The Attorney General
, seeing his right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) in his place, would take that opportunity of drawing his attention to a petition which he held in his hand, from a. society of solicitors in Edinburgh, complaining of being obliged to pay an annual tax of 10l. for being permitted to practice. He perfectly agreed with the petitioners, that it was a very great grievance that professors of the law should be called on to pay a tax which was not required from any other of the learned professions. He could not con- 922 ceive the justice of attorneys being obliged to pay a sum of 10l., some of whom don't make 10s., while barristers and others are altogether exempted. He doubted much whether the community derived any advantage from this tax, and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would take the case of the petitioners into his serious consideration, and release them from the operation of this tax.
Sir George Clerk
was glad to find that the case of the attorneys was brought under attention by hon. Members on the other side of the House, but particularly by the right hon. the Attorney General; and he hoped they would be successful in inducing his Majesty's Ministers to alter and remit the tax. He (Sir George Clerk) could not conceive why there should be any distinction between the attorneys in London and in the country. In London the solicitors pay 10l., and in the country only 8l, and they had the advantage of going to the Stamp-office, and receiving a liberal discount on stamps; while the Edinburgh attorney, though paying a like sum, had no such advantage afforded to him. He therefore trusted, that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not disposed to remit this tax, he would, at least, place those solicitors in the county and city of Edinburgh on the same footing with the English solicitors and those practising in the Four Courts, Dublin.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that the time for discussing the subject would be when the Stamp Act was under the consideration of the House. However, he had no hesitation in saying, that there were taxes that pressed much more strongly on the attention of his Majesty's Government at the present moment than that complained of in the petition presented by his right hon. Friend. Until a petition on the subject was sent forward by the clients of the attorneys, he thought any applications would have but little weight; as it was out of their pockets that the tax ultimately came. However, the difference between the London and country practitioners was worthy of consideration, and it should receive attention when the subject of the Stamp Acts came to be reconsidered. It would, however, surprise hon. Members if they were to know how the Government were assailed by conflicting applications on this head. The young attorneys were desirous for an annual tax, and a reduction of the tax on coming into the profession; and the old members were desirous for a high 923 tax on coming into the profession. If the tax were repealed, he had no doubt but that it would be putting so much money into the pockets of the solicitors.
§ Petition to lie on the Table.