a public house; to say that one did not know that the person was a minor would be no defence. Shareholders in foreign companies or beneficiaries in foreign trusts may automatically be convicted.
The Government ought to reassure the Committee on that point if on nothing else. They ought to say that where a person does not answer because he has no knowledge on the subject, he will be acquitted at the trial. I am not asking the Commissioners to accept his word that he does not know. But the Government should satisfy the Committee that if at the trial he proves that he could not have known that he was a beneficiary in the trust, he will be acquitted. He may have been put in as a beneficiary to cause a pleasant surprise when the settlor dies—or because he is estranged from his wife but later may be reconciled to her.
There are hundreds of reasons for making somebody a discretionary trustee who knows nothing about it. A person may wish to hide his relationship with another, putting a former girl friend into a discretionary trust, perhaps, and not wanting it to be known until he dies. There can be a hundred reasons, but the unfortunate person can be asked about it by the Commissioners. They have got a copy of the documents from a spy in the Bahamas, they think it is a close company, and they want to know about his holding, about the relationships of the directors, and so on. This is a very wide power which should not be granted.
My hon. Friends have called attention to many of the dangers which will result from the powers which the Chancellor is proposing to take. It is, to say the least, lamentable that all we have heard from the other side of the Committee has been a barrage of jeers. In the interests of the party opposite, which must realise that it is particularly susceptible to the charge of encouraging this sort of activity through powers of this kind, hon. Members opposite ought to realise that this is, in fact, a matter of the utmost importance.
As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster) said, the problem in all these cases is to strike a balance. The obligation and responsibility on any Administration is to demonstrate quite clearly to Parliament that the powers they seek are absolutely necessary and are no more than are absolutely necessary, and that the liberty and rights of the individual are safeguarded to the utmost extent. The Financial Secretary, who treated the matter rather lightheartedly, has not proved that case to the satisfaction of the Committee.
The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) thought that, on the whole, paragraph 6, dealing with the Stock Exchange and auctioneers, was reasonable, but he failed to realise that what matters in the giving of special returns is the breaking of the confidential relationship between client and profession or between customer and auctioneer, a relationship which we in this country pride ourselves on maintaining. I can recall only one other instance since I have been in the House when this matter was debated, when we had long and intense arguments about the relationship of banks to their customers on the question of declaring interest on small deposits. Great safeguards were embodied when it was decided that the information was required.
This Schedule will break confidential relationships. It is not so much a matter of form filling. It is a question of the confidential relationship between client and profession and between customers and those with whom they are dealing. This is the fundamental objection. In some cases, of course, foreign customers will be affected. Although they may feel that they are not in any way affected by our own Government, they will immediately feel—this was the point in the earlier case of the banks—that, once information is made available to the British Government, it will then be passed on to other Governments. The Government owe the Committee a firm assurance that, at least on the foreign side, which affects auctioneers and others very greatly, no information obtained will be passed on to any foreign Government in any circumstances whatever. An undertaking must be given.
On the other powers under paragraph 13, the Financial Secretary seemed to say that the powers he is now asking for are both narrower and wider than the powers under the 1894 Act which he quoted. They are narrower because the powers there for Estate Duty allow qualified persons outside the Board of Inland Revenue to be used for these purposes.
What is worrying my hon. Friends is that there may not be the people in the Inland Revenue sufficiently qualified to deal with these new problems. There may not be sufficient of them, and it may be very difficult to enrol enough people so qualified into the Inland Revenue. So the powers being taken are narrower.
But in the other sense the powers being taken are much wider, because for Estate Duty, as I understand it, the powers are taken for this specific purpose, for dealing specifically with the estate of the deceased. That is what the powers are required for, and they work fairly amicably under the present arrangements. But these powers are very much wider than those, because for the purposes of this Part of the Bill concerned with capital gains almost any direction can be given, not only to the specified person concerned, but regarding anything he may have had, or got rid of, or may have obtained, and affecting any other person or persons. This is why the powers are so much wider. In the case of Estate Duty we know the powers are for only one specific purpose, but these powers are very much wider than the powers under the Act of 1894, and I do not think they are sufficiently defined.
