HC Deb 09 March 1838 vol 41 cc732-40

The House went into Committee on the Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill.

On Clause 59, declaring what hereditaments shall be rateable,

Mr. W. S. O'Brien

observed, that while he admitted there were some classes of income, such as funds, which they could not reach by this bill, yet he could not see any objection to their including all jointures, annuities, and rent-charges arising from land. There was another omission which he was sure was only one of inadvertency, as it related to tithes, which were included—namely, ministers' money. The hon. Member then moved an amendment to the effect that these several species of income be included in this clause.

Mr. O'Connell

was of opinion, that all rent-charges and annuities in the shape of rent should be made rateable. It was his intention to move the insertion in the first line of this clause of the word "rents," and also that the "rights of water-power" at present included in the clause, be exempted from the rate.

Mr. Shaw

did not think the amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell), by introducing the word "rents" would fairly raise the question at issue; for rents, popularly so called, that was, the sum receivable by the landlord from his tenant, was not rated separately, or intended to be so under the bill; the rate was, in the first instance, to be paid by the occupier, and then, in the proportions stated in the bill, stopped from the landlord's rent; but the real difficulty arose in the case of jointures, annuities, and other incumbrances, with which, unfortunately, the landed property of Ireland was in general heavily charged. Cases had been stated to him, where, if the whole charge of the poor-rate fell upon the owner of the estate, the greatest hardship and injustice would be the consequence; he knew one estate let for 999 years, at a rent of 1,000l. per annum, of which the present proprietor was tenant for life, and his father had charged the estate with a jointure of 400l. a-year, and a sum for younger children, the interest of which amounted to 540l. a-year, leaving to the owner but a sum of 160l. a-year as his present share—a sum which, if he be made liable for poor-rates, the entire estate, may not be sufficient to pay the poor-rate alone. If these incumbrances had followed the enactment of a poor-law, as was generally the case in England, the proprietor would have no reason to complain; but in Ireland, where, for the first time, a poor-law was to be inflicted on a heavily encumbered landed proprietary, the case was very different.

Mr. Litton

supported the insertion of the words "jointures and annuities," on the ground that the present was an entirely new measure, and was not contemplated by the granters of those incomes. The principle of this bill was to equalise the burthen of supporting the poor; it was with that view the bill was allowed to go into Committee, but leaving the clause as it now stood, would not carry out that principle. To all who had a practical acquaintance with the state of property in Ireland it was well known that, generally speaking, estates were charged to very nearly their full value, and the owner in fee enjoyed so small a residue, that it would be most unfair to prevent the imcumbrances from being rateable. The owner in fee, in a very great number of instances was literally but the agent for the annuitant, and he believed no practical man would deny that at least one third of the estates in Ireland were so circumstanced. Was it fair, just, or reasonable, that the annuitants who were far better off than the proprietors of the soil, should receive their incomes in full, while the owner in fee was left to struggle on the small pittance which now remained to him, still further reduced by this impost? Upon these grounds, and because the clause as it stood was unjust in principle, he should support the amendment of the hon. Member for Limerick.

Mr. Lynch

was of opinion, that nothing could be more injurious and unjust than to tax rent-charges; such a tax could fall on no one but the creditor, who derived no benefit from the property, and would enjoy no reversion; these annuitants gave money or other valuable consideration for their incomes, and where, he would ask, lay the distinction between them and a mortgagee?

Mr. O'Connell

was surprised to find any Gentleman, still more any lawyer, unable to discern a distinction between the case of an annuitant and a mortgagee; surely there was this wide difference, that the latter could press for the payment of his principal debt, and so relieve himself from the impost, whereas the annuitant was a landlord to the extent of the income he derived, and could not call in his original advance of capital.

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

observed, the 69th clause to be introduced by the noble Lord, the Member for Stroud, provided for that.

Mr. Lefroy

would support the clause as it stood, the principle of the bill being to throw the burden on the land; therefore, neither mortgagee, nor annuitant, nor jointress ought be rated. If the jointress had an estate in the land, then she would naturally become subject to the tax. He thought it right that those who had no estate in the land should be exempted from the rate. In England, annuitants or mortgagees had never been taxed with poor rates, and such a principle ought not to be introduced into the Irish bill. In truth, he hoped before the bill passed that House it would be assimilated more exactly to the English bill than it was at present.

