§ LORD ROBERT GROSVENOR
, on rising for leave to introduce a Bill to repeal the Attorneys and Solicitors Annual Certificate Duty, said, before he went into the merits of this case, which he was afraid he should be compelled to do, he wished the House to take notice of the position in which this question was now placed.
So much had the profession felt the grievance of this tax, that for the last twenty years they had never ceased to petition the House to be relieved from it.
He had given notice of his intention to move for the repeal of this tax in 1849. He was not, however, able to bring the question before the House until the following year—the year 1850. Then, however, he did so; and although opposed by the Government of the day, the House acquiesced in the propriety of the Motion, and he carried it, with their assistance, through several stages, until at last he lost it towards the end of the Session, owing to one of those difficulties which are incidental to every private Member of the House who attempted individual legisla- 1386 tion. In the following year, 1851, on account of the Ministerial crisis, and of the debates upon "the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill," be was unable to bring the Motion forward as soon as he could have wished, but he brought it forward late in; the Session; and although again opposed by the Government, the House confirmed its former decision by a still larger majority; and he had some reason to believe that, had his friends remained in office, he should have been spared the trouble of bringing this question again before the House, for he thought they would have deferred to the decision of the House, and also to what he conceived to be the unanswerable claims of the attorneys and solicitors to be relieved from this tax. Last year, during the short interval that elapsed between the accession of the new Government and the termination of the expiring Parliament, it was impossible for him to attract the attention of the House to the subject to any useful purpose. If that were the same Parliament, or if the same Members had been returned, he had so often and so successfully troubled the House before on the subject, that he should simply have read the notice that stood upon the paper of the House, made the Motion, and sat down; but as there were something like two hundred new Members in the present House, he should scarcely do justice to those whoso interests were committed to his charge, if he did not briefly call the attention of the House to an outline of the history of the tax, and the principal arguments on which they relied for its repeal. At the close of the last century Mr. Pitt was in great distress for money, and was compelled to raise funds to meet the exigency of the time, not in pursuance of any fiscal system that he approved of, but by levying any taxes he could persuade the House to vote; and he stated in proposing this duty that he could not justify it on any principle. So sensible was he of the unjust manner in which it was likely to operate, that in order, as he stated, to make the tax tolerably fair, he attached to it the duty upon warrants—an ad valorem duty to the amount of business transacted by each attorney. That part of the Act, he said, would render it to a certain extent fair and equitable; but he was sorry to say that that fair and equitable portion of the Act had been long since repealed, and that the most objectionable part of the Act, the Certificate duty, had not only been continued, but increased more than once, 1387 until it had arrived at the present amount—12l. a year for the metropolitan, and 8l. a year for the country solicitor. The operation of the tax was this: whilst the more wealthy portion of the profession paid about one-half per cent, or one-fourth per cent on their earnings, the poorer portion paid five or six, and in some cases even seven per cent. But he would not dwell upon the unequal operation of the tax, because no doubt, if that were the whole of their case, it would be said that that injustice was also shared by certain trades that paid a personal tax; and therefore it might be urged that if the tax were repealed, they should also repeal other personal taxes to a large amount. He meant the taxes upon auctioneers, brewers, hawkers, and various others; but surely at that time of day it would scarcely be contended that, because principally for fiscal purposes and for the protection of the revenue, certain trades paid a licence, therefore it was fair and just that a profession, or rather a part of a profession, should pay certificate duty. People would hardly exclude from their consideration that the one business required a long, expensive, and laborious education, whilst the others, comparatively speaking, required little, if any, special education of any description; and they, moreover, might be laid down and taken up again at any moment without the slightest detriment to the individual exercising them. But if that was their principle, and if they were so enamoured with that method of taxation, and thought that the tax was really justifiable, why did they not increase the revenue, and put a tax upon barristers, surgeons, physicians, sculptors, and architects? But even if they did put a tax upon them, he would presently show the House that they would be dealing with them much more equitably than they were then dealing with the attorney and solicitor. The collector of taxes meets him upon the very threshold of his professional career, and asks him to pay 120l. before even his parent, if he has one in the profession, can communicate to him the rudiments of professional knowledge. When he has gone through his clerkship, before he can practise, the Government comes to him again, and levies an additional toll to the amount of 25l.; then when he begins to practise, he is invited to pay the income tax of 3 per cent on his earnings, and the law charges him with certificate duty, which, on the aggregate returns of the profession, amounts 1388 to at least 3 per cent additional. And then it was the fashion to revile this part of the profession, and call them extortioners, and bloodsuckers, and vampires, and he did not know what besides; indeed, he was informed that an hon. Member of a former Parliament, being interrogated as to the difference between a solicitor and an attorney, said it was the difference between a crocodile and an alligator. But he asserted that it was the Executive Government that was the extortioner; for, if an example of extortion was wanted, what stronger example could be shown than the fiscal system that exacted 120,000l. sterling yearly in the shape of certificate duty, and 80,000l. a year in the shape of stamp duty on articles of clerkship and admissions, making altogether 200,000l. on the industrial earnings—he should say, "mental exertions" of one portion of a learned profession.