I really think that before the Committee can accept this Schedule these powers must be much more clearly defined, and much greater safeguards must be introduced for the individual. I hope that the Financial Secretary will be able to tell us that he is prepared to do this with this Schedule. If he cannot do it I really think we must express our anxieties very forcefully in the only clear way open to us. This is a matter of great importance to us. We do not feel that the balance has been correctly judged. This is one thing the House of Commons has always given the greatest possible attention to—the rights and liberties of the individual. This is a very important aspect of that matter.
I am very grateful to the right hon. Member for giving way, but I feel very strongly about this. Thousands of homes in my constituency have been visited by Government snoopers and officers, but the only time they ever visited them was in the dark days of the 'thirties, when Government snoopers visited them continually to value every bit of furniture they had, when they wanted a pittance. That is why I feel bitter about this protest by hon. Members opposite.
I am quite prepared to accept from the hon. Gentleman that he has very strong feelings on this matter, as he obviously has, and I am quite prepared to believe they are shared by many of his colleagues. I do not deny that for a moment, but, with the greatest respect, I would say that was not a comparable situation with the one we are discussing now. These powers are not comparable with the Regulations passed by the House at that time.
I conclude by emphasising again, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich did just now, the importance of this matter. We believe that the balance has been wrongly judged, so that, unless the Financial Secretary can show us that he seriously intends to redress it, we must divide the Committee.
I am sure the Committee wishes to reach a conclusion, but I will answer some of the technical points I have been asked. First, as to foreign Governments, there is provision in the double taxation agreements by which we are under an obligation to provide information to foreign Governments, and that operates reciprocally. It is the same for them and for us. Under those agreements there would be no question of not passing this information to any Government.
Yes, obviously, because this now extends to capital gains which were not subject to tax here: it operates both ways.
I think that there is a misunderstanding about the powers of inspection. Hon. Members have been talking about power to search without warrant. It is nothing of the sort. No power to search is contained here. If hon. Gentlemen read the provision and the Section of the 1894 Act, they will see that all the power given to the Commissioners is to authorise a person to inspect something which is in the custody of another person. If the other person obstructs the inspector and refuses to let him enter, he has no power to break down the door and batter his way in. He can prosecute, and in that case the person is liable. on summary conviction, to a fine of £5, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite think that that is very oppressive to our liberties, based as it is on something which we have been practising for 70 years, their imaginations are running away with them.
The hon. and learned Gentleman has said on more than one occasion that there is a similarity between the 1894 Act and this Bill. The words are
having the custody or the possession of that property",
and in the context of the 1894 Act they meant that the dead man's property was in the possession of his solicitor, or his family, or someone else. This is what happens when someone culls something from an old Act and brings it into a modern one.
I am sorry, Dr. King, but the hon. and learned Gentleman gave way and I stood up to speak. The hon. and learned Gentleman should tell us whether this means that an inspector can go into a house when the occupant is abroad.
He has no power of search, and, as regards the other point, the Estate Duty provisions apply quite widely. There might be a gift which was made three or four years before death, and which is in the hands of some third party. There is still the same power.
