§ Notwithstanding anything in section 9 of the Finance Act, 1962 (which provides that claimants must prove that they were registered blind persons throughout the year), relief may be claimed under that section by blind persons in respect of periods for which they were registered of less than one year, and relief for such periods shall be granted at a rate proportionate to the rate for a whole year.—[Mr. Dean.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Grant-Ferris)
It will be for the convenience of the Committee to discuss at the same time—
New Clause No. 20—"Relief for disabled persons",
New Clause No. 54—"Constant attendant allowance",
New Clause No. 56—"Attendance allowance for incapacitated wife or husband",
New Clause No. 61—"Dependent relative attendance relief", and
New Clause No. 52—"Claimant depending on services of daughter".
§ Mr. Dean
I propose to restrict my remarks entirely to this Clause, although I am in agreement with many of the points covered by the other Clauses. This is a very modest proposal, designed to help a certain number of our fellow countrymen who are shining examples of courage in disability, namely, the blind. The intention of the Clause is simply to enable blind people to get the special tax relief which is available to them as soon as they are registered as blind. I would remind the Committee of the history of this special tax relief. It was introduced in the Finance Act, 1962, as a special relief for blind people. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) is one of those who for many years had been urging that this relief should be introduced.
Apart from the details, the effect of the relief introduced at that time is that a registered blind person is eligible to a maximum of £100 tax relief, provided that he is not getting the £40 daughter allowance or the social security disability benefits as a blind person. That means that the full amount is available only where a blind person is not getting help in some other way. But another condition attached to this relief in 1962. This is the one with which this Clause is concerned—that, in order to get this relief, a blind person has to be registered as blind at the beginning of the Income Tax year. If he is registered on the second day no allowance is available until the following year.
It is clear from experience that this limitation has caused a good deal of dissatisfaction and resentment. I know from correspondence and from experience of organisations such as the Royal National Institute for the Blind that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction over the time some blind people have to wait before they become eligible for this relief. It is immensely important that cash or tax allowances for people suffering from disability should be available as soon as the disability is established. The present limitation contrasts strangely with the marriage allowance, 1846 which can be claimed for the whole year in which marriage takes place, even if it takes place on the last day of the Income Tax year.
I am not asking the Government to go even as far as that. I merely propose that tax relief should operate from the day of registration and that there should be proportionate relief for the rest of that tax year. Of course, if the Financial Secretary accepts the case and decides to go further and put this relief on all fours with the marriage allowance, naturally I shall be delighted. I and my hon. Friends have deliberately put forward a modest proposal in the belief that the Government will find it exceedingly difficult to reject it. What objections could there be to this modest proposal? There can be no objection in principle, because the principle was established and accepted in 1962. It is established and it is working. I believe, too, that there can be no objection on the grounds of cost, because the Financial Secretary has already informed me that the cost of this proposal would be minimal.
Can there be any objection from the point of view of administration? I understand that this relief has caused virtually no difficulty in administration. It may well be that, when the relief was introduced in 1962, the Treasury felt that this new relief meant moving into uncharted waters and that it would be wise, in the first instance, to limit it in this way, so as to see how it worked in practice. There have been no difficulties in administration. The relief has worked smoothly. So, on those three grounds—on principle, on grounds of cost and on grounds of administration—I believe that there are no difficulties involved in accepting this new Clause.
How many people are likely to be involved? It is difficult to say, but we know that about 12,000 people are added to the blind register each year. Of course, we do not know how many of that total in any one year would be eligible for this relief. There is no doubt that some of them would be ineligible because they are in receipt of a disability benefit of some description or of the special rate of National Assistance. I think it is reasonable to assume that a substantial number of those 12,000 people each year 1847 would be eligible and would benefit from these new arrangements.
Who are these people? Undoubtedly, many of them are old. We all know that this is a familiar factor, that blindness very often comes with age. I know of one example of a married couple. The wife is over 90 years of age and her husband is also very old. She is completely blind and he is very nearly blind. The husband applied for this relief for his wife and it happened to be in the middle of the Income Tax year. Hon. Members can imagine this man's feelings when he had a letter from the Inland Revenue saying, "I am very sorry but you will have to wait until the beginning"—
§ Mr. J. B. Symonds (Whitehaven)
The hon. Member said that a blind lady, 90 years of age, and her husband were claiming relief. Does he expect that a blind person would be working at the age of 90?
§ Mr. Dean
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the purport of what I am saying. There is no question of people having to work to be eligible under this Clause. It applies irrespective of whether the people concerned are at work or not. There is no doubt in my mind that a substantial number of people who benefit now from the special tax relief for blind people and who would benefit under the new Clauses are very elderly people living on comparatively modest incomes, but, nonetheless, coming within the provisions of the Clause.
I am sure that this is the case, but if this Clause has not been drafted to that effect, that is certainly the intention. I hope that the Financial Secretary understands—
§ Mr. Dean
Coming back to my example, this is a concrete case. The husband is elderly, he is nearly 90 and nearly blind. The wife is over 90 and is completely blind. He applied on her behalf for this special relief and he was told by the Inland Revenue that they were extremely sorry, but there could be no tax relief until the beginning of the next Income Tax year. This is the law as it stands at the moment. I have the letter dealing with this case here from the local 1848 tax office, which states the position. Hon. Members can imagine how that man felt when he received that letter. It is one example of many I could quote to show the difficulties and restrictions of the present relief.
Some people who become blind are younger, the sort of people the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Symonds) had in mind, and—
§ Mr. Symonds
On a point of order. I was not referring to the younger generation but to the fact that the hon. Gentleman has said that the gentleman to whom he was referring was working.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
It would appear that certain hon. Gentlemen opposite do not understand what this is all about. Would my hon. Friend explain exactly how the present relief operates?
§ Mr. Dean
I believe that my hon. Friends understand the object of the new Clause and, for the benefit of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I emphasise again that the intention of the special relief which now exists is not limited to whether or not a person is capable of employment. It is available for all, whether people are retired or employed. In precisely the same way, the modest extension which I propose in the new Clause would benefit people who are within this category, whether they are working or retired.
As I was saying, some of these people are young and working. Many of them are involved in the expense and difficulty of reshaping their lives for a new type of employment. Are not these people, young or old, deserving of this special allowance and should it not be made available to them as speedily as possible, without them having to wait until the next Income Tax year? I hope that I have succeeded in softening the heart of the Treasury Bench and that my proposal will be regarded as practical and workable.
§ Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
I have much pleasure in supporting the new Clause, particularly since this matter has an extremely long history. It began in 1939. I was fortunate enough to be one of those who in 1962 took up 1849 this cause and was lucky enough, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) was in office, to persuade him to give considerable help in the form of the Income Tax relief which now exists. However, I must have overlooked the important point to which this Clause draws attention.
I wish to consider mainly the younger person who goes blind. As my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) pointed out, these people have many additional expenses, particularly when they go blind in their younger years. They are very self-respecting people who want to continue to earn their own living and in many cases support their own families.
We are speaking of a discernible category of people, for when they are stricken with blindness we know that they come into a definite category—there are all the tests to judge by and, unfortunately, we also know that the majority of them are unlikely to get rid of their disability. When they first become blind and wish to continue working they have a great many additional expenses.
That is one reason why I hope that the Minister will consider this request favourably. They need assistance and, to enable them to get about, they must often take taxis. Sometimes they must acquire a guide dog, the maintenance of which is an expensive item. The beginning of blindness is the most expensive time of their lives. That is why my hon. Friends and I hope that the Treasury will allow them to obtain this relief at the earliest possible moment, particularly during this difficult initial period.
From having led normal lives—from being able to see and be independent—they regrettably have to be dependent on many others. They have great courage, particularly when they are anxious to continue to earn a livelihood. Many of these people wish to be self-supporting and not be on State relief. I come into contact with a great many of them in my work with the blind and I am aware of the excellent work they do in many professions and the high standards they attain.
