HC Deb 14 July 1853 vol 129 cc205-29

Order for considering the Amendments to this Bill read.

Report brought up.


said, he wished to propose an Amendment, the object of which was to put money secured on land in Scotland on the same footing, by making it liable to the same amount of duty, as money secured on land in England and Ireland. He proposed in Clause 1, after the word "Ireland," to insert the words, "except money secured upon heritable property in Scotland."


said, he could not comprehend why Scotland should be relieved from this tax, and would therefore second the Amendment.


said, the reason why the clause was framed in the manner in which it now stood with respect to heritable bonds, was this: the law of Scotland at this moment regarded them as real property and, incidentally to that, heritable bonds in Scotland, being real property, paid no legacy duty; and further, they were liable to be charged for the purpose of rating to the poor. The third point was not so important in its bearing as might at first appear, because, although it was true that heritable bonds were liable to be rated to the poor, they were under that liability in common with other property—the law of Scotland being that of means and substance, under which every man was liable to be rated in respect of the property in his possession. Although that was the ancient law of Scotland, it was now dying out. There was a great deal to be said in favour of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Gentleman, and he had no objection to accede to it.


said, he must protest against the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.


said, that the Motion of which he had given notice, was an Amendment by way of addition to Clause 2, which was an interpretation clause. His object was to declare the principle of the tax, and by express words to render that declaration operative in governing the construction of the Act, and leaving, therefore, as little as possible—indeed he hoped to leave nothing—open to doubt and misconstruction.

The Bill was necessarily complicated, because the purposes were numerous. He made no complaint of the terms in which those purposes were expressed; on the contrary, he tendered to the framer a respectful expression of his approval of the meritorious accuracy evinced in clothing provisions so various, in the language of art; but he believed that the professional individual, scientific as he was, would have found his labour lessened, and his task more easy, if, in carrying out the instructions of the law officers of the Crown, and the suggestions of acute persons connected with the Inland. Revenue, he had possessed the advantage of such a test as he (Mr. Freshfield) sought to establish by the Amendment he proposed. It was not his intention to trouble the House with any extensive criticism in proof of that opinion; but he might say, in passing that hon. Members would find in Clause 17 an exemption of post obits given for a pecuniary consideration; but that exemption was qualified so as to raise an inquiry whether the money might not be subject to the Succession Tax under some other provisions of the Bill. Again, in another clause, a party liable to the Succession Tax was declared not to be liable to the Legacy Duty in respect to the same principal sum. No such cautions would be necessary if a simple but controlling definition of the principle of the tax was established; and such a definition was material in order to exclude, as far as possible, the conflicts which did so frequently arise upon the true construction of Acts of Parliament—conflicts sometimes to be found in the decisions of courts of competent jurisdiction upon matters of construction; and in that House he was entitled to say, that no graver subject could be offered for consideration than the consequences connected with the task so impartially, and generally so satisfactorily, performed by Judges in the construction of imperfect legislation; and the subject was important in proportion as it was doubtful how far, consistently with the constitutional law of Parliament, the exercise of the power should be permitted; and, on the other hand, how the necessity for such a power was to be avoided. It never could be contended that Judges should not read an Act of Parliament according to its plain import; and it was difficult to say that they should not declare that import according to their understanding of it. And then, where was to be found the rule to define the amount of doubt which should require them to stop and abstain from enunciating a meaning more or less obvious, in proportion as the mind of the individual was more or less critical?

It was agreed that the preamble cannot control the enacting words of an Act of Parliament. It had been said by way of explanation, but rather fancifully, that the Legislature might, in the first instance, have contemplated less than when it proceeded to determine by its enacting powers, which were, therefore, more ample, and must have full effect. In like manner, an extensive expression of intention in the preamble would not carry the powers of the Act further than was distinctly conferred; but it was held that if the Act was "obscure," it might receive might from the preamble. Still it must be remembered that those very rules of construction were not their rules, but the opinions of Judges and courts as to what they consider might or might not be done; and the great Parliamentary doctrine remained, that no power but that of the Legislature could alter the authority given by Parliament. Its intentions were unknown to any other body—it had a right to work out its own intentions—when it acted in the form of a Statute it exhausted the subject with which it dealt, and it could not, by construction, be made to say more than it had said. He (Mr. Freshfield) said, that a very direct illustration of this principle, and of the danger of allowing a latitude of construction, occurred in the early part of the reign of George IV. The Court of King's Bench, not a single Judge, but the whole Court, unanimously decided that the Statute for the Registration of Annuity Deeds required that the memorial should set forth not only the names but the description and addition of the witnesses to the deed; and for the want of those particulars, the Assurance objected to was invalid, and ordered to be set aside. The form of the proceedings admitted of no appeal; but the construction put by the Court, inferred what the Statute had not in terms required, and by an Act of Parliament, which commenced in the House of Lords, Parliament, without repealing the Act, so construed by the Court, declared that the Legislature in and by such a Statute reciting it, had not required the particulars which the Court of King's Bench had implied as the foundation of its judgment. From that authority he (Mr. Freshfield) said he maintained not only the desirableness of using the utmost care to render Acts of Parliament clear and free from the risk of erroneous construction, but also the importance of declaring the principle to be carried out; and while the preamble would not control the different parts of a Statute, he urged that words should be used to give to the declaration of principle a governing power over every provision of the Act. And if his view was generally right, it was especially so in a measure involving so many points of detail as were necessary to be dealt with under the Bill of his right hon. Friend; and he hoped that the form of his Amendment would secure the advantage for which he had framed it. He contended not for the form of words, which were open to any improvement—his aim was to secure the object; and, in conclusion, he would assure his right hon. Friend, that he had no intention to impede the measure or interfere with its productiveness. On the contrary, by the test he proposed, he meant to give efficiency to the Bill; and he conceded, in fact, more than some of the friends of the measure were prepared to admit—namely, that whatever came to a man, not by purchase, but fortuitously, should be deemed a Succession, and be subject to the tax, as if it had been a legacy. With this explanation he moved the following addition to the second clause.

