HC Deb 26 July 1843 vol 70 cc1350-2
Mr. Milner Gibson

begged to make some inquiries of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, as to the present state of the Excise laws, affecting parties who had made advances on the security of consignments of exciseable goods. As the law now stood, exciseable goods bonâ fide sold and delivered to a purchaser could not be afterwards taken by the Excise in satisfaction of any duties which might be in arrear or owing by the manufacturer of such goods. This provision of the law did not extend to the case of exciseable goods in the possession of a factor who had made advances thereon. He wished to ask whether the Government had considered the propriety of extending the protection now given to purchasers of exciseable goods to those persons who made advances in cash, or by acceptances, on the security of such commodities? In short, whether the Government were prepared to place a factor as far as the extent of his lien went, under advance in the same position as a purchaser. It seemed reasonable that it should be so; for if the maker of exciseable goods could offer them for sale exempt from all liability to claims upon them, why not also offer them as a valid security for an advance of money? The other evening, he presented a petition from Mr. Michael Trueman, of Manchester, corn factor, who having made an advance of 2,380l. on the security of certain malt, was deprived of such malt then in his possession, in satisfaction of a claim for duties which the Government had against the maltster in respect of other malt—not the malt which had been consigned, but other malt. The petitioner stated that the advance had been made to the malster in the ordinary course of business, and that it was the universal custom for corn factors to make advances in cash or to give acceptances upon security of consignments of malt. He knew it might be said that Mr. Trueman was bound to know the law, and that he made the advance with a knowledge of the nature of the security and of the priority of all claims on the part of the Excise, for duties due from the maltster; and, therefore, he had acted at his own peril, He (Mr. Gibson) begged to say, that the law was not easy to be understood, although the last Excise bill might be as intelligible as acts of Parliament generally were. The Board of Excise did not appear to know the law themselves, for, when application was made to the Excise in the first instance, the Board answered that Mr. Trueman's claim should be paid out of the proceeds of the sale of the malt, and a letter was also received from the secretary to the board, Mr. M. Hutch, by Messrs. Croker, Dublin, in September, 1841, in which it was distinctly laid down as a rule of the Excise, that where a factor has fairly and bonâ fide received goods, and made advances on them, those advances would be allowed, but that in case of suspicion of fraud, the parties would be called on to prove the correctness of the transaction. No one had attempted in the slightest degree to hint that Mr. Trueman's conduct had not been perfectly straightforward and bonâ fide, and yet, notwithstanding the declaration of the board in favour of the claims of factors under his circumstances, Mr. Trueman had been deprived of his security, and was threatened with the loss of his money. The Court of Exchequer had been appealed to, the Treasury had been tried, nothing now remained but an application to Parliament, and he (Mr. Gibson) hoped that the Government would find out some mode by which Mr. Trueman would be prevented from losing the advance he had made, and which he had a right to make in the ordinary course of his business.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the complaint of the hon. Gentleman was founded on this—that an individual had been subjected to pay a sum of money which he had been adjudged liable to pay by the sentence of a court of law, and it was to get rid of that grievance that he had come to the House. The hon. Member now asked the Government to alter the ' law, which rendered persons who acted as factors for those who dealt in exciseable commodities liable to pay the duties of those for whom they acted, or in other words, to put factors in the position of bonâ fide purchasers. He could not consent to act upon such a proposal. He was quite ready to admit, that in the particular case referred to, the officer of Excise had made an erroneous statement, but he had done it on the authority of a case recently decided, which he supposed to have application to the matter under consideration. The question, however, had been referred to the law-officers of the Crown, who had declared a belief that the case did not apply, and therefore Mr. Trueman had been held to be liable ill law to re-pay the money in which Mr. Armitage was indebted to the Crown. Mr. Trueman would have gained nothing if the sureties of Mr. Armitage had been proceeded against; because they, in turn, might have demanded the process of the Crown against him.