As I say, they have great courage, they do not want to be dependent on others. For this reason, particularly at the beginning of blindness, they must perhaps 1850 put their hands in their pockets more than they would otherwise have to do. It is occasionally necessary to offer people some remuneration for the help they give. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will see his way to giving this small concession, which would be of great help, out of all proportion to the cost, to this section of the population.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
The new Clauses with which we are dealing and which are supported by my hon. Friends deal specifically with disablement, old-age or with those who, in the course of their active lives, are bearing the effort of trying to help to maintain disabled and elderly people in their own homes. It is a wide series of new Clauses and I regret that in our discussion of the Bill we have had very little opportunity to discuss the problems which arise. I am, therefore, glad that so many of the new Clauses with which we are dealing are concerned with these problems.
New Clause No. 20 is rather long, so I will not read it to the Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I thought that it would be more helpful if I made my case rather than read the terms of that new Clause. I hope that we shall have a promise of some action over some of these new Clauses, and will not have the announcement that has been made ever since the present Government took office in October last that all these matters are under review.
I fully realise that in sound and good government proper attention must be paid to all details and aspects of what might be called the social service angle, but we on this side will not be satisfied unless we hear from the Treasury bench that there is to be some immediate general action. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite know a great deal about these matters and made a great many promises during the election campaign, but the people concerned, particularly the elderly and those suffering disablement, are getting very tired—
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
I beg to call your attention, Mr. Grant-Ferris, to the fact that fewer than 40 Members appear to be present.
§ Committee counted, and, 40 Members being present—1851
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I do not like to criticise members of my own side, Mr. Grant-Ferris, but I sometimes wish that they would exercise a little common sense. There could not have been a more inconvenient or unhappy moment to call a count—[HON. MEMBERS: "Well spoken."]—and if my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), who is rather new to the House, would like to ask me afterwards, I will give him a very good lesson on Parliamentary procedure—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Grant-Ferris)
Order. The hon. Lady must not make those remarks in that sense. The hon. Member was within his rights to call a Count.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I can still say that people are stupid. If we cannot say in this Chamber that people are stupid, we had better make some new Standing Orders.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans (Birmingham, Yardley)
Would not the hon. Lady agree that her hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) is actually making a reflection on her own side of the Committee? We have had 150 hours of debate—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I have already ruled that all this is quite out of order. I have called the hon. Lady, and I hope that she will continue with her speech.
§ Dame Irene Ward
The hon. Lady is delighted to continue.
I am trying to emphasise that we expect from the Treasury Bench an indication of some action; and that we shall not be satisfied with the usual statement that the whole matter is under review.
This Clause is an exact replica of one moved by hon. and right hon. Members opposite when in opposition, and I asume that they must have known the details of what their own new Clause meant. There would, therefore, appear to be no reason to spend any time at all in considering the details of the Clause. This Clause follows on new Clauses in the names of my hon. Friends for giving special relief to blind persons and to disabled persons.
1852 I would not like anybody in the Committee to think that I have always been satisfied with my own party when it has been the Government of the day. Fortunately, however, one is able to express one's views, and I must say that the Conservative Party did a great many very good and very sound things. Nevertheless, I always like people to get on rather more quickly in these matters, so I thought it most suitable to table a new Clause in exactly the same terms as were used by the present Government when in Opposition during the Committee stage of the Finance Bill in 1963.
I hope that that fact will be appreciated. I have looked up the new Clause tabled at that time, and I find that it was supported by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, by the Financial Secretary and by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is a very important figure in these matters. I was also very glad to find that I had not voted against that Clause. I say this because, naturally, under our procedure hon. Members opposite will shortly call attention to the fact that the Clause was rejected by my Government when we were in office. I am not a cynic about Parliament, and Parliamentary procedure.
Although there were some complications about such a Clause, hon. Members opposite have had lots of time, in view of "poised ready for action" at the time of the last General Election, to look at this proposal and its implications and to work out the details. I do not think that this Clause could possibly upset the structure of the new social services which are designed to help disabled persons, which we hope the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will produce very soon. The Government are absolutely committed to this Clause and I am delighted to know that they are. I therefore hope for a favourable reply.
I turn to new Clause No. 61, which stands in my name. That takes an entirely new line in social service. It is designed particularly to help those who make themselves responsible in a magnificent way and in the best traditions of the people of this country for elderly parents and other relatives whom they support in their own homes. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee are interested in giving the disabled and 1853 the old the very best service we can afford. This Clause is not quite so lengthy so I shall read it. It says:A single person maintaining in her or his home…".Notice that I am not being pro-feminine; I am all out for everybodya dependent relative or relatives unable through age or disablement to obtain employment and in receipt of a war disablement pension, industrial injury pension, retirement pension or National Assistance shall receive an attendance tax relief, in addition to the dependent relative's tax relief, of £50 in respect of each relative".Hon. Members opposite may ask why the Clause opens with the words, "A single person". The word "single" may mean a widow, a widower, a deserted wife, a deserted husband, or a divorced person left to maintain a home and looking after a relative.
I introduce the word "single" because this Clause arises from the work of the Council for Single Women, which was started by a very remarkable woman, the Rev. Mary Webster, who is known to many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. It has also had magnificent support from the Woolwich Council of Social Service. This Clause arises out of a great deal of the work done by the Rev. Mary Webster and I wanted to link it with the Council for Single Women so that everyone who reads Hansard, and is interested in this debate, will realise that the Clause is a result of the initiative of the Rev. Mary Webster and all who have gallantly supported her.
The object of new Clause No. 61 is to try to relieve the position of those who maintain in their own homes relative suffering from old age or injury of one kind or another. Everyone will agree that little has been done for these people. These people, whether they be single women, single men or widows, have few people to speak for them. Sometimes Parliament pays far too much attention to pressure groups. It should consider the magnificent work done by many citizens out of affection, responsibility and reliability. By undertaking the maintenance of relatives, providing them with a home, working for them and caring for them, they take a great burden off the State.
I have been, as have several of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite, to 1854 successive Chancellors of the Exchequer and to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to discuss the special problems of these people. One of the things the Rev. Mary Webster asserts is that there has been far too little research into this matter. The many members of the Woolwich Council of Social Services have done valiant work in studying the problems of women who go out to work and maintain their homes and provide homes for their parents and relatives. In a country which prides itself on having a good social service system, it is alarming to discover how little is known about the problem of these people who are maintained by their relatives.
That is the reason for new Clause No. 61. It may not be couched in perfect terms. I always say that in Parliament it takes 10 years to win a battle. The Rev. Mary Webster and those who support her have gone so far that we can eliminate 10 years and come down to today. I hope that we shall receive a satisfactory answer. I am sure that Ministers are keenly interested in this matter.
The time has come to make a beginning. When people go out to work and earn, very often, a good income, the problem of having elderly relatives in the house is not just a matter of money. Old people cannot be left alone for the duration of an average day's work, unless they are able to look after themselves and are really responsible. Some constant attendance relief should be given, because the responsible women who support the Rev. Mary Webster know only too well that, if they leave a half-blind mother or father in a house, anything could happen. The breadwinner therefore has a nagging anxiety during the whole of the working day. This problem should be looked at. This is why we have tabled the Clause.
We all pay a warm tribute to the Rev. Mary Webster. I have heard her address nurses' and midwives' conferences and meetings of health visitors. All these people, who know a great deal about the life of the people, agree that some action should be taken to help those who are prepared to find homes for their parents or dependent relatives. One of my complaints about all Governments is that there seems to be far too 1855 little co-ordination between one Government Department and another. I am not at all certain that the Financial Secretary will not be saying that this is a matter of tax relief and of finding extra money and that he will be involved only with the Treasury.
I asked recently, because I thought that it was important, what was the cost of maintaining people in Part III accommodation, which has been so admirably developed and run under Conservative administration as I am sure it will be by the present Administration. There are also under the National Health Service many people who are chronically unable to look after themselves and who are maintained in hospital. I therefore put down two Parliamentary Questions so that I would be able to spike the hon. and learned Gentleman's guns if he started to talk about money. I do not imagine that with all the work that the Treasury has had to do on a highly complicated Finance Bill anyone has thought to inquire of the Ministry of Health what these costs would be. It is true that the totality of cost cannot be judged, because, as the Rev. Mary Webster has rightly pointed out, so little field work has been done on this matter.
