§ MR. PHINN
said, he begged to ask the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer 427 whether Her Majesty's Government had reconsidered the Resolutions for imposing increased duties on certain trade licences, and, if so, when they would be prepared to lay the amended Resolutions on the table of the House?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I think that it will be a great convenience to the House if, in answering the question that has been put to me by the hon. and learned Gentleman, I take this opportunity to advert to the position of several of the financial measures of the Government which have not been mentioned in this House, and to state the course which we propose to take in regard to them. In the first place, as respects the licences, which are the immediate subject of the question of the hon. and learned Gentleman, upon an examination of the circumstances attending the probable operation of the scale that was originally proposed, it was soon obvious that great inconvenience, and even in particular cases what might be called oppression, would be caused by putting it in force. I therefore made it my business to consider how that scale could be revised, and in what shape it could be put, so as to operate in a manner free from those objections. But the effect of that was materially to reduce the proceeds of any such scale, and in some degree to raise the question whether, supposing we were in a position to dispense with the money we expected to derive from it, it would be desirable to stir the subject at all now, or whether it would not be more expedient on the whole to let the matter stand over until it could be considered in connexion with that which is the great and capital item in our licensing system, the publicans' licences, and all the family of licences, as I may call them, that belong to that class. The way in which the matter now stands is this. It is impossible, until I know the decision of the House with regard to several questions that are pending, and with regard to which notices have been given by hon. Gentlemen, which would affect the Exchequer, that I should give any absolute pledge on the subject of these licences. The Government have not, therefore, come to any absolute decision on that subject; but I think I may venture to say that, provided that no other inroad is made on the funds available for the public service, it may be in our power to dispense altogether from making any proposal with regard to licences, and that in that case no such proposal will be made. Of course I 428 do not wish to be considered as binding the Government absolutely. Our decision will depend on the course that is taken with regard to other measures before the House, with respect to which votes may be come to that will materially affect our means. So much for the subject of licences. With respect to the question of the soap duties, a Bill for their repeal is prepared, and I propose to take a stage of that measure tonight. The next question to which I shall refer is that of the stamp duties. With respect to these duties there are three of the items in the Resolutions I have laid on the table, with reference to which notices have been given. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Oliveira) has given a notice relative to the penny receipt stamp; the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord R. Grosvenor) has given a notice with respect to the repeal of the attorneys and solicitors' certificate duty; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. Gibson) with reference to the advertisement duty. Now, as regards the stamp duties, I wish, in the first place, to remind the House, subject, of course, to your correction, Sir, that the Resolutions I have placed on the table were not required to be placed there by the forms of the House, but were simply printed for the information of hon. Members. It was thought that considerable confusion would arise, unless I put into the form of Resolutions the whole of the proposals which I have to make. But time has flowed on, and we are now in this condition: it would be extremely convenient to the community that we should get forward with the Stamp Resolutions, especially as respects the penny receipt stamp, and that which will be available for bankers' cheques, and so forth. It is desirable that the Act should be brought into immediate operation. That, however, is not a measure in which we can proceed immediately on getting a vote from the House of Commons, because it is necessary to protect the stamp from forgery, and we cannot take any measure for this purpose except on the strength of an Act of Parliament previously passed. I considered that by printing the Resolutions I have pledged myself to any Gentleman who is desirous of it to have a discussion upon them; and, therefore, if a discussion is insisted upon, I will not insert in the Stamp Bill any matter with respect to which that claim for discussion may be made. There are, however, a great many of the new stamp duties to which no objections have been taken, and no notices have 429 been given; and the Motion of the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Oliviera) relating to the penny stamp would involve simply an extension of the operation of a proposed duty, but nothing more. I therefore propose to pass the Resolutions tonight, as they have been laid on the table, with the exception of those which there is any disposition to contest. I will then bring in the Bill, with respect to which it will be for the House to take any course which it pleases. That course will enable me to gain time, while the liberty of discussion of the House will not be in any degree impaired. The Resolution with respect to the assessed taxes has taken a longer time to embody in a Bill than I expected. But the Acts on that subject are so extremely complicated that some delay was inevitable. I now, however, hold in my hand the Bill on that subject, which I shall be prepared to lay on the table to-night. An hon. Member asked me the other night for a list of the articles on which the extra customs duty of 5 per cent is still chargeable. I hold that list in my hand, and will now move that it be laid on the table.
§ Motion agreed to.