Miners (Early Retirement Scheme)

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th March 1977.

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Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury 12:00 am, 24th March 1977

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the lump sum payments to early-retired mineworkers which the National Coal Board has contracted to pay are chargeable to income tax.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

Under the Finance Act 1970, superannuation schemes require the approval of the Board of Inland Revenue in order to qualify for the tax treatment which it provides. The Act provides for the payment within limits of lump sum benefits which will be exempt from tax, but questions relating to a particular scheme are a matter between the administrators of the scheme and the Board of Inland Revenue.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Is the Chief Secretary aware, however, that the Financial Secretary told me, in answer to a Question, that where the employee had a contractual right to the payment it would be taxable? Is he saying that the miners do not have a contractual right to this payment? If that is the case, I would accept that it is not taxable. Does he not feel that there would be a strike if there was a failure to make this payment—in which case it is clearly taxable? Does the social contract therefore provide that trade unionists should be treated differently for taxation purposes from the rest of us?

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

No, it does not. If Opposition Members take that kind of tone in relation to lump sum benefits for miners who have worked underground for a very long time, it is very fortunate that they are not in Government at present.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that there are those in the mining industry who believe that the lump sum payment that is made under the early retirement scheme is not large enough and that it should be equal to that which is paid under the miners' redundancy payment scheme? Does it not make a significant contrast with the note issue made by GEC, in which Sir Arnold Weinstock himself pocketed £600,000 and avoided paying tax at the highest rate and might pay it at 35 per cent.? As compared with this small lump sum payment for miners who have worked underground for 40 or 50 years, does not my hon. Friend think that it is that which needs examining and not this payment for miners?

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that there are double standards on the Opposition Benches. I would not necessarily agree with him about the early retirement scheme. It is a good scheme and I think that it has been accepted as such by the NUM.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

No one questions the hard work of miners, but the Minister has a very serious question to answer from my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley)—namely, whether he can reassure us that treatment for tax for payments of this kind is the same for all workers.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman. I told him in my original answer that the schemes have to be approved by the Inland Revenue, and if they are approved the payments will he tax-free.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the thoroughly unsatisfactory and evasive nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.