I asked the Minister of Health what was the cost of maintaining an individual in a geriatric ward, though I should not have referred to geriatric ward, but to a hospital for the chronic sick. The cost is about £780 a year. I also asked the cost of Part III accommodation. This is £450 a year. There is far too little Part III accommodation and far too few beds in general hospitals for looking after the elderly sick.
The new Clause is, therefore, linked with the responsibilities of the Minister of Health. It is a most distressing and disturbing feature of our debates on the Finance Bill that it is always the Treasury's representatives who are involved and I am not all that fond of some of them. I should like to see a few more of the other Ministers arrive on the scene.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I am always willing to give everybody a chance provided that I have the right answer in the end.
1856 The only other new Clause I mention is No. 52. This did not come from me at all and, indeed, I was hoping that my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) would move it because she feels, as all women feel, that, somehow or other, the interests which we put forward nearly always come at the bottom of any Cabinet Minister's priority list. I am very glad that there is so much support for the new Clauses which we are putting forward.
There has been no improvement of Income Tax relief for daughters who maintain dependent relatives, and the purpose of the Clause is to raise the allowance to £100 per annum. That would go a nice long way towards helping these daughters who accept responsibility for dependent relatives. I know of many cases, and I quote just one from my own constituency, of a daughter in a good job who was earning a very good salary and whose mother was mentally incapacitated. This daughter had to give up her own job and spend her savings in order to maintain her National Insurance contribution. There are thousands of such cases which could be cited in support of the new Clause.
To accept this Clause would be to give a small further tax relief, the Treasury having already bumped up the tax relief in respect of dependent relatives. It would not take a great deal to arrange for it. We all much admire the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and he would not have to take a long time to examine the implications of a new Clause like this, although the Government, not really knowing much about daughters or about people who do not work through pressure groups, tend to forget the people about whom we on this side are concerned and on whose behalf we accept an obligation to press their case.
This new Clause will be moved formally by one of my right hon. Friends, so we shall have a man coming to the support of women, which is a very good thing in this very good work. The Financial Secretary will be very glad that we have thought out these new Clauses and he will, I am sure, think it a great pity that they were not embodied in the original Bill. I quite understand that, with all the complications of the new tax structure which the Treasury Ministers have had to worry about, the question 1857 of giving help to these unfortunate people, who bear extra responsibilities willingly, gladly and appreciatively, has been overlooked. But this is the business of the House of Commons, and I am very proud to have the honour of supporting all these new Clauses, and I am looking forward to a first-class speech from the hon. and learned Gentleman when he tells us that he accepts the lot.
§ Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)
I support everything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward), but I shall concentrate on the narrow question of the constant attendance allowance for certain categories of people. Various allowances and concessions have been given over the years, but they have been extracted from the Government in individual Finance Bills and there has been no set plan, with the result that certain categories of people are treated differently from others with quite minor differences in personal circumstances and some grave injustices have arisen.
I shall mention a case which has been put before the House before. My brother first raised it in 1947 when he was Member for Edinburgh, West. He fought the case many times, and I have been fighting it since because the lady in question now lives in my constituency. It is an interesting case and will show where the injustices occur.
The lady in question suffered a terrible back injury in a motor smash in 1939. She is paralysed from the waist down and has to use an invalid chair. She is 100 per cent. disabled and unable to obtain regular employment. She lives on an annuity purchased with the damages awarded at the time of the smash, but, of course, the income is much less than it was in 1939 or 1940. Money values have fallen and taxes, prices, rates and household charges have gone up.
This lady has to employ a full-time resident housekeeper. At the time of the injury she was not covered by National Insurance. She is entitled to no disability benefit, no pension and no allowances. She is unable to get any tax relief to meet her housekeeper's wages. Hon. Members will agree that this is most unfortunate—indeed, scandalous—when we consider our fairly good social arrangements today.
1858 I underline the unfairness of the case because widows and widowers, whether disabled or not, may claim a £75 a year tax-free allowance for resident housekeepers. Bachelors and spinsters cannot do so, even if disabled. Furthermore, those injured as a result of an accident in industry can have an allowance. The blind have special concessions and people injured as a result of service in the armed forces can also claim attendant allowance. But for the ordinary civilian, such as the lady whose case I have mentioned, there is nothing.
In 1954 the Royal Commission recommended a minimum tax relief of £100 a year for disabled people generally. Today, I would think, that figure should be £200. Treasury Ministers have, by and large, not accepted the Royal Commission's recommendation because there is always a fear of opening the gates to further categories of claimants. But why on earth should a non-disabled widow receive an allowance for a resident housekeeper when a disabled spinster cannot? How are the blind, who rightly get some concession, worse off than a spinster who has lost both legs and gets nothing?
It is clear that this matter needs looking into because there are injustices and the allowances should be extended. Ministers in the past have argued that it is difficult to assess total disability and they say that if someone who is 100 per cent. disabled gets the allowance why should not someone who is 90 per cent. cent. disabled get an allowance? This is a false argument. The Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance can quite well lay down rules about whether a person is 100 per cent. disabled or not, or it could list certain injuries, as the old Workmen's Compensation Acts did, and we must remember also that Service pensions are graded according to injuries.
Another argument put forward over the years to my brother and to me is that one cannot grant tax relief to someone who does not pay tax and that consequently what we asked for might work unfairly. I see the point of that, but a person who does not pay tax and who is poor and who is disabled in this way will be looked after in a State hospital or institution; but where a person has some money of his own and, although severely disabled, can live at home, it is 1859 much better that he should do so. Medical evidence is quite emphatic on this point. I would have thought that an allowance in this sort of case of £200 a year would be fair. After all, the amount involved in keeping such a person in a State hospital would be about £30 a week or more.
I have mentioned that earlier my brother battled on this case, and so did I. I took it up with Lord Amory when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer and with other Unionist Chancellors, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling). There has always been resistance. Neither side has been forthcoming and I make no political point about that.
However, Mr. Grant-Ferris, if you study the Finance Bill Reports of 19th May, 1960, you will find that the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) supported a review and extension of this allowance and spoke along lines similar to those which I have followed. In the Finance Bill debate on 30th May, 1962, a new Clause, similar to this new Clause No. 20 and covering the same point, was supported by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
What clinches the matter for me most is a letter from the right hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison). My constituent wrote to her because she knew the right hon. Lady's interest in social matters and she received a reply dated 18th February, 1964, and saying:I wish to thank you for your letter in which you enclosed a copy of the letter which you had sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 5th January, 1963.In the Labour Party policy statement, 'New Frontiers for Social Security', you will find that we propose to give a constant attendance allowance to those who are chronically sick or disabled, since we feel that this will be of considerable help.Best wishes,Yours sincerely,Margaret Herbison.I know that the right hon. Lady has a kind heart and is a fellow Scot, but she is also a very sensible person with long political experience. She has been Chairman of the Labour Party and in the last Parliament she was "shadow" Minister 1860 of Pensions. I therefore regard her pledge as sufficient, and in view of these facts I ask that the constant attendance allowance be granted and put into the Bill and that the new Clause be accepted.
§ Lord Balniel (Hertford)
This series of new Clauses is designed to bring relief through tax allowances to a section of the community with which the whole Committee has enormous sympathy. They are designed to extend the tax relief available to blind persons and to bring tax relief to those who are technically described as being 100 per cent. disabled, which in normal language means persons who suffer from disabilities of quite incredible severity. I will confine my fairly limited remarks to the Clause moved by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers), the Clause which deals with tax allowance for the severely disabled.
I would like to echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport and of the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean), who introduced this Clause in order to bring additional help to those who are already blind. In the Finance Act, 1962, my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport achieved a wonderful triumph on behalf of blind persons when she managed to get allowances for the blind incorporated into the Statute Book. She has now called attention to an aspect of these tax allowances which the whole Committee will agree is anomalous.
It is surely wrong, that when tax allowances are are available for blind persons they should not be available for the full period during which the blindness has been suffered. I hope that the Financial Secretary will be able to give a sympathetic answer and to try to amend the existing law in this respect.
I now turn to the Clause of my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). She said that her experience was that it took ten years before one could achieve a reform in this place. This is certainly the experience so far as this Clause is concerned. Elementary research shows that a Clause very similar to this was moved by hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were on these benches in virtually every Finance Act during the period in which the Conservative Government was in office. 1861 It was moved in 1954, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1964.