Amendment proposed— in page 2, line 33, after the word 'derived,' to insert the words 'and for the purpose of governing and defining the several provisions in this Act contained, it is hereby declared and provided that the object and intention of the Legislature is to assess the Tax hereby imposed upon property to which any person shall succeed without pecuniary consideration under any settlement or other disposition, or by operation of Law, in such and the like manner as if the same property or interest had been acquired by Will or by way of distribution in case of intestacy.'


said, he had no difficulty in subscribing to the principle of the Amendment of his hon. Friend, that Acts of Parliament ought to be clear and plain to construe; but beyond that he could not go. He willingly gave his hon. Friend credit for having no desire to repeal or narrow the obligations of the Act; but he could not help thinking that such would be the effect of the Amendment he had now proposed. The object of the Amendment, if he understood it aright, was to affirm a principle, which principle was to be adopted as a general guide in the construction of the Act. Now, it would be impossible to take a more dangerous course than to legislate on such broad and general terms, without having in their view all the cases to which those terms would apply, or to adopt any words that tended to override the specific provisions which the House had made on these difficult questions. If he had considered aright the scope and tendency of the Amendment, that would be its effect, though he was sure his hon. Friend did not intend to carry it that length. Surely, it would be better to use plain words applicable to particular cases, than to employ language, the particular application of which it would be impossible for any one to know, and the effect of which would be to throw darkness and ambiguity over the whole operation of the Act. Coming to particulars it appeared to him that in the first application of these words they would cut quite across the intentions of the House in some very important particulars. The hon. Gentleman would make the Legislature declare in these words that this tax was to be imposed on property only to which any persons should succeed "without pecuniary considerations under any settlement or disposition." But the House had at various times considered whether they would confine the Act to cases in which successions were taken without pecuniary considerations, and they had decided that the Act should not be so confined. Then, again, these words would provide that the Succession Duty should be imposed only on property "in such and like manner as if the same property or interest had been acquired by will or by way of disposition in cases of intestacy." Here it was quite obvious his hon. Friend led them into a most dangerous course by enunciating in large and broad terms a rule different from that which had been adopted by the Committee. They had made a provision of quite a different character with regard, for example, to post obits. Both on the general ground, therefore, that it was an unsafe course to enunciate these large propositions, which no one could foresee the effect of, and on the ground that in particular cases the Amendment would cut right across the intentions of the Statute, he hoped the House would reject the proposal of his hon. Friend, and abide by the decision of the Committee.

Question, "That those words be there inserted" put, and negatived.


said, he would propose in Clause 20, to leave out the words "or of any lease falling within the operation of the 24th Section of this Act." The object of the proviso was, that no charge should be made on an owner of property held subjected to leases at rackrent for any additional value from the falling in of those leases. It was obvious the principle did not apply to other leases than those of rackrent, and he wished, therefore, to omit the words referred to.


said, he thought the references to the 24th clause an error, and would therefore suggest that the reference should be altered to the 25th clause.


said, he felt disposed to accede to the Amendment. If the words had any legitimate place in the Bill, it could only be to prevent the possibility of a double tax on the determination of certain leases. It certainly was not intended that the tax should be paid twice over. If the words were mere surplusage, he should not accede to the Motion for striking them out; but as they were likely in certain cases to produce a mischievous effect, and one not intend by the hon. Gentleman who had procured their insertion, he should consent to their omission.

Words struck out.


