HC Deb 15 February 1836 vol 31 cc431-2
Mr. Hume

felt anxious to draw the attention of the House to the state of the laws respecting the Assessed Taxes. The number of surcharges was quite incredible at the present moment. As there were now fifty-two Acts relating to the assessed taxes, it was the duty of Government to consolidate them, in order that every individual, by knowing what the law was, might know at once what he was bound to do, and what he was bound to pay. The litigation produced by these numerous Acts was very great and most vexatious, as it generally cost ten times the amount in legal expenses of the sum disputed. He contended that some means should be taken to lessen the annoyance experienced by individuals, and that an end should be put to the practice of paying the collectors out of the surcharges which they levied upon ignorant individuals. There was a necessity that the law on this subject should be clearly determined and ascertained. Its Amendment also was loudly called for. The hon. Member concluded by moving for a return of surcharges made for assessed taxes of each class, the number affirmed, and she number discharged, and also for the dates and number of Acts of Parliament in force for the levying of assessed taxes.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

admitted that the state of the law with regard to the subject was very defective, and open to serious objections. He felt it his duty to direct his attention towards it, and had given notice of a measure for the consolidation of the taxes, which, if he could carry it through, would, he thought, be sufficient for the present Session. If those who were anxious for the consolidation wished to render the Government assistance on the subject, the best way to proceed would be to abstain from proposing various measures upon the subject. Of course, when the plan which Ministers had in view was laid before the House, hon. Members would be at liberty to make such objections as they should deem proper. The object, however, which Government proposed was, to reduce the laws upon this subject to one plain and intelligible statute. With regard to surcharges, it must readily be admitted that they were open to much abuse, and held out too great an inducement to abuse; but he was happy to say that by a minute of the Treasury, made before any notice was given upon the subject, a useful alteration had been introduced, it being the opinion of Government that the incomes of the officers engaged in the collections ought to be derived from their salaries, and not from surcharges.

The Returns were ordered.