I sat as Parliamentary Private Secretary behind the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in some of these debates, and I realise that this Clause was resisted by the Government on the grounds of administrative inconvenience. But I am bound to point out that this Clause was moved with considerable passion by hon. Gentlemen year after year. They were not convinced by the arguments of administrative inconvenience advanced by the Treasury. They forced this Clause to a Division on almost every single occasion that it was brought before the Committee. Now they have the opportunity of turning the words they uttered sincerely and with real feeling and passion into action, which undoubtedly will bring great happiness to this section of the community which suffers afflictions which few of us can really appreciate.
There is general agreement that we should try to mould our tax structure, if it is at all possible, to bring relief to those who are afflicted. One accepts that there are degrees, and equally there is a very strong argument which recognises that if the Government are to bring help to the afflicted it is possibly preferable that help should be given directly in the way of social benefits rather than through the taxation structure. In 1952 the Conservative Administration made an important step towards moving the tax structure to bring help to the afflicted. In the 1952 Finance Act it amended the tax structure so that tax allowances are now available for the blind.
As has been said so often in the past on similar proposals, this new Clause is not advanced solely on the basis that we want to give rein to our generous impulses and help those less fortunate than ourselves. That is not the argument. The argument is that the severely disabled are, through their disability, involved in expenses greater than those of people who are not disabled.
May I give an example in my constituency which has been brought to my attention only in the last fortnight. A lady came to me who had moved into my constituency. Her son, who, incidentally, is not 100 per cent. disabled—he is less severely disabled than the people whom 1862 we are trying to help by this new Clause—finds it almost impossible to move of his own volition. On coming to live in my constituency, this lady had to alter the structure of her house in Welwyn Garden City. She had to strengthen the ceilings so that chains could be attached to enable her son to life himself out of chairs or the bath. This involved an expenditure of £375, which was borne by the welfare authorities. There was no obligation on the welfare authorities to bear this expenditure on her behalf. There is no doubt that one could cite many other instances in which people who are severely disabled are involved in personal expenditure which is not met out of local authority funds.
It has already been mentioned how many severely disabled people have to pay for constant attendance. Surely it is rather anomalous that if one is in need of constant attendance because one is a war pensioner or has been injured in industry one gets a constant attendance grant, but that if one is in need of constant attendance through another form of injury no assistance is forthcoming.
I heard with interest the letter which was quoted written by the present Minister of Pensions and National Insurance giving a categorical pledge, I should have thought, that the Labour Government will introduce constant attendance allowances to help people in this situation.
§ Mr. MacDermot
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman heard my intervention, but the letter from which his hon. Friend quoted referred to something quite different from the subject under discussion. It referred, not to a tax allowance, but to a social security benefit.
§ Lord Balniel
All I can say is that if that is so I should have thought that every person in this community who heard that letter quoted felt that the Government were in honour bound to give some assistance. Already those who have been expecting social security benefits have had a very long wait indeed while the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is undertaking his review.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I have had a lot of correspondence from my hon. Friend's constituent. May I suggest that the 1863 Minister of Pensions and National Insurance would most certainly have given the lady in question the whole story about the taxation relief for widows and widowers. Therefore, I was very surprised that the right hon. Lady did not have all the facts when she wrote in that way.
§ Lord Balniel
The Committee has had the opportunity of listening to a letter being read and of hearing the views of the Financial Secretary. I am perfectly content to leave judgment on this matter to the mood of the Committee.
§ Mr. MacDermot
It is not a question of my views. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance had to leave the Chamber. She told me that she was quoting from a pamphlet on Labour Party policy which was referred to in the letter. That pamphlet deals with social security policy and refers to a proposed benefit. Because the same phrase—"constant attendance allowance"—is used as is being used in the discussion on this new Clause, the hon. Gentleman, in perfectly good faith, has just made the mistake of thinking that in that letter my right hon. Friend was referring to what he is talking about, namely, a tax allowance. I am merely pointing out the error.
§ Lord Balniel
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his explanation. We will study with great care the very careful selection of words which appears to have been used. I accept entirely in good faith the explanation which the hon. Gentleman has given.
I want to return to what I regard as being, perhaps, of even greater significance, namely, the Clause, which is designed to give tax allowance to those who are 100 per cent. disabled. For many years this kind of Clause has been resisted by Treasury spokesmen on the grounds of administrative inconvenience. The Royal Commission on Taxation of Profits and Income in 1954 specifically recognised, as we all do, that the tax structure cannot possibly provide for relief for all the different categories of human misery, unhappiness and affliction.
Of course, we recognise that the tax structure must be rigid. It must make it 1864 difficult for persons of ill will to evade it. None the less, the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income in 1954 went out of its way to advocate tax relief of the kind which we are now putting before the Committee. Perhaps I might quote from paragraph 201 of the Report, in which the Royal Commission said:The taxpayer's own disability is hardly recognised under the existing system. Yet there are many kinds of disability (putting aside age, which is provided for by a special relief) so severe that they modify the whole conditions of a person's life and impose upon him a constant levy of extra expense that may fairly be said to affect the taxable capacity of his income.The Royal Commission went on to say:Our general conclusion is that grave disability ought to be the subject of allowance. … We made a number of enquiries in quarters that we thought might assist us: and we came to the conclusion that the standard that we ought to recommend to qualify for a disability allowance should be that of 100 per cent. or total disablement as applied by the Ministry of Pensions … for the purpose of war pensions.The new Clause implements in its entirety the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income.
I am well aware that there are certain arguments against it. I am not prepared to press the Clause to a Division—it would be grossly hypocritical if I did. None the less, in all those years when they were on the Opposition benches, hon. Members opposite moved this kind of Clause. They rejected the arguments which had been given by Treasury Ministers. They pressed the Clause to a Division.
Almost every Minister in the Cabinet has voted in favour of the Clause. I ask them to consider seriously where their moral responsibility lies. If they reject the new Clause, and if they look up their previous votes and read their previous speeches, I am bound to say that if they were to reject the Clause, the cloak of hypocrisy would fit closely around their shoulders.
§ Mr. Symonds
I shall not detain the Committee long, but I heard the hon. Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) say something about the cloak of hypocrisy. I well remember appealing over the last six years to his 1865 right hon. and hon. Friends to give relief to a blind person who had a guide dog. What relief did the party opposite give? It would be well for hon. Members opposite to remember that they did not give any relief.
I want to speak on a subject that is dear to me in more ways than one. I have spoken in this way since I was first elected. I wish to appeal to the Treasury on behalf of blind people. I wish to give them this additional relief because I know what a blind person has to go through. I know the hardships which they have to suffer, particularly the younger ones. I know the difficulties which beset them.
Blind people are extraordinarily independent. I wonder on how many occasions hon. Members have wanted to help a blind person across a street and have been told, "Thank you but I can manage"? I know how blind people feel about this, because a member of my family is so afflicted. I know the young men with whom he comes in contact. They receive only £8 or £9 a week, and, although they have families to support, their independence is such that they would rather work than rely on State assistance or something of that nature.
There is a workshop for the blind in Cumberland, and on many occasions I have seen blind people travelling there. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis) has seen them, too. These are the people on whose behalf I am making this appeal. I appealed to the Opposition when they were in power, but they gave them no help or assistance. During the last 150 hours hon. Gentlemen opposite have appealed for relief from Capital Gains Tax, and for more help and assistance for their friends by asking that they be relieved from paying Corporation Tax. My appeal tonight to the Chancellor is to give a little extra relief to these blind people.
§ Mr. Alison
In rising to speak in support of these new Clauses, I should like to address my remarks particularly to new Clause No. 54. I think that it would be to the point if I started by referring to one of my constituents, because this would help to pinpoint the need for 1866 this Clause, and also to pinpoint the anomalies in the present situation.
My constituent has been a polio victim since 1931. The Committee can visualise his condition if I say that he is completely paralysed from the waist down. He has the minimum use of one arm, his right arm, and he is, therefore, permanently confined to a wheelchair. He is not married, and he lives alone, which means that regular help is indispensable in his case. He cannot use public transport because he is chairborne, and because of the lack of strength in his arms he is unable to operate an invalid tricycle. The expense in which he is involved as a result of his disability amounts to about £150 a year.