said, he begged to propose an Amendment, which, if carried would so alter the scale on which the rates of duty were to be calculated, as to tend make the amount of duty considerably less than under the schedules in the present Bill. With reference to the 21st clause, providing that the interest of a successor in real property should be considered as an annuity, he would move that in the paragraph, "every such annuity, for the purposes of this Act, shall be valued according to the tables in the schedule annexed this Act," the words "this Act" should be left out, for the purpose of inserting the words, "the Act of the 36th year of the reign of King George III., chap. 52, The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had computed that this tax altogether would amount to on 2,000,000l.; but after the most careful calculation he could make, he found, beyond all doubt, that the total amount would be 3,000,000l., and perhaps some 200,000l. to 400,000l. He was inclined to think the House would agree with his Amendment, because the effect of the Bill would undoubtedly be to increase the legacy duty, which was already sufficiently oppressive in amount. The only reason stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for altering the tables from those contained in the Legacy Duties Act was, that the duration of life was now much longer than it was at the time the Legacy Duties Act was framed; but it was quite clear that the rate of interest had had quite as much, if not more, to do with the raising of the scale than the duration of life. The truth was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made his calculations upon a 3 per cent table instead of a 5 per cent table. So it appeared from the schedules in the Bill. Three per cent was about thirty-three years' purchase; 4 per cent would be twenty-five years' purchase; 5 per cent twenty years' purchase; and 6 per cent sixteen and two-thirds. Now, in the third table of the Bill, he found that a lease for thirty-three years was worth 1,814l., while it appeared from Table 1 that a life at birth which they had a right to assume would be the commencement of the lease for thirty- three years, was worth about the same amount. That, he thought, was a conclusive proof that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had founded his calculations upon a 3 per cent table. Under these circumstances, therefore, he asked the House whether he did wrong in seeking to modify and mitigate some of the harsh features of the Bill? But there was another point to which he desired to advert. They had made leasehold property real estate, and declared it should pay succession duty in the same manner as freehold property. What were they going to do with leases for a term of years? According to the schedule in the Bill a person entitled to a lease for twenty years, supposing him to be sixty years of age, would be worth 1,359l., while a life of fifty years of age would be worth 1,242l. Now what he desired to know was, whether they meant to charge that property under the leasehold schedule for a term of years, or whether they intended to charge it with reference to the life interest? He begged to call the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite to this point. What would their constituents say when charged at the rate of some twenty-four years' purchase for leasehold property which probably might not be worth seven years' purchase? He knew that independent Members got little credit for any suggestions they might make; but nevertheless he appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to offend the country by altering the schedules of the Legacy Duties Act, and would earnestly recommend him to apply them in their integrity to the Succession Duty.

Amendment proposed, "In page 8, line 29, to leave out "this Act,' in order to insert the words, the Act of the 36th year of the reign of King George Third, c. 52,' instead thereof."

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."


said, be hoped the hon. Gentleman did not think there had been any want of consideration or respect for the various suggestions which had been made during the discussion on this difficult and important subject. He did not hesitate to repeat what he had previously stated, that he felt greatly indebted to hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House for the way in which they had applied their minds to master the difficulties of this question; and to none did that remark apply more strongly than it did to the hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. Mullings). Now the hon. Member assured the House in the first place, that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would obtain from the Succession Tax double the amount which he had anticipated. The present legacy duty, including the probate duty, yielded 2,500,000l., and he anticipated an increase of 2,000,000l., making in all 4,500,000l. Surely the hon. Gentleman did not mean to tell him that he should get 9,000,000l.? To take, however, the most moderate interpretation which his words would admit of, the hon. Gentleman thought he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer would get 4,000,000l, from the Succession Duty. He heartily wished he could go along with him in that anticipation; but he was confident the hon. Gentleman was inaccurate in his calculations. It was true, the wealth of the country was increasing, and a good deal would no doubt depend upon the working of the law; but there were various elements of uncertainty in the matter; and, unless he was greatly mistaken, he thought he heard the hon. Gentleman state on a former occasion that the Succession Tax would not produce more than 3,000,000l. Now, he admitted a net benefit of 2,000,000l., and he proceeded upon the assumption that so soon as the state of the revenue would admit of it, the House would reform the probate duty, which it could not do without losing a considerable sum. It was after deducting that loss that he calculated upon obtaining 2,000,000l. from the Succession Tax; and therefore, after all, he did not think there was much difference between the hon. Gentleman and himself. Since the Bill had been introduced he had instituted an investigation into the actual history of successions in the case of the peerage, where it was tested by actual record, and the result gave a rate of succession more nearly approaching his estimate than that of the hon. Gentleman. He could most truly say that he had endeavoured to give the House an estimate which should be at once both safe and bonâ fide. He had not understated what he expected from the tax. He did not say that it would not yield something more, but that was a matter of perfect uncertainty, and he did not think the House would act wisely in taking any step upon the assumption that the tax would produce more than 2,000,000l. The hon. Gentleman had referred to a supposed increase in the Legacy Duty. Some increase they might get from that source, but it would be extremely little. Tables had nothing to do with the chief portion of the Legacy Duty—that duty fell principally upon capital; and when they took a percentage upon capital, they had nothing to do with tables. It was simply in cases of life or terminable interests that tables came into operation, and therefore any increase derived from the Legacy Duty in consequence of an alteration of the tables, would affect only a small portion of the receipts under the Legacy Duty, and would have an insignificant result. Moreover, that result would be balanced by a change about to be made in the law with reference to leaseholds, taking them out of the Legacy Duty Act, and putting them on the footing of real property in deference to what the Government considered a principle of justice. The hon. Gentleman had asked what they intended to do with respect to leaseholds. They should compare the value of the lease with the value of the life of the person who succeeded to it, and if the value of the lease were a lesser interest than the value of the life, then of course the man would pay upon the entire value of his lease; but if, on the other hand, the value of the lease amounted to a greater number of years' purchase than the value of the life, the successor would then have to pay upon his life interest. The hon. Gentleman said that the effect of what they proposed would be to increase the value of life interests. Very true; and the reason why they increased the value of life interests was because the value of lives was increased. The hon. Gentleman was decidedly wrong in saying that the calculations of the Bill were founded upon a 3 per cent table. The truth was, they were founded upon a 4 per cent table, the same as that contained in the Act 36 Geo. III. After all, the question came to this, would they adopt antiquated tables, which had reference to an entirely different state of things; or would they avail themselves of recent experience, showing the actual value of human life at the present time, and lay their tax accordingly? He hoped the House would reject the proposition of the hon. Gentleman.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