He said he could strengthen his case much were he to detail to the House, from individual instances which had come to his knowledge in examining this question the injurious operation of this impost; but he forebore to do so, because when he first introduced this measure the House was kind enough to listen to him, while at considerable length he went into the matter. However feeble that statement was, the Law Society of England adopted it, printed and circulated it, and probably a copy had been sent to every Member that then did him the honour to listen to him. When this question was originally proposed by Mr. Pitt, there was a Member for Wiltshire (Sir Edward Astley) at that period who was delighted with the proposition, and at the notion of skinning an attorney; and he said he thought the law was a luxury, and that those who used it ought to pay for it. He was not at all of that opinion. He-did not think the law a luxury; he thought it a necessary evil. He hoped that the administration of the law would hereafter only be another term for the administration of justice, and would be made cheap and open to all. He thought, and he had always voted accordingly, that the best means of relieving the people, so far as legal matters were concerned, was to simplify the law, and render the law as cheap as possible. That was a far better plan than the circuitous route that was now pursued of extracting, for the benefit of the public, through the solicitors and attorneys, that which a complicated and antiquated system of law enabled them to obtain from the pub- 1389 lie, apparently for their own benefit. After many long delays, he was happy to say that the Government and the Legislature had at length entered boldly upon a career of law reform. He need not tell the House that what had already been done had enormously curtailed the profits of the legal profession—the profits of those whose interests he was now advocating. He thought that the proper and legitimate method of curtailing the profits of the attorneys; but in doing what the House had done, it had cut from under it all pretence and ground for the continuation of this onerous tax. He had hoped that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have spared him the trouble of making, and the House the trouble of listening to, his speech by at once acquiescing in the demand of the profession; but it appeared he was mistaken. He did not know what objection to this Motion the very ingenious mind of his right hon. Friend might have suggested to him; but he could conceive that if he entertained an objection to the repeal of this tax, he might desire to have the opinion of a new Parliament expressed on the subject before dealing with it. When that opinion was pronounced—and he hoped it would be coincident with that of the old Parliament—he trusted, whatever it might be, his right hon. Friend would show respect to that opinion.
He would now remind the House of the small amount which he proposed to take away from the revenue of this country. The amount of the tax was 120,000l. a year, and that was the whole and sole amount that would be abstracted from the annual income by the repeal of this tax. This was a solitary exception in taxation. No other class of people, if the tax was repealed, could say that they were aggrieved by a tax that stood upon the same ground and ought to be relieved in like manner. He defied any man, however ingenious he might be, to say that he could discover a tax which stood upon the same ground; and therefore, in voting for his proposition, all they had to do was to diminish the revenue by 120,000l. a year. He thought the tax was so objectionable in principle and operation that it should be removed, even though there should be no surplus. As it was, however, there was no reason for supposing that the revenue was not in a position to bear this trifling inroad; and this being the ease, he trusted that his right hon. Friend 1390 would not object to a Motion pledging the House to the repeal of a tax so objectionable in principle, and so unjust and unequal in its operation. But of this he was sure, that his right hon. Friend would not object to his bringing forward the Motion at that particular period. It would be better that his right hon. Friend should know the mind of the House on the subject before he brought forward his Budget, than that he should remain in ignorance of the fact, and should make his fiscal arrangements, and afterwards be compelled by a vote of the House to make reductions for which he might not have provided. The objection of the former Chancellors of the Exchequer was, if the proposition was brought forward before the Budget, that it would be too soon; and if it were brought forward after the Budget, that it would be too late. That objection was happily excluded on the present occasion by the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Cardwell), on the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), the other day; and he was sure that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not make such an objection on the present occasion. He apologised to the House for having trespassed so long upon it, and he should now do no more than merely read the Motion as it stood on the paper.