This case is exacerbated by the fact that after a long period on National Assistance, by reason of his grit and determination, and also by reason of some highly intelligent collaboration by his employer, he has succeeded at last in getting employment of a rather specialised character with the National Scientific Lending Library at Boston Spa.
Before getting this job he was helped by the local medical officer of health to the extent of receiving home help for 12 hours a week, but since he obtained this employment he has to pay for this help, although it is indispensable to him. I am aware of the difficulties which face Treasury Ministers in investigating the home needs of every type of disabled person. I am also aware of the difficulties of pinpointing every kind of disability to which the Treasury Ministers always refer in resisting these appeals. Nevertheless, I want to put forward two definite proposals in respect of cases in my constituency.
First, some discretion should be given to local inspectors of taxes to consider individual cases on their merits. This is often done in respect of other people, and I believe that we could meet the need of many of those for whom we are appealing if local inspectors of taxes were given more discretion. I hope that the Financial Secretary will be able to give attention to the provision that already exists in Section 479 of the Finance Act, 1952, in respect of the clergy. I refer to this because we have already discussed the situation of clergymen today. It is not without interest that special provision is 1867 made for tax allowance in respect of the use of domestic help by clergymen.
I want to quote two paragraphs from a little pamphlet prepared by the Churches Main Committee for the guidance of clergy, indicating the sort of tax allowances that they might expect, sometimes with the assistance of the local inspector of taxes, at his discretion. The pamphlet says:An allowance may also be made to clergy for the following expenses, where borne by the clergyman or minister … The cost or part cost of a servant, to the extent that a clergyman or minister is necessarily involved by the performance of his duty in expenditure on domestic help that would not otherwise be incurred. Where instead of employing domestic help a clergyman or minister pays his wife wages commensurate with her work in cleaning the part of the house used mainly or substantially for the purposes of his duty the payment will be admitted as a deduction.It is not without significance that in regard to one category of persons special tax allowance is made for the employment of domestic help to the extent that it is necessary to the performance of duties.
If the Financial Secretary will bear that point in mind in considering the use of domestic help for which my constituent has to pay, and which is indispensable for the performance of his work at the National Scientific Lending Library at Boston Spa, he will see that it is precisely analogous to the sort of tax allowance given to the clergymen, for if it were not for the provision of this domestic help he would be unable to do his work.
If he had to leave his employment and return to National Assistance he would receive domestic help at the taxpayers' expense. I would have thought that there was an unanswerable case for extending the allowance now given to clergy in respect of the use of domestic help to other categories of people whose work is dependent on the provision of domestic help. That is why I urge the Financial Secretary to give careful consideration to the proposal made in new Clause No. 54.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
I am very glad to support the new Clauses. All the proposals which are contained therein are designed to help people suffering definite hardship. That is not a reason in itself; the important 1868 thing to remember is that, at the same time, these people are making a considerable contribution towards the Exchequer. The saving for the Exchequer is very well known to those of us who have been closely associated with committees dealing with the accommodation of elderly people and those who are no longer able to be maintained in their own homes. It does not seem many years ago that the cost of Part III accommodation was approximately—taking into account the Exchequer contribution, and including the local authority contribution—£170 a year per person.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) pointed out, that figure has more than doubled in the intervening years. Now, anyone retaining an invalid relative at home does so at considerable personal sacrifice. Although they may, and in most cases do, wish to do this, if they take the only alternative and find them accommodation in some form of home or in Part III accommodation, this costs the nation between £400 and £600 per year. The higher figure relates to those who are taken into hospital solely because there is no other place for them to go. The Committee will understand the great difficulties of finding beds even on a temporary basis for such cases. The overall cost of the bed is, nevertheless, that for which they would normally be accountable had they patients for whom there was some definite hope of improvement by medical care.
Many of these cases have often been put forward before. I am in the happy position, like my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth, of not having been amongst those who voted against the Clause which is already very familiar in this form to all those now sitting on the Treasury Bench. Therefore, I do not feel in the least inhibited about expressing my support of Clause 20, the provisions of which I have put forward to the best of my ability throughout the years that I have been in the House.
In the Chancellor's own words, Clause No. 20 has had the support of so many distinguished members of the present Government that it must give considerable added weight to the response which we expect tonight. These Clauses have been rejected in the past, because of difficulty 1869 of definition, because they may create more anomalies or because of the difficulties of ensuring fairness between one taxpayer and another.
First of all, considerable definition has been made, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth has said, by the research done by this new council, which has been in operation for only a short time. I should like to add my tribute to the Rev. Mary Webster for the work that her council has done and the backing which it has had from the Woolwich Council of Social Services. It has defined already in a short time, certain categories of people which we seek to help in this Clause No. 61.
I have never accepted the argument that we would be helping some by leaving others without help. I am one of those who believe in having half a loaf rather than no bread. While it is always difficult to argue fairness between taxpayers, I find it difficult to accept the argument if, as is the fact, some taxpayers are disabled and, therefore, unable to fend for themselves and others are not. This point has been very ably brought out during the debate.
Much research still needs to be done and while the cost of some of the proposals has been estimated—as with new Clause No. 61—I am the first to admit that it would be difficult to determine the cost of some of the other new Clauses. Nevertheless, there is scope within the range of the new Clauses to permit some concessions to be made and, particularly with respect to new Clause No. 61, the Treasury could accept a new principle which, I believe, all hon. Members would find desirable.
I will quote some examples, because there is nothing like the words of the people concerned to express the cases which we are trying to express on their behalf. One letter—and this might come within the scope of new Clauses No. 61 or No. 62—simply says:My particular difficulty was caused by the following; my mother, aged 63, already a diabetic and who some years ago suffered a coronary thrombosis, could not longer be kept in hospital as no further treatment was likely to be effective. I was told that she was to come home and there is only myself to look after her.The letter ends on a note which we all have in mind: 1870I am over the worst for the time being but there is certainly no help here when it is most needed".Another letter states:I am very glad that there is some effort being made for an increase in the dependent relatives' allowances, in my case for a daughter's services. There must be many people in a position similar to my own. My mother is over 90 and requires company during the day".I will not read the rest of that letter because it is a similar story to that told by my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne-mouth.
Another letter states:My mother is 86 and I am 56. I am obliged, and I find it very difficult to do so, to give up my work to be at home with my mother.Another letter which I have states:For 20½ years it has been my privilege"—and this is the way people look upon this work—to care and tend here at home, without recourse to any organisation or national hospital, for my wholly incapacitated wife who is a sufferer from multiple sclerosis. I am now about 70 years of age and I find that this is becoming a little more difficult.These letters bring home to us in real terms the objects in which we are trying to persuade the Financial Secretary to take an interest.
Another remarkable case from my constituency is of a woman whose husband deserted her and who is totally paralysed from the waist down. Confined permanently to a wheelchair, this woman not only looks after her daughter, who is about 9 years old, but is doing all the cooking and housework and continues her job as a teacher, being a university honours graduate. Here is a case for which at present there is no adequate home help—a case which could be brought within the ambit of one of the new Clauses.
I must now refer again to the case mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison). I, too, had previously read this correspondence, but not realising the point which the Financial Secretary would make after my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison) had left the Chamber for a few minutes—and did not read out this letter—I should like to quote it. It is from the Treasury Chambers, and is 1871 dated 14th December, 1964. It is written to the individual whose case was raised by my hon. Friend, and it reads:In reply to your letter of 20th November, 1964, the Chancellor of the Exchequer asks me to say that the suggestion that there should be a special Income Tax allowance for the severely disabled is one of those which he will be considering as part of his review of the Income Tax personal allowances generally.That must make it quite clear that my hon. Friend was not only putting forward his case in good faith, but that this was not in any way connected with a social security measure but referred directly to Income Tax—
§ Mr. MacDermot
The hon. Lady is now reading from an entirely different letter written by a Treasury official, while the former letter was written by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance on an entirely different case referred to in a Labour Party social security policy pamphlet—
§ Mr. Clark Hutchison rose—
§ Miss Harvie Anderson
The whole case has been based on tax matters. If it was the intention of the right hon. Lady to take it into the social security field, there was no indication in her letter that this was so beyond the reference to the pamphlet which, as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury knows, is a social security pamphlet. Frankly, we are not all as familiar as hon. Members opposite with the publications of the Labour Party, so we must be forgiven if we take the letter as it is written, especially when the whole of the correspondence includes the letter I have just read.