Mr. Sheil

wished to know if lead mines were exempted from rate in England, why they should not be so in Ireland?

The Attorney-General

said, it was right they should adopt the law of England where it was just—but not where it was abused.

Lord Stanley

wished to know what was intended to be done as to rating hogs. Was the part that was cut only to be rated or was the entire?

Mr. Woulfe

said, it was to be rated in the same way as quarries.

Sir Robert Rateson

said, he did not think the answer at all satisfactory. There were many parts of Ireland in which landlords never charged their tenants any thing for turf. He for one never did. He gave it as an accommodation to his tenants. He therefore thought it hard that a part of his property from which he derived no profit should be taxed.

Mr. Jephson

said, that if one acre were only available the whole bog would be rated.

Sir F. Trench

said, he knew a bog of 20,000 acres which produced nothing, and he thought it most unjust that it should be rated.

Mr. Lefroy

said, he was at a loss to know whether the Committee was in a mine or a bog. They began with the open mines, but they had now fallen into the bog. But to come back to the mines: it appeared to him, that situated as Ireland was, mines ought to be exempted from the rate. If the law in England were absurd, correct it, but do not introduce the converse of it in Ireland. He thought if the working of the mines were encouraged, the Poor-rates would be assisted. He thought, therefore, upon those grounds the mines ought to be exempted.

Mr. Roche

said, the sums received by the landlords of the mines ought to be rated, but not the capital employed by adventurers in working them.

Mr. Lefroy

thought, that the mines of Ireland ought to be exempted from taxation. So convinced was he of the importance of this immunity to the welfare of that country, that he should take the opinion of the Committee on the subject. He begged to move that words "opened mines" be struck out of the clause, in order that mines might not be rateable, if the bill became law.

Viscount Morpeth

thought, the clause as it stood placed the matter on the fairest and most equitable footing possible. The anomalies of the law of England ought not to be introduced into Ireland, and as the Government thought that wherever there was profit, whether from above or under ground, the payment of rates should follow, they were determined to adhere to the clause.

Mr. Lucas

said, that if the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, succeeded in carrying the clause as it stood, it would effect great mischief. He therefore should move that no open mine be rateable for fourteen years after the passing of the bill.

Mr. Sheil

said, he had just asked the hon. Baronet, the Member for Cornwall, the course pursued in Cornwall and he found that the adventurer was not rated, though the landlord of the mines was.

Lord Castlereagh

said, he feared the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Sheil) would waste his eloquence in vain, as the noble Lord opposite had said he intended to leave the bill in its present state. With respect to the lead mines, he could state that mines in the county which he had the honour to represent were worked some years since without any profit arising from them. The works were abandoned, but recently they were again worked with considerable profit. He (Lord Castlereagh) had no wish to shield the landlords, but he contended that those who employed capital in working the mines, and who consequently gave employment to the people, should be exewpt from the rate.

Mr. Lynch

said, that nothing could be more fair than the clause was as it stood. It declared that where there was no profit there should be no charge, but where there was, the rates should be payable; the Commissioners to rate according to the value from time to time. This rendered the clause, in his opinion, unobjectionable.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that property of that kind, and all manufactories under ground, were not rated in England; and he thought it would be more just to relieve Ireland from a tax that England did pay than to subject Ireland to a tax which England did not pay. He did not think the distinction made by the hon. Member for North Lancashire between bogs and quarries held good. They were quite analogous, and in both cases the subject matter was carried away. It was his determination, before the Bill left the Committee, to move a proviso, exempting bogs altogether. By a decision of the Court of Exchequer in Ireland, cutting turf was held to be waste, and no tenant could cut turf unless there was a special permission in his lease to do so. He did not know anything that would be felt a greater hardship by the poor of Ireland than the deprivation of this permission to cut turf, and he thought subjecting bog-lands to the payment of rate would have an injurious effect in that respect.

