HC Deb 06 February 1852 vol 119 cc199-200

said, he wished to put a question to the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer. During last year a prosecution was instituted by the Board of Inland Revenue against the publishers of a work called The Narrative of Current Events, edited by Mr. Charles Dickens. The Board of Inland Revenue having prosecuted Messrs. Bradbury and Evans for publishing that work without a stamp, the Court of Exchequer decided that it was not liable to the stamp duty. This decision, as he was informed, had not given satisfaction to the Board of Inland Revenue, who were still of opinion that monthly publications were liable to the duty, and the public were yet in doubt whether, in case they were to act upon the decision of the Court of Exchequer, the Board of Inland Revenue might not institute another prosecution for the purpose of getting a reversal of the recent decision. The decision of the Court of Exchequer was, that a person might publish news without a stamp, provided the publication did not take place oftener than once a month; but the Board of Inland Revenue held that the publication of news at all, even only on one occasion, still rendered a work liable to the stamp duty. He begged to ask whether the Government intended to institute any fresh prosecutions, and also whether they intended to bring in a Bill for the purpose of settling the doubts which had arisen with reference to the Newspaper Stamp Act since the decision given by the Court of Exchequer?


said, that it was impossible to give an answer in a case involving legal points unless notice of the precise nature of the question was given; and, as he had only received a general notice of the right hon. Gentleman's intention to put some question with reference to duties, he was not prepared to say whether the right hon. Member had correctly stated the decision of the Court of Law. He might say, however, that the Government had no intention at present of taking any steps with the view of reversing the decision of the Court of Exchequer.


said, that some particular points of the decision to which the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) had referred, were now under the consideration of the law officers of the Crown, and no final determination could be come to by the Government on the subject until the law officers had given their opinion as to what course should be taken.