I appeal to the hon. and learned Gentleman to have particular interest in new Clause No. 61, because this is one which would appear to be costed adequately and to make a definite concession to a section of the community that can be defined. I hope that we may have an actual concession, and that it will not be the only concession given in relation to this very wide range of new Clauses, which I believe to be most deserving.
§ Mr. MacDermot
We have now had quite a lengthy debate on several new Clauses, all of which propose special tax 1872 reliefs in favour of those who are in one way or another disabled. Naturally, this is a subject that rouses the sympathy of hon. Members in all parts of the Committee. As hon. Members have said, it is a topic to which we return almost annually in our Finance Bills, and we often hear some of the most moving of speeches during the course of these debates.
These are also debates in which Treasury Ministers traditionally are seen in their hardest and most inhuman light, and I confess that in turning to this subject I was reminded of the shock I felt as a young barrister on first hearing one of my senior colleagues referring to the tag that hard cases make bad law. It seemed to me to be a very cynical remark, but in time I came to understand it. Anyone who is responsible for trying to preserve the coherence of legislation in any field such as this gets reminded of that saying from time to time.
Before I turn to the particular Clauses, I remind hon. Members of some of the principles which I think we are agreed must guide us in our approach to these problems. If we are to have an acceptable taxation system and an acceptable system of allowances, however much our sympathies be aroused, we must agree that whatever decisions we take must be soundly rooted in principle and defensible in principle. The reason for that is that no tax system will be acceptable unless it is really felt to be fair. It has to be felt to be fair and it has to be fair between different classes of taxpayer. If we take a decision for a particular class of case we have to see whether there is a principle which distinguishes it from other classes and, if not, we must face the implications and consider whether we are prepared to extend it to the other cases which are not distinguishable.
We have also to see that whatever we propose is administratively workable. This comes back to the question of the importance of seeing that people respect our tax system as being fair. If we introduce measures which administratively cannot be operated in a satisfactory way, this will immediately lead to great feelings of injustice with a falling off in the respect which the administration of our tax law commands throughout the country. We also want to see that in whatever 1873 we propose the benefit will actually go to those we intend to benefit.
This leads to a point which has been referred to very fairly by some hon. Members, that when our sympathies are aroused in these matters of how to help the afflicted it does not always follow that tax reliefs are the best means of achieving those goals. Sometimes we shall achieve what we want more effectively through the instrument of the social services than through taxation reliefs. Some of the more ancient of our tax reliefs antedate the Welfare State as we know it. If we had had then the kind of structure of social services which we have now some of these tax reliefs might not have found their way on to the Statute Book as they would be matters dealt with by social security legislation.
Referring again to the correspondence, there is no kind of bad faith on anyone's part; it is simply an example of the confusion which arises when we use the word "allowance" to cover two entirely different things. We use the word "allowance" in the social security field with reference to a hardship allowance and meaning the payment of money and also, in this debate for example, as referring to a constant attendance allowance as a proposed tax relief. What my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance was referring to, she assures me—I have not seen the letter—was the use of the words "constant attendance allowance" in one of our pamphlets with reference to a proposed social insurance payment for the purpose of financing constant attendance.
§ Lord Balniel
As the hon. and learned Gentleman raised the matter during the course of my speech, may I attempt to get this absolutely clear? The letter written by the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance said:we propose to give a constant attendance allowance.I quite accept the argument which the hon. and learned Gentleman is putting forward, that it is possible to give social security benefits directly through social security legislation. Is it then the definite intention of the present Administration to introduce a constant attendance allowance benefit?
§ Mr. MacDermot
It is part of the policy which is contained in the pamphlet 1874 to which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance was referring. The policies which we have advocated, and which we advocated before the General Election, are not matters which we have ever undertaken to carry out within 12 months. I remember my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs making several speeches during the General Election which made it perfectly clear that our programme was not merely a five-year programme but that much of it would require a second full term before we could carry it out. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members opposite, who only live from day to day, cannot conceive—
§ Dame Irene Ward rose—
§ Mr. MacDermot
No, I will not give way. They cannot conceive of a political party being able to think ahead and see further than the end of its nose.
I turn, after those completely uncontroversial remarks, to the new Clause which I suggest is the one that I should deal with first—that is, new Clause 20. I take this first because it is the one which is widest in its scope.
§ Mr. MacDermot
I will come to that later. I shall deal with them all, but it is logical to deal first with new Clause 20 because that is the one which is widest in its scope. It suggests an allowance for totally disabled persons similar to the relief introduced only a few years ago for registered blind persons. As hon. Members opposite have reminded us, this is not the first time that we have discussed these proposals. Indeed, the Clause is copied word for word from an Amendment which was moved last year by some of my right hon. and hon. Friends when we were in opposition. I am also reminded that I myself voted for that Amendment. I will not be so unkind as to remind right hon. and hon. Members opposite which of them voted against it, but I notice that they have been very careful to select someone to reply to the debate who did not take part in the Division. All I can say on my own behalf is that, since that time, I have become a sadder and a wiser man. On that occasion, the Amendment was resisted by the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, 1875 on the grounds that this was a matter which was better dealt with by means of the social services and not by taxation.
§ Mr. MacDermot
As the hon. Lady said, he lost his seat. He also argued that—I am sorry; I have lost my train of thought.
§ The Chairman
I hope that the Committee will give attention while the hon. and learned Gentleman explains the inconsistency of both sides of the Committee.
§ Mr. MacDermot
The then Economic Secretary based his resistance of the Amendment primarily on the fact that this was not a matter which should be dealt with by tax reliefs; it should be dealt with through the social services. He also pointed out, which is a matter frequently referred to in these debates, that, when one is thinking of people who are suffering hardship and are in need among the poorer sections of the community, the fact is that taxation reliefs give little or no benefit to those who are in the greatest need, because it is only those who have sufficient income to qualify for tax reliefs who benefit from them. It was on this ground, principally, that the then Economic Secretary opposed it.
Nevertheless, my right hon. Friend, having himself supported these Amendments when moved by us in Opposition, naturally when he came to consider his Budget policy for this year, as indicated in the letter which has been referred to, looked very closely into this proposal for a total disability allowance. Without wearying the Committee with all the details, the fact is that there were then put to him by those who advise us on these matters quite formidable difficulties in dealing with this case on the simple matter of administration. The principal and first difficulty is that of how, from the practical point of view, one would determine who would be the people who would qualify for relief.
The new Clause proposes that a totally disabled person should be defined as meaning first of all, those who are already in receipt of industrial injury or war 1876 disablement pensions by reference to a test of 100 per cent. disablement and, secondly, persons who, though not in receipt of such a pension, are disabled in a manner and degree equivalent to 100 per cent. disablement. The first category are already accepted under the insurance provisions as being 100 per cent. disabled. They would not benefit from an allowance of this kind because they are already in receipt of a tax-free social security benefit which far exceeds the amount of allowance proposed and as they would have to give credit the tax relief cut reduced by seven-ninths of that tax free payment they would receive little benefit from this proposal. Therefore, the proposal would only operate for the second category—those disabled in manner and degree equivalent to 100 per cent. disablement.
Who is to determine whether a person is disabled in that sense? Obviously a tax inspector cannot do it. This means that one would have to set up an administration comparable to that set up under the National Insurance scheme to determine whether people are disabled to that degree. In addition, there will be many people suffering from different kinds of diseases and ailments not covered under the present pensions scheme and one would have to consider whether they qualified as 100 per cent. disabled.
Whatever definition was drawn up, it would give rise to complaints by those people who fell outside it, and if we extended this provision to the 100 per cent., pressures would immediately start from people who would say, "If it is 100 per cent., why not 90 per cent.?". Hon. Members who are familiar with these matters know the apparent illogicalities of what constitutes 100 per cent. disablement. If a man has an amputation of both legs just below the knee, that is 100 per cent., but if amputation is at the ankles and both feet are missing that is only 90 per cent. disablement, and so on. Therefore, the pressures would be great and would be irresistible.
