HC Deb 14 February 1853 vol 124 cc88-90

Order for Committee read.


said, he objected to the power given to the county Members to name the Commissioners of Laud Tax. He considered that he had as good a right as the Members for the county of Surrey to name these Commissioners. He had some names to propose, and though he had no doubt they would be put on if he mentioned them to the Members for the county, he objected on principle to take such a course. His constituency was more than twice that which returned the four Members for the county. Why, therefore, should he ask them as a favour to put these names on? Some years ago, when a similar Bill was brought in, he divided the House on the insertion of the names so often, that the Secretary of the Treasury gave way, and he obtained his point. He would take the same course again, if necessary. But he hoped the Government would not sanction an absurd custom, and put him to the trouble of dividing the House, which would occupy an inconvenient length of time.


said, he would also submit it to the Government whether, as a change must take place in the mode of assessing the income tax, a change should not also be made in the mode of appointing the persons who were to carry the Act into effect. These Commissioners were appointed, not by the authority of the responsible advisers of the Crown, but by cliques throughout every part of the country. He had known this carried to an extent that would hardly be credited. In the case of Mr. Fielden, these Commissioners assessed that gentleman to a large amount of profit, and distrained his goods, although it was clear that he was a loser by his business for the two preceding years, and the Government declared that they had no power to interfere. In the old times when Tory Members represented almost all the counties, they had Tory Commissioners from one end of the country to the other. The time was now come when the mode of electing the Land Tax Commissioners must be altered, and when all who had to do with the levying of the tax ought to be appointed under the authority of the Crown. He therefore begged to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the abuses which existed in many districts, where persons went before the Commissioners and stated that they were assessed at double and treble the real amount of their income, and afterwards, when they appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they wore told that he had no power to help them. That was a very disgraceful state of things, and ought to be redressed.


said, that he understood his hon, Friend the Member for Montrose to state the great hardship which arose to individuals from the circumstance that the Government had no power to interpose in cases where the assessment was too high, and to propose that the Government should take power in order to enable them to meet such cases. But he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would like to know if his hon. Friend proposed to accompany that proposition with power for the Government also to interpose in eases where the assessment was too low; because, although there might be grievances in certain spots and quarters from the assessment being too high, yet the real evil which they had to deal with was the great inequality of the assessment; and therefore he should like to know from his hon. Friend, who had great experience, whether he proposed that the Government should be invested with the power he had described?


said, that at the present moment the assessed taxes were levied by the Land Tax Commissioners appointed under this Act. The power of appointing the officers to collect the income tax, therefore, did not rest with the Government; and what he required was, that the powers given by the Act called the Land Tax Act should be abrogated, and that nobody should be appointed to collect the income tax except under the authority of the Chan- cellor of the Exchequer, and the Treasury. Under the present system the Government could neither increase nor decrease the assessment. Looking on the income tax as likely to become a part of the permanent taxation of the country, he thought the assessment ought to be placed on as just and equitable a footing as possible.


hoped the grievance complained of by the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) would be remedied in the present Bill. It was not a proper state of things that large cities and boroughs should be obliged to submit their lists of additional Land Tax Commissioners through the medium of the county Members.


said, that the law had never been altered since the Reform Bill passed; so that whilst the old Parliamentary boroughs still retained their former power of appointing their own Land Tax Commissioners, it devolved upon the county Members to appoint Commissioners for the new boroughs.


said, that it was proposed to postpone the Bill till the 11th of April, by which time he hoped to be able to answer the remarks that the hon. Member for Lambeth had just made. If the hon. Member had communicated with him before the Bill came under discussion, he (Mr. Wilson) would have taken care to inform himself of the particulars of the grievance alluded to. He would, however, investigate the matter before the subject again came before the House, and would inquire if there was a practical mode of remedying the evil complained of.

Committee deferred till Monday, 11 th April.