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A Motion was made, and the Question being proposed, That, to guard for the future against an undue exercise of that power by the Lords, and to secure to the Commons their rightful control over Taxation and Supply, this House has in its own hands the power so to impose and remit Taxes, and to frame Bills of Supply, that the right of the Commons as to the matter, manner, measure, and time, may be maintained inviolate . . .
1. That it is expedient that the House of Lords be disabled by Law from rejecting or amending a Money Bill, but that any such limitation by Law shall not be taken to diminish or qualify the existing rights and privileges of the House of Commons.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): At a certain point in my right hon. Friend's speech I noticed that the Paymaster General--the one Government Member present, apart from the Whip--seemed to be in agreement with him.
Mr. Redwood: The Paymaster General seems to be agreeing with my right hon. Friend's extremely learned and lucid argument that this House, rather than the other place, should have control of taxation matters. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will subject to some analysis the wording:
Mr. Forth: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, but I fear that it is not only the Minister with whom I am at odds, but our right hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), who is wrapped up in the process and naturally, I think, approves of it. He appears not to believe that there is any possibility built into the mechanisms in the motion that the tax rate or burden could be altered, even within the phrase
Mr. Forth: That is the whole point at issue. We do not at this stage know whether the members of the Committee will regard it as a minor matter. Simply referring to it as a minor matter in the motion tells us no more about what the Committee will or will not regard as a minor matter. Given that the Committee will be dominated by Members
My right hon. Friend the Member for Fylde and I may readily agree that rates of taxation are an extremely important matter, but I am not confident, given the Committee's proposed composition, that we can rest easy in our mind that it will never use the mechanisms that will be made available to it by this motion--if we agree to it--to alter rates of taxation. That is the source of my anxiety.
Mr. Burnett: It is, of course, for this House to implement and enact any changes. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the power of the Committee to consider tax simplification Bills--including Bills on corporation tax, capital gains tax, and any taxation measure--gives it such great influence that it is an unwarranted trespass on the powers of this House?
Mr. Forth: That is what I am suggesting. It will presumably be a matter for the Government whether they designate a Bill as a tax simplification matter. Even within the designation process, something could be concealed by the Government--either by incompetence, which would be entirely possible and, in fact, very likely, or by malice, which would be equally possible--and connived at by those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who are enthusiastic about the process that would give rise to the sort of breach that the hon. Gentleman suggests.
Mr. Bercow: My right hon. Friend said a moment ago that it was a matter for the Government to determine whether something constituted a tax simplification measure. I do not know whether his beady eye noticed that at that point the Paymaster General shook her head, obviously dissenting from what he was saying. I am sure that she will want to clarify the situation by speedily rushing to the Dispatch Box.
Mr. Forth: I suspect that the Minister, courteous and considerate as ever, will want to listen very carefully to the entire debate and then seek to wind it up, with the permission of the House. I would not want to rush the Minister into giving a reply at this stage. I have only just got into my stride, in any case, and have a number of other points to make.
We seem to be sliding, quietly but inexorably, from the well-established position that I thought was well understood--that this representative, elected, accountable House of Commons was the sole repository of responsibility for tax and taxation matters--to being asked to nod through a mechanism whereby another place is fully engaged in this process.
Mr. Jack: I am trying to follow my right hon. Friend with care. Where, in the rewritten Capital Allowances Bill that the Committee will consider, are measures that raise the fears that he mentions in the context of the supremacy of this House to determine tax matters?