If illustration of that is required, one has only to look at New Clause 56 which proposes that relief should be extended to people with a 75 per cent. disablement. If one accepted that, how could one hold the line there? Pressure would start on behalf of people with 50 per cent. disablement. Therefore, if we had a 1877 scheme of this kind the result would be an enormous number of claims, in perfectly good faith, from people who felt that they were entitled to payment of this kind. There would have to be elaborate machinery to decide who was entitled, and there would have to be appeal machinery. In the end the result would be that for every person who fell on one side of the line and established his right to the allowance there would probably be two or three who fell on the other side and would not establish the right and we would thus create in total a greater sense of injustice.
There is another fundamental difficulty in this approach. The intention underlying the proposal is, of course, to give assistance to people who, by reason of disablement, incur additional expenditure which ordinary people do not incur. Again, those who are familiar with the administration of our social insurance provisions will know that there are many people 100 per cent. disabled—fully within that term—who are able to be remuneratively employed without incurring any additional expenditure whatever—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Indeed, there are—whereas there are others who do not qualify to anything like the 100 per cent. degree but who are very severely disabled—perhaps not able to work or able to do very little work—who incur considerable additional expenditure. So it is a very rough and ready test as a means of trying to attain the object.
It was because of these formidable arguments which were presented to him that my right hon. Friend felt unable to include this proposal in his Budget for this year. But I want to make clear that it is our earnest anxiety to examine these matters to see what reliefs, if any, we can carve out of the proposals which have been made which will be really practical and workable.
When we discussed several of these matters on Clause 10, I made two general comments. First, it is obvious that a year in which it is necessary to increase taxes substantially is not an occasion when a Chancellor can, in his Budget, set about a comprehensive review of personal allowances. If one is to put matters straight and try to get rid of 1878 some of the anomalies in our system, this can be done much more effectively in a year when a Chancellor is able to grant tax reliefs. Second, because of the inter-relation of tax reliefs and social security benefits to which I have been referring, if one is to make a comprehensive review of these matters, it must be done within the context of a review of the social services.
I was asked by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth not to refer to this topic, but I cannot help doing so. It is relevant, as she knows, because she herself came with a deputation from the organisation to which she referred to see my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy, and there was then discussed the social security aspect of the very matters she raised so eloquently in her speech today.
The constant attendance allowance proposal raised by new Clause No. 54 was considered with great care by the Royal Commission. After receiving representations on the subject from many sources, the Royal Commission rejected the proposal chiefly on the ground that its effect would be very haphazard and discriminatory in giving relief to people who incurred a particular form of expenditure when there were many others at least equally, if not worse, disabled incurring perhaps greater expenditure who would have no relief.
One has only to think of the example of the person without relatives or friends to care for him who goes into a paying nursing home. Such a person, under this proposal, would not qualify for relief at all. Again, as has been said, the result of granting this form of concession would lead to widespread pressures for its extension to cases in which the wife was incapacitated or the householder had a nurse or attendant for some other member of his family or household.
I was asked in this connection how one distinguished this case from that of the housekeeper allowance. The housekeeper allowance, as the Committee knows, is basically intended as an allowance to help the person who is confronted, single-handed, with the problem of looking after and bringing up small children. It is one extension that the Royal Commission found to be anomalous—namely, that in favour of the widow.
§ Mr. Alison
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman comment on Section 479 of the Income Tax Act, 1952, which gives an Income Tax allowance to clergy for domestic help? Why should that principle not be extended to other categories?
§ Mr. MacDermot
I was not aware of that provision, but I remind the hon. Gentleman of what the Royal Commission said in general about Income Tax allowances…income tax is an annual tax that has got to be administered. It is a tax that has to be collected each year from many millions of the population. It cannot therefore proceed on the basis of minute inquiries into the multiplicity of personal circumstances of individuals.It may have been possible there to carve out one small section of people for whom administratively that relief could be worked but this is precisely the difficulty I referred to. If one accepts an extension of that kind, immediately the argument follows, "If this is granted to one person why not to everyone else?" One then ends up with something that is administratively not workable.
New Clause No. 61 deals with dependant relative attendance relief. The hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth explained that it is limited in particular to single women, almost as a token of respect for the work, which has been widely admired, of the Rev. Mary Webster and the Council for Single Women.
§ Dame Irene Ward rose—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Thomas Steele)
Order. I hope that we will listen quietly to the Financial Secretary. It seems to me that there is too much noise.
§ Dame Irene Ward
On a point of order, Mr. Steele. The Financial Secretary has misquoted a Clause. Surely I am entitled to point that out to him? Surely we are not being gagged here?
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. Lady misheard me. She was interrupting the Minister. I was asking right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to be quite so that they would hear what was happening.
§ Mr. MacDermot
I was giving way to the hon. Lady, but perhaps she does not now wish to interrupt. [Interruption.] I am sorry but I cannot deal with interruptions made from a sitting position. I did give way to her. I do not know whether or not she wishes to intervene.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. I would really have put the case quite nicely if I had not myself been interrupted and I did not quite know what was happening. I explained Clause 61 in great detail and said that the reference to single women covered everyone else as well. It is no good the hon. and learned Gentleman riding off on a note of single women, for that makes nonsense of one's attempts to deploy one's case.
§ Mr. MacDermot
The hon. Lady should have a little more patience. I was not attempting to ride off on anything. I was merely seeking to join her in paying tribute to the lady who has commanded such widespread admiration for the work she has done in the social security field in calling attention to a class of person whose conditions have been up to now rather ignored and overlooked.
The proposal here is that, in effect, there should be a £50 addition to the dependant relief allowance in certain cases. If the extra Income Tax reliefs were conceded to a tax payer who looked after a person of the kind referred to in the Clause, it would be claimed that there should at the same time be additional benefits and possibly cash benefits for people who needed care and attention of this kind but who had no relative to look after them or where the relative who looked after them had insufficient income to benefit from Income Tax relief. In other words, again there would be a similar spread of pressure and if relief which in effect benefits only those who have sufficient income to benefit from an Income Tax allowance is granted, it will be said with justification that the greater need is to benefit those of lesser means, and that can be done only through the social services.
I turn now to new Clause 19 which deals with the registered blind. There are some 100,000 registered blind persons 1881 in this country. About one in ten of them, about 10,000, benefit from the existing tax allowance in favour of registered blind persons. This is a revealing figure because it shows that nine-tenths, who presumably are the most needy nine-tenths of the blind, do not benefit at all from this allowance.
When this special allowance was introduced, I believe by the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), it was made clear by the then Chief Secretary who moved the provision in question that they were being treated as a unique and quite exceptional class of persons. They were in a clearly identifiable category and there was no administrative problem in trying to determine who they were. They had already established their disability and were on a register which was clearly available to be checked and there was therefore virtually no possibility of abuse. The affliction from which these people suffer commands a unique and a quite extraordinary degree of sympathy. Given all these circumstances, there was a feeling on both sides of the Committee that there should be an exception from the general principles which I have been stating about allowances for dependent persons so as to give allowances to the blind.
The new Clause deals with the situation that under the present law a person has to be registered for the whole year in order to qualify for the relief. It follows that when blind persons are registered, during the year in which they are registered they do not get any relief at all, not even proportionate relief, and have to wait until the second year of their registration before they can qualify for the allowance.
It was suggested by the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) that this was anomalous. In the strict sense it is not anomalous. On the contrary, it follows the practice for various allowances of this class, which is that the person has to qualify for the whole of the tax year in order to qualify for the allowance. Those operate, for example, for the various child minder allowances. This is no doubt the reason why the allowance was drawn in this form.
Hon. Members have referred to the hardship which this occasions to blind, people in particular cases, and I think 1882 that it was the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) who emphasised that it was in the early months when people were first afflicted that they were likely to incur the greatest additional expenditure and be in the greatest need of the allowance. We have received advice that there is a danger of repercussions. Already there are people who argue, and have been arguing for some considerable time, that there ought to be an equivalent arrangement for the other allowances, such as the child minder allowances, and that people who suffer from the disability in question, or the need in question, for only part of the year should be entitled to a proportionate part of the allowance. For reasons with which I need not weary the Committee, in these cases this would be quite unworkable and impracticable administratively.