§ MR. COWAN
begged to second the Motion. The city with which he was connected was not distinguished for its commerce and manufactures, but depended upon the law and literature for its prosperity. He had that day had the honour to present a petition from the solicitors of Edinburgh, signed by 111 members of that body; and there were no fewer than 445 persons who paid the tax in the city | of Edinburgh, which amounted to about one-twentieth part of the whole sum contributed to the Exchequer by that duty. He objected to the tax, and he had always voted for the repeal of it, because it was a burthen which those gentlemen had to bear in addition to their share of all other taxes; but with regard to the principle of taxing professions, in his opinion no fairer tax could be demanded than an annual licence or certificate duty, provided it did not merely embrace a class small in number but was extended to all trades and professions alike. He gave notice two years ago of a Motion which he intended to submit to the House on that subject in 1391 connexion with the income tax; but he was prevented from doing so in consequence of the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), which had the effect of bringing the whole consideration of the income tax before a Select Committee. There were only twenty trades and professions which, under the Excise, pay licence duty; there were twelve or thirteen trades and professions which, under the stamp department of the revenue, were liable to an annual certificate duty. The amount of the licence duty in England, including post-horses, was 1,042,976l.; in Scotland, 113,000l.; in Ireland, 113,000l.; being altogether about 1,269,000l. derivable from Excise licenses alone. Then go to the other department of revenue to which he referred (the Stamps), and they would find, on looking to the amount received in England, Scotland, and Ireland, for licences under the Stamp duties, that it amounted to 215,000l., making a total for Excise licences and Stamp certificates, of 1,485,000l. The income tax derived from trades and professions amounted to very little more than this; he believed it amounted to 1,650,000l., and looking to the small fraction of traders that were now liable to the licence duty, he would submit to the House and to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether it was not well worth considering, that the Schedule D tax on trades and professions should be repealed, and that the Government should take into consideration the propriety of commuting that tax into an annual licence and certificate duty, so as to embrace all trades and professions. They had under the present system every possible variety of amount from 5s. to upwards of 50l. There were a number of licences at about 5s. a year; for instance, the dice makers only paid 5s., and the entire revenue from the tax only amounted to 30l. He begged to state that this was an exceptional case; a young man on entering the profession must pay 6l. for the first three years, and afterwards 12l., besides his share of all other burdens, and he knew it was felt to be a very oppressive and cruel tax.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to repeal the Attorneys and Solicitors Annual Certificate Duty."
