HC Deb 08 August 1848 vol 100 cc1222-5

rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to exempt from legacy duties all charitable bequests, not to private individuals, but to public bodies. His main object in coming into Parliament was to introduce this Bill; and if it should be carried, he would then accept the Chiltern Hundreds. He implored Her Majes- ty's Government, on his bended knees, to pass this measure. He could assure the noble Lord that in doing so he would immortalise himself. The sum at present raised from the duty on legacies to charities did not exceed 15,000l. per annum; and he asked the Government if, for such a paltry sum as that, a country like Great Britain ought to maintain such an impost.


, in seconding the Motion, called upon the Government to allow the Bill to pass. The legacy duties in a great many instances were the means of preventing the full development of some of our finest institutions.


said, that if he consented to the remission of one duty because it was small, he would be called upon to give up others on the same ground. He had already this year given up the copper duty. He highly appreciated his hon. Friend's motives in bringing the subject forward; but he could not consent to the concession that was demanded. He doubted if his hon. Friend had not underrated the amount when he fixed it at 15,000l.; but whether the sum was small or large, while the income was less than the expenditure it was not a time to ask him to forego any revenue whatever. After all, a very large portion of these charities were of a very absurd character; and those parties who left money to them could also easily leave money to pay the legacy duty. Some of the charities were not only ridiculous in themselves, but perhaps were prejudicial to the public interest. He would not object to his hon. Friend laying his Bill on the table; but it must not be inferred from that that he would at all support it. His hon. Friend had given one very strong reason for the opposition of the Government to the Bill, and that was, his announcement respecting the Chiltern Hundreds. On that account he should oppose the Bill, rather than run the risk of losing his hon. Friend's support to the Government.


I entirely join with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his condemnation of those who lavishly throw away the public money when the revenue does not meet the expenditure. But I take leave to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he does not think 15,000l. a year, or even 50,000l. a year (if it be 50,000l. a year), would have been better bestowed in the relief of charitable be-quests from this tax, than 50,000l. flung away upon the remission of copper duties—where the tax levied did not exceed six per cent ad valorem, and this, too, upon the productions of foreign countries. I also take leave to ask him whether he does not think 15,000l. a year raised upon the charities of this country would be better spared from the revenue, than the 40,000 or 45,000l. which had been remitted upon the corn duties, in violation of the law, and without asking the consent or advice of Parliament, when Parliament was sitting? I think it comes with an ill grace from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, without asking the consent of Parliament, has this year remitted corn duties to the extent of 40,000l. or 50,000l. in violation of the law, to get up and lecture the hon. Member for St. Albans for asking so unreasonable a thing as a remission of 15,000l. when the revenue does not equal the expenditure, although that tax operates as a great discouragement to benevolent individuals who might be disposed to bequeath money to the charitable institutions of this country.


would not, by supporting this Bill, commit himself to the principle that they should encourage parties to neglect the claims of their families in favour of public charities. The first duty of a man was to provide for his own family. He did not say that there might not be circumstances in which it might be proper for an individual to slight those claims and prefer those of public charity; but speaking generally, the provision a man made for his own family was a very unostentatious and unobtrusive thing, and he did not often get much credit for it; but it might gratify his vanity to be advertised in the public newspapers as a person who had given 10,000l. to a public charity. If these were his motives, he (Sir R. Peel) should not encourage him in them. He hoped they should not be committed to this principle, by acquiescing in the first reading of this Bill. Why, he had known public institutions left by will, and he had seen the descendants of those who left them receiving 100l. from the royal bounty, because their parents thought to gratify their vanity by presenting to the public what should have constituted the sources of their subsistence. He had seen the descendants of such men come to the public treasury, saying that they hoped the royal bounty would be exercised in their favour, as they had been ruined by the misplaced generosity of their own relatives.

Leave given.

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