|Division No. 159.]||AYES||[5.42 a.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Gourlay, Harry||Newens, Stan|
|Alldritt, Walter||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Gregory, Arnold||Norwood, Christopher|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Grey, Charles||Oakes, Gordon|
|Atkinson, Norman||Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)|
|Baxter, William||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Orme, Stanley|
|Beaney, Alan||Hazeil, Bert||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Bence, Cyril||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Paget, R. T.|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Horner, John||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Binns, John||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S.E.)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)||Parker, John|
|Blackburn, F.||Howie, W.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Boardman, H.||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Boyden, James||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Bradley, Tom||Jackson, Colin||Prentice, R. E.|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Probert, Arthur|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Buchanan, Richard||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Johnson, James(K'ston-on-Hull,W.)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Robinson, Rt.Hn.K.(St. Pancras,N.)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Coleman, Donald||Kenyon, Clifford||Sheldon, Robert|
|Conlan, Bernard||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Cousins, Rt. Hn. Frank||Ledger, Ron||Short, Rt.Hn.E.(N'c'tle-on-Tyne,C.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Silkin, John (Deptford)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Dalyell, Tam||Lomas, Kenneth||Small, William|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Loughlin, Charles||Solomons Henry|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lubbock, Eric||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Dempsey, James||McCann, J.||Swain, Thomas|
|Dodds, Norman||MacColl, James||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Doig, Peter||MacDermot, Niall||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||McGuire, Michael||Tomney, Frank|
|Driberg, Tom||McInnes, James||Urwin, T. W.|
|Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Dunn, James A.||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Wallace, George|
|Dunnett, Jack||Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)||Watkins, Tudor|
|English, Michael||Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Ennals, David||MacMillan, Malcolm||Whitlock, William|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||MacPerson, Malcolm||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Marhon, Simon (Bootle)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Manuel, Archie||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mapp, Charles||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Floud, Bernard||Mason, Roy||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Millan, Bruce||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Ford, Ben||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Woof, Robert|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Freeson, Reginald||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Zilllacus, K.|
|Garrett, W. E.||Mulley,Rt.Hn.Frederick(SheffieldPk)|
|Garrow, A.||Murray, Albert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Ginsburg, David||Neal, Harold||Mr. Harper and Mrs. Slater.|
|Agnew, Commander Sir Peter||Bossom, Hn. Clive||Cooke, Robert|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Box, Donald||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Corfield, F. V.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Braine, Bernard||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Ju[...]an||Brinton, Sir Tatton||Curran, Charles|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Bryan, Paul||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Batsford, Brian||Buxton, Ronald||Dean, Paul|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Campbell, Gordon||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Carlisle, Mark||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Biffen, John||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Elliott, R. W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)|
|Blaker, Peter||Cole, Norman||Eyre, Reginald|
|Farr, John||Kilfedder, James A.||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Fell, Anthony||Kimball, Marcus||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton)||Kirk, Peter||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Foster, Sir John||Lambton, Viscount||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Gammans, Lady||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Roots, William|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Litchfield, Capt. John||Sharples, Richard|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Longbottom, Charles||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Goodhart, Philip||Longden, Gilbert||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Loveys, Walter H.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Gower, Raymond||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Stainton, Keith|
|Grant, Anthony||MacArthur, Ian||Stodart, Anthony|
|Grieve, Percy||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Studho[...]me, Sir Henry|
|Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Maginnis, John E.||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Gurden, Harold||Maude, Angus||Teeling, Sir William|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mawby, Ray||Temple, John M.|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Mills, stratton (Belfast, N.)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Miscampbell, Norman||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hastings, Stephen||Mitchell, David||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hawkins, Paul||Monro, Hector||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||More, Jasper||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Murton, Oscar||Whitelaw, William|
|Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hordern, Peter||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Wise, A. R.|
|Hornby, Richard||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Hunt, John (Bromley)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Percival, Ian||Wylie, N. R.|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Peyton, John||Younger, Hn. G[...]orge|
|Johnson Smith, G.(East Grinstead)||Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Pitt, Dame Edith||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. McLaren and Mr. Pym.|
I think that this is an appropriate moment to move,
That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
In view of the progress which we have made and in view of the majority which the Government have just sustained, showing the growing confidence of the country in the administration of the Government, I feel tempted to go on, but I should not like to take an unfair advantage of the Opposition.
The Chancellor is right. After eight days and three nights of debate in the Committee, we are now approaching the half-way point of the Bill, and this would be a suitable moment for the Committee to Report progress.
I would make one suggestion to the Chancellor which I hope he will bear in mind. The Bill has now received a considerable number of Amendments of a detailed and drafting kind; and, as it is a monumental Bill, it might be for the convenience of the Committee if he would see whether it is possible to reprint the three parts and the nine Schedules which we have now completed, rather than to wait until we have completed the whole Bill and then perhaps have only a short period between the completion of Committee stage and Report in which to look at it in its amended form. I put this forward as a proposal which I hope that the Chancellor will find helpful, because I believe that it would be helpful to the Committee.
This is the first I have heard of this suggestion. I am anxious, as I have been throughout, to facilitate the work of every hon. Member of the Committee, on whichever side he sits. I shall consider this proposition. There may be printing difficulties for the Stationery Office. I will have a word with the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) and see whether anything can be done to assist.