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it was very plain that whatever might be the interest of the hon. 1392 Gentleman who had just sat down in the question now before the House, he did not esteem it so highly as the general principles of public interest and patriotism; because, while he contended that this certificate duty now under consideration was a tax of an exceptional nature, he strongly recommended that it should be extended to all trades and professions. There was no doubt a great deal to be said in argument for the doctrine that it should be extended to all trades and professions. He did not say that he would so extend it; but if the House should think that it was a question that, under possible circumstances might deserve consideration, whether that should be done or not, he would submit that nothing would be more incongruous and impolitic than to destroy the portion of the system they had already, in order that hereafter they might start afresh. Surely, before abolishing a tax that already existed—when there was a question whether it should be made universal or whether it should be extended—it must first be recollected that nothing could be more foolish than to remove that tax, in order to reimpose and extend it. He could not subscribe to the argument that appealed to the generosity of the House, on the ground that the body with whose interests they were dealing consisted of a limited number of persons, and, therefore, limited in power; on the contrary, whatever might be the value of the argument, most certainly no question could be brought before the House that was so sure of a fair hearing—and he would add, of something more—than the question of the repeal of the attorneys' certificate duty. His noble Friend had said that he had hoped that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would have acquiesced in the proposition for abolishing this tax; but he would be sorry to make any abstract declaration on the subject; he would go further, and say that no person holding the office which he did, ought, under any circumstances, to consent to the abolition of any tax until he had had an opportunity of comparing the arguments for its abolition in conjunction with the arguments for the abolition or reduction of other taxes that were pressed upon him. Even had the Government come to a positive decision to remit this tax, and not to propose the renewal of it, as a part of the fiseal arrangements for the year, he would have opposed the Motion of his noble Friend, and called upon the House for its rejection. 1393 There was a case, he admitted, in the annual duty paid by solicitors and attorneys which called for some consideration; but he did not think that the question of the annual certificate duty of the attorneys and solicitors was the most unjust of these duties. No doubt it was open to all the various objections that might be urged against every other similar tax; and he thought that the whole of the taxes which were levied upon certain trades and professions were among the worst parts of our fiscal system. He did not think it an objection to any possible or conceivable tax, that it was a tax laid on a trade or profession annually: when the circumstances of those trades and professions, after a long series of years, had become adjusted to that tax, it was amongst the worst cases of objection. That it was an unexceptionable duty or a good duty, he did not undertake to say; but there were duties for whose abolition stronger claims could be made.
There was certainly some force in the observation of his noble Friend as to the variety of duties that fell upon that particular profession; and that there were questions as to the amount and adjustment of those taxes which deserved the consideration of Government, that was, they deserved its consideration when the Government really knew the financial position of the country, and whether they were in a position to do equal justice to all classes who had claims for the adjustment of their taxation. At present the solicitors and attorneys in London paid 12l.; and in the country the solicitors and attorneys paid 8l. annually. It might be considered that this difference in the amount of the tax had reference to a state of things under which the London attorney possessed an advantage over the country attorney, and was supposed to have a larger and more lucrative share in the business than the country attorney; but that railroads have caused a great change in that respect, and in a great measure had removed the inequality; and that, therefore, that point should be reconsidered, and whether the same amount should not in future be charged on all certificates. Again, it migh be right to consider whether they should effect a readjustment of the tax, and arrange it for the future according to the extent of business that was done by the respective parties. There was another question of more importance still, and that was, should not the House, whether it agreed to the levying or abolishing of the 1394 annual certificate duty, make an important modification of the stamp duty upon the articles, and on the admission of gentlemen who became solicitors and attorneys? He did not think that the parties who had obtained the valuable assistance of his noble Friend, laid that point before him; at any rate his noble Friend had not laid that part of the case very fully before the House. He wished the House to understand, that, although he thought the fiscal principles involved in conceding this Motion were most serious, there were other questions besides the amount which by the repeal of this duty would be lost to the revenue which must not be overlooked. Let the House consider whether it was to say to the youth who was at the door or threshold of the profession, that he should pay 120l. before he entered within that door. The effect of that would be to create a virtual monopoly; but his noble Friend made no Motion that would have the effect of deranging that monopoly. He hoped the House would take this fact into its consideration, for it was a most serious one. They had erected a high fence and wall before the entrance to the profession of an attorney, and we placed certain burthens upon those within it; and the proposal was to remove the burthens from those who have got within, but to leave, the fence to prevent others from entering. He hoped the House would come to no such conclusion: when the proper opportunity for considering the case of the attorneys and solicitors should arrive, this question should be considered, and specially and carefully examined into. It should be considered whether the most proper method of affording relief to the profession, would not be by the