said, he would now move, in Clause 21, line 30, to leave out the words "by eight equal half-yearly instalments, the first of such instalments to be paid." The amount of this tax upon land in the first degree of consanguinity was only 5l. in every 1,000l., and it was ridiculous to suppose that any gentleman on coming into possession of an estate would require four years and a half to pay that paltry sum. He could not understand why such a time should be allowed in the case of real property, while with regard to personalty payment must be made within a period of twenty-one days. There was a great inequality between the mode in which the tax on real property was to be payable, and the mode in which the tax on personal property was paid. He did not see how the duty could well be so greatly subdivided in the case of those very small properties which belonged to the shareholders in building societies and similar bodies. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had displayed more talent in defence of that Bill than he (Mr. Williams) had ever seen displayed by any other Finance Minister; but he believed that even the great ability of the right hon. Gentleman would not enable him to justify a measure which would allow the owners of land four years and a half to pay half the amount of the tax which the owners of personal property had to pay in twenty-one days.

Amendment proposed, in page 8, line 30, to leave out the words "by eight equal half-yearly instalments, the first of such instalments to be paid."


said, the hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat had spoken of him in a way which he did not deserve. But he was at the same time bound to acknowledge the fairness and openness with which the hon. Gentleman had invariably stated his view on this question, the perseverance with which which he followed his object, and the justice of the general principle upon which he founded his propositions. He must, however, feel that he had great reason to be satisfied with the emphatic recognition which the justice of the principle had received during the discussion of this Bill from very large majorities in that House. But, concurring in the justice of the principle, and thinking that the hon. Gentleman deserved the acknowledgments of those in office for his efficient labours in procuring its general recognition, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had never at all from the first moment of the introduction of the Bill attempted to keep back the anxious desire of the Government that their recognition of the principle should be so adjusted to the existing state of things, and so qualified by mitigating its provisions, that they should not be obtaining, under the form of a mere fiscal and taxing Act, an engine which would go to displace and alter extensively the possession of property in this country, and thereby produce effects upon the social system which they did not desire to see. The Amendment now under discussion, as the hon. Member well knew, went very much to the root of this question. It was an Amendment of an importance far beyond the apparent force of the terms in which it was conveyed. He regretted that, as he understood it, it did not purport to touch the broad distinction in the Bill as to the character and weight of the tax that was to be laid upon real property, on the one hand, and personalty upon the other; for the hon. Member was content with asking the House to cut off the particular provision which made an allowance of three years and a half out of the four years and a half which it allowed for the payment of the tax upon landed property. But he thought the hon. Member was not quite accurate in his reading of the powers of the Bill relating to personalty. It was not the fact that the tax on personalty would have to be paid in twenty-one days. The specified term of twenty-one days to which be referred had reference to the obligation to send in the account; and the liability to send in the account only accrued, not within twenty-one days after the succession had fallen in, but at the time of the first payment. There was the same time allowed for the payment of the duty upon personalty as upon realty. This was admitted upon all hands, and he was ready to defend it, though he did not think it required any apology, because it was a reasonable, just, and necessary part of the Bill. The effect of the Amendment would be obviously, in one important particular, highly unsatisfactory—even without discussing the fundamental principle—and he ventured to anticipate the assent of the hon. Mover to what he was going to say. In the case of life interests, he apprehended the hon. Gentleman would not propose to cut off the system of payment by instalments, because the party might have nothing else in the world but what he took as tenant for life. He had, therefore, no power of charging the property, or of alienating any part of it, yet a tax would be laid upon him, which might amount to so considerable a sum that he could not pay it out of income. How would that work? How did they stand in reference to life interests in land as compared with proprietors of fee simple? This was a question which must not be considered apart from the system and tenure of landed property in this country. We had large estates, as a general rule, held by tenants for life; and small estates, as a general rule, held in fee. The operation of the present proposal, if he was right in assuming that the hon. Gentleman would give to life interests in land the same benefit that he would to the party who succeeded to a life interest in personalty, of paying by instalments, would be to establish a system under which the great proprietors of entailed estates would enjoy a privilege that in effect would amount to a reduction of the tax, while that tax would fall without mitigation upon the small proprietors. He was sure the hon. Gentleman would admit that this was a great objection to the proposal. He admitted, however, that this was a subject which might deserve consideration when the Executive came to the practical arrangements for the working of the tax—that was, the mode of levying it for very small properties. It was quite true that fractions of the tax would fall in such cases in sums so insignificant that the division of such sums into eight several payments might be found very inconvenient to all parties, and that the cost of collection might swallow up the proceeds. This was a matter, however, on which he had not thought it necessary at this moment to make any proposal to Parliament, for it was obviously a question of very small importance, compared with the great purposes which this tax contemplated. His belief was that the discretion which the Commissioners of the Treasury had, he should say, constitutionally enjoyed from time immemorial, exercised in the relaxation, upon cause being shown, of minor provisions of this kind under fiscal Acts, would be sufficient to enable them to make some such arrangements as would enable this Act to work beneficially and conveniently to all parties. He did not hesitate to say that the system of paying by instalments lay near the root of the principle of the Bill. He fully admitted, it would not be possible, nor just, to maintain the present exemptions for any length of time; and, therefore, it became a most important question upon what principle they were to lay taxes upon property of this kind. He thought the hon. Member's Amendment, if adopted, would introduce an invidious and unjust distinction between the large and small proprietors, to the prejudice of the latter, and to the benefit of the former. It was plain it was unadvisable to compel men to charge their estates with debt. It was contrary to policy to force them to do that by law. He would not say it was contrary to policy exactly in the same sense, but it was contrary to feeling, and not according to sound policy, to force them to cut up their estates and sell portions for the purpose of paying duty. Rather let them take a natural course. He was delighted to see industrious Englishmen of the lower ranks investing their earnings in land—every man must contemplate that process with satisfaction; but it would be impolitic to compel men to charge their estates with mortgages, and it would be inexpedient to compel them to cut off morsels and bring them to sale. If these two principles were admitted, then it followed that a tax of this kind ought to be paid out of income. Such was the object of this clause; the Legislature had recognised it in the case of personalty, where there was only a life interest. In order that the successor might not destroy part of the personalty, he was allowed to pay the duty by yearly instalments. On the same principle, of not distressing parties, of not complicating proprietary arrangements, of not forcing changes in the ownership of land, he had been anxious to adjust the details of the Bill in such a way that the tax should be paid, not out of capital, but out of income. He admitted that, in many cases, the Bill would entail the necessity of effort to pay the tax out of income; but he must say frankly that there had been great exaggeration on the other side of the House as to the burden of the tax. In the case of direct succession, the tax would be one which no man ought to consider as a burdensome addition to his charges; but in the case of indirect succession, it would amount to a sum which would require some effort and foresight to enable it to be paid out of income. Such were his objections to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. But there were two views of it. If the hon. Gentleman said the system of payment by instalments really meant so much deduction from the tax, he granted it; the deduction in fact would be equivalent to 10 or 12 per cent. This might be corrected by saying that interest should be charged upon the instalments. He, however, made no such proposal. But if the hon. Gentleman did not mean that this system was not a deduction from the tax, then it was an adjustment and distribution in such a form as that it might be paid out of annual income. As the Bill stood, it could be paid out of annual income. Under all these circumstances he must object to the Amendment.