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

said, that the only question they had to consider was, how a certain sum was to be raised, and if they exempted one kind of property from contributing to that sum, they must lay an additional burthen on some other kind of property. He thought this kind of property ought to be rated on the same principle as other property.

Mr. C. Buller

thought, that the tax ought to be put, as in all other cases, upon the rent paid to the landlord, taking the rent as a measure of value. He could mention many instances where sums to a very great amount had been expended in making mines productive, and where no profit could be expected to arise for several years, though they ultimately became productive. Now, it would be unjust to cast aside all the losses of former years, and, when the mines became productive, to make a new valuation, for the purpose of taxing them. He thought, that to subject this kind of property to the payment of the rates would operate as a very great discouragement to the employment of capital in the working of mines in Ireland.

Sir W. Somerville

had recently opened a copper mine on his estates in Ireland, one of his objects in doing which, was to give employment to the poor, where it was much wanted. He thought that subjecting this kind of property to taxation would operate as a very great discouragement to the employment of capital in speculations of the kind. Should they be indisposed to consent to a total exemption they ought at least to adopt the proposition of the hon. Member for Monaghan, giving an exemption for a limited number of years.

Lord J. Russell

saw no reason for the exemption of this kind of property; however, as the hon. Member for Monaghan's proposition only provided for an exemption for a limited number of years, he would have no objection to agree to it, but could not consent to a total exemption.

Amendment withdrawn.

Mr. Shaw

said, with respect to tithe owners, he thought that they ought to be placed in the same condition as the landlord. It would be very hard to call on the clergyman to pay the rates in respect to tithes which might never be paid. He thought that the tithe-payer in the first instance ought to be chargeable with the rate, and that he should then have the power of deducting the proper amount from the tithe-owner, but no person could contend that the tithe-owner ought to be made pay that which he might never get.

Viscount Morpeth

said, that this point had been debated last year, and the Committee had been induced to adhere to the present course by two considerations. The first was, that they ought not to complicate the relations between landowner and tenant; and, secondly, that as the whole tendency of their legislation was to remove the payment of the tithes to the highest landowner, it would not be consistent with that tendency to throw the burthen in this instance upon the occupier.

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

said, that the tendency of this proposition would be to throw the burthen of the entire poor's rate in the first instance on the occupier. In a few years more the occupiers in Ireland would no longer be the persons who would have to pay the tithe composition, so that they would have the occupier paying the rates for the clergyman though not being the person chargeable with the payment of the composition. The preferable mode appeared to him to be to treat tithe composition as in itself a substantive property. As to the difficulty of getting clergymen to pay the rate, he was quite sure they would be as ready as any other class to contribute their just share to relieve the wants of their fellow-countrymen.

Mr. Shaw

said, that his objection had not at all been answered. What he complained of as a hardship was, that clergymen should be called on to pay rates before they got tithes, which, perhaps, after they had paid the rates in respect to them they might never get. He was quite sure when they were paid their tithes they would be quite willing to pay their rates, but he contended it would be a hardship to make them chargeable with rates on tithes which they might never be paid.

Mr. Sheil

thought, if it was unfair towards the clergyman to make him pay before he received his tithes, it should be held equally unjust to the landlord to make him pay before he received his rent. On the 1st of September last, he owed a year's tithes to the rev. Mr. Thomson, and he was immediately compelled to pay them, though he had not been paid his rents. The rev. gentleman filed a bill in equity to recover the tithes, although he (Mr. Sheil) had not received one farthing of rent. His tithes and his rent were both due on the 1st of November, but he was forced to pay his tithes, although he had not received any rent. Would the hon. Member for Sligo relish this? He (Mr. Sheil) was satisfied that if the bill were altered in this particular, the poor rate would be blended with the rent.

Colonel Perceval

said, that the clergy in his neighbourhood were ready to wait for their tithes till the rents were paid.

Mr. Shaw

moved, that the words "all tithes and compositions or rents in lieu of tithes," should be left out of the clause. He admitted, that this was an inconvenient way of putting the question; but he did it to raise the consideration whether the clergyman should be placed on a different footing from the landlords, but that he should not pay rates for his tithes till he had received them.