means of an important reduction in the duty on the Articles, and an admission which would give the public the benefit of a free competition in the exercise of this profession, rather than by the measure proposed by his noble Friend, which went to render more stringent whatever monopoly belonged to the profession and the law respecting it. His noble Friend went further and said, "Why not lay a tax upon barristers?" But he knew very well that even if there was a disposition to go further, there was all the difference in the world between keeping a tax they had got, and getting a tax they had not. The question then before the House, was, not their abstract opinion with regard to the merits of that particular tax—and be did not say that tax singly, but the entire taxes that af- 1395 fected that profession—but the question for their consideration was, whether the state of the finances, and the claims of other classes, permitted them to accede to that Motion; and altogether irrespective of the strength of his party, and of the formidable following which his noble Friend had behind him, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) protested against a practice that would prove destructive to the finances of the country—the practice of taking a particular tax on the claims of a particular class, and dealing with it as an isolated case. His noble Friend said, he hoped he would not hear the argument urged against his proposition on this occasion which he had heard on former occasions, namely, that it was the wrong time for bringing it forward. He would hear it nevertheless, for it was the wrong time. Another hon. Member, on a former occasion, and on a different question, said that a Chancellor of the Exchequer always declared "it was the wrong time" when any proposition for reducing taxation was made. He would not always say it was the wrong time; but he would tell his noble Friend what was the right time. The right time was when they had gone so far in determining the public expenditure of the year that they should be in a condition to say what would be necessary to meet it; then they should know whether they should have taxes to repeal or not, and when they knew that, they would then be in a condition for considering and determining upon the ordinary claims of the various classes of the community, and with reference to the whole system of taxation; and then if they thought a tax so grievous as to call for its repeal irrespective of any surplus, they would be in a condition to consider whether it should be renewed, and what they would substitute for it. But what he objected to in this Motion was, that it called upon them to act at random and at haphazard, and to pledge itself to the concession of the claims of the attorneys and solicitors, overlooking those of all other classes of the community: if they did so, the House would be looking to the case of the attorneys and solicitors alone, and not to any other case, and they could not come to a right decision if they acted upon such a principle as that. At the right time it would be his duty, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, to propose any remission of taxes that might seem to be expedient; and if the tax to which his noble Friend's Motion 1396 referred, had greater claims to be removed than any tax to which he might call attention, then would be his opportunity to put his claim before the House, and ask the House to judge whether in his case there was not a fairer claim for remission than in any other. That would be the proper and straightforward mode of proceeding, and his noble Friend was, no doubt, of the same opinion; for in the year 1850, his noble Friend was advised to postpone a similar Motion, because the financial statement was about to be submitted to the House; and his noble Friend himself had admitted that he succumbed to the opinion of those who suggested on that occasion that the Motion should be postponed; and he trusted that he should not in vain indulge the hope that his noble Friend would take the same course on the present occasion. The main question, after all, was this:—what was the view the House took with regard to the duty of the Executive Government in reference to the finances of the country. Did the House think that the opinion of the House ought to be expressed—that it was for the advantage of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he should know the opinions of the House beforehand on each tax, the removal of which might be proposed, before the financial arrangements of the year were made—and that he should be guided by that opinion in drawing up his financial scheme for the year? He would not say whether that was a good system or not; but if it was, the Chancellorship of the Exchequer should be abolished altogether. He did not see the use of a Chancellor of the Exchequer if the House should adopt this mode of dealing with the finances of the country—that the principle should be "first come, first served"—that each Member should bring forward a tax for remission; and because he did so, and not because of its merits, he would move for its repeal—and that the chance of the ballot-box should determine the order of precedence in which each separate scheme for reduction should be considered and determined by the House, without reference to the whole financial system, and the claims of the country at large. The business and functions of the Government, he conceived, imposed upon them this obligation, that they should take the claims of each class, and deal with them in a comprehensive spirit in reference to every class of the community; and having done so, should then sum up together the whole fiscal case of the coun- 1397 try—that they should consider what it was they should propose to Parliament, that Parliament might be able carefully to weigh and balance the claims of each class, and having done so, select for remission those classes they deemed best entitled to it. Then they could make their proposals to Parliament. Parliament could hear them sifted and argued in open debate as against any others that might he brought forward by individual Members, and take it into their hands to decide to what class, in preference to others, the remissions should be given. That was his view with regard to the duties of a Minister of Finance as to the present question; and whatever might-be the opinion of the House and of the Government hereafter in reference to this particular tax, he called upon the House to join him in meeting the Motion of his noble Friend with a negative, however plausible his arguments might be, and however transcendent they might be rendered by the power of the following, of which he was the representative.