said, he had heard with much satisfaction the very powerful speech of the right hon. Gentleman against the whole Bill. He wished to disabuse the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) of the notion that a legacy of 20l. paid a probate of 2½ per cent, and 1 per cent for legacy duty. Probate duty had nothing to do with legacies. As to legacy duty being payable in twenty-one days, that was never the case, for an executor had six months to prove the will; and, in fact, a year was the ordinary period for paying legacy duty. He had heard with satisfaction the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was not desirable to force parties to raise money upon their estates, or to sell small portions for the purpose of enabling them to pay the succession tax.


said, he could not refrain from expressing his surprise at the assertion of the hon. Member for Lambeth, as to legacies paying probate duty; and he hoped if the hon. Gentleman had acted as an executor and had charged that duty, that he would ease his conscience by refunding it.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.


said, he would now move to add to Clause 23 the proviso of which he had given notice.

Amendment proposed, in page 9, line 16, after the word "accordingly," to add the following Proviso:— Provided also, That in estimating the Duty either for charge of Duty or for assessment on commutation, no timber or wood shall be included which may have been disposed of by the Successor in exchange for timber used in rebuilding or repairs on the property comprised in the Succession, or for the protection thereof, and that allowance and deduction shall be made to the amount paid by the Successor for all timber or wood purchased for or used in such rebuildings or repairs.


said, that although he did not think it necessary, he would accede to the proviso.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had held out a hope that in this clause he would insert some minimum; would he state whether he intended to do so?


said, it did not appear to him advisable to accept this proviso. The Bill provided for all necessary outgoings in the case of land; and "all necessary outgoings" of course included repairs. Any reasonable expense in repairs would, therefore, be allowed. But the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mullings) proposed that in the event of any wood being cut down to effect repairs, an allowance should be made in respect to that wood. This would be allowing a second time for the same repairs. But the point to which he more particularly wished to call attention was this—the hon. Gentleman said, "If a certain amount of timber was cut, and then exchanged for other timber, a certain allowance was to be made;" but how? Suppose any person cut down 500 feet of timber of a worthless character, and exchanged it for foreign timber of a good quality—the foreign timber might cost just twice as much as the timber sold, and the allowance would be increased; but, to be fair, the deduction should be not upon the wood purchased, but on the wood sold.