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

remarked, that this was precisely similar to the case of the clergy in England, who were liable to pay rates for such tithes as were receivable.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that this clause only declared that tithes should be rateable, and did not provide for their being levied. He thought that the whole objection would be remedied if power were given to the guardians to levy the rates against the composition, and not to proceed against the clergyman.

Sir E. Sugden

said, that that there was no reason why rates should not be paid by clergymen in Ireland as well as in England: and as the hon. Member for Dublin proposed a remedy in rem and not in personam, there was no objection to leaving these words, and introducing the proposed remedy against the composition only, unless the clergyman had received the money.

The Solicitor-General

said, that the very question was raised on the English Tithe Commutation Act, and he thought that by adopting the words of the English Act the suggestions of the hon. Member for Dublin would be fully met.

The clause with amendment, to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 62 (existing surveys to be used if sufficient; if not, the guardians to cause fresh surveys to be made).

Sir Robert Ferguson

said, that too much power was given to the Commissioners by this clause. The making of surveys was a matter entailing great expense on the country, and which, in its present state it could scarcely bear, and he really thought that the Ordnance surveys, which had been already made, should be used.

Viscount Morpeth

said, that the Ordnance surreys, which had been already made, did not extend to more than half the country. It was only in the absence of such surveys, or when they were insufficient, that it was proposed that fresh ones should be made in order to carry out the provisions of the Act.

Mr. Lucas

said, that the Ordnance surveys were townland surveys, and were not therefore, applicable to the purposes of this Bill.

Sir Robert Ferguson

said, that if they were not, he really hoped that they would not be continued, for the Irish people were already taxed with immense charges on this head without reasonable cause.

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

suggested, that the Ordnance surveys had nothing to do with the Bill unless they should be found useful for its purpose. If new surveys were required why should they not be made?

Sir Robert Ferguson

would then move an amendment to the clause, to the effect that the consent of two thirds of the Guardians should be required to decide what surveys should be used, and he would take the sense of the Committee upon the subject.

The Committee divided, on the Amendment:—Ayes 27: Noes 50: Majority 23.

List of the AYES.
Archbold, R. Lefroy, rt. hon. T.
Blake, M. J. Litton, E.
Browne, R. D. O'Connell, D,
Douglas, Sir C. E. O'Connell, M.
Eaton, R. J. Perceval, Colonel
Finch, F. Roche, D.
Forbes, W. Rolleston, L.
Gladstone, W. E. Round, C. G.
Hayes, Sir E. Shaw, right hon. F.
Hodgson, R. Style, Sir C.
Hughes, W. B. Vigors, N. A.
Hurt, F. Villiers, Visct.
Jackson, Sergeant TELLERS.
Jephson, C. D. O. Ferguson, Sir R. A.
Jones, T. Bateson, Sir R.
List of the NOES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Howard, P. H.
Baring, F. T. Hutton, R.
Beamish, F. B. Langdale, hon. C.
Brotherton, J. Lucas, E.
Bryan, G. Macleod, R.
Chalmers, P. Mahony, P.
Childers, J. W. Morpeth, Viscount
Craig, W. G. Murray, rt. hon. J. A.
Curry, W. O'Brien, C.
Fitzalan, Lord O'Brien, W. S.
Fitzsimon, N. O'Callaghan, hon. C.
Fleetwood, P. H. O'Connell, M. J.
French, F. Parker, J.
Gillon, W. D. Pinney W.
Gordon, R. Power, J.
Hall, B. Redington, T. N.
Harvey, D. W. Rice, right hon. T. S.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Roche, E. B.
Hodges, T. L. Roche, W.
Rolfe, Sir R. Stuart, V.
Russell, Lord J. Wakley, T.
Scrope, G. P. Westenra, hon. H. R.
Seymour, Lord Wood, G. W.
Sheil, R. L.
Sinclair, Sir G. TELLERS.
Somerville, Sir W. M. Lynch, A. H.
Spencer, hon. F. Woulfe, Sergeant

Clause agreed to.

The House resumed, Chairman reported progress, Committee to sit again.