§ SIR FREDERIC THESIGER
said, he really did think that, under the circumstances, it was important that they should understand precisely the position that the Motion took; and from what he had learned from his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was quite clear that if the noble Lord agreed to postpone his Motion until some indefinite period, when his right hon. Friend should have taken into consideration the pressure of different taxes upon different classes of society, the noble Lord would share the same fate that all others had mot who had acceded to a request for postponement made under such circumstances by a Chancellor of the Exchequer, and would ultimately fail in accomplishing his object. The right hon. Gentleman said this was not the proper time to bring forward this question; that it was not proper to consider in an isolated way one particular tax pressing upon one particular class. With great deference to his right hon, Friend, he said, that if there was a peculiar tax that pressed heavily on a peculiar class, that was a subject worthy of consideration. It was to be distinguished from other cases, and was deserving of being brought under the attention of the House; and that it might he useful for a Chancellor of the Exchequer, before he prepared his Budget, to know what the feeling of the House was on a certain tax. This was a very peculiar tax, and nobody had ever suggest- 1398 ed that there was the slightest ground, in fairness or justice, for the imposition of it. They were rather curious, and if they would forgive him for one moment, he would call their attention to the arguments that were used when the tax was originally proposed. As his noble Friend had stated, in the year 1785, Mr. Pitt proposed to lay a tax upon all shops. This was objected to; and in the course of the debate, Alderman Watson, who was reported to have made a very feeling speech, said he remembered that a right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury bench, on a particular occasion, said that the Church at one time had its share of the good things of the State—the Lord be praised for it!—hut at this time the Law had taken care of itself, and what he would propose was, that the State should have some share of the lawyers' fees. He said the attorneys were computed to be 5,000 in number, and that a tax of 30l. on each would produce 150,000l., which was 30,000l. more than the tax on shopkeepers would produce. On this suggestion Mr. Pitt spoke; and, in reviewing the suggestions for taxation, when he came to that part of the case, he said, that although a tax upon attorneys might be a popular one, no person could be sanguine enough to suppose that it would be productive to the extent of 150,000l.; that it was not improbable that many Gentlemen were desirous to see such a branch of taxation adopted, and he could understand that many motives of various kinds might induce them to wish it. Some might urge it from their zeal for the revenue, others would like to see that body of men who drew so largely from others made instrumental to the service of the State; but there was another set of gentlemen that would still more warmly embrace the proposition for a tax on attorneys, from resentment. There was no doubt that there were many gentlemen in the State who, when they compared the amount of losses they had sustained through that set of men, with the sum now proposed as a tax on them, would not think that sum by any means considerable; but whatever their opinion might be attributable to, certainly no Gentleman would be sanguine enough to say that it would be productive to the extent of 150,000l. The tax upon shops was imposed, and the tax upon attorneys was also imposed, and for three years afterwards Mr. Fox never ceased urging the House for the repeal of the shop tax as being unjust and harsh. 1399 But he found that the tax on attorneys was from time to time decreased, until it amounted to the sum they now paid, namely, 12l. for attorneys practising in the metropolis, and to 8l. for country attorneys. Now, besides this most excessive and partial tax on this class of persons, they paid, in the first place, 120l. on their articles of clerkship. No other persons paid anything like that amount on articles of clerkship. But in addition to that 120l. they had to pay a sum of about 25l. on being admitted. So that, altogether, they paid no less a sum than 145l. in the shape of duty before they could be permitted to practise their profession. Now the noble Lord (Lord R. Grosvenor) did not propose to take away from the State the charge which was made on attorneys to that enormous extent; and the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) said, by adopting the Motion of the noble Lord, they would in some way or other establish a monopoly, and make what he called a fence round the present members of the profession, and prevent other persons from joining it. He could not for the life of him understand how such a result could arise. Those persons who entered the profession would still have to pay what others had paid before them; and how there could be any monopoly, he repeated he could not understand. Now, the case of attorneys with regard to this duty was a peculiar one. It was not like that of any other person who had a licence to purchase for carrying on any trade or business. They took from the attorney 145l. at the very outset. His case was therefore peculiar; it was an isolated case; the tax was originally established under the circumstances he had mentioned; this grievous burden he had still to bear, and therefore he thought it was desirable that this question should be brought forward in an isolated way, and discussed upon its own merits. He did think, under the circumstances, that at all events the House ought to agree to the noble Lord being permitted to introduce this Bill, to remove what he said was a gross and shameful injustice.