said, that there were two considerations in the Amendment which he proposed: the one related to the exchange, and the other to the purchase of timber. In both cases he thought it fair that an allowance should be made.


said, he was of opinion that the proposal of the hon. Gentleman would lead to great confusion in the collection of the tax.


said, that his anxiety to save the time of the House had led him to give a rather hasty assent to the Amendment of the hon. Member; but, on more careful examination, he felt obliged to qualify his former opinion of it. It was proposed that no timber should be paid for which should be used for building or repairs. But if a proprietor should think fit to build new houses, and so increase the value of the land, there was no reason why timber employed for such a purpose should be exempt. Repairs were most justly exempted on the ground that they were necessary for the maintenance of the estate; but timber used far building went to increase the value of the property, and, therefore, stood on a totally different footing. He must, consequently, object to the words "rebuildings or" in the Amendment. Then, again, he thought that the words "or for the protection thereof" were not sufficiently clear. It would be better not to attempt such a specification, but rely on the words "necessary outgoings." The latter part of the Amendment, which provided that allowance and deductions should be made for all timber or wood purchased for building or repairs, would, in his opinion, be unfavourable to the successor, for whom it would be better that he should be allowed to form a full estimate of what he laid out in repairs, than that he should make a set-off of this kind. This proviso would also introduce great complexity into the operation of the Bill.


said, he thought that they were going on a vicious principle in taxing timber at all, which had as much claim to exemption as growing crops.


said, he saw no reason for the introduction of the first part of the proviso. With regard to the second part, it would be impossible to keep the account and to follow the timber into use and consumption. The only effect of the Amendment would be to introduce a doubt as to the meaning of the words "necessary outgoings." He recommended the withdrawal of the Amendment. With regard to the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), he proposed to move that no duty should be payable on the net moneys received for the sale of timber in any one year, unless such net moneys should exceed the sum of 10l.


said, be thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer had met the wishes of hon. Members on his side of the House with great fairness. He would suggest, however, that words should be inserted in the clause to make it more clear that "necessary outgoings" included all necessary repairs on the estate throughout the whole of the occupation. If those words were inserted, he thought the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. Mailings) would be unnecessary.


wished to know, in cases of woodland tracts, where timber was occasionally felled, if it was intended to levy the tax on each timber tree as felled, in addition to the original succession duty originally paid?


said, in reply, that they had nothing to do with the original value; the successor would be taxed on the annual value of the timber only.


should say that the reply of the right hon. Gentleman did not at all meet the question of his noble Friend, the object of which was to ascertain if a proprietor was to be taxed once or twice.


would suggest that the limit to the duty payable on the net moneys received from the sale of timber in any one year should be 20l., instead of 10l., as suggested by the hon. and learned Solicitor General.


said, the more he had heard of this discussion the more he regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have thought it necessary to make timber a special object of enactment at all. He would admit that the owners of timber had not succeeded in making out a case for special exemption; but, on the other hand, neither did he think that the right hon. Gentleman had succeeded in showing that there was any necessity for a special enactment. He thought it would have been far better to leave timber to take its chance as a portion of the general produce of the estate. If timber were not productive, it ought not to be taxed; but, if it were productive, the right hon. Gentleman had abundant means of getting his duty under the general provisions of the Bill. If it had been in order he should have moved at once that the clause, as regarded timber, be altogether omitted; but, as he believed a Motion of that nature would not be in order at present, he begged to give notice of his intention to move that Amendment at a future stage of the Bill.


said, he thought that the question put by the noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) had not been sufficiently answered. In order, therefore, to give the Chancellor of the Exchequer an opportunity to reply more fully, he would move the adjournment of the House.


intimated to the hon. Member that such a course, by permitting a Member to address the House several times upon the same question tended seriously to render the debate irregular.

Motion withdrawn.


said, he thought the first part of the Amendment was unobjectionable; but he certainly could not approve of the latter portion of it.

Question put, "That the Proviso be there added."

The House divided:—Ayes 72; Noes 114: Majority 42.


then moved the insertion of the following proviso at the end of the 23rd clause:— That no duty shall be payable on the net moneys received from the sale of timber, trees, or wood in any one year, unless such moneys shall exceed the sum of 10l.

Proviso agreed to.


said, he would now beg to move the Amendment of which he had given notice. His reasons for so doing were, that the modes of assessment under Clause 26 were wholly inapplicable to Cornish mines. No time, in the first place, was specified for averages; and he could not see how any time could be fixed with propriety, and no principle was, or could be, laid down as regarded the prospective value of so fluctuating a property as this, with regard to the averages for deep and shallow mines. To approximate anything like a just calculation, a variation in the averages must be made; and, if once a variation was admitted, then confusion would follow. Therefore he felt the necessity of proposing the Amendment. The proviso was equally essential, as, unless there was some definition of what was a mine in succession, the most ruinous litigation would be the result, especially with so very determined a race as Cornishmen.