I therefore beseech the Committee that if they agree, as my right hon. Friend suggests that they should, with this new Clause, that it should in doing so understand quite clearly that we are still treating this allowance as a quite unique one and that our decision today, if that be our decision, is not intended to serve as a precedent for any further extension of the principle or as a valid argument which can be used on a future occasion. Hoping and believing that the Committee will take this view, in spite of the administrative risks and difficulties involved, my right hon. Friend urges the Committee to accept this Clause.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)
The whole Committee will want to welcome the acceptance by the Government of the new Clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) which has crowned the achievement of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) and has brought a valuable concession to the registered blind. Although we welcome that, my right hon. and hon. Friends and I are shocked by some of the other answers that the Financial Secretary has given. I will try once more to state the arguments which have been so trenchantly put on this side of the Committee in the hope that even now the Government may be persuaded to change their mind on some of these Clauses.
1883 I must warn the Financial Secretary that there are some of these Clauses on which, if the Government do not change their mind, I shall have to ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to carry our disagreement into the Division Lobby at the appropriate time. I would ask the Government to recognise that there is no question here of irresponsible opposition. None of the new Clauses put down by my hon. Friends and spoken to today involve the taxpayer, the Revenue, in anything but the most modest cost. None of them is addressed to anything but the most urgent and important needs. We are not seeking to put on the Government, at a time of considerable financial difficulties, any cost that they would find unacceptable. Now that the Financial Secretary has accepted the Clause dealing with the registered blind the remaining new Clauses fall into two groups.
In the first group new Clause No. 20 and new Clause No. 54 deal with the disabled and I do not need to spell out the arguments in favour of this new Clause. My hon. Friends the Members for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), for Hertford (Lord Balniel) and for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) have spoken forcibly and trenchantly in favour of the new Clause which is in precisely the same terms as those moved from these benches last year by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan), at present a member of the Government.
I will not go over the whole argument, but I will mention that new Clause No. 20 does not involve a heavy cost. Because of the deduction which must be made before any allowance is claimed the cost would be negligible and the Financial Secretary has not claimed that the cost would be heavy in his answer. A number of valuable and constructive points were made in the thoughtful speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) and my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison) in a speech which I think the whole Committee listened to with the greatest attention because of the constituency case involved. He made a point which would be met if the Government were willing to accept new Clause No. 20.
1884 It is odd, to say the least, that so many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen now supporting, or in the Government, found the reasons for supporting this new Clause overwhelming last year and now find them such that the Financial Secretary can dismiss the new Clause as unnecessary. The Financial Secretary says he has become a sadder and a wiser man since he joined the Government. We all sympathise with his feelings on finding himself sadder. We cannot accept that he has become any wiser.
The fact is that he reproduced at considerable length all the arguments which were put by Mr. Maurice MacMillan from the same Box last year which the Opposition regarded as lacking in persuasion and after which the Opposition voted in strength in favour of the new Clause. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Chief Secretary, the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, the Chief Whip, the Foreign Secretary and the Financial Secretary all went into the Lobby last year in favour of that Clause. If the Labour Party, when in opposition, refused to accept arguments which when in power they find totally acceptable, it only goes to show how thoroughly irresponsible it was when in opposition.
§ Mr. Robert Maxwell (Buckingham)
Is the right hon. Gentleman implying that this did not happen when he and his colleagues were in power? Would he tell the Committee how he voted on this issue the last time that it was debated?
§ Sir K. Joseph
If the hon. Gentleman had listened to the debate, he would have known the answer to both those points.
I am not seeking to persuade my right hon. and hon. Friends to carry this new Clause to a Division because when in government, and despite the strong views of some of my colleagues, we found, on balance, the arguments of the Financial Secretary persuasive when they were put forward by his Tory predecessors. What we are shocked to find is how cynically Ministers change their views, in spite of there being no change in the arguments.
I turn to new Clauses Nos. 61 and 52, put, I believe, overwhelmingly persuasively by my hon. Friends the Members for Tynemouth and Renfrewshire, East. They argued in favour of starting on the operation of encouraging in various ways 1885 those people who at considerable cost to themselves—cost spiritual, cost physical and cost financial—maintain and tend in their own homes elderly and infirm relatives. This is a cause which has become associated with the name of the Rev. Mary Webster, and we have all been glad to pay tribute to her pioneering work.
In a household in which a member of the younger generation tends one or more members of an older generation of his or her family, it may sometimes be that the member of the younger generation can go out to work and earn money, and in some cases the infirmity of the elderly is such that the member of the younger generation cannot even go out to work but has to give his or her full-time attention to caring for a member of an older generation.
There is another pair of cases which we must consider in general: first, where the income is of the younger generation; and, secondly, where the income is only of the elder generation because the younger generation is not free to go out to work. That is why this pair of new Clauses allows, in the case of new Clause No. 61, an additional allowance for the younger generation to be some small compensation for the burden that that younger generation takes upon himself or herself, whereas new Clause No. 52 provides an extra small allowance, again to care for members of an older, infirm generation.
We cannot possible presume to try to make up to the younger generation for the self-sacrifice which often goes with this care of the elderly in their homes. We can only recognise, as my hon. Friends so eloquently did in their speeches, that in providing this attendance to their own elderly relatives they not only fulfil the highest dictates of humanity, but serve the interests of the taxpayer and the nation by keeping people where they are best looked after as far as it is practicable to look after them, namely, at home, and to keep them out of expensive institutions.
The cost of this pair of new Clauses would not be enormous. So far as I can gather from the answers given by the Financial Secretary to questions specifically put to him on the subject, the cost of new Clause No. 61, if totally accepted by the Government, would be £5 million. We well understand that the Government may wish not to spend that extra money 1886 this year. If only the Government would change their totally negative attitude to this newly-discussed class of need and make a start on encouraging these people, we would welcome a smaller concession.
The Government could make a smaller concession in new Clause No. 61 by asking my hon. Friend to withdraw it and saying that they would put down a new Clause with a smaller tax allowance than £50; or they could say that they will not give the £50 to the whole class but that they will pick out a smaller section where the urgency has a priority. In either of these ways, we would gladly accept that the Government would be free to accept the principle while minimising the cost this year.
On new Clause No. 52, however, we really cannot accept that there is any cost implication that should restrain the Government. The fact is that the tax allowance for the elderly infirm, where a daughter both resides at home, is maintained by the elderly person and the elderly person depends upon the care of the daughter, stood at £25 until 1953, was raised from £25 to £40 in 1953 by Lord Butler, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the motion of the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) and has stood at £40 ever since.
It is 12 years since this tax allowance was raised to £40 and my hon. Friends and I feel that it is time to recognise the change in the value of money and to raise it again. We have suggested £100. The cost of this new Clause would be £250,000 in a full year, but if the Financial Secretary wanted to accept it in principle he could accept it by raising the £40 to £75 at a lesser cost, I understand, of £150,000 a year.
We are glad at the acceptance of the new Clause 19. We are shocked by the Government's attitude to our new Clauses Nos. 20 and 54 and we urgently ask them to reconsider their entirely sterile, negative and unimaginative attitude to new Clauses Nos. 61 and 52. We hope that the Financial Secretary will reconsider his position on these last two new Clauses in the light of our willingness to accept a modest beginning to this new approach. If he does we shall welcome his change of mind. If he does not, I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will in due course divide against the Government.
§ Mr. MacDermot
I should have pointed out to the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) that the actual form of wording of his new Clause does not quite fit the general scheme of Income Tax allowances. If the hon. Member is willing to accept my assurance on this point and will withdraw his Motion, I will undertake to bring forward on Report a new Clause which will give full effect to his proposal.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.1888
§ Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)
On a point of order, Mr. Steele. Will the Question be put on new Clause No. 20? I understand that it was starred with the possibility of a Division upon it.
§ Dame Irene Ward
On a point of order. Do we not have an opportunity to divide in support of our new Clauses, Mr. Steele?
§ The Temporary Chairman
The Committee will have an opportunity to divide on the new Clauses when we reach them.