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, he thought the arguments that had been urged against this measure were by no means an answer to the case which had been made out by the noble Lord (Lord R. Grosvenor); and it was his duty to state the reasons why he supported that Motion, and why he thought it ought to be pressed 1400 to a division. He had been but a short time a Member of that House; but within that time there had been two Chancellors of the Exchequer; and he had not heard a single instance, when a Motion of this kind was brought forward, in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not answer that it had been brought forward at the wrong time, and the noble Lord had of course been told so now. The right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had told them that by reason of the duties paid by attorneys on their admission to practice a monopoly had been produced; but did he not propose now to give force to that monopoly by continuing this annual certificate duty, which would interfere with competition, and deter other parties from entering the profession? If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had held out a prospect that the duty on admission and the Certificate duty would be repealed or reduced, there might have been some reason why the noble Lord should withdraw his Motion; but no one who had listened to the right hon. Gentleman could for a moment deceive himself as to what were the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman. He might say, on behalf of the profession in Ireland, that the tax there pressed with peculiar inequality. It was proposed in 1816 to meet the expenses of the then terminated war; and duties on mortgages, leases, and agreements were imposed at the same time. Some of those duties had been removed altogether, but nothing had been done to relieve the attorneys; on the contrary, the duty had been increased. This tax, in addition to its irregularity, was, in fact, a tax on the administration of justice; and whenever he found such a tax he felt it his duty to raise his voice against it; for no such tax could be defended on any true principle of political economy. In whatever light they regarded this tax, it could not be for a moment defended. On those grounds he had great pleasure in supporting the Motion of the noble Lord.
said, he had always been an advocate for the remission of taxes wherever it could be justly done; and if the noble Lord would move that all the existing taxes on licences for carrying on particular trades and professions should be repealed, he would cheerfully vote for such a Motion. The question he put to himself was simply this, "Is this the worst tax of this kind now existing?" He had in his hand a list of about thirty- 1401 five different trades and professions, in order to practise which it was necessary to have a licence; and would it not he wise and proper to remove all those taxes together, instead of singling out this one in particular for remission? For example, the soap-boiler and the paper-maker were each charged 4l. 4s.; and there were a variety of others who dealt in articles that were useful to every man. Now, law was not the food of every man, but soap was an article which was used, or ought to be, by all. Believing, then, that there were other more unjust taxes than this of the same kind, he could only vote for the repeal of the whole, which this Motion did not contemplate.
§ LORD ROBERT GROSVENOR
He only wished to say a few words before they divided. He was sorry to find there was a division of opinion among his right hon. Friends in the Cabinet as to this being the proper time for bringing forward a Motion of this kind. The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Cardwell) was certainly not of that opinion the other night when it was proposed to reduce taxes to a far larger amount. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that on a former occasion he had acceded to a request made to him by the Government to postpone his Motion for a while. He certainly had done so; but he would beg to remind his right hon. Friend that the question was then in a very different position from that in which it now stood. This Motion had already been received with favour six or seven different times by the House of Commons; and therefore his right hon. Friend ought not to have been in the least degree surprised at his bringing it forward again. His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) said if he (Lord R. Grosvenor) would bring forward a Motion for repealing all taxes of this nature, he would support him; but he liked, if he could, to propose something practicable; and if he had taken the course recommended by his hon. Friend, he did not think he could fairly have counted upon the support of the House. He objected to all taxes imposed on the administration of the law. "But," said his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "why did he not object to the duty on articles of clerkship?" He certainly did object to that; but his objection lay far more against the annual tax. All poll taxes of this kind were objectionable; but he thought this the most so, and therefore it was that he now 1402 brought it again under the consideration of the House.
§ On Question,
§ The House divided:—Ayes 219; Noes 167: Majority 52.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Lord Robert Grosvenor and Sir Frederic The-siger.