Amendment proposed— In p. 10, line 2, after the word 'value,' to insert the words, or if the Successor shall before the first payment of Duty on the Succession shall be due, require to pay the Duty otherwise than upon the calculations aforesaid, then as respects all or any of the mines comprised in such Succession, the Successor shall be chargeable with Duty upon his interest in the net monies which shall from time to time be derived from any such mines or mine to which such requirement shall extend, and shall account for and pay the same yearly: Provided that if any Successor shall after such requirement, and after any such annual payment of Duty, be desirous of commuting the Duty, and shall deliver to the Commissioner an estimate of the net monies obtainable by him from such mines as may in a prudent course of management of such mines be expected during his life, the Commissioner, if satisfied with such estimate, may accept the same, and assess the Duty accordingly: That nothing shall be deemed a mine on which Duty shall be chargeable, that has not been at work within twelve months immediately preceding the Succession.


said, he regretted that the hon. Member had been prevented bringing his Amendment under the notice of the House at an earlier period, which had necessarily prevented him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) giving it that full and deliberate consideration which he should at all times be glad to bestow out of respect to every hon. Member who brought forward an Amendment, but more especially on this occasion, considering the practical knowledge possessed by the hon. Member on this particular subject. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had to answer the hon. Gentleman under the disadvantage of unpreparedness. The reason why he did not feel disposed to accede to the Amendment was, not that he had the least doubt that, as the enactment stood, it was an imperfect enactment, but because it had not been shown that, as the Bill was now worded, any person would unduly suffer. They had before them a choice of difficulties; and, for his part, he was content that those difficulties should be solved to the prejudice of the Crown. Had the Government sought to exact the tax with severity, it could not have been done without provisions which would have operated vexatiously, and have exposed persons, in some instances, to overcharges. But the Bill had been prepared in a different spirit, and he doubted whether any one could show that, under its provisions, any person could suffer wrong. No doubt, the hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in saying that in respect to mines recently opened, the Crown, under the provisions of the Bill, would obtain a very inadequate amount of the tax. But, notwithstanding that, he was not willing to make his calculations in regard to the amount of the annual receipts, unless some strong necessity existed. So far as regarded the interests of the Crown, he was content to abide by the Bill as it stood; and, so far as regarded Her Majesty's subjects, he saw no cause for believing that it would work in any way injuriously to them. The first successor had a choice of two modes by which to estimate the charge to which he would be subjected. He might either take the average of the proceeds of the mine for a certain number of years, preceding the succession; or he might take an estimate of the value of the property, and then calculate the annual value at the rate of 3l. per cent per annum. Either of those modes would defend the successor from any undue taxation, except under one single contingency, and that contingency did not apply to any mines in the whole country in the same degree as to the mines in Cornwall; he meant the contingency of a total and absolute failure of ore. Of course, in the case of all mines, whether of coal or of iron, there was the liability to loss in the amount of product, when the lessee or the proprietor, must suffer; but still a total cessation of produce was confined to Cornish mines only. He granted that that contingency required a special provision; but then they had go that special provision already in the Bill for it was provided that it should be lawful (and they all knew that those words imposed an obligation) for the Commissioners in the event of any circumstances which should tend to show that the succession duty was levied to the prejudice of the individual, and without due and sufficient grounds, to repay such duty to the parties He must, therefore, say that, as the Bill now stood, no hardship could by possibility be inflicted on any party. With respect to the latter part of the Amendment, the nothing should be considered a mine which should not have been worked within twelve months, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) happened to know a case where a mine within four months had yielded produce to the value of 9,000l., but which had been shut up for the preceding two years. Now, if the succession to such property had taken place during those two years, and had been regulated according to the proposed Amendment, it would have been almost a fraud upon the revenue, for the party would not have paid anything as a tax. Not to provide for such a case therefore, would be a great failure in the operation of the law.

Question "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.


then proposed, in page 15, line 5, after "property," to inset "within three calendar months after the happening of the Succession." The object of the Amendment was to make the meaning of the clause more defined, and its working less arbitrary.


said, that the system contemplate by the hon. Gentleman was much less favourable to parties attaining to succession than that embodied in the Bill. He proposed to insert a particular defined period prior to which the inheritor could not be liable to pay the duty. Well, there could be no doubt, as far as the revenue is concerned, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would have no reason to complain if the liability were to accrue at the end of such a period. But the Government proceeded upon a different principle; they did not define any precise period, but they said that the liability to render an account in respect of the accession would accrue not until the period when the accession, or at least the first portion of it, should be realised, and the advantage of that arrangement was, that the liability to pay accrued when the means to pay accrued; whereas, on the other hand, a long period might elapse before any portion of it was realised. That surely was a principle, if not so convenient to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, yet decidedly more favourable to the party inheriting than the one maintained in the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman.

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.


then proposed as an Amendment on Clause 49, page 16, line 32, to leave out after "them" the words "or their officers," and in line 39, after "Commissioners," to leave out the words "or their officers." He had already stated in the discussion on this clause that it had never entered into the mind of the Government to subject the parties liable to the payment of this tax to have their deeds or documents inspected by local officers, who were generally persons of a subordinate position, and therefore he was willing, as, indeed, it had been always his intention, that any such examination should be reserved for persons who were competent from their rank for the discharge of such functions. Anxious, therefore, to go as far as possible to meet the very natural sensitiveness of hon. Gentlemen opposite upon this subject—a sensitiveness which he could neither wonder at nor blame, he had entered into communication with the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, who had evinced every disposition to meet the feeling exhibited by the House. In point of fact, the administration of the legacy duty did not form at present any part of the business of the Commissioners of Revenue. It was an important part of their office, for which they were responsible; but practically the duty was discharged by the officers of the legacy duty department, and by a very able public servant who was at the head of that branch. But the Commissioners were quite willing to undertake the duty of the examination of the documents by themselves alone. He wished it to be understood that, so far as the Government was concerned, they had no desire to exercise any arbitrary or discretionary power at all, but were perfectly willing to meet the views of hon. Members in order to adjust the assessment of the tax. He therefore proposed to strike out the words "or their officers" altogether, and to limit the power of inspection to the Commissioners themselves.


said, there would be extreme difficulty, or at least inconvenience, to gentlemen resident in remote counties, such as Devon and Cornwall, having to send up their deeds to London.


said, he must confess that, looking at matters practically, his view was that in ninety-nine out of every hundred cases the parties would be found making no objection to the inspection of their documents. In fact, it was quite obvious that the deeds need never pass out of the custody of the parties themselves or their solicitors.


said, he must assert that there was considerable force in the objection of his hon. Friend the Member for South Devonshire (Sir J. Buller)—namely, the great inconvenience to all persons nonresident in London of having to forward their deeds from a remote distance to the capital. And if the right hon. Gentleman would but consider the great expense that small proprietors would be put to—their great disinclination and unwillingness to part with their deeds, he did hope that he would consent to make an exception in favour of muniments of title. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to assume that all transactions under the Act would be confined to London. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would yield to his suggestion; but the tenacity of Government on these points was really extraordinary.

Amendment proposed, in page 16, line 32, after the word "documents," to insert the words "except muniments of title."


said, that nothing could induce him to consent to any such Amendment as that just now suggested; he would far millet drop the clause altogether. He believe that the operation of the law, in case; where parties were unwilling to product their title deeds, would be very much aggravated by dropping the clause, or by so qualifying it as to render all investigation impossible. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that "muniments of title" were far too important words to be left out of the clause. Why, the muniments of title often affected the title itself, and he was advised that even the rental might be included among the muniments. He would beg to remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that it was personalty that must pay the bulk of the tax, and that, therefore, it would be perfectly impossible to assess the tax upon property f that description if the exception asked for as conceded.


said, if the right hon. gentleman meant only that the tax should refer to settled property, Gentlemen on his (the Opposition) side of the House would rest perfectly content. And, doubtless, with regard to that kind of property, it would be quite necessary that all deeds and documents should be produced, otherwise here would be nothing visible or tangible. The words "muniments of title" could only refer to land, and the possession of land was better proof for the purposes of the tax than my settlement could be. The right hon. Gentleman had fallen into an error in supposing the trustees had possession of the Settlements relating to the land. This was the first attempt that had been made to upset the doctrine that the owner of deeds had a right to maintain possession of them against the world. There had not been the smallest reason adduced for the demand. Neither the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, nor the hon. and learned Solicitor General, with all their astuteness, had been able to give a single reason for the production of those "muniments of title." The party with whom he (Mr. Malins) had the honour to act, had no objection to the insertion of the words "title deeds relating to real estates." He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would see the necessity of giving up this extraordinary and unconstitutional power without a tittle of necessity for it.


said, he fully concurred in the observations made by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Malins) the Member for Wallingford. He was afraid that the House was getting careless of the preservation of a principle which ought to be held sacred. He would strongly urge upon the hon. and learned Solicitor General the propriety of taking into his consideration the suggestions just made by the hon. and learned Gentleman.


said, that unless this clause was adopted, there would be almost in every case where a dispute arose the necessity on the part of the Crown of applying to a Court of Law to compel the production of those papers, which would be attended with great inconvenience, expense, and delay to the individuals concerned. The clause was worded in a manner to produce the least possible inconvenience. As to the production of title deeds properly so called, the clause would not have the slightest effect. The only documents that would be required were those documents illustrating the relation in which the successor stood to the man making the settlement, and they only compelled the production of the instrument under which the successor came to the estate. In many cases it would be absolutely necessary, in order to enable the Commissioners to decide, that they should see the documents or attested copies.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The House divided:—Ayes 100; Noes 132: Majority 32.

Clause agreed to.


then moved the insertion of the following proviso, which was agreed to:— Provided, that where the sum payable for duty on such assessment does not exceed fifty pounds, the accountable party may, having given notice of appeal, and delivered a statement of the grounds thereof as hereinbefore directed, appeal to the Judge of the County Court in England, the Sheriff Court in Scotland, or the Assistant Barrister's Court in Ireland, for the district, county, or division in which the appellant shall be resident, or the property be situate, and every such Judge shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter of such last-mentioned appeal, with the like power and authority as are by this section given to a Judge of Her Majesty's Court of Exchequer.

Report, as amended, agreed to.

Bill